Pros Could be a nice laptop... if HP had someone capable of building it.
Cons HP's unbelievable incompetence in procurement and support
Summary I ordered this laptop two weeks ago as a CTO - custom to order. It is supposed to arrive at my office tomorrow. It won't. It can't. Guess why? Someone in marketing decided that the 56K modem that ships with preconfigured models CANNOT BE USED with CTO notebooks. Why? Oh, no reason, they just decided that. But guess what! That same person didn't bother to specify what modem should be used, so they can't ship these laptops unless it's without a modem.
So now a regional sales manager for the Bay Area named Lance Cannon is looking into how long it will take for them to build and ship the notebook I ordered two weeks ago without a modem. If I'm lucky, I'll get it in another two weeks. I asked him if there would be some price break and he said that HP would pick up shipping. So I'm supposed to get this tomorrow and it's going to show up two weeks late without a modem and my perk is that I get free shipping.
The reason I'm buying this laptop is because HP is buying back my existing laptop that has a defect. I have a very good warranty, but HP can't fix my laptop. I shipped it in twice and on neither occasion was a proper diagnostic performed. Actually, once I got it back with a new keyboard for no apparent reason. Finally, someone at HP decided to just give me my money back. So, I was going to buy a Dell to avoid these uncomfortable problems in the future, but I decided that would be mean since they were giving me a refund.
But now it appears that not only is HP unable to repair my produt under warranty, it can't even ship a new product.
With my configuration and warranty, the purchase price for this laptop was $2,800. You'd expect that selling commodity hardware like laptops, HP would provide a service premium for that kind of price. But instead it is unbelievable rudeness and incompetence -- this is all that I've been offered.
I explained that I should get a price break. I pointed out that if a company's core competence was delivering products to spec and on time, that they should do that. Companies good at support should offer this perk to their customers. Since HP doesn't have either of those options, I said that cutting prices appeared to be their only remaining core competency. But this too isn't in the cards -- not a dime in discount.
So, I'm considering cancelling this order and buying a Dell Latitude D810. A similar configuration and a better warranty on the Dell will cost me $2,150 -- a $650 savings. The Dell case isn't as nice -- it's slightly bigger and plastic instead of the nice magnesium alloy case that HP uses. But that's really the only difference -- the rest of the machine is commodity parts that are all made by third-party vendors and shared across laptop manufacturers.
I was essentially willing to pay an extra $650 and wait two weeks to get this case. But HP scares me. Do they know that on most laptops the 56K modem is attached to the same card as the LAN? If I agree to take this laptop at the same price without the 56K modem -- WHICH I WAS TOLD IS MY ONLY OPTION BECAUSE THERE IS NO MODEM FOR THIS LAPTOP -- then is there some possibility that it will show up without a LAN connection too? If that happens, how long will it take them to buy it back?
This is HP's flagship business laptop. I wouldn't order one of these for business unless you have an admin with a lot of free time to call HP order tracking and support over the next several months. I'm unhappy because I don't have an idle admin to do this. I've been dealing with them myself.Updated
Repeated calls to HP resulted in a helpful sales manager claiming to have resolved the problem. It appears that the build instructions for CTO nc8230 models included two 56K modems, one of which was discontinued a long time ago. The default rule for CTO production states that a unit is supposed to sit as a bag of parts until ALL of the parts are present and then it is sent for assembly (or "build" I think is the PC maker lingo) -- the facility for nc8230s is apparently in Indiana.
Because this part was unavailable, the laptop just sat... not just mine, but apparently every person who ordered a CTO nc8230. The call agents tasked with contacting customers for delayed orders are only made to do so 48 hours before the product is supposed to arrive at the customer's ship to address. Until this 48 hour window opens, it appears that no one bothers to take a look to see how things are coming along.
The two call agents who contacted me about the laptop were completely oblivious to the true nature of this problem. It was only after a regional sales manager named Lance Cannon called people inside product management that the problem was identified.
Although this experience has been deeply disappointing and the process flow for building these laptops appears to have been designed by someone without formal training, Mr. Cannon did to his credit resolve my problem within one hour. My disappointment comes in having had to work with several people for many hours before my problem was finally escalated to someone who had access to the puddin' heads who set up this build algorithm. And it is also disappointing to have HP wait until the day before the product is supposed to be delivered to bother looking at what's in that bag and why. Moreover, it is more than a little inefficient to have systems in place that are completely useless until a senior manager personally intervenes.
Hopefully I'll have this laptop by Friday and provide a review of the actual hardware at that time.Updated
After all of the chaos above, I was told I'd get my laptop today or at the latest Monday April 4. HP also upgraded my shipping to FedEx next day.
No one from HP called at any point to provide an update. I decided to call today to learn the status of my order. A call agent said that the X600 graphics card is on backorder as is the bottom half of the case. How the bottom could be on backorder but not the top is peculiar because since this is a new model, I would imagine HP would order equal numbers of top and bottom parts to the case.
The HP call agent Melissa told me that they were "really hoping" to have it built by April 14.
Unfortunately, I have other things to do besides repeatedly call HP about this. I'm not a student, I'm a lawyer and I have a lot of work to do and I really don't have time to endure this process.
As for the person who wrote a comment that he was disappointed that I didn't actually review the laptop yet, the fact that I haven't been able to is highly important for anyone ordering one of these nc8230s. Suppose it is a wonderful laptop, but you have to wait eight, ten or even twelve weeks to get it? Suppose laptop prices drop in two to three months, or better Sonoma-based models come out? The fact that HP can't deliver these laptops is a highly important fact for those considering buying one. If the laptop can't actually be delivered or at least can't be delivered for several months, then any review wouldn't be for interested buyers, it would instead be for people who merely like to read PC and laptop reviews.
The fact that you can't buy one of these and have it delivered to you at this time is a more important fact than the unit's performance if you actually intend to buy one.Updated
HP finally delivered the laptop. I received it last Friday. Overall it wasn't that long of a wait, but the problems with different agents calling me to ask if I would accept it without a modem and all of the other crazy business wasted a lot of my time and caused lots of confusion. But that's over and I've been using it now for a week.
The model I have is a CTO (custom to order) with -- Pentium 750 (1.86 GHz), 1 GB of 533MHz RAM, an 80 GB hard drive, the WUXGA screen, Intel wireless b/g, the 128 MB ATI X600 graphics card and a CDRW/DVD.
The form factor is the nicest I've seen. HP achieved the best possible balance of thickness and rigidity on the monitor casing -- it's as thin as possible without being too weak. You can open and close the monitor at using one hand at the top left or top right corner with no flex in the screen at all, but it is extremely thin for a 15.4" display. Bravo on spending time with this feature.
The WiFi radio is strong with good reception - at least double what I get from a Linksys PCMCIA Wireless G card. The previous model closest to this one was a Compaq X1000 and that received poor wireless reception ratings from CNET, so this is a great improvement.
This laptop is not blindingly fast. Actually, it's not a lot faster than my previous X1000 (a Pentium M 1.4 GHz with 512MB of 533 RAM). However, it is noticeably more consistent. It computes kind of like a Mercedes drives. Its power is most visible in its consistency.
While programs don't execute dramatically faster, there is little or no degradation in performance no matter how many programs you open and how many processes you have running simultaneously -- up to a limit, of course. I did notice that once you hit the RAM limit and start writing more information to Windows page files, things slow down dramatically, but that's really a WinTel issue and not an HP one.
I do think that the reason that this laptop doesn't pull away more dramatically in performance than my previous X1000 is the 80 GB drive on this one spins at 5200 RPMs and the 60 GB drive on my old laptop spun at 7200 RPMs. I really needed a bigger drive, so I was willing to take the chance that it would slow things down a bit. Overall this machine is faster even with the slower drive. And anyway, much bigger and faster laptop drives are expected out toward the end of this year.
Since it's a business model, it's doesn't ship with irritating marketing software like consumer laptops, so that saves a few hours of removing spyware, deleting the "sign up for AOL RIGHT NOW" reminders, etc.
The battery seems to last about 3.5 hours with the wireless on. I've not run it for long without wireless, but Notebook Review claims that it lasts almost six hours without the wireless radio on.
This laptop interestingly has room for TWO additional batteries. The CDRW/DVD is in a "MultiBay II" drive and can be slided out. An additional battery can be put in its place. Then an additional "travel battery" can be snapped onto the bottom of the laptop. It appears that without wireless on, each of these batteries should deliver 4.5 to 5 hours, so all three should provide 13.5 to 15 hours of constant run time and maybe 9 to 10 with wireless on. That's damn impressive because it will allow operation on even the longest flights and because the travel battery snaps on the bottom, use of the three batteries (internal, travel, and MultiBay) can be coordinated allowing one to watch a movie or two in flight and then work for six or seven hours too. The MultiBay II battery, of course, doesn't increase the size of the laptop, but the travel battery adds a bit to the thickness.
They keyboard is comfortable and although some have commented that it's too small, it's just the same size as the X1000 (although not quite the same key feel) and is adequate. The pointing stick is very nice and I've not had a laptop in eight years with one -- a real treat. The laptop ships with good Synoptics software that allows the user to turn off either of the pointing devices (it has a pointing stick and a touchpad) and thoroughly configure the buttons and the feel of the touchpad and pointing stick.
HP also offers some decent warranty options including next day onsite service, accidental damage, etc.
Finally, HP claims that the case is covered with a scratch and scuff resistant coating and that the handrest is specially laminated to avoid the common wear marks that show up about six months into the frequent use of any laptop. I can't vouch for this as I've only had the laptop a week, but the handrest is clearly made out of something that isn't painted plastic as is usually the case with consumer and business laptops. I hope this works as they claim it does.
Summary: a fast, stable, plainly and elegantly styled notebook that is probably the thinnest and lightest on the market to provide a 15.4" widescreen. It's quiet, durable and a nice machine. Although it was a big pain overcoming some configuration and shipping issues, so far this has proved to be a very nice machine that is well balanced -- it's not screaming fast, but it also doesn't run hot and has wonderful battery life, and is thin and light.
I need a WUXGA screen for work and after painstaking research I believe that this is the best WUXGA notebook on the market right now. Dell's D810 is a bit cheaper with the same configuration, but it's also a lot thicker, a little bigger, a little heavier and has a plastic case versus the magnesium-allow on this chassis. Magnesium-allow is stronger than plastic and allows notebook cases to be smaller while still providing enough strength and rigidity to protect the hardware. Magnesium-allow also feels of higher quality than plastic -- it is colder to the touch at room temperature and is much harder than plastic -- it feels a little like metal, but not as cold or hard.
Pros Light, Easy to Open, Buttons are convenient, Good battery life, DVD play and sound is much improved over my dell Inspiron
Cons Keyboard small but acceptable
Summary After reading the opinion of the guy that couldn't get his, I ordered one anyway. I got mine on March 31 (I was surprised as the ship date when ordering said April 28). I have had it for 3 days now and have found everything to be better than satisfactory.
The cost was 2400 and change which should buy a lot of laptop. I think it does. Adios Dell.
Pros Wide screen, good sound, nice latch, good connectability.
Cons screen resolution, button design, case finish that scratches you.
Summary I ordered the cheapest $16xx machine on their website which is supposed to have WSXGA+ resolution according to many pages in the online ordering process. I recieved a lower resolution WXGA 1280x800 screen. This screen is actually a nice resolution but shipping the wrong PC is solid DOA for HP. At least it came in just 2-3 days. There is one bad pixel on the screen but other than that its a nice looking screen.
Overall the machine is decent. The keyboard is just fine (not "too small" like in that review). The space bar seems a bit sunken though.
The buttons one uses when using the track-point are a bit sunken as well. They are harder to press then say IBM buttons. That's very frustrating on the HP. The touch pointer is fine but also not quite as ergonomically designed as IBM's. You can tap the pointer stick to register a mouse-click as well (Toshiba hasn't worked that one out last I checked).
The sound is reasonably good. The volume and mute adjustments don't give you any view on the screen as most competitors do by default so its hard to know how far you have adjusted the volume without something playing. The mute button does glow when muted though--nice touch.
Indicator lights molded into the edge of the case (wireless, battery charging, drive activity lights) are directly under your left wrist. The finish there is a bit rough which makes for some wrist gouging if you move your arm in the wrong direction. The lights are covered by your wrist so you can't see them when you are typing. Stupid design 2x.
The outer dimensions are nice. The case is nicely designed. The latch works well. Three USB ports, firewire, etc.
So its almost a keeper but between shipping the wrong screen resolution, a bad pixel, hard to press buttons, and wrist scratching features, it's gonna go back to HP. Sadly too because its almost very impressive.
Pros fast, slick, great screen, good battery life
Cons keyboard could be made larger
Summary Have this laptop now for 2 weeks and extremely satisfied. The high res widescreen is bright and crisp. Performance is good. It is much much more slicker than for example the Dell D810. The keyboard could be made a little bigger because I keep hitting the caps lock sometimes. Overall a great laptop I certainly recommend.
Pros this computer is good for school and work needs
Cons the keybord is small