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HP Compaq nc6400 Review

by Ela Kotkowska

This is a review of HP Compaq nc6400, a thin-and-light 14.1″ widescreen notebook in the business line. Its light-weight and features match those of a comparable ThinkPad Z61t.

HP nc6400 business laptop (view large image)

The specifications for nc6400 (pre-configured model RA260AT):

  • operating system: Windows XP Professional
  • processor: Dual core T2300E (1.66GHZ)
  • graphics: Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950
  • screen: 14.1-inch WXGA (1280 x 800 resolution)
  • hard drive: 80 GB (5400 rpm)
  • memory: 1GB 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM (2 DIMM)
  • optical drive: DVD+/-RW DL (Matsuhita)
  • The notebook has 3 USB ports, integrated smart card reader, SD media slot, integrated Bluetooth, integrated microphone, presentation button, ambient light sensor, wireless off/on button, and fingerprint sensor.

    Reasons for buying:

    While I am becoming increasingly mobile, my old Dell Inspiron 1100 has become too heavy to carry around. I needed a computer that would perform well in multitasking, have decent storage, possibility of DVD backup. After some tedious research, I bought a ThinkPad Z60t, shortly before the Z61t with dual core processor came out. One feature that I found useful on ThinkPad in comparison with the HP, was its rather painless System Migration Assistant: on the HP, I ended up doing everything manually. I returned the ThinkPad because the wireless did not work properly, and I decided I could not put up with the loudness of its keyboard. Then, I bought a Dell e1405, only to return it the next day. After handling a ThinkPad, I was very disappointed with the poor quality of the new Dell design: its fragile plastic was a sign of regression from the older models. It also turned out that the sound card installed on the Dell did not allow for recording through Stereo Mix, but only through the microphone, i.e. with all the noises of typing, talking, etc. And, as I spoke about it to the customer service, it also turned out that $200 invested in a 4 year warranty did not buy me any technical support: I would have had to pay additional $200 to add that on! All HP business models, on the other hand, come with 3-year international support.

    Finally, what swayed my decision in favor of nc6400 were the following features:

  • quality of components:
  • matte screen (seems brighter than the ThinkPad, definitely brighter than Inspiron 1100)
  • solid, yet quiet keyboard
  • dual pointing devices (touch pad & pointing stick)
  • performance:
  • aesthetics:
  • light-weight (4.6 lb, just like Z60t, compared to 5.3 lb for e1405 or Toshiba’s Tecra A6)
  • solid built, magnesium alloy casing (not aluminum, like Tecra A6, or cheap plastic like Dell)
  • plain-looking, with no flashing buttons (like HP’s mainstream models)
  • Where and how purchased:

    I bought it directly from HP over the phone. I did it mostly for the ease of possible return. I paid $1399 + $45 tax. It was shipped from Indiana, and arrived the next day with $16 shipping.

    Build and design

    HP nc6400 view with the closed lid (view large image)

    The HP nc6400 has the sturdy feel of a ThinkPad. There is no flex to the keyboard; the hinges on the lid are strong. I haven’t carried it around much, yet, and am not sure if it gets scratched easily, but it doesn’t give that impression. The ports are conveniently located, and the location of headphone and microphone jacks marked on the top with small off-white icons. I guess due to the size of the laptop, there was no room for indicating the location of the USB ports, etc. The entire surface of the computer seems framed inside a thin trim that protects the ports, optical drive, and speakers from direct impact, should one accidentally bump into something while moving the laptop around. The screen is kept from brushing against the keyboard by little rubber bumpers placed around the screen and two at the bottom of the keyboard.

    Screen

    The 14.1″ widescreen, thanks to its aspect, seems to give more working space than a 15″ diagonal display. The screen is very crisp and bright. Unlike most consumer-oriented laptops these days, HP offers a nice matte screen. It seems brighter than the ThinkPad Z60t I used and brighter and crisper than my old Inspiron 1100. And, something I have now come to appreciate, since it’s not glossy and reflective you don’t have to see your haywire hairdo after you’ve been writing a paper for fourteen hours straight!

    I think the WGA+ resolution would have made things too small to read, so I opted for the regular 1280×800 display.

    There are no dead pixels, no light leakage. As an option, you can add a removable privacy filter preventing your neighbor on the plane from peeking into your work.

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