The HP Compaq Presario CQ61-402SA is an entry level machine for those after basic performance and portability.

Usability is good, however, and while it can't compete with the Acer Aspire 5732Z-443G32Mn and Samsung R530 on many levels, it is certainly worth a look.

The laptop compares closely with the Toshiba Satellite Pro L450-13R in terms of performance. Both laptops feature the same processor, the same amount of memory and the same graphics card and yet this machine performs better across the board.

As a result, it is able to run programs faster than the Toshiba and offers more power for carrying out complex tasks such as photo and video editing.

Having said that, you'll still be limited to basic multimedia work and if this is a priority for you, it's worth checking out the Acer instead.

Nevertheless, HP has bundled some video and photo-editing software for you to play around with, including CyberLink MediaShow for editing and cataloguing photos and videos, and CyberLink PowerDVD for playing back movie DVDs.

Standard storage

The 250GB hard drive is standard for the price and provides plenty of room for storing your files, folders and various media libraries. Should you also want to back up your data to CD or DVD, you can do so using the integrated optical drive.

Much like the Toshiba Satellite Pro L450-13R, the screen isn't as bright as the Samsung R530, but colour reproduction and vibrancy are good enough. One thing we did notice, however, was that the screen doesn't fold back much past 45 degrees from vertical, and this makes it hard to find a comfortable viewing angle in cramped conditions – on a train, for example.

As with the Acer and Toshiba Satellite Pro L450-13R, the chassis is built from tough plastics, but the glossy lid quickly attracts fingerprints. The keyboard is second only to the Samsung R530 and is very intuitive to use, as is the dedicated numeric keypad.

build hp

Portability isn't as impressive as we would have hoped, however, and at 2.8kg it's not a machine many would want to carry.

Its 188-minute battery life is just about acceptable, but still falls far short of the standards set by the Acer and Samsung. As a result, if portability is of maximum importance to you, you're better off opting for one of the other machines instead.

Connectivity is standard for this group, although this machine doesn't boast the high-speed Gigabit Ethernet that the Acer features. Nevertheless, it does have an HDMI port – a nice touch at this low price.

Overall, the HP Compaq Presario CQ61-402SA slightly underwhelmed us. It has good usability and a serviceable screen, but performance could be better, as could portability.

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