HP Compaq nc Average Score: It offers excellent portability and unparalled physical durability, even stacked against the legendary ThinkPads of which I own 2. System performance was abysmal. Raw power, while just sufficient for business applications and home entertainment, gamers and other heavy users should consider a slightly larger laptop with a Core Duo or Core 2 Duo processor.
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My company provided me with a Lenovo ThinkPad T60, which while being an excellent performer, was just too big and heavy with its 15 inch screen. It was by using the T60 that I decided that my first priority would be size and weight and I decided to look for notebooks with a 14 inch screen and under.
It was essential to buy a widescreen model due to my likeness of having my taskbar on the left side and all my windows open full screen. I usually need 10 to 15 windows open simultaneously and it is much easier to pick windows off a vertical list that a horizontal one. I also needed a built in optical drive as I am frequently given data on DVD when I go out in the field. I was willing to sacrifice a bit of performance to achieve a small weight since all I need for work is MS Office and internet access.
Presence of a Track Point was preferable to atouchpad but not essential. A black case was highly preferred because silver cases tend to be loud and distracting in a boardroom setting and give unfavorable impressions of the owner to potential clients. Since I would be doing a lot of typing, a solid well laid out keyboard was essential. Long battery life was also preferred as power outlets are often hard to find in boardrooms. Other machines looked at: ThinkPad Z61t: Offered excellent build quality, best notebook keyboard available, high resolution widescreen display, Core Duo processors, built in webcam, Ruled out because of exorbitant price quoted by dealer and 8 week delivery time.
Ruled out because of bad experience with DELL build quality and product reliability and inferior keyboard layout. Toshiba M7 tablet: Offered nice specs for a reasonable price. Ruled out because of weight and bad experience with Toshiba product reliability.
Sony SZ: Offered very good performance in a light package, solid brand reputation. Ruled out because of bright silver color, very poor keyboard layout and quality, very high price. The cover, lower case and I suspect even the keys are made of Magnesium Alloy which results in a very light rigid machine.
Build quality is comparable to the legendary IBM ThinkPad, if not actually better than, as unbelievable as that sounds. It is made from Magnesium Alloy which is black with a roughened finish and is very pleasant to touch and affords good grip while carrying. All joints on the case meet flush with no gaps and joints do not have relative movement at all no matter how the notebook is lifted. Every door and compartment, even the optical drive sits securely in its location and with no play whatsoever.
There are no creaks or flex when lifted by the corners with the screen open. It is impossible to twist the machine using reasonable force.
No part of the machine could be made to flex when pressed, not even very thin sections of the case such as the base of the battery compartment with battery removed or the frame of the keyboard. Display view large image Pressing on the back of the display did not produce any rippling at all although it did sink a few millimeters.
The screen however does twist if one corner is pushed and the other pulled moderately although this also did not produce rippling on the display. However, the display does appear to be the part most vulnerable to physical damage when open. When closed the display is secured by two plastic clips opened with a single central release. When closed the display is well secured and well protected against twisting to which is vulnerable when open. There is no hinge wobble and the resistance to opening and closing is light although sufficient to keep the display from moving on its own.
The LEDs are labeled on the palm rest and the front of the display cover enabling status to be established with the display opened and closed. There are 4 rubber rectangles at the front which most likely cover case screws although this was not confirmed.
It is very handy to have the drive located to the front of the machine rather than the back as it is less likely to be obstructed here. Also the eject button is right to the front of the left side in easy reach of the middle finger.
It is in such easy reach that the drive occasionally ejected accidentally. A USB extender may have to be used in these cases. However HP could have done better and provided a right angled power jack to save space and protect against breakage. It is time that laptops do away with the RJ11 modem port as was done with serial and parallel years ago.
Right: view large image On the right side are numerous ports from front to back IEEE mini port, headphone port, microphone port, USB port, VGA out and finally at the back the docking station port. Below the docking station connector is a heat vent which blows hot air onto the mouse hand. The air is not very hot and actually helps keep the fingers warm in an air-conditioned office.
Persons that use a mouse most of the time thinking about buying this laptop should test their tolerance of warm air blowing on their hands before buying. It did actually become a problem after hours of typing outdoors and was quite distracting.
I am going to have to make something to deflect the air up when used in non-air-conditioned areas. Back: view large image The back of the machine is dominated by the battery, with only a RJ45 network port at the right side. This is the most convenient spot for the LAN port. Bottom: view large image Access to all the laptop components is through the bottom of the case.
There are covers for the Mini PCI slot, occupied by the Intel pro wireless card, single memory slot, Bluetooth module and hard drive. Located to the front of the bottom is the single speaker. The functioning of the speaker in this seemingly weird location is described later.
The offending air exit vent is seen on the upper left side of this picture. Keyboard: view large image This keyboard is very well laid out and well constructed. There is no flex in the keyboard no matter how hard it is pressed. Keys are rough and black just like the case and have the same pleasant feel on the fingertips. Each key press is confident and secure allowing for speedy touch typing. Lightness of the keys determined by tapping them with a nail, the finish and cool metallic touch gives the impression that even the keys are Magnesium Alloy.
If this is true this would be very impressive indeed as even the legendary IBM keys are plastic. It seems that HP has made good use of psychology in choosing the colors for the keyboard lettering. The inclusion of this touch-strip adds a level on uniqueness to this machine as well as offering a good point to brag to owners of lesser notebooks. Unfortunately the material used for this strip is not very hard and the volume control picks up hairline scratches from fingertips very easily which are visible at an angle with reflected light.
It is always good to run down the battery completely before giving it its first charge as this extends the useful life of the battery. It took 3 hours to run down the charge that the laptop came with. Quite frustrating. The second charge took 4 hours 40 min to run down!
This is amazing considering battery life peaks only after several cycles. This results in muted styling of non reflective flat black ideal for professional environments. In addition, the rough texture provides grip for carrying so that this light machine can be securely held without applying too much grip pressure. The display however is what I can only describe as dark charcoal with a hint of blue.
It passes as black on casual observation indoors but really gives the laptop an elegant look when studied closely. The HP logos while being chrome do not stand out but instead adds a touch of class to the machine. The design of the nc was obviously well thought out in terms of appearance, durability and functionality. I am confident that this notebook will be able to withstand a lot of abuse.
The laptop is much lighter that it looks, and it looks really small! I was quite comfortable holding it with my left hand while walking around and typing with my right.
When people purchase notebooks, not many people realize that the ergonomics of the machine is vital to productivity. Logical key placement on the keyboard and port location on the outside of the laptop goes a long way to increasing efficiency.
Barring a patent issue, I do not see why everybody does not emulate the ThinkPad keyboard layout as it is without doubt the best keyboard layout in the business. While not quite perfect the keyboard of the nc is as close as it gets, the thick keys and travel giving confidence to strokes. The keyboard is simply a joy to use, and while people fall in love with ThinkPad keyboard instantly, it takes only an hour or 2 to get the same feeling out of the HP.
Display If there was a downside to the nc that could have been easily corrected would have to be the screen. While being a very good screen, much better than most, one of the new high-contrast screens with the glossy coatings was expected on such a machine.
As it turns out, the screen is pretty much run of the mill with very wide horizontal view ability seemed like degrees but worse vertical with a change of 10 degrees causing appreciable color change. The screen is very bright, whites look very white but blacks could have been a bit blacker. On the plus side the WXGA resolution is perfect for a screen of this size, any higher and text would become quite tiny indeed.
It is worthwhile to note that the thinness of the screen and the black metal surround makes it quite pleasurable to stare at for long periods typing essays or surfing the net. No dead pixels were observed.
Light leakage and backlighting unevenness was minimal and because of the poor vertical viewing angles was of no consequence. However in practice, I was blown away by what I heard! The volume is adequate once the notebook is on a hard surface and the fact that there is only one speaker makes not one bit of difference to the dual speakers on other notebooks.
On reading up about why this is so I discovered that stereo only works if the listener is closer to the speaker than the distance between the speakers. Further than this the sound from both speakers mix and you end up with mono anyway!
Watching a movie in a quiet room or listening to MP3s while working works welll, but as with most notebooks, anything more than that requires you to get powered external speakers. The quality of the audio output was tested with a W Logitech Z surround system and the result was very crisp and balanced with no distortion even at high volumes. Heat and noise Because of the low power consumption of this laptop, heat and noise are kept to a minimum. As mentioned before hot air occasionally pumps out of the right hand side air vent although I have NEVER actually heard the fan.
I tend to use the nc outdoors a lot in 32 degree Celsius air temperatures and have not had a overheating problem. Only two places that gets warm on this machine are the base of the monitor where the inverters for the backlight are located and the bottom right hand corner around the cooling fan.
It is by far the quietest drive I have ever used though.
HP Compaq nc2400 Review
HP Compaq nc2400 Notebook PC