Hardware Components

This content was originally featured on Amdmb.com and has been converted to PC Perspective’s website. Some color changes and flaws may appear.

The AMD Mobile Duron 1.1GHz is based on the Morgan CPU line, equivalent to Palomino in generation.

Motherboard Chipset
The motherboard chipset VIA KN133 is basically a VIA KT133A with an integrated S3 graphics controller.

The video controller calls itself “S3 Graphics Twister K Compaq” within its PCI information, and it is called this within Windows System hardware manager. Within Linux it is usable with the “S3 Savage4 Pro+” XFree86 4.2 driver, though not auto-detected in Red Hat 7.3 so you must select this driver manually.

Sound Controller and Speakers
SoundMax Integrated Digital Audio
Quality of sound from the integrated JBL Pro speakers is substantially better than the two tiny speakers of my Sony Vaio FXA36. Sound coming from the Sony laptop sounds tinny, with bass non-existent and highs sometimes fuzzy. I had previously thought you could only get quality integrated speakers in expensive Dell-type laptops, like one my friend bought for $3,000 twelve months ago. I am very impressed by this integrated laptop speaker model, and even more impressed that it is included within such a low-cost laptop.

To the right of the covered section in the rear are the 10/100 ethernet and 56k modem ports. Windows XP reports the ethernet as RealTek RTL8139, the same controller integrated into the Sony Vaio FXA36. This in my experience is a quality, low-cost ethernet chipset used in many integrated motherboards and $20 PCI cards. The onboard 56k modem as Contexant HSFi v92 MiniPCI Modem. This is a winmodem chipset found in many integrated motherboards that has been reported to work within Linux with a proprietary binary-only Linux driver. UPDATE: The Contexant supplied Linux drivers seems to have a problem with the kernel in Red Hat 7.3. I am contacting the manufacturer with a bug fix report, hopefully this can be fixed quickly.

Touchpad Mouse
Pointer movement works well, but it seems to be slightly more difficult to click and double-click with the two buttons compared to other laptop computers that I have owned. Taps work as expected.

Below the touchpad is a four directional scrolling control for easily navigating within software like web browsers. I had suspected that the up and down works like the mouse wheel in IMPS/2 mouse protocol driver in Linux, but after testing it appears that is not the case. I still hold high hopes in getting it working eventually, because the touchpad still worked flawlessly with the IMPS/2 protocol. Normally, non-wheel mice behave erratically when you improperly use this protocol driver.

The keyboard takes some getting used to. On most normal keyboards and my Sony Vaio FXA36 laptop, CTRL is on the far left while ALT is immediately next to the spacebar. This is not the case on the Compaq Presario keyboard, with the Fn key on the far left and backspace key next to the spacebar. Another interesting different placement is the Insert key. I was at first annoyed by its placement on the right side of the spacebar, but once I became accustomed to this location it seems to be a convenient choice of location.

3 Spindle Design
Hard drive reads in Windows XP and Linux as “HITACHI_DK23DA-20, ATA DISK drive” while the combo optical is “SD-R2102, ATAPI CD/DVD-ROM drive”. The optical drive is within what Compaq calls “Future-Bay” which allows you to swap it with other components made for Compaq laptops. The third spindle is the built-in 1.44MB floppy drive.

Upon booting the first time, the low resolution Windows XP logo on the Compaq 14.1” screen looks blockier than the same logo on my Sony Vaio FXA36 15” screen, however once it reached high resolution 1024×768 it looks just as sharp.

Something that was strange was that “System” within the Windows XP Control Panel showed 592MHz rather than 1.1GHz. Sisosft Sandra and AMD PowerNow monitor confirmed that the system was in fact running in power saving mode when plugged and unplugged from AC power. The default power profile of “Laptop/Portable” had this effect. After some testing of all power profiles, it seems that only “Home/Office Desk” has the desired effect of running at full speed when plugged in, and power saving speed when unplugged. This behavior turned out to be identical to my Sony Vaio FXA36 within Windows XP.

Video Driver Troubleshooting
The first time I attempted to run MadOnion 3DMark2001 with default 1024x768x32 the benchmark quit back to the desktop without warning. Evidently this laptop could not handle 32bit. It ran in 16bit, but after 2 minutes into the benchmark, the screen freezed with white and purple streaks. After a forced power cycle, Windows XP had a crash dialogue that said something about “drawing operation could not complete” blaming the problem on the display driver. Without making any system changes, the second attempt at this resolution rebooted the machine at this same point, but failed to boot completely freezing on a black screen.

Tried again after updating Via4in1 drivers to 4.40(a)P3, but it made no difference. Attempted to upgrade to the video drivers on the Via website, but it refused to install. However, the drivers at S3.com worked. Installed S3 “Twister WindowsXP/2K version 13.93.43 NoHotkey” driver within 139343NoHotkey.zip. With this driver 3DMark2001 successfully ran in 32bit mode without crashing.

After several hours of fighting the Sony Vaio FXA36 with BIOS upgrades, Via4in1 update and the latest ATI Rage Mobility driver (terrible Mach64 chipset) made in October 2001, I am unable to run 3DMark2001 at all on that machine. Thus I have decided not to include 3DMark2001 numbers in this review.

The Sony Vaio FXA36 could just barely handle 640×480 in Quake3 arena timedemo. 800X600 was jerky, while audio had a hard time playing. The machine could not even handle displaying the animated Quake menu after changing resolution to 1024×768. Performance in higher resolution was poor on the Compaq, but it at least survived.

This problematic video chipset within the Sony Vaio FXA series has the marketing name of “ATI Rage Mobility-M1”, which unfortunately is a Mach64 chip with 8MB of RAM. This was rather upsetting to me after I bought this machine to learn that it was really a Mach64. In my Linux Thin Clients for Schools community service project I have refurbished many 6-year old donated low-end Pentium machines donated containing this same chipset. This is not a modern chipset, and to make matters worse, the drivers seems to not have been maintained well. Fortunately Compaq’s S3 ProSavage video integrated into the VIA chipset is more modern, and the latest drivers are stable.

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