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It Isn't a Shark, Compal

Let me explain: the shark is one of nature's perfect predators, and has thus undergone very little evolution over the preceding millennia compared to other species. It hasn't changed because it hasn't really needed to; the Big Buddha stamped that project "complete" some time ago. Compal's NBLB2, on the other hand, looks like the relic of a bygone era. Notebook styling has changed fairly substantially over the past few years—heck even in the past year—but you wouldn't know it from looking at this one.

Gallery: Compal NBLB2

The lid marks the return of everyone's favorite: glossy black plastic. There's no pattern, just solid black, and it looks nice enough but the industry has started moving away from this kind of styling for a reason. Our CyberpowerPC unit has a company logo on the top left (or is it bottom right?) corner.

When you pop the notebook open you find that same wonderful glossy black plastic in the same place we've kvetched about before: all around the screen bezel. Oh well, at least they're consistent, and it makes more sense than ASUS using the glossy plastic only on the screen bezel. The hinges for the screen feel fairly strong, and the webcam is exactly where you'd expect it.

Moving down to the body, we find a patterned silver glossy plastic shell and what has to be the first 10-key-free 15.6" notebook keyboard we've seen in a while. The real estate saved to the right of the keyboard is used for the power button, the USB charging toggle, and the fingerprint reader, while the left side is barren. Above the keyboard are the speakers along with a bar of touch-sensitive buttons that didn't actually do anything in our review unit.

And the keyboard itself? A quaint sort of "old-style" layout (read: tried and true) using generic matte plastic keys. Compared to the chiclet-style keyboards we're getting accustomed to seeing these days, the NBLB2's oldest-school keyboard feels a little mushy despite having a comfortable layout. There's a little flex in the center of the keyboard, too; not enough to become a serious issue but still noticeable.

The touchpad below it, on the other hand, feels brutally cheap. Cordoned off from the rest of the palmrest by a printed outline and nothing else, the texture is unpleasant and tracking is difficult. The toggle button next to it is handy at least, and will probably see use long enough to turn the touchpad off for good. Beneath it is a single rocker that serves as the left and right mouse buttons and is about as much fun to use. This is a bad design that's in dire need of updating, but depending on how you intend to use the notebook it's not a dealbreaker. 

Unfortunately, the port selection also betrays Compal's general unwillingness to update their design. The four USB 2.0 ports and HDMI port are welcome, and having a hard wireless toggle switch instead of handling it in software is a nice throwback, but the infrared port is horribly outdated. Worse, without FireWire, USB 3.0, eSATA, or ExpressCard, you're stuck using either USB 2.0 or your network to transfer files to and from the hard drive. Frankly I'm surprised there isn't a PC card slot on this notebook.

Compal may have studiously continued to update this notebook's internals over the past couple of years, but the overall design feels borderline ancient in an industry that moves forward as fast as this one. AVADirect didn't want to send us one of these at all and to an extent I can understand why, but I'm not sure the notebooks Clevo makes are much of an improvement. Overall build quality of the Compal is actually a little better (Clevo notebooks feel like they have more of a candy shell than any kind of actual construction), but the design is staggeringly dated.

Introducing the Compal NBLB2 Application and Futuremark Performance
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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.
    Reply
  • 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.) Reply
  • 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. Reply
  • 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:

    http://www.dpreview.com/learn/?/key=depth_of_field
    Reply
  • Deinonych67 - Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - link

    You were correct using the term "stopping down" in reference to reducing the aperture size.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stopping_down
    Reply
  • 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. Reply
  • 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? Mwave.com and Viewguard.com both sell filters in many sizes, so finding on to fit shouldn't be that difficult. Reply
  • 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...". Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply

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