HP Compaq's nc6000 notebooks are worthy contenders for your thin-and-light dollars, especially if you deal with sensitive data. An optional embedded security feature keeps the bad guys well away from your private business. The fast and light nc6000 runs for much more than five hours sans AC and has an excellent keyboard and an appealing exterior design. All this makes the nc6000 a solid and stylish work machine. If you plan to play an occasional game to relieve work stress, we recommend opting for 64MB of graphics memory.
At 12.51 by 10.31 by 1.34 inches (W, D, H), the nc6000 wears HP Compaq's current charcoal-gray and silver art-deco styling better than some of the company's larger units. The notebook is also solidly built and travels at a totable 6.5 pounds, including optical drive and AC adapter.
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|A wide variety of connectors grace the edges of the nc6000.|
We love the nc6000's solid-feeling, full-size keyboard, a pleasant alternative to the reduced-size keys and scrunched layout that some cheaper units have. The unit's touchpad is responsive, the top- and bottom-mounted selection buttons have a good feel, and the eraser-head pointer control is comfortable to use. However, we wish the nc6000 had separate control-panel adjustments for the touchpad and the eraser head.
The nc6000 gave off a moderate amount of heat near the center of the bottom panel during our informal game testing, but it's no lap-warmer; it runs fairly cool to the touch during normal use. The nc6000 produces above-average sound quality from its speakers, which are located on the front edge. While lacking a bit in bass tones, the sound quality is still far better than what you'll hear from most notebooks.
A wide variety of connectors grace the edges of the nc6000: infrared port, audio mute, and volume controls on the front; dual Type II PC Card slots and a modem port on the right; modular drive bay and audio in/out jacks on the left; and Gigabit Ethernet, VGA, parallel, PS/2, serial, AC jack, and a pair of USB 2.0 ports on the back.
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The modular bay accepts a variety of drive types.
HP Compaq sells the nc6000 in four prefab configurations ranging in price from $1,649 to $2,199, but you can also roll your own. Options include: Intel Pentium M processors from 1.4GHz to 1.6GHz, 256MB to 2,048MB of DDR memory, 30GB to 80GB 5,400rpm hard drives, and either XGA (1,024x768) or SXGA+ (1,400x1,050) native resolution for the 14.1-inch screen. HP Compaq doesn't hype either display as offering a wide viewing angle; however, our hands-on test with the 1,024x768 unit showed an acceptable picture even when viewed off-center from moderate angles. You can choose between two flavors of ATI Radeon 9600 Mobility GPUs: 32MB or 64MB. If you think you might play an occasional game with this notebook, we highly recommend the 64MB version, which has a 128-bit memory path compared with the 64-bit path of the 32MB variety. The difference is clearly visible. This is a good all-around offering, but we wish there were a 1.7GHz Pentium M option.
The nc6000 features a bay on the left side of the notebook that accepts a number of standard HP Compaq modules, including a DVD+RW drive, a 24X/10X/24X+8X CD-RW/DVD combo drive, a 24X CD-RW drive, an 8X DVD-ROM drive, a 24X CD-ROM drive, a second battery ($169), a second hard drive, and a floppy drive. Wireless options include several mini-PCI 802.11 solutions, including an affordable b/a/g card and Bluetooth. The nc6000's bottom-mounted docking port also allows you to dock the unit to optional half-size ($179) and full-size ($279) port replicators. Another interesting option is HP Compaq's Protect Tools Embedded Security, a combination firmware, software, and smart-card security system that offers numerous levels of user verification and file encryption for sensitive data.
The nc6000 comes with Microsoft Windows XP Professional or Windows 2000 and includes a plethora of documentation on CD, along with Adobe's Acrobat Reader for rendering the system docs.
Mobile application performance
The HP Compaq nc6000 came out ahead in mobile performance in our latest roundup of thin-and-light systems. The system scored 10 points higher than the IBM ThinkPad X31 (single battery) and 11 points higher than the Gateway 200. Since all three systems share such similar specs, the deciding factor here may have been the nc6000's high-end ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 32MB GPU, which we suspect gives the nc6000 the bit of extra oomph it needed to come out 10 points ahead. There's no doubt that the nc6000 has great mobile performance and can easily outpace its peers when running office and content-creation apps.
Mobile application performance (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Performance analysis written by CNET Labs assistant lab manager Eric Franklin.