I’ve owned and worked on (hardware wise) a bunch of Compaq (and other) notebooks over the years and currently have both 1.2 gig Athlon and 1.5 gig P4 Compaq notebooks. Any major brand is likely to have OK build quality and Compaqs have been pretty reliable. Occasionally you will get the odd problem, like my Athlon had of overheating (required a MB replacement) but reliability is about the same across the board for major brands.
The IBM Thinkpad is nicely built and it’s build quality is just a bit better overall than most of the others, but it’s price vs performance premium is not worth it for most people. Sony’s build quality is average and they usually have more MM features onboard, but unless you need their built in multimedia capabilities
they are relatively overpriced.
Compaq, HP (soon to be one) Toshiba and DELL are the main middle market brands and one will usually do as well for you as another. Compaqs are fine.
You may also want to check out some online coupon sites as Staples is always offering online ordering coupon discounts, though I don’t know if that extends to special build to order sales.
Very important Compaq issue to keep in mind: Compaq uses proprietary architecture which restricts exactly which brands of RAM is “safe” to install if you upgrade at any point - generally it has to be Compaq brand or Kingston brand - not the least expensive chips on the market. This can be a big annoyance, and if you don’t know before you install, it can fry your motherboard.
While this was an issue many years ago when lots of notebooks had proprietary memory modules, I don’t think this has been the case for any notebook for quite some time. I think almost all modern notebooks use industry standard memory modules and I have upgraded my Compaq’s with them with no problems. I know many manufacturers like to specify Kingston because it is a known high quality module (and a bit more expensive), but I don’t think there is “proprietary” architecture requiring this.
Since this is just opinions I’ll chime in with this…my girlfriend had a Compaq a year and half ago and it had so many problems and had been sent in to get fixed so many times that they finally gave her a replacement. This replacement while since newer had more power and features was worth a heck of a lot less than what she paid for the first one using current prices.
The replacement has been sent back in so many times they are about to give her a replacement for the replacement. However they will NOT even after around 7 times being “repaired” give her the money back. Our hopes for the new one are as you might expect not high.
Keep every sliver of paper that gets generated from your purchase as they will if possible try to claim the warrantee has expired(she had 4 months left so it wasn’t even close)
Of course we could of unlucked out and gotten two lemons and I suppose any company will try any trick it can to avoid “unnecessary” costs but in the future I think buying Compaq in our household will be forever known as Plan B
Up until I got an upgraded computer a few weeks ago, my work PC was a Compaq. I had it for 3 years, and never had a problem with it. It is, to me, a reliable brand.
Of course, keep in mind that we have a full IT department to make sure stuff runs smoothly. But honestly, any problems I ever had was software-based. Never had any problems that stemmed from the actual computer I was operating on.