HP Compaq – nc4200 review

ultraportable laptop for business users
Photo of HP Compaq – nc4200
£899 + VAT

Just one look at the HP Compaq nc4200 tells you exactly who this ultraportable notebook is aimed at. With its dark grey/blue suit, it’s clearly a tool for the corporate road warrior, but it’s a lot lighter than it looks and has a useful combination of fast performance and a good battery life.

Part of HP’s Enterprise family of notebooks, the nc4200 range comes in three models with the review system, the PV983AW, being the flagship notebook.

The nc4200 PV983AW comes with the trio of Intel components that makes it a full blown Centrino notebook; Intel Pentium M 750 1.86GHz processor, i915GM Express chipset and, last but not least, an 802.11b/g Wireless LAN mini PCI card.

Backing up the CPU is 512MB of DDR2 memory and if this isn’t enough for you, it’s possible to fit up to 2GB of memory in the two SO-DIMM slots. The laptop’s overall performance is quite lively, scoring 145 when benched with Sysmark04SE.

As it uses Intel’s GMA900 integrated graphics solution, up to 128MB of the system memory can be used to help boost the graphics performance, but no matter how much memory you give to the graphics sub-system, this is one notebook you won’t be playing any of the leading games on. It’s strictly for office applications.

Although at first glance the nc4200 PV983AW may appear heavy, in fact it weighs just 1.8kg. The main reason for this is the lack of any built-in optical drive as standard, so you will have to buy one separately; something you will have to factor into your buying plans. For permanent storage there is a fast (5,400rpm) 60GB hard drive.

The 12.1-inch XGA screen has a 1,024 by 768 pixel resolution but unfortunately the screen is this laptop’s Achilles heel; it never seems to get very bright, even after some time spent trying to adjust the brightness and contrast.

The keyboard, on the other hand, has a feel reminiscent of a Thinkpad and both the trackpad and pointstick are well positioned and easy to use. Bearing its target audience in mind, HP has fitted a presentation button to the nc4200 PV983AW, which can be set to instantly launch a Powerpoint slideshow.

Despite its small size (28.5 x 23.5 x 3.2cm width by depth by height) it has a good number of ports placed around the chassis; three USB 2.0 sockets (rear, left and right), integrated SD/MMC and PC Card slots, two audio ports and VGA and S-video outputs. Besides the Wireless LAN you also get a 56Kbps modem, Bluetooth 1.2 and Gigabit Ethernet.

Although it doesn’t use an ultra low voltage CPU, the nc4200 PV983AW has an impressive battery life. Even with no battery saving measures enabled and just the wireless turned off, it gave a shade over three hours of life. That’s a worst case scenario, but tuning the system to conserve power should give you close to HP’s claim of five hours.

As with most HP systems, this sub-notebook comes with a wealth of software of which the most interesting is HP ProtectTools suite, which allows you to manage your passwords and networking needs. To help with security there is a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip.

Company: HP Compaq

Contact: 0870 547 4747

If HP doesn't know how to address the needs of the corporate market then nobody does. The nc4200 PV983AW is a great tool for the road warrior, if a little pricey, the only reservations being the lack of an optical drive and that none-too-bright screen.