COMPAQ Armada 7710 7730 7750 7770 7790 7792
Best retro purpose
Early Windows 95 and Windows 98 era gaming for titles released before 1998 or as an office computer. The laptop offers a good balance between CPU and graphics performance, although the video chipset is not as fast as Neomagic ones. Compatibility with DOS is great but performance on SVGA resolutions such as 640x480 is far from being the best. The video controller can use the S3 864 drivers. The laptop fares very well on the compatibility side as it has two slots and allows large amounts of memory such as 48MB to be achieved easily.
Durability and Repair-ability
The plastic quality seems good, meaning that cracks are less common than on other laptops. Disassembly and assembly operations are simple but somewhat unpleasant as the laptop uses untypical screw heads, although a simple straight screwdriver can be used. Access to RAM and harddrive is straightforward and the fact that drives are mounted on removable trays makes replacement very easy. The laptop generally runs cold so the active cooling system is not used a lot, noise is kept to a minimum and the laptop is very durable. The only major drawback is that the removable floppy drive has a belt driven system that is very prone to failure. The floppy drive does not seem to be compatible with other models, making a better replacement quite unlikely.
Greatest features & flaws
|Great Windows 3.1,95,98 and MS-DOS gaming||Confusing power and suspend buttons|
|Great LCD screen colour rendering, great SoundBlaster compatible support, good speakers||Complex model lineup|
|Good keyboard and trackpoint, ergonomic case design||No USB port, unavoidable plastic case and keyboard yellowing|
|Removable bay for floppy and CD-ROM drive, integrated power supply||Poor reliability floppy drive|
An above average, considered high-end by the manufacturer, slim, business laptop, released in 1997. It had a good mix of parts in a compact package, with an attractive design. Although the laptop was quickly made obsolete by faster CPUs and more capable videocards, it was a stable, reliable computer.
The graphics chipset is an odd choice. On the one side, the S3 lineage was famed for its performance, reliability and compatibility back in the day. Although the S3 Aurora 64V+ is far from being the fastest chipset in the S3 Trio lineup, somewhat below the S3 Trio 64V+ performance, although decent. It could be reasoned that the chipset does not use dedicated video RAM, reducing performance and showing some cost compromises typical of low-end laptops. Compatibility is good with the S3 864 chipset which means that you can use the much more common Trio64 drivers.
The LCD TFT screen is very good in terms of color rendering, showing them vividly, although it is not special in terms of contrast or brightness. Even on the 12 inch screen model, the display choice is perfect for retro gaming as the screen size is adequate on 640x480 resolution as well as the full 800x600 resolution. Another good feature of the laptop is that the screen has many levels of brightness that you can choose from, although the ramp is not great, with small differences between minimum and maximum. This was typical of many laptops of that era.
The CPU choice is good, especially on the faster MMX range that goes beyon 200MHz. The L2 cache performance is adequate, keeping performance at a predictable level. The only configuration drawback is the lack of USB support, although this omission was typical of laptops of that era. The keyboard has very good tactile feedback, beyond expectations of typical laptops of that era and at the same level of IBM Thinkpad models. This is surprising as many Compaq laptops had unpredictable keyboard tactile feedback. The trackpoint is very good as well, responsive, and the trackpoint buttons are of very high quality, being highly comfortable. This is one of the most important design wins of this laptop.
The fixed drive flexibility is very good as the HDD tray is well sized, with many configuration options as well as having a pleasant design. Even tall harddrives can be used. The removable drives are a mixed choice. While the optical drive is fine, the floppy disk has a very poor, low cost decision, as the drive platter belt drive is certainly dead after some years of use. This was typical also of some Toshiba laptops of the same era, meaning that it was common to some extent. The rechargeable battery can be easily removed or replaced.
The chassis was slim, reasonably light, very comfortable due to rounded corners, being surprisingly pleasant to use long-term even with no palm-rest. The laptop's case seems durable alt as latches and hinges seem to survive quite well. Unfortunately, the keyboard and other chassis parts of the laptop are made of different plastic formulations, and they do age, yellowing quite differently. The keyboard ages the most. This was common of most laptops of the era so it is not surprising. The integrated speakers are very good considering their size, offering pleasant listening and coverage, despite being clearly lower performance than modern ones, they fare favorable to many laptops released during the same timeline, almost up the level of renowned Toshiba models.
Software support is reasonably good although there is some difficulty in identifying video chipset ones. This is mainly due to the fact that there were few laptops that incorporated such video controllers, as they were not very popular. Both Windows 95 and Windows 98SE show good performance, so the better compatibility of the more modern operating system can be put to good use. Good DOS sound support due to the ESS1878 chipset that is Sound Blaster compatible means that vintage gaming is a good choice.