Our Compaq Mini CQ10-450CA (WQ820UA) was procured new in for field use. The machine is easily a super portable machine as the lower power nature of the machine means long battery life even with a smaller battery. The OEM Windows calls the machine the CQ10-400 which is the US version of the base series model. HP has made several batches of these machines each with slightly different designs.
- 10.1 inch LCD 1024×600
- Atom N450 1.66 GHz & NH10(ICH7)
- 1024MB DDR2-667
- 160 GB Samsung HD
- 93% standard keyboard
- VGA web cam
- Stereo speakers
- Wi-Fi b/g/n 150 Mbps
- 10/100 Ethernet
- Windows 7 Starter
- 35W 19V 1.85A PSU (4.0mm x 1.5mm barrel, tip positive)
Generally the netbook is a standard machine in a smaller chassis. The optical drive has been obsoleted by large capacity USB sticks.
The Atom N450 Pineview processor runs at 1.66 GHz. The Atom is x64 capable. RAM is limited to 2048 MB of DDR2. The N450 is hyperthreaded to improve Windows performance. The N450 does not support virtualization.
Originally the machine shipped with 1024 MB DDR2 but we had an available 2048 MB stick so we upgraded the machine. Realistically Windows 7 works much better with more memory and using 4GB would a better choice given the use of integrated devices. The RAM limit is hardware limited. We criticized Intel for the use of DDR2 when DDR3 was mainstream.
DDR3 uses half the power of DDR2 which adversely affects battery life.
The N10 (ICH7) provides the main chipset interface to the PCI Express and other busses. The N10 is well equipped for running Windows 7. The mainboard provides a total of 3 USB2 connectors.
Graphics are provided by the integrated GMA 3150. The GMA 3150 seems to be a purely software based video card solution.
The GMA 3150 drives the 10.1 inch LCD panel to 1024×600 native. The performance is adequate to watch H.264 video easily. Its also fine for the games bundled with Windows 7.
Using the available VGA connector a larger screen can be attached. It can be used like a projector or it can act as the primary display. The best resolution we achieved with the PA238QR is 1600×900 widescreen. The GMA 3150 cannot achieve full HD and this is 2011?
The LCD panel in notebooks and netbooks are low cost so they are now mainstream. The HP web cam is provided by ArcSoft and it supports 640×480. The workload of MPEG encoding is demanding however the N450 with the GMA 3150 manage fine.
The integrated keyboard is smaller than the standard desktop; HP calls it 93% in their literature. There is an extra function key to support additional symbols over the standard selection. The LED Wi-Fi key changes color when enabled. The power LED is mounted on the right side of the machine and the hard disk LED is on the left side where they are not readily visible to the user.
The keyboard is rich with extras making it well suited for internet use. Using the function keys, HP has mapped over 25 extra symbols useful on-line including the € and the ¢.
The commodity 10.1 inch LCD panel is very bright and watching movies and television was equally excellent. Our machine has the antiglare coating making it easy to use sitting outside a coffee shop.
The 16:9 aspect ratio is very popular with HD video. While limited to 1024×600 the GMA 3150 can render HD video fine on the panel.
All browsers can increase or decrease the size of any web page and the LCD is crisp enough to be able to view all sites easily.
The CQ10 boards are equipped with the IDT audio chip pro support the built-in speakers and the headphone/microphone jack.
Listening to iTunes with our audiophile grade Klipsch S4i earbuds revealed a high level of distortion that was very audible even at moderate listen levels. Most use the integrated speakers which are generally very poor in fidelity. Once we upgraded to Windows 8.1 the problems vanished suggesting a problem with the driver for Windows 7.
Most travellers have an Apple product available which has proved itself to be a capable entertainment platform. The netbook can manage iTunes fine and the mobile device can then be carried on the person.
USB audio is very low cost (eBay) which can provide a static free sound source if the motherboard noise is problematic.
SD CARD READER
The Realtek SD card reader is standard with the HP netbook machines. SD card ports are growing in popularity due to their small size and widespread use in digital cameras. The reader supports MMC, SD and SDHC cards.
HP, like most vendors has a very simple BIOS interface, mostly to select the boot device. Few other options are present.
The BIOS can be accessed with the ESC key from a cold boot.
The Compaq Mini CQ10-450CA has a pair of mini PCI Express shots available. Each slot is equipped with a pair of antennas for mobile use. The WLAN and WWAN modules are not interchangeable due to antenna connections. The BIOS has a whitelist which blocks upgrading the PCIe devices in the event of new technology or device failure.
The Realtek RTL8703EL Fast Ethernet is included on the main board for the CQ10 series generally. The power consumption for 1000BASE-T is still too high for ultra-portables.
The relatively slow performance of 100BASE-TX means that large backups are slower than necessary. SSD use has grown rapidly with mobile machines which are now over 500 MB/s.
The Atheros 9285G is installed in the first mini PCIe slot. It provides 802.11 b/g/n connectivity. In practice with our Cisco router we achieve 150 Mbps data rates fine. The average transfer rates for backups seem to be close to 10 MB/s which is much faster than the older 802.11g could ever manage. Faster 300 Mbps 802.11n USB adapters are available but they tend to use a lot of power and drain the battery fast. Its a good idea to be plugged in when using USB devices.
Data rates vary with wireless significantly. Humidity and RF interference all can affect the signals. 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ad all work better outdoors. Performance will obviously suffer if their is a lot of interference due to vast numbers of Wi-Fi devices in use. Some urban areas have over 100 Wi-Fi signals visible from a coffee shop table. 802.11ad uses extreme frequencies to achieve faster performance while retaining backwards compatibility.
The machine reviewed includes the Qualcomm Gobi 2000 (HP un2420) to support internet access through the cellular network. The Gobi 2000 also provides GPS capability. The Gobi 2000 is a full length mini PCI Express card that fits an available slot across from the Atheros 9285G. The Gobi 2000 requires 2 antennas in addition to a mini-SIM card slot under the battery. The Gobi 2000 is recognized as several devices and one of the serial ports provides GPS. We have a limited number of GSM SIM cards for testing and the local carrier cards all work fine. The Gobi 2000 works fine with GSM 850, 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz networks with its quad-band compatibility.
Windows configures the GPS to 9600 bps but the NEMA standard is 4800 bps with hardware flow control. The standard specifies message formats called sentences. Testing the GPS shows it does recognize satellites but its extremely slow in practice. HP ships a tool called Skyhook with their machines and that can recognize known Wi-Fi locations and attempt to approximate the location to about 100m. Using the Skyhook virtual GPS provides a quick solution to today’s busy schedules. Once the GPS is available, Skyhook automatically switches for better precision.
Testing the GPS with Microsoft Streets and Trips showed immediate location with enough precision for driving while not needing an internet connection. The Skyhook tool checks Wi-Fi signals several times per second in sync with GPS timing.
Google Earth lacks options to configure the GPS port when multiple NEMA ports exist. Google Earth works fine with the Skyhook GPS emulator however it has problems with multiple GPS devices. Remapping the un2420 ports was successful to coax Google Earth to use Skyhook.
The HP Connection Manager handles GSM activation and connections as well as SMS messages that may be received via the GSM network. Another tab is provided for the GPS services.. HP uses another software tool called Loki which is designed for web applications making this a complete stack. Using Bing maps its possible for a business to provide a quick map to their location from the user.
The Compaq Mini CA10-450CA ships with a 3-cell lithium battery. HP also offers a 6-cell battery as an upgrade. When new the 3-cell battery provides about 2 hours of use with the Wi-Fi enabled, more when its disabled. The larger 6-cell battery manages to remain functional for over 5 hours with everything enabled.
The OEM battery lasted longer than expected and in December 2013 we finally ordered a replacement battery to refurbish the mobile capacity for 2014. Carrying a spare battery is much less bulky than the power supply which can then be left back at the hotel. 6-cell batteries are $23+tax+shipping on eBay so its not expensive to consider using multiple batteries for extreme mobile use. Usually after a year of heavy use a lithium ion battery can see as much as 80% of its original capacity lost. We suggest an eBay watch list for replacement batteries so its easier to find a new one when the replacement wears out.
Students and lawyers may need to work for several hours a day in the library. While Wi-Fi is pervasive, SkyDrive can maintain a local copy of files for off-line work leaving the adapter disabled. Then, when recharging the battery, the files can be synced to the cloud at the same time. Many restaurants have wired power for mobile users who like to drink coffee.
Leaving USB and SD cards detached reduces power consumption to extend the work day. Setting the LCD brightness to a lower value also is material to the battery life. Modern SSD drives are now using much less power making them more attractive for mobile use.
The OEM PSU failed in Q1 2015. We replaced it with a 90W universal PSU with 10 tips including the size used by several of our machines including the CQ10-450CA. The CQ10-450CA needs only 35W the excess power is not needed. We use universal power supplies as we have several machines.
We noticed that the CQ10-450CA lacked polarity markings. We tested the OEM PSU to determine that it is tip positive in case a replacement is needed. The label only shows it needs 19V DC. All machines have a diode to protect them from inverse polarity, so if a universal PSU is set incorrectly it can be reversed and no damage will be incurred.
The machine is very light weight making it very easy to move around. The machine could be construed as a miniaturized notebook as it has all of the standard features. It has everything needed including a VGA webcam.
The screen is very bright and the color is fairly good. The 1024×600 pixel resolution is common in this size of screen in 2010. Media player can easily scale video to any screen size so resolution is not critical. Windows 7 does not scale well enough for high DPI panels.
We tested some OpenGL programs and we noticed the GMA 3150 can render many test components. The particle system was the limiting level.
The machine’s small size means there is no DVD drive. USB DVD drives are inexpensive if required. The HP recovery program expects a DVD recorder which is not present. HP has a USB recovery tool that you can download. A minimum of 16GB is required for the recovery volume. In late 2010 USB sticks with 16GB were over $50 each, but come December 2013 they are now bargain bin products at stationers.
We use a Microsoft Mouse 3500 which is targeted for mobile use. Wireless mice are very popular with mobile machines. The 3500 uses only a single AA battery. The USB radio can be stored in a provided slot under the battery cover making it easy to carry. The USB radio is very small and its not been problematic even in a backpack.
Overall the machine is very easy to use. Its not the fastest machine around but it runs for hours on a single charge which is very helpful in the field. The netbook definitely is a strong choice. With the best battery, the machine becomes ultra mobile.
When we RMA’ed the M5A99FX on May 17, 2013 we deployed the netbook to work with. Windows can be configured to stay on with the lid closed so its possible to put the machine under the PA238QR and hook up the Microsoft Wireless Desktop 2000 and its ready. One the panel is connected the screen can be configured to disable the built-in panel and use the external one only. The best the netbook can achieve is 1600×900 widescreen.
The battery is showing 94% charged which means the capacity has eroded a bit. Lithium ion batteries slowly degrade relative to temperature. Storing batteries in a frost free refrigerator will slow the decay significantly.
We have experienced some issues with this machine. The main problem of using DDR2 and the limited memory capacity is already noted. The CPU is very slow to handle Windows updates which means a larger scheduled task window is needed. The GPS service with the Gobi 2000 is very slow and it can take over 30 minutes to find satellites. A Garmin handheld GPS can find location in 30 seconds which is over 60x faster.
The card reader failed after only a few insertions, which forces us to use a USB adapter. It seems that the spring lock failed as any card inserted will not lock into place. USB and front panel SDXC readers are inexpensive.
INTEL AC 7260 WI-FI UPGRADE
In Q4 2013 (long after the warranty had expired) we acquired an Intel AC 7260 802.11ac adapter to replace the original Atheros adapter which only supports the older 802.11n. HP chose to block this with “104 unsupported network adapter” and the machine would not boot. The 802.11ac standard is an incremental refinement over 802.11n with better beaming in busy coffee shops.
The adapter is a mini PCI Express half-height card, there are 2 antenna leads and 2 screws. This is equivalent of replacing a PCI Express card in a desktop. The antennas are not being modified and are simply being used by the new adapter. The new adapter fits the slot exactly and the antennas connect properly so its completely improper to block the adapter use. Intel has sponsored PCI Express sufficiently that make interoperability possible.
In the US we are aware that the FCC requires every wireless adapter to be tested for interference etc. Intel wrote the PCI standard, same for PCI Express. Intel has certified their adapter, so what is the problem? The network adapter is actually a software defined radio. The adapter is a CPU, some ROM and some analog mixers for the antennas.
The CQ10-450CA originally came with Windows 7 starter to keep the cost lower. With the memory upgrade it became possible to use 64-bit Windows which seems to run well on the machine.
WINDOWS 8.1 UPGRADE
Windows 8.1 recognized almost all of the devices easily including the Atheros 9285G. We needed to install only 2 drivers, the Realtek SD card reader and the HP un2420 (Gobi 2000). The divers for the Gobi 2000 are sp51022.exe and sp53768.exe for the Skyhook XPS and with those drivers installed, we configured Windows 8.1 to boot to the desktop and the mobile features became fully available.
WINDOWS SERVER 2012 R2
We tested Windows Server and the Wi-Fi was recognized but it is disabled and cannot be used. It does work with the Ethernet fine. The idea was to use the machine for a Windows Server Update Service which would be helpful for homes with several machines. Using remote desktop the machine’s limited display is mitigated. Its low power consumption makes it ideal. Adding other roles is possible however a netbook has limited CPU capability.
WINDOWS 10 UPGRADE
Windows 10 recognized the machine but as usual the Reaktek card reader and the Qualcomm Gobi 2000 had to have drivers installed. Windows 10 now uses other machines on the network to reduce the amount of bandwidth needed for updates which takes the role from Windows Server. Windows 10 is also designed for lower resolution displays like entry level tablets use.