One of the areas that often suffers in budget, consumer notebooks is the keyboard. It would appear that many notebook manufacturers think that consumers don’t really care about good ergonomics, or that they perhaps won’t be typing on the machine for long periods. The result is often a keyboard with an annoying amount of flex and an uncomfortable typing action. It therefore came as a surprise when I started typing on the zv5464EA and found the keyboard to be truly excellent – in fact, I’d go as far as saying that this is one of the best notebook keyboards I have ever used. OK, so it’s not quite up to the standard of an IBM ThinkPad, but it’s probably the closest you’re going to get. The keyboard layout is also excellent, with the Tab, Caps Lock, Shift, Return and Backspace keys all large and easy to access. Also, the cursor keys are slightly separated from the main keyboard, making it easy to access them.
Although I generally prefer trackpoints to touchpads, I have to say that hp tends to have the best examples of the latter. The sliver touchpad in evidence here is a superb example, allowing for simple, fast and accurate pointer manipulation. And although many touchpads allow the right hand side to be used for vertical scrolling, the ribbing that hp has placed in this area makes it far easier to scroll through documents or web pages. The two selector buttons beneath the touchpad have a solid and responsive feel to them, but it’s the button above the touchpad that’s really special. This is another hp feature that I like – the button will toggle the touchpad on and off. So, if you’re doing a lot of typing and you don’t want to hit the touchpad by mistake, you can disable it – or maybe you’re using an external mouse, either way, being able to switch the touchpad off is a welcome feature.
Another touch of genius is the port labelling that hp has utilised. I know what you’re thinking – most notebook manufacturers label their ports right? Well, not like this. To make it really easy to see what ports you have on either side of the chassis without having to twist the machine round, hp has put the labels on the top surface of the machine – this way, you don’t even have to lean to the side, you can see where all your ports are just by looking down at the keyboard. I’m not sure why other notebook manufacturers haven’t adopted this kind of labelling, but I sincerely hope that they will.
Talking of ports, on the right hand side you’ll find a TV output, an Ehternet port, a four-pin FireWire port, a USB 2.0 port, a headphone socket and a microphone socket. There’s also the connector for the hp All-in-One Media Cable. This cable is supplied in the box and outputs S-Video, composite video, analogue stereo audio and S/PDIF – the idea of this cable is that you can use the zv5464EA as the basis for a home entertainment centre and send the video to your TV and the audio to your amp/speakers.