Feature Article
HP Pavilion n5190 Notebook Computer

February 1, 2001
By Scott Lewis

I have had three laptop computers at work. I never really enjoyed them much. I always felt they were underpowered and too much trouble for the cost. We originally got permission to get the laptops at work because we supported a number of senior executives that had laptops and it would be easier to support them with a similar configuration. Also we could use the laptops to due presentations much more easily than would be possible with a desktop.

One thing I really enjoyed about the laptops was taking them to the coast. In fact, I wrote my first article for this web site sitting on a pier while my family was fishing. (I hate fishing, but don't mind relaxing on a pier with a laptop. Trust me, I was the most relaxed person on that vacation.)

Of the years we stopped doing "road shows," and most of the executives switched to desktop computers. I stopped using my laptop when a member of my team broke her leg and had to spend a long time at home recovering. We setup the laptop for her to work from home. I have not seen that laptop since.

My wife and I were thinking about getting a TV for the car. I mentioned to her that one possibility would be to get a laptop with a DVD drive. It could be used as a movie player in the car, and even when going over her family's houses. This was just after toting my DVD player over to my brother-in-law's for New Years Eve.

I told her I was planning to put a laptop or a LCD monitor equipped PC in the kitchen of the new house for her. By getting the laptop now we can kill a few birds with one stone including using the laptop to keep track of the house project.

The Requirements

The hunt was on. I told my wife we would need to spend at least $1500 for a decent laptop with a DVD drive. She told me that since we never do things half way, that we shouldn't skimp on this either. That being said I came up with a few requirements. Here were the basics:

  • 600+ MHz Processor
  • 128 MB memory
  • 10+ GB hard drive
  • TV-out
  • DVD Drive
  • Built-in 10/100 Ethernet

Let me explain a couple of those. Since we would be loading Office 2000, I really didn't want to spend upwards of $2000 for only 64 MB of memory. Also, at this price I would really want to network the laptop into my current computer (I am going to be wiring the new house for networking).

We looked at a number of laptop manufacturers. We eliminated Compaq right away, they didn't have a TV-out feature. In fact, the only ones we could see locally with TV-out was Toshiba, Hewlett Packard and Sony. My wife read that WinBooks were very highly rated in Consumer Reports. I checked their web site and didn't find anything under $2300 with the features we wanted. Checking Dell and Gateway turned up the same thing... too much money compared to the HP, Toshiba and Sony laptops that were available locally.

All of Sony's laptops at the $2000 and lower range had only 64 MB of memory and no Ethernet. That left Toshiba and Hewlett Packard. I found a great Toshiba. I think it was a model 2805-s301. It had a 14.1" screen, 128MB, 10GB, 10/100 Ethernet, etc. I found it priced at $1799 online. I also found a HP laptop with similar specs (14.1" screen, 128 MB, 10 GB, Ethernet) for $2099. We were torn between them. Unfortunately the Toshiba was on backorder everywhere we looked. The next step up the Toshiba ladder was the s401 model. It was a 700MHz machine (the s301 was 650MHz), and had a 20GB hard drive and 15" screen. It was $2199.

The HP was a Pavilion model n5190 and was also 700Mhz. Did we really want to spend the extra $100 for a little more disc space and monitor size? We did a little more digging on the HP and found it available for $2099 on Best Buy's web site with a $200 rebate. Even with tax it would be well over $100 cheaper than the Toshiba without sales tax, if you factor in the rebate.

We decided to go for it. As luck would have it the laptop came down in price from the time we ordered it, so we saved another $100, bringing the price down to $1999 (with the $200 rebate that comes to $1799, not bad).

The Specifications

The Hewlett Packard Pavilion n5190 Notebook Computer is a nice machine. However, I don't know if I would whole heartedly recommend it. I like it and it does what we need of it, but we had a specific feature set. Here are the final specs on the n5190:

  • 700 MHz PIII
  • 128 MB Memory
  • 10 GB Hard Drive
  • 14.1" Active Matrix Screen
  • TV-Out
  • 2 USB, 1 VGA, 1 Parallel, 1 Serial and 1 PS/2 port
  • Windows ME, Works 2000 , Money 2000, Encarta 2000 & Quicken 2000

The machine is speedy enough for anything we will be doing with it for a while. It definitely is faster than my 450 MHz desktop. The software that plays DVDs it good enough, but nothing to write home about.

As a portable DVD player it is more than good enough. It doesn't fit perfectly in our Suburban. It is too wide to fit between the front seat armrests while sitting on the console. And it is just a little too narrow to sit on top of the armrests without one side falling down. I plan to make a piece of wood that is slightly wider than the laptop. We will be able to place the laptop on the wooden board, and the board on the armrests. A single bungee cord can then hold them both to the armrests. The board will also allows us to mount the laptop more rearward for a better view from the back seat. Even without the board my kids love it.

This laptop was a great buy when you think of all we will do with it. The cheapest LCD displays we saw for a car was $999 and it was only 5.6 inches. Good portable DVD players go for $1000 or more, and it would cost me at least $1000 to get a computer with a flat panel display for the kitchen. We have all that with the largest screen size I have ever seen in a car for around $2000 with tax and all. Plus we have the added advantage of using the computer now for the house project.


If you are looking for a laptop computer I highly suggest you al least look at Hewlett Packard. Best Buy and CompUSA have deals on them all the time that are very attractive. They are good enough for most tasks. However they are a bit heavy. At 6-7 lbs. they are no road warrior. Also battery life for the n5190 has been about only about 2 hrs. This could use improving.

Next month I will tell you about my trial and tribulations with networking the laptop with my existing PC and sharing the ADSL modem. I'll give you a hint... It was not easy.

See you next month.