BeOS R5 On The Compaq Presario 1700T Notebook

Updated: 2002.09.20

Quick summary: A decently powerful laptop for programming and graphics work, but if you want to do anything with audio you're out of luck. Consult the color-coded table at the bottom of this page to get a quick overview of what does and does not work.

Manufacturer: Compaq computer, Compaq has a bad habit of not keeping the spec sheets or even basic information about past products on their website; they will only have pages dedicated to their current machines readily available, and you'll have to slosh through the support archives to find any kind of useful information on a particular product.

Impressions: The 1700T comes in an Apple-esque styled case, black with a silver looking design down the middle (and an awful looking chrome Compaq logo in the center.) It weighs in at 5.1 pounds and is only 1.5" thick, fairly lightweight and compact considering how powerful it is. Look around on eBay and you can find one for a good price, as most people are moving to 1+GHz models now. Installing BeOS R5 on it was a breeze, the CD boots and it even recognized my USB mouse in the installation manager! I spent far more time trying to coax Windows 98 (for games, etc.) to live in the first partition than I did setting up BeOS.

The hard drive, incidentally, comes setup in three partitions - one for Windows, one for a "Restore" partition, and one spare for suspend/resume (I guess - bootman marks it as "unknown type.") I re-partitioned my system so that the first partition was 2GB for Windows, and the remainder of the 12GB drive was put into a second partition for BeOS. If you're going to make your system dual-boot, remember to do your partitioning first, then install Windows, and then finally install BeOS. Windows likes to be installed first, and this way the last thing you write to the MBR will be BeOS's bootman OS loader.

A word of warning: Compaq is evil and will not give you an OS CD (some flavor of Windows) with your laptop, even though you have a valid license key for it. What you get instead is a "Restore" CD that copies stuff over from the restore partition back to the main one -- so before you re-partition the system to use BeOS, backup all of your Windows stuff & the "Restore" partition; otherwise, you have no way to recover Windows and restore the factory default disk image (hey, you may want to when the time comes to sell the laptop :) ) Supposedly you can purchase (!) an actual OS CD from Compaq support for $10 or so, but I haven't verified that.

The "FutureBay" Floppy and CD-RW drives are surprisingly small and light, and very easy to interchange. Not being able to have both installed at the same time can be a little annoying when you first get the laptop, but for the most part it isn't something you'll notice - how often does anyone use floppy disks other than to do an initial OS install anymore? Also, while you can physically hot-swap the drives, BeOS won't know that they changed and so to "see" the drive, it has to be in the laptop at boot-time. (There may be a BIOS setting or other trick to get around this, I haven't looked into it.)

Good points: The display on this laptop is much better than the lower-end Presario Notebooks (1200, etc.) and the size of the screen - 14.1" - is very generous. Running at up to 1024x768, 32bpp, it's a very nice display. The Pentium III 700MHz gives it a good amount of speed, and the ATI driver from Bebits makes the graphics move at a very smooth rate. For this price, this is a very fast laptop for visual, computational or compiling work - the exact things I bought it for :)

Bad points: Biggest strike against this laptop is the lack of audio under BeOS... I tried a number of drivers in the ESS audio chipset family, and none of them worked. Using the PC squeaker driver is really horrendous, you have to be VERY desperate to hear something using it - there is a continuous, grating buzz/squeal while the driver is loaded, and you can barely hear any sounds being played. Another problem with the system is the lack of serial or PS/2 ports with system (you need to add a docking bay or use a USB-to-serial converter.) This also means that (if like me) you hate using laptop keyboards and touchpads, you'll have to use a USB mouse & keyboard (which work fine.)

There's only one PCMCIA slot, but it does work - which is essential if you want to communicate with anything, since you'll need the slot for a PCMCIA modem or ethernet card. I never really expect the built-in modem in any laptop to work, since they're all winmodems these days; but having the ethernet also be unsupported was a dissapointment. The S-video out would have been nice, but I suppose it's something that would have to be added to the ATI driver; in my experience viewing a computer screen on a TV looks terrible at all but the lowest resolutions, anyway. The ATI driver does support DirectDraw, though, which gives it speedy 2D graphics.

My previous laptop (a Presario 1200) had better audio support, but no graphics driver (VESA did work, though), and a much slower CPU - so I guess it's a tradeoff. Since I really don't do any audio work, trading sound for speed was worth it to me. The 1200 also used APM instead of ACPI, and not being able to power-down this laptop or check the remaining battery charge is annoying, but not something too difficult to get used to... The 1200 let me disable the laptop screen and only output to an attached monitor, and the ATI driver locks hard on the 1700 when I try to do this (but you can leave it displaying to both at once, it works fine.)

I'm annoyed that I have to boot into Windows to burn CDs, something that I had hoped would be supported in BeOS. Admittedly, I haven't done much research into getting this to work, so maybe in the future I'll find a way to do it; if you know of a way to get it to work, please email me :)

There's no IR port on this model, in case you were wondering.

Summary: I bought this laptop after doing my homework, and knew going into it that there would likely be no sound, modem, APM or ethernet support; since I primarily use my laptop for graphics work, email, web surfing & programming, this was fine for me. If you need sound, though, this laptop isn't a good choice.

Component Functionality With BeOS R5:

Component: Description: Driver: Overall:
CPU Intel Pentium III 700MHz
SpeedStep Technology (configurable from BIOS.)
BeOS R5 Works
RAM 128MB PC133; two banks, user upgradeable - max total memory 1024MB (two 512MB DIMMs.) BeOS R5 Works
Hard Drive 12.0GB UltraDMA; user upgradeable to 20GB. BeOS R5 Works
Floppy Drive 1.44MB, 3.5 inch.

(FutureBay, removable, hot-swap.)
BeOS R5 Works
CD-RW 4x/4x/20x CDRW drive (Matshita UJDA330 1.01)

Reading data or audio CD-ROMs works with BeOS R5, and it will boot the OS CD; burning does not work in BeOS's CD burner program, or Helios.

(FutureBay, removable, hot-swap.)
BeOS R5 Partial support
Graphics ATI Mobility hardware accelerated 3D graphics with 8MB video memory.

Up to 1024x768 with 32bpp works with 3rd party ATI driver; higher resolutions do not display properly. The button to toggle between the laptop display and VGA-out will lock the system with the ATI driver - you can only have them both displayed at once. The driver also knows how to put the display into power-saver mode.

3rd party driver gives 2D support only, of course, but the display is very speedy. DirectWindow does work, as well as fullscreen mode.

14.1" XGA TFT Active Matrix Display; SVGA HD-15 monitor port.
3rd party driver:
Partial Support
Video S-Video out port, intended for watching movies, etc. on a TV (more useful if you have the optional DVD drive.) N/A Does not work
Audio ESS 1988 Sound Chipset

Integrated Compaq Audio JBL Pro Audio speakers with Bass Reflex.

Stereo headphone-out jack, mono microphone-in jack

The laptop does have a PC speaker, but the PC speaker sound driver from Bebits is extremely noisy - not worth it.
N/A Does not work
Modem Integrated 56k PCI Modem (V.90), RJ-11 port (CONEXANT.) N/A Does not work
Ethernet 10/100 integrated ethernet, RJ-45 port (CONEXANT.) N/A Does not work
USB Two USB ports. BeOS R5 Works
PCMCIA One type I, II or III card. BeOS R5 Works
Parallel Port ECP, EPP or both, configurable through BIOS. BeOS R5 Works
Touchpad Two buttons, very responsive, PS/2. BeOS R5 Works
"Smart" keys "Smart Keyboard" keys for fast access to email, web browser, etc. You can get an add-on that works with SpicyKeys on Bebits that allows you to use these to launch appropriate applications for you on BeOS.

There is also a set of four keys under the touchpad for scrolling and navigation, but these do not work.
3rd party driver:
Partial Support
APM Power Management Uses ACPI, not APM. N/A Does not work
Battery 3.5 hour LiION battery.

The battery works fine, but since there is no APM power management, you cannot monitor the remaining battery charge from BeOS.
- Partial Support
Docking port Quickdock Connector, used with docking station; I believe the docking station gives access to serial ports. Untested Untested
Security lock slot Locks the system. Untested Untested

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