The HP Compaq Business Notebook nc4000 is one of the first notebooks to reflect the company's new branding strategy, sporting a main brand (HP) and a subbrand (Compaq). It weighs only 3.5 pounds and measures 11 inches wide by 9.2 inches deep. The case is just 1.1 inches thick and excludes many of the conveniences found in larger consumer notebooks. For example, the screen tops out at 12.1 inches, and you won't find a built-in optical storage drive. But business types will appreciate the integrated wireless, the USB 2.0 ports, gigabit Ethernet, and more. You also get plenty of configuration options. In CNET Labs' tests, however, the nc4000 delivered disappointing mobile performance and somewhat weak battery life. Still, with its mix-and-match components and management software tools, the nc4000 will certainly appeal to business travelers and IS departments.
As with all ultralight notebooks, the nc4000 leaves some capabilities behind in favor of portability, but HP kept the sacrifice to a minimum. The black, silver-edged notebook weighs only 3.6 pounds (the AC adapter adds 0.8 pounds) and measures 11 inches wide by 9.2 deep by 1.1 inches thick. However, the design leaves no room for a floppy or optical drive, so to back up important data, you'll have to use a USB keychain drive or HP's External MultiBay. The $79 MultiBay connects via USB 2.0 and can hold a CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, CD-RW, or DVD/CD-RW combo drive and adds 1.4 pounds to the overall travel weight. Of course, with an ultralight, you also must settle for a smaller screen. The nc4000 comes with a 12.1-inch (diagonal) display with a 1,024x768 resolution, which makes it hard to spread out your documents or watch DVDs. Still, in our tests, the display produced a reasonably sharp and focused image, although colors looked somewhat faded. On the plus side, it features 10 brightness levels to help conserve battery power.
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|The keyboard operates quietly and feels good-sized for such a small system.|
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|The keyboard has both a touchpad and a pointing stick, with two sets of left- and right-click buttons.|
Considering its small size, the nc4000 does a nice job covering all the bases. Its fair-sized keyboard operates quietly, and only the spacebar and Escape key feel too small. The keyboard has both a touchpad and a pointing stick, with two sets of left- and right-click buttons--one under the touchpad and one just below the spacebar. The single-purpose buttons above the function keys let you quickly put the system into password-protect mode, turn the wireless transmitters on or off, switch to presentation mode, and adjust the speaker volume. The little mono speaker on the left side sounds surprisingly clear and audible.
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The single-purpose buttons above the function keys let you quickly perform tasks such as turning wireless on or off.
The nc4000 includes most other standard notebook features, including S-Video out, two USB 2.0 ports, a Secure Digital flash memory slot, a 56K modem, gigabit Ethernet, and a Type II PC Card slot. HP plans to sell a preboot authentication card reader for the PC Card slot but has not set a price. The notebook also comes with integrated 802.11a/b wireless networking, with a driver update for 802.11g available from HP later on. And though our test configuration also included Bluetooth (drop Bluetooth to save $50), HP still equips the nc4000 with an infrared port.
HP lets you outfit the nc4000 with some of the latest components. The configuration options include a Pentium M processor running at 1.3GHz, 1.4GHz, 1.5GHz, or 1.6GHz; your choice of 256MB, 512MB, or 1GB of memory; and a 30GB hard drive spinning at 4,200rpm or a 40GB or 60GB drive spinning at 5,400rpm. CNET's test system ran on a 1.6GHz Pentium M processor but with only 256MB of memory, which, along with the integrated ATI Radeon IGP 350M graphics controller, might explain its somewhatin our lab tests.
You can also choose among a few useful accessories. For example, the $79 External MultiBay connects via USB 2.0 and can hold a CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, CD-RW, or DVD/CD-RW combo drive. The company also sells a battery pack that clips to the bottom of the notebook to keep two batteries online or to charge a second battery when the system is plugged into AC power. The travel battery costs $129 and weighs 0.84 pounds.
The nc4000 doesn't come with much software, but you do get HP's handy hardware, software, and networking guides.
The system ships with either Windows XP Professional or the older Windows 2000. You also get HP's proprietary management, diagnostic, and troubleshooting software. The lack of productivity apps won't faze business users who already have software licenses in place.
In our small roundup of Pentium M systems, the 1.6GHz HP Compaq Business Notebook nc4000 delivered disappointing results. It beat the 1.4GHz IBM ThinkPad X31 by a slim margin but scored almost 20 points lower than the 1.3GHz Dell Latitude D400. Why did the nc4000, with its faster processor, fail to live up to its performance potential? For starters, the system houses an ATI Radeon IGP 350M graphics adapter, which borrows 32MB of main memory and adversely affects performance. Secondly, our test unit came with only 256MB of DDR RAM, compared to 512MB of DDR RAM for the Latitude D400.
However, there is a silver lining. The nc4000 took a relatively minor performance hit compared to other systems with ATI Radeon IGP chipsets. Why? The chipset appears to work more efficiently with the Intel Pentium M than with the AMD Athlon XPM--the only other processor we've tested with this chipset. But because this is the first Pentium M notebook CNET has tested with an ATI Radeon IGP chipset and the first notebook we've tested that uses the new 350M graphics adapter, we can't draw a definitive conclusion.
Mobile application performance (Longer bars indicate better performance)
To measure mobile application performance and battery life, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's MobileMark2002. MobileMark measures both application performance and battery life concurrently using a number of popular applications (Microsoft Word 2002, Microsoft Excel 2002, Microsoft PowerPoint 2002, Microsoft Outlook 2002, Netscape Communicator 6.0, WinZip Computing WinZip 8.0, McAfee VirusScan 5.13, Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1, and Macromedia Flash 5.0).
Find out more about how we test notebooks.System configurations:
Dell Latitude D400
Windows XP Professional; 1.3GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Intel 82852/82855 Graphics Controller-0 up to 64MB (shared); Hitachi DK23EB-40 40GB 5,400rpm