Review: Compal KHLB2 Notebook

The KHLB2 is the latest barebone by Compal, a Taiwanese ODM notebook manufacturer. As it is a so called whitebook, it will be offered by many resellers under different names, e.g., in by Germany Schenker as mySN MG6 or by Deviltech as Fire 9060. The present model is equipped with an ATI HD 4650 and a brand new LED backlit screen with 16:9 aspect ratio.

 

Many thanks to our Polish editor team from notebookcheck.pl, who tested this notebook and kindly provided us with their review.

Case

The look KHLB2 is not especially attractive. It resembles older Compal barebones, e.g., the JHL90 or the JFL92. The base unit was completely made of black plastics and the display lid has a glossy black finish. The surface on the palm rests is slightly roughened, so, giving a smooth grip for the user's hand.

The plastic chassis of the KHLB2 does not appear to be high-quality. Nevertheless, the palm rest areas mentioned above fell nice to the touch. Also the workmanship is similar to older Compal Barebones, but, it look like the present case is not that stable than the ones of former models.
We detected some uneven gaps, which even intensified the moderate impression we had of the not really outstanding materials. In addition the case creaks a little bit if you pick it up on the front edges. Furthermore, it even slightly winds, if you hold it close by the power switch (above the DVD drive) and the part with the vent holes gives under creaking.

Following a current trend, the hinges are not part of the display (alike in the Compal JHL90 or FL90), but part of the base unit. This design lets the notebook look compacter. However, it also limits the maximum opening angle to 135 degrees.
Another disadvantage of this solution is that it is not possible to reuse the old 9-cell battery, which protrudes the back side of the case. Although it is possible to insert it and it works just fine (the slot is compatible), it is no longer possible to open the display to an convenient angle. It is blocked  by about 45 degrees, and cannot be opened further, because it is not possible to move it over the edge of the base unit. However, this does not mean that a 9-cell battery might not be available for the officially available Compal KHLB2 at the time it is launched.

The LED indicator LEDs at the left side of the front edge are very small and there labels are illegible. So, there value is questionable.

The order of the ports is not advantageous for the user. The Compal KHLB2 has four USB interfaces, but three of them are at the front right corner of the case - two of them above each other, one of them separated from the others by the antenna for the tv-tuner.

Front side: WLAN switch, CIR, fingerprint reader, microphone, headphones
Front side: WLAN switch, CIR, fingerprint reader, microphone, headphones
Left side: Kensington Lock, USB, vent holes, HDMI, LAN, VGA, ExpressCard/34
Left side: Kensington Lock, USB, vent holes, HDMI, LAN, VGA, ExpressCard/34
Right side: USB, antenna, 2x USB, optical drive, power switch
Right side: USB, antenna, 2x USB, optical drive, power switch
Back side: Battery
Back side: Battery

Input devices

The Compal KHLB2 has the same keyboard already used in former models. So, it also inherited the possibly annoying layout, in which the FN key and the Ctrl key  in the front left edge of the keyboard are in reverse order and the pause key (and not del) is at the right edge of the top key row.

Except of this, the keyboard left a good impression. It did not give in the test and each key offers a balanced ratio of power needed and key travel. Typical for many Compal notebooks a clear clattering of the keys was audible, but not trouble-some in use.

The touchpad differs from the ones in older models. It is 84 millimeters broad and 46 millimeters long. Therewith it is bigger than in former Compal barebones and its format was fitted to the dimensions of the screen. So, the measurements allow moving the mouse pointer across the screen in a comfortable way, which is also slightly broader than the old 15.4 inch display.

Although the pad has a dotted pattern, its surface is completely smooth. Its gliding properties are very good and the precision is also no point of critique.

Keyboard
Compal KHLB2
Touchpad
Compal KHLB2

Display

Basically, the most important change in the Compal barebone of 2009 is a 15.6 inch display with 16:9 aspect ratio. Therewith, the company followed the latest trend, or rather adapted to the current preferences of LCD panels makers (nobody seems to care about customers not really delighted about this new screen format).  

The screen is backlit by LEDs, so one can conclude that this is  slowly but surely becoming a mainstream technology - all the more, because it is now even used in barebones, which are traditionally low-end and rather reasonable products.  

The screen was supplied by LG Display. We have a good opinion about this LCD panel supplier. Especially its notebook panels are usually of good quality.

182.4
cd/m²
207.3
cd/m²
202.9
cd/m²
189.3
cd/m²
212.1
cd/m²
195.5
cd/m²
179.7
cd/m²
199.4
cd/m²
181.4
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
Maximum: 212.1 cd/m²
Average: 194.4 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 85 %
Black: 1.2 cd/m²
Contrast: 177:1

On maximum brightness the average brightness amounts to about 214cd/m². This value is not extremely good, but nonetheless considerably better than the brightness of the WXGA screen (also from CPT) in the Compal JHL90, which is about 140cd/m².

The brightness control is to our regret somewhat restricted. Although there are eight different levels of brightness, the difference between the successive levels is very small.

The color representation is overall rather moderate. The white color is far better than of CCFL-backlit screens. However, the black color, will not even satisfy less demanding users. It is actually considerably grayish, and without any depth. So, the maximum contrast amounts to just 177:1.

Also the viewing angles could not convince. In vertical direction they are really narrow.

Performance

The reviewed Compal KHLB2 was equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 (2.40GHz) CPU. Of course, the PM45 Express chipset is compatible with numerous Intel processors, including older ones used in the Santa Rosa platform. At the time the Compal KHLB2 is officially launched, some new CPUs should also be available, including such with 1066 MHz frontside bus. So, vendors offering KHLB2 barebones will have a broad range of processors to choose from.

At present, after the recent price cut by Intel, the Core 2 Duo P8600 CPU offers a very good price-performance ratio, so this is a wise and reasonable choice. Not only is the power of this processor high, also the relatively low thermal design power (TDP) of 25W is desirable and contributes to low emissions and a long battery life.

Up to now the graphics card of the Compal KHLB2 is little known. This is our first test sample equipped with an ATI HD 4650. It has the chance to get the graphics card mainly used in middle-class multimedia notebooks in middle-term.

The ATI HD 4650 is based on the RV730, which was produced in 55nm technology and has 320 shader units. The clock rates are 600MHz for the core, and 800MHz (1600MHz effectively) for the memory. In our case it came, according to GPU-Z with 512 megabyte GDDR3 VRAM. The data is transferred via 128-bit memory interface, and the memory bandwidth is 25.6 gigabyte per second. The later slightly slows down this card by ATI. Nevertheless, this is a standard value for notebooks of notebooks of similar size.

The 3DMark06 benchmark score (in a non-standard resolution of 1280x768 pixel) amounts to 7180 points, and is about 11% better than the Samsung R560 with GeForce GT 130M (GDDR3) GPU (and otherwise similar components) and 57% better than the Compal JHL90 equipped with a GeForce 9600M GT (DDR2) GPU.

3D Mark
3DMark 2001SE26122 points
3DMark 0321188 points
3DMark 0512991 points
3DMark 06
 1280x768
7180 points
Help
3DMark 06 in comparison
Dell Inspiron duo (min)
 N550, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 3150
150
   ...
Alienware M11x
 SU7300, GeForce GT 335M
6462
Acer Travelmate 8472TG-354G32MNkk
 350M, GeForce GT 330M
7013
Compal KHLB2
 P8600, Mobility Radeon HD 4650
7180
Acer Aspire 5940G-KAQB0
 720QM, Mobility Radeon HD 4650
7539
MSI EX625
 P8600, Mobility Radeon HD 4670
7620
   ...
HP Envy 15 (max)
 720QM, Mobility Radeon HD 4830
8380
PC Mark
PCMark 056939 points
Help
PCMark 05 in comparison
Acer Aspire One 751 (min)
 Z520, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 500
692
   ...
Sony Vaio VPC-Z13B7E
 460M, GeForce GT 330M
6880
Clevo mySN M570RU
 T9300, GeForce 8800M GTX
6890
Compal KHLB2
 P8600, Mobility Radeon HD 4650
6939
Asus N73JQ-TZ087V
 740QM, GeForce GT 425M
6987
Acer Aspire 8935G
 Q9000, Mobility Radeon HD 4670
7125
   ...
Fujitsu Celsius H710 WXP11DE (max)
 2820QM, Quadro 1000M
13842
Cinebench R10
 SettingsValue
 Rendering Single 32Bit2627 Points
 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit4938 Points
 Shading 32Bit4587 Points
Quake 3 Arena - Timedemo
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1024x768highest, 0xAA, 0xAF608.2 fps
F.E.A.R.
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1024x768GPU: max, CPU: max, 0xAA, 0xAF29 fps
 800x600GPU medium, CPU medium, 0xAA, 0xAF30 fps
 640x480GPU min, CPU min, 0xAA, 0xAF248 fps
Crysis - CPU Benchmark
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1024x768High, 0xAA, 0xAF21.3 fps
Crysis - GPU Benchmark
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1024x768High27.22 fps
120 GB - 7200 rpm
Transfer Rate Minimum: 35.6 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 69.7 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 54.8 MB/s
Access Time: 16.1 ms
Burst Rate: 94.5 MB/s
CPU Usage: 2.8 %

Gaming Performance

Gaming Performance (Fraps 60s):

Call of Duty 4
resolution 1280x720, "normal/medium" details
min. 35, avg. 52.02, max. 126 kl/s

Company of Heroes
resolution 1024x768, "high/med" details, AA enabled
min. 43, avg. 56.75, max. 73 kl/s

Gothic 3
resolution 1024x768, "high" details
min. 19, avg. 34.67, max. 49 kl/s

Medal of Honor Airborne

resolution 1280x720, "medium" details
min. 49, avg. 63.80, max. 79 kl/s

Supreme Commander
resolution 1024x768, "high" details, AA enabled
min. 27, avg. 34.63, max. 49 kl/s

The Witcher
resolution 1280x720, "medium" details, AA enabled
min. 29, avg. 58.20, max. 84 kl/s

Emissions

System noise

The Compal KHLB2 is really quite good here, similar than some of the latest Asus notebooks with GeForce 9650M GT, which was the first middle-class GPU in 55 nanometer technology used in comparable laptops. The more efficient lithography leads to lower heat emissions and at the same time to less stress for the cooling system. Also the CPU with a thermal dissipation power of 25 Watt contributes to this.

In idle mode the reviewed model proved to be really quiet. During normal light use the fan turns on every now and then, which can be irritating at first. However, it just runs for short stints, and does not make much noise at that time (34dB(A)). After a while the user will get accustomed to the noise characteristics of the Compal KHLB2, and stops paying attention to it.

Upon increasing load, for example after launching a game with high hardware requirements, this will not change for the first. However, after a few minutes the fan starts to work continuously, but the noise level stays the same: 34dB(A). Keep it up! The hum emitted through the vents is really moderate, just like in the aforementioned Asus notebooks. In comparison to the noisy Compal JHL90 the improvement in this field is significant.

Noise Level

Idle 31,9 / 32 / 32 dB(A)
HDD 32,2 dB(A)
DVD 34 / 39 dB(A)
Load 34 / 34,1 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:     (15 cm distance)

Temperature

It is a well-known fact, that the former best-selling Compal barebone, the JHL90, heats considerably, mainly because of its GPU in 65nm technology. Although we tested the latest Compal KHLB2 in winter with moderate ambient temperature, it performed much better than the older model here and the temperature increased only a little bit.

Working with this notebook on the lap is trouble-free, as long as you run simple tasks like browsing the web or editing texts. You cannot find any hotspots on the surfaces of the case. On the contrary, the heat is pretty evenly distributed around the case.  
 
Under load the heating is only moderate too. In the test we applied permanent stress on both the CPU and the GPU for a few hours, and measured a maximum temperature of about 40 degrees Celsius for both the upper and the bottom parts of the case. At the same time the temperature of the GPU reached 71.5°C.

Max. Load
 36 °C36.8 °C29.1 °C 
 40 °C36.4 °C28.5 °C 
 33.6 °C37.4 °C36.2 °C 
Maximum: 40 °C
Average: 34.9 °C
30.2 °C35.7 °C33.5 °C
28.1 °C40.1 °C34.4 °C
30.8 °C40.1 °C33.6 °C
Maximum: 40.1 °C
Average: 34.1 °C
Room Temperature 21 °C

Loudspeakers

Frankly, the speakers are still underperforming, just as in older Compal barebones. On maximum volume the distortions reach an unpleasant level.

Battery Life

Compared to former barebone models, the Compal KHLB2 accomplished a considerable improvement here. With the standard 6-cell battery it almost achieved a similar battery life as the Compal JHL90 equipped with an extended 9-cell battery. The difference in the practical test consisting of browsing the web via WLAN connection is just half an hour in favor of the older model.

The Compal KHLB2 has with a 53 watt-hours battery an about 20-25 minutes lower battery life than the new Samsung R560, which is equipped with similar energy-efficient technology (LED backlit screen, DDR3 RAM, and 55 nanometer CPU), but a slightly more capacious battery (58 watt-hours).

As already mentioned, it is not possible to use the 9-cell battery of former models in the Compal KHLB2. Nevertheless, such a 9-cell battery could be available at the time the final version of this notebook is launched. The old style battery prevents opening the lid to a usable angle.

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
4h 01min
WiFi Surfing
2h 51min
DVD
1h 58min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 18min

Power Consumption

Idle 20 / 24 / 30 Watt
Load 49 / 65 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         

Verdict

Regarding design Compal did not refine its barebones. The latest model, the Compal KHLB2, looks only slightly different than the former ones. Only the glossy lid, whose advantage is questionable in practice, lets it appear a little more modern. In 2009 competitors already offered better looking laptops.

An important difference to former models is the hardware equipment of the KHLB2. Here the producer skilfully used the advances in mobile technology, and built some excellent components in. For us, the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4650 GPU was of most interest. With GDDR3 VRAM it turned out to be a tad faster than the GeForce GT 130M, the new mainstream graphics card from nVIDIA.

Another strengths of the Compal KHLB2 are its low emissions in service. The built-in components are not very power hungry and do not heat much. So, the notebook is even under load not noisy and the chassis does not get too warm.

Also in terms of battery life the Compal KHLB2 performs good. It is far better than the Compal JHL90, which comes with a CCFL backlit screen, a 35 watt CPU, a 65 nanometer GPU, and DDR2 RAM.

The LCD LED backlit screen with 16:9 aspect ratio was not flawless, but, compared to the Compal JHL90 the picture quality was improved. Even with newer games there are not any incompatibility issues.

Compal KHLB2 Notebook
Compal KHLB2 Notebook
In Review: Compal KHLB2
Compal KHLB2

Specifications

Compal KHLB2

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Intel PM45
:: Memory
4096 MB, Kingston DDR3-1066, 2x 2GB
:: Graphics adapter
ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4650 - 512 MB, Core: 600 MHz, Memory: 800 MHz, GDDR3, 8.570.0.0
:: Display
15.6 inch 16:9, 1366x768 pixel, LG Display LGD8C01 / LP156WH2-TLA1, WLED, glossy: yes
:: Harddisk
120 GB - 7200 rpm, 120 GB 7200 rpm Hitachi HTS723212L9A360
:: Soundcard
Realtek ALC268 HD Audio
:: Connections
1 Express Card 34mm, 4 USB 2.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, HDA Agere Systems Modem, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: Audio-in, Audio-out, Card Reader: SD, MMC, MS, TV Card: ASKey,
:: Networking
Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5100 (a b g n ), 2.1 Bluetooth
:: Optical drive
Optiarc DVD RW AD-7560S
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 36,8 x 373,8 x 245
:: Weight
2.646 kg Power Supply: 0.5 kg
:: Battery
53 Wh Lithium-Ion, Panasonic 4800mAh, 11.1V, 6-cell
:: Operating System
Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium 32 Bit
:: Additional features
2MPx, TPM 1.2, fingerprint reader

 

The KHLB2, the latest Compal barebone will likely be offered by many resellers around the world.
The KHLB2, the latest Compal barebone will likely be offered by many resellers around the world.
...you can mount it in the slot, and it works just fine...
...you can mount it in the slot, and it works just fine...
If you possess an old type 9-cell battery...
If you possess an old type 9-cell battery...
The standard battery does not protrude the chassis.
The standard battery does not protrude the chassis.
The warming up of the chassis is in an acceptable range.
The warming up of the chassis is in an acceptable range.
The Compal KHLB2 can be equipped with a TV tuner and a remote control, but this depends on the local reseller.
The Compal KHLB2 can be equipped with a TV tuner and a remote control, but this depends on the local reseller.
The cooling system does not make a lot of noise either.
The cooling system does not make a lot of noise either.
The DVD drive proved to be pleasingly quiet.
The DVD drive proved to be pleasingly quiet.
The maximum angle you can tilt the screen is about 135 degrees.
The maximum angle you can tilt the screen is about 135 degrees.
One of the outstanding features is the 15.6 inch LED backlit screen.
One of the outstanding features is the 15.6 inch LED backlit screen.
The base unit seems to be a bit bulky, but the notebook is not on the heavy side.
The base unit seems to be a bit bulky, but the notebook is not on the heavy side.
On top of that, the quality of the used materials is far from high.
On top of that, the quality of the used materials is far from high.
Overall, the case of KHLB2 does not seem to be that stable than former Compal models.
Overall, the case of KHLB2 does not seem to be that stable than former Compal models.
The location of the fingerprint reader is alright, but the power switch on the right edge of the top case is not a good idea.
The location of the fingerprint reader is alright, but the power switch on the right edge of the top case is not a good idea.
The LED indicators on the left hand side of the front edge are hardly legible.
The LED indicators on the left hand side of the front edge are hardly legible.
The roughened plastic surface of the palm rests feels nice to the touch.
The roughened plastic surface of the palm rests feels nice to the touch.
The glossy lid seems to be a common feature of Compal barebones.
The glossy lid seems to be a common feature of Compal barebones.
The new model resembles older ones in terms of design.
The new model resembles older ones in terms of design.
...yet the notebook itself is unusable in this configuration, as there is no way to tilt the screen to a useful angle.
...yet the notebook itself is unusable in this configuration, as there is no way to tilt the screen to a useful angle.

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Pro

+New ATI HD 4650 is quite powerful
+DDR3 RAM
+Low noise emission under load
+Moderate heating
+Even illumination of the screen (thanks to LED backlight)
+Quite good battery life
 

Cons

-Dull design
-Cheap materials on the exterior
-Unfavorable interfaces arrangement
-Poor contrast and viewing angles of the display
-No option for 9-cell battery (at least in the sample model)

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review Compal KHLB2 Notebook
Author: Sylwester Cyba, 2009-03-27 (Update: 2012-07-18)