Price: $1,623 ($50 mail-in rebate available).
Weight and screen: 6.8 pounds (7.6 pounds with power adapter), 15.4-inch widescreen LCD (1,280 by 800 pixels).
Processor and memory: 1.6 GHz Intel Pentium M processor, 512 MB memory, 32 MB ATI Mobility Radeon 9200 graphics.
Storage: 55.8 GB hard drive, 16x/8x/24x CD-RW/2x/2x/8x DVD+RW combo drive, one SD Card slot.
Communications: 100-Mbps Ethernet, 802.11g WiFi, v.90 modem.
Expansion: One PC Card slot, one four-pin FireWire port, three USB 2.0 ports, one parallel port, one infrared port, one VGA monitor port, one S-Video port.
Support: One-year warranty. One year of 24-hour, toll-free phone support; $40 per issue afterward.
The zt3000's wide, 15.4-inch screen is its most appealing feature -- and perhaps its greatest liability. This display is great for watching movies, but its width makes the laptop a bit bulky to carry around. And at 7.6 pounds, counting the power brick, the zt3000 isn't exactly a featherweight either.
Putting that screen to its logical use as a personal movie theater, we got 21/2 hours of DVD playback. In our usual MP3-playback test (with the screen at half brightness), its battery life stretched to 31/2 hours. On the lowest power settings, we eked out roughly four hours of use away from an outlet.
HP put a fair amount of thought into the zt3000's design. It has sufficient memory and hard-disk space, with both a DVD+RW drive and an SD Card slot for transferring files large and small. Its FireWire port and three USB 2.0 connectors should accommodate a typical set of peripherals without juggling.
The zt3000's 802.11g WiFi card can be quickly switched on and off with a button on the front, and volume adjustments are equally simple -- the can't-miss buttons are placed on top of the right-hand speaker.
Like most mice, HP's touchpad incorporates a separate scrolling control; a set of lines imprinted on its right-side edge show where to drag a fingertip to scroll up or down in a window. A button above the touchpad deactivates this feature if it stymies your typing.
The keyboard itself feels comfortable and fairly responsive, aside from an infuriatingly balky shift key.
As with many home computers these days, the software bundle is the weakest aspect of the zt3000. The preinstalled version of Windows XP required 19 updates, some dating back to last summer, and the virus protection lasts 60 days instead of the usual 90. Only the 2003 editions of Microsoft Money and Quicken were onboard.
Although HP now bundles Apple's superior iTunes, the review unit included the mediocre Musicmatch Jukebox instead. The company said this particular machine had been set up with an older software bundle, one still found on some machines in stores.
Tech support was a bit spotty, with some poorly organized online documentation and phone wait times ranging from mere seconds to three or four minutes.
-- Anthony Zurcher