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HP Business nc8430 (Core 2 Duo 2GHz review: HP Business nc8430 (Core 2 Duo 2GHz

The HP Compaq nc8430's design won't turn any heads, but the laptop does offer business-oriented features and solid performance at a competitive price.

Michelle Thatcher

Michelle Thatcher

Former Senior Associate Editor, Laptops

Tech expert Michelle Thatcher grew up surrounded by gadgets and sustained by Tex-Mex cuisine. Life in two major cities--first Chicago, then San Francisco--broadened her culinary horizons beyond meat and cheese, and she's since enjoyed nearly a decade of wining, dining, and cooking up and down the California coast. Though her gadget lust remains, the practicalities of her small kitchen dictate that single-function geegaws never stay around for long.

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Measuring just 1.1 inches at the front and 1.4 inches at the back, the HP Compaq nc8430 will leave room in your briefcase for notepads and file folders, and its 6.2-pound weight (7.2 pounds with the AC adapter) is manageable for semifrequent travel. The nc8430's 14x10-inch footprint will take up a large chunk of desk space but is about average for a 15.4-inch wide-screen machine; for instance, it's nearly identical in size to the Lenovo 3000 N100.

6.6

HP Business nc8430 (Core 2 Duo 2GHz

The Good

Slim and lightweight; large display with sharp resolution; full-size keyboard; fingerprint reader; smart card slot; three-year warranty.

The Bad

Ho-hum design; dim display; lousy speakers; lacks an ExpressCard slot.

The Bottom Line

The HP Compaq nc8430's design won't turn any heads, but the laptop does offer business-oriented features and solid performance at a competitive price.
At first glimpse of the HP Compaq nc8430, you're likely to think it subdued. Like other HP business laptops, its black-and-gray case won't attract any envious stares at the airport, and its performance likewise doesn't necessarily stand out among the crowd of business laptops. But look more closely, and you'll see the kind of features that matter for real productivity on the road: a sizeable display, a comfy keyboard, plenty of ports, and corporate-level security features. Price-wise, the nc8430 is competitive with similar systems, such as the ThinkPad Z61m, without undercutting them. It's neither the flashiest nor the fastest computer around, but if you're looking for a reasonably portable system for business, the HP Compaq nc8430 will help you get the job done.

Like other HP business laptops, the nc8430's well-thought-out design makes it relatively easy to stay productive when on the road. The full-size keyboard lets you pound out lengthy memos without cramping your fingers. We like that HP gives you both a ThinkPad-like pointing stick and a track pad for navigation; each device has dedicated mouse buttons and a center scroll button. Users who prefer the pointing stick will have to disable the touch pad--easily done through software controls--to keep their hand from accidentally grazing the pad and misplacing the cursor. To the lower right of the keyboard, there's a fingerprint reader, while above the keyboard are volume controls and a few handy shortcut buttons: a quick-launch key for the HP info center, a Wi-Fi on/off button, and quick-launch presentation button. Framing the keyboard are two speakers that emit garbled sound--not surprising, given the laptop's business focus. The nc8430's 15.4-inch wide-screen display, with a native resolution of 1,680x1,050, looked very crisp and clear and offered more screen real estate than the average 15.4-inch display, though it wasn't as bright as we'd have liked.

Around its case the HP Compaq nc8430 has almost every port and connection a mobile worker will need, starting with four-pin FireWire, S-Video, VGA, and three USB 2.0 ports, plus headphone and microphone jacks. HP also throws in a serial port for businesses with older accessories and a connector for the company's laptop dock. Networking connections include Gigabit Ethernet, modem, built-in 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. In a cluster on the left side of the machine, there are slots for PC Cards (but not the latest ExpressCards), SD cards, and smart cards. A built-in optical drive burns both CDs and DVDs.

Priced at $1,799, our HP Compaq nc8430 test unit included a 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 1GB of midrange 533MHz RAM, a sizeable 100GB hard drive spinning at a quick 7,200rpm, and an ATI X1600 GPU with 256MB dedicated memory. On CNET Labs' benchmarks the nc8430 performed right in line with similarly configured systems from Gateway and Velocity Micro. The HP also bested the consumer-oriented Dell Inspiron E1505, which included a previous-generation Core Duo processor, on our CPU-intensive multitasking and iTunes tests. On our battery drain tests, the HP Compaq nc8430 held out for 3 hours, 50 minutes--above average for a laptop of its size but not quite as long as the Inspiron E1505.

Like most business laptops, the HP Compaq nc8430 comes with a three-year warranty that includes toll-free, 24/7 phone support and return-to-depot service. An upgrade to three years of onsite service costs $149. The company rounds out its service and support with a solid online help site that integrates a user forum and real-time chat with a tech-support rep.

Multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Multitasking test  

Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test  

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple iTunes encoding test  

BAPCo MobileMark 2005 battery life (in minutes)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2005 battery life  

System configurations:
Dell Inspiron E1505
Windows XP Media Center; 2GHz Intel Pentium M-T2500-2GHz; 2GB PC5300 DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon x1400 256MB; Samsung HM120JI 120GB 5,400rpm
Gateway M285-E
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 SP2; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7200; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 664MHz; 256MB ATI Mobility Radeon X1400; 80GB Hitachi 7,200rpm SATA
HP Compaq nc8430
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7200; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 666MHz; 256MB ATI Radeon Mobility X1600; 100GB Hitachi 7,200rpm
Velocity Micro NoteMagix L80x Ultra
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7200; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 664MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce Go 7600; 100GB Seagate 7,200rpm SATA

6.6

HP Business nc8430 (Core 2 Duo 2GHz

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 7Performance 7Battery 6Support 6
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