Compaq’s Evo N800w

Animators, game developers and artists dealing with digital video have always been on the lookout for a portable workstation that offers them both power and mobility. During the past five years, I have checked out over 40 laptop workstations, and only a few of them came close to being a proper system for production.

To help me test the Evo, I sought the assistance of Phil Mendez Jr., a young independent 3D animator and web designer who created two of his projects on the system. Phil created a series of 3D objects and animation pieces for a video game idea in 3ds max 5. Then we inserted a fire wire card into the Evo sole PC Card slot and used it to import a few minutes of live video footage. We subsequently edited video in Ulead’s Media Studio Pro 7 and composited with 3D animation shots inside Discreet’s combustion 2. Phil also built and posted a complete website by using Adobe ImageReady, Macromedia’s Firework & Dreamweaver and eHelp’s RoboFlash Toolkit.

We spent almost 40 hours on Evo N800w to complete our tasks, and we did not encounter a single crash or slowdown in the system. Evo’s performance was speedy even during multitasking’running 3ds max 5, playing a fully textured animation of a very large object, loading 20 images via ImageReady and posting a site to the web with Dreamweaver.

The Evo we reviewed came with a Pentium 4, 2.2 GHz processor, one GB of RAM (expandable to two GB), a 60 GB hard drive, an optical DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive and two USB ports. The Evo ‘s 15 inch, high-resolution TFT screen is very sharp, and we used the highest setting of 1600 X 1200, 32 bit for all of our tests. In addition, an S-Video output allows you to connect the system to a video monitor or a TV. You also have the option of adding an external computer monitor to expand your desktop space.

At the heart of Evo is a very powerful graphic card, ATI’s MOBILITY FIRE GL 9000 with 64 MB of RAM. FIRE GL 9000 has dedicated drivers for most of the favorite 3D packages such as 3ds max, Houdini, LightWave 3D and Maya. FIRE GL 9000 supports both OPEN GL and DirectX 8.1.

Good News: Compaq’s Evo N800w weighs only 6.6 pounds, and its battery lasts approximately two hours and 50 minutes.

Wish List: As a powerful portable workstation, Evo needs to have a fire wire port, an additional PC Card slot and built-in wireless networking support.

The Bottom Line: If you are looking for a reliable laptop workstation with the right amount of horsepower needed for serious production jobs,

definitely consider checking out the Evo.

Web address: www.hp.com

Seal of Excellence of Animation Magazine

Final Score: *****

Ease of Use: *****

Design, Weight and Battery Life: *****

Power: *****

Expandability: ***