HP Compaq – NX9005 review

well specified, well priced business laptop
Photo of HP Compaq – NX9005
£769 + VAT

There’s a place for radical innovation, for daring leaps of imagination and design, and the corporate notebook is not it. The point of the big business workhorse portable is that it must be a safe bet. Heck, you might be responsible for buying thousands of the things; what you cannot risk is something untried and untested. Too much could be at stake.

With this in mind, the HP Compaq NX9005 makes a great deal of sense. Viewed in the hard light of business reality, conservative suddenly looks prudent, and dull morphs into reassuring.

Take the three-spindle design for example. The obvious drawbacks are size and weight, which in this case run to 330mm x 273mm x 40mm (W x H x D) and 3.3kg respectively. Neither is excessive by comparison to other all-in-one notebooks, but this is clearly not a machine designed with total portability as the overriding consideration.

The upside of the three-spindle approach is two-fold. First, everything’s there when you need it, including a floppy drive, and second, there are no cables to lose and connectors to damage and no modules to drop and break. Nor is there the issue of purchasing drives as expensive ‘extras’ alongside the notebook itself.

With the industry still in a transition between the old and the new where connectivity is concerned, more is more. HP Compaq has wisely steered clear of the modishly sparse, ‘legacy-free’ back panel, and gone for the kitchen sink approach instead. You get it all, from parallel, serial and PS/2 to a pair of USB connectors, Firewire (IEEE1394) and S-video TV-out. Oh, and there’s an expansion bus too, for use with a £75 port replicator option.

Obviously, ports alone do not make a notebook, but the NX9005 gives a pretty good account of itself when it comes to the rest of its specs. The core of the machine is a mobile AMD Athlon XP 2400+, which refers, of course, to what AMD claims is equivalent performance from Intel silicon. So, the CPU actually runs at 1.8GHz rather than 2.4GHz, for what it’s worth.

The processor is flanked by 256MB of PC2100 DDR SDRAM and a 40GB Travelstar hard disk manufactured under licence by Hitachi. This is about what we’d expect as a realistic basis to a general purpose business notebook, and also chimes well with the overall price.

And there’s more. You get a fairly quiet combo DVD/CD-RW drive by Optiplex, which can manage DVD and CD play at 8x and 24x respectively, CD-R at 24x and CD-RW at 10x. The TFT screen is a very readable combination of XGA resolution and a 15.1-inch diagonal, although the graphics subsystem borrows memory from the main system, and is predictably average in performance terms. Not that you’ll actually notice so long as you stick within the 2D world of Windows, which the ATI Radeon IGP 320M GPU copes with perfectly well.

10/100 Base-TX networking and a 56Kbps, V.92 modem are both built in, but this model stops short of any wireless technology. We noticed an empty mini-PCI slot in the base and there are two Type II PC Card slots as well, so adding Bluetooth or WiFi is possible if you need it.

The NX9005 is clearly assembled and finished to a fairly high standard, but the actual mouldings could have been a mite thicker. This is mainly an aesthetic drawback – thin mouldings feel cheap – but the lid surface can play a crucial role in protecting the screen, and to our mind, it wasn’t solid enough for comfort.

In use, the large, legible screen is a plus, and the reasonably roomy keyboard soon starts to feel familiar. We also warmed to the on-off button that disables the touch pad – if you’ve ever triggered some action inadvertently by brushing the pad as you type, you’ll appreciate how useful this can be.

Despite the PowerNow! technology built into the CPU (AMD’s answer to Intel’s SpeedStep), the notebook drained its 4,400mAH Li-ION battery in slightly under 3 hours. Perhaps more conditioning would have got this up to 3 hours dead, but even so, we’d have liked to see a little more life under DC power.

In relative terms, this isn’t a particularly fast notebook, but when you are running applications rather than benchmarks, the fast-faster-fastest distinctions become somewhat academic. It is powerful enough, as it stands, to run business applications and Windows XP at a realistic and usable pace, and that’s fast enough, at least for the next year or two.

On the whole, we liked the NX9005 more than we expected to, not because it wowed us with hidden depths, but because it does what it sets out to, and well. It’s affordable and for what you get – which includes a one-year, worldwide, carry-in, parts and labour warranty – the price is fair.

Company: HP Compaq

Contact: 0845 270 4222

The NX9005 sticks to a tried and tested format, which is a wise approach when it comes to designing a general purpose business notebook. The odd deficiencies like the plastic lid and modest battery life are held in balance by plenty of pros, including the wide array of ports, good overall ergonomics and sensible price.