A thin-and-light built for the business crowd, the HP Compaq nc6230 joins the growing ranks of laptops outfitted with Intel's next-generation Centrino platform (code-named Sonoma). In addition to some updated components, the nc6230 features some nice design updates to its previous iteration, the HP Compaq nc6000, a CNET Editors' Choice. Unfortunately, the nc6230 lags behind the pack on battery life.
In redesigning the nc6230's case, HP seems to have taken some cues from one of our favorite corporate thin-and-lights, the IBM ThinkPad T series. HP ditched the nc6000's silver accents in favor of an all-black design, though the case, at 12.4 inches wide, 10.1 inches deep, and 1 inch thick, remains about the same size. The nc6230 appears slimmer, however, due to a slanted front edge--a design element also found on the ThinkPad T. At 5.4 pounds (6.2 pounds with the AC adapter), the nc6230 is a few ounces lighter than the nc6000 and about average for the thin-and-light category.
The nc6230 features two pointing devices: an eraser-head pointing stick and a square touch pad with a handy strip along its right edge for scrolling through documents and Web pages. The touch pad and the pointing stick each have a set of rubberized mouse buttons, which we found particularly nice to touch. The broad keyboard features a desktoplike layout with oft-used keys, such as delete, clustered in the upper-right corner and an isolated arrow pad in the lower-right corner. While we like the layout, we found the keys a bit noisy. A row of six useful buttons sits above the keyboard, giving you a quick way to turn wireless connectivity on and off, control the volume, and launch applications.
HP sells its corporate laptops, including the nc6230, through its Web site and via a toll-free phone number, as well as through a variety of online resellers. Either way, you can choose from among a long list of components to customize the laptop. CNET's nc6230 series review has more information on the range of configurations.
Priced at $2,108 (as of March 2005), our nc6230 test unit featured a nice array of components: a 2GHz Pentium M 760 Sonoma processor, 512MHz of average-speed 400MHz memory, an ATI Mobility Radeon X300 graphics chip with a standard 64MB of VRAM, and an 80GB hard drive spinning at a brisk 5,400rpm. Our model also included a 14.1-inch display with a high 1,400x1,050 native resolution; a Broadcom 802.11a/b/g mini-PCI Wi-Fi card, which does not support Intel's Sonoma technology; and a useful CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive in a hot-swappable bay. Another corporate thin-and-light with nearly identical components, the Dell Latitude D610, is slightly more expensive.
Like most of the Sonoma laptops that CNET Labs has tested, the nc6230 didn't earn revolutionary scores in our mobile benchmarks. However, it sped a few points past the Dell Latitude D610 and even further beyond the ThinkPad T42, which featured a slower 1.8GHz Dothan PM and older 32MB ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 graphics chip (check back soon to see our evaluation of the new ThinkPad T43). Unfortunately, in our Labs' battery-drain tests, the nc6230 ran out of steam early, calling it quits after 196 minutes--almost an hour before the Latitude D610 and the ThinkPad T42.
For a fairly demure thin-and-light, the nc6230 includes a full selection of ports and slots. Highlights include three USB 2.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet jack, an S-Video-out port, audio in and out jacks, a Secure Digital card reader, and one Type II PC Card slot with an integrated smart-card reader. HP includes a Trusted Platform Module that's soldered on the laptop's motherboard; it encrypts and stores secret information that can be accessed only with a key code that you establish. The company's ProtectTools software also comes standard on every system, helping to protect the laptop against network and data hacks. Our test unit came preloaded with Microsoft Windows XP Professional, but as with most corporate notebooks, the nc6230 does not ship with a productivity suite. DVD-viewing and disc-burning tasks are handled by InterVideo WinDVD 5.0 and Sonic RecordNow 7.0, respectively.
HP backs the nc6230 with a long, three-year warranty. It doesn't live up to Dell's warranty on the competing Latitude D610, however, which includes onsite service and unlimited tech support. HP does include three years of toll-free, 24/7 telephone support, though, and access to the best features on HP's support Web site--customer forums and real-time chat with a tech support rep--are free.