Introducing the Compal NBLB2

I don't know about the rest of you, but I've been wanting to get my mitts on a Compal notebook for review for a while. Compal has had essentially this same chassis on the market for years, periodically updating and refreshing the components as new hardware became available, but reviews of this line have been scarce. It wasn't until we got in touch with CyberpowerPC and let them know how difficult it's been to secure one that they sent us a review unit.

And what's not compelling about it? We know there's a demand for 15.6" notebooks with 1080p screens and reasonably powerful graphics, and this Compal model has generally been reasonably priced across the different vendors (much less across generations of hardware). So what is our review unit packing?

Compal NBLB2 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-640M
(2x2.8GHz + HTT, 32nm, 4MB L3, Turbo to 3.46GHz, 35W)
Chipset Intel PM55
Memory 2x2GB DDR3-1333 (Max 2x4GB)
Graphics AMD Mobility Radeon HD 5650 1GB GDDR3
(400 Stream Processors, 550MHz core clock, 1600MHz effective memory clock)
Display 15.6" LED Glossy 16:9 1920x1080
(AU Optronics AUO10ED Panel)
Hard Drive(s) 500GB 7200 RPM
(Seagate Momentus 7200.4)
Optical Drive DVD+/-RW Drive
Networking Atheros AR8131 PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Realtek RTL8191SE 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
Audio Realtek ALC272 HD Audio
Stereo speakers
Headphone and microphone jacks
Battery 6-Cell, 11.1V, 57.72Wh battery
Front Side Wireless switch
IR port
Card reader
Microphone jack
Headphone jack
Left Side Kensington lock
USB 2.0
Exhaust vent
Ethernet jack
Right Side 3x USB 2.0
Optical drive
AC adapter
Back Side -
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 14.84" x 10.04" x 1.06"-1.48" (WxDxH)
Weight 5.95 lbs
Extras 2MP webcam
Fingerprint reader
Flash reader (MMC, SD/Mini SD, MS/Duo/Pro/Pro Duo)
USB charging
Warranty 1-year limited warranty
Pricing Starting at $945
Priced as configured: $1,112

Our review unit comes to us equipped with Intel's fastest dual-core mobile chip, and our testing has shown that the Core i7-640M's nominal 2.8GHz stock clock and blistering 3.46GHz Turbo clock allow it to trump the entry-level i7-720QM in all but the most heavily threaded tasks. Note that this chip is a $134 upgrade off of the standard and still reasonable Core i5-560M, and represents the biggest jump in price for our review configuration. You can upgrade to a quad-core chip, too, but we're not entirely certain how well this chassis would cope with the increased heat dissipation and it would most certainly have a catastrophic effect on battery life.

By now the rest of Arrandale and the PM/HM55 platform should be old hat. Cyberpower ships the NBLB2 with 4GB of DDR3 standard, but what we're really interested in is the AMD Mobility Radeon HD 5650. This wouldn't be the first time we've tested the chip, not by a longshot, but it's actually going to be the first time our testing platform (updated months ago) is going to see a 5650 that isn't encumbered by a slow AMD mobile processor, low stock clock, or worse, both. As a result, the 5650 is going to get to stretch its legs here. At 550MHz it's not running at the fastest spec clock AMD defines for this particular chip (that would be the HD 5730, clocked 100MHz higher), but it's not the brutally slow 450MHz we saw before either.

The hard drive in our review unit is one you should all be familiar with by now: the Seagate Momentus 7200.4, a 500GB 7200-RPM hard drive that seems to have become the de facto standard for all industry players large and small. It's likewise coupled with a bog standard DVD+/-RW drive.

That leaves the other highlight: Compal doesn't ship this notebook with anything but a 15.6", 1080p screen. It has been increasingly our experience that these high-pixel-density screens offer substantially improved viewing angles, backlighting, and overall quality than the usual cheapo 1366x768 panels. Hopefully our testing will bear that out again, but subjectively the panel is very attractive.

It Isn't a Shark, Compal
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  • rangerdavid - Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - link

    Love your articles and site in general, but please: When using your DSLR to take a gallery of photos, tighten that aperture down four or five stops from wide-open, as you currently take your photos (probably necessitating a slow shutter speed and a tripod). Yes, some shots lend themselves to nice blurry depth-of-field effect, but not everything.

    Keep up the great work and Happy Holidays to you all.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - link

    I think you've got it backwards... I prefer to shoot at a 14 f-stop and ISO 400, since the low f-stops give you the depth-of-field effect. They let in a lot more light, but I prefer a good flash over the blur. But otherwise I agree; Dustin needs to figure out the pictures better. (Sorry, Dustin, but it's true! At least he's no longer using a point and shoot.)
  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - link

    Oh believe me, I know. I'm getting there. Give me a video camera and I'll make it sing, but still photography utterly escapes me for some odd reason.
  • rangerdavid - Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - link

    Note: NOT Trying to start a flame war.

    ...but I believe I had it right - yet it's confusing and I may not have been clear. A "wide" or "open" aperture is definitely a SMALLER number. This is a bit counter-intuitive. I should have said "tighten that aperture UP a few stops," even though I usually uses the phrase "tighten down" in common speech. I suppose both are common. The point:

    Higher f-stop = narrower aperture opening = greater depth-of-field = more of the laptop in focus.

    So I agree: Shooting at f/14 is a better choice than the wide-open f/3.5 or whatever he's using now. For more info:
  • Deinonych67 - Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - link

    You were correct using the term "stopping down" in reference to reducing the aperture size.
  • Stuka87 - Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - link

    I actually got a kick out of the isometric shot that is on the main page. It basically has a tilt shift effect on it, making it look like something you would buy for your daughters barbie dolls.
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - link

    Since it appears that high quality screens are available almost exclusively in glare finishes these days, could you do a review comparing the out of the box quality of the screen with the results after applying a filter to it? and both sell filters in many sizes, so finding on to fit shouldn't be that difficult.
  • hybrid2d4x4 - Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - link

    I second this request. I don't like the dull low-contrast screens any more than any of the others who regularly complain about these things, but I hate glossy screens even more. When I saw the picture of this laptop on the AT front page and saw the reflection of the keyboard, and that glossy plastic on the bezel, my gut reaction was: "Aw, FFS...".
  • Meaker10 - Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - link

    Notebook manufacturers typically use different internal coolers for the quad core models, thicker heatpipes and better fans are usually used.

    Dont assume just because your dual core version was comfortable that it impacts how the quad core model may fare.
  • CreateAccount - Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - link

    looks like a samsung or toshiba.
    reflective surface, who started this trend? It's never been cool.
    what happen to the brushed metal or the touchy plastic surface like the bottom case of the notebook? Bring those things back. That will cut the cost of the notebook. We don't need a notebook to looks pretty, we buy it to WORK! "WORK" that's the main purpose of it. Let those pretty stuff for A*ple, we don't need it.

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