HP Compaq nc8000 series review: HP Compaq nc8000 series

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MSRP: $2,249.00

The Good First-class performance; excellent battery life and keyboard; runs cool; has firmware security.

The Bad A tad bulky; stiff pointer controls.

The Bottom Line The fast, sturdy, and highly secure nc8000-series notebooks make excellent enterprise machines.

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8.0 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Battery 9
  • Support 8

Review summary

The retro styling of HP Compaq's business-oriented nc8000 notebooks may not appeal to everyone, but the speed, endurance, and sturdiness of these laptops certainly will. The nc8000 series also adds firmware security to keep out the bad guys and keep prying eyes away from your data. If you can get by the less-than-stellar pointer controls, you'll love the keyboard and the overall experience. We think the nc8000 is on a par with our other Editors' Choice, the Dell Latitude D800.

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A wide array of connectors line the back of the nc8000.

With a slightly retro, art-deco look and rather ponderous, 12.8-by10.8-by-1.6-inch (W/D/H) dimensions, the HP Compaq nc8000 desktop may strike some as chunky--but only before they sit down to use one. The impression of stubbiness will quickly morph into an appreciation for this solid-feeling notebook. The deck area supporting the keyboard, which exhibits too much flex on many notebooks, feels firm on the nc8000. In turn, this makes typing on the full-size, nicely laid-out keyboard feel just like you're sitting in front of a desktop PC. But as solid as it feels, the nc8000 still weighs only about 7.5 pounds with the optical drive and the AC adapter.

Perhaps after spending so much time creating a superior typing experience, HP Compaq's designers ran out of time. Whatever the reason, the unit's pointer controls are a disappointment. The touchpad is slugglish, and the eraser head requires too much pressure; the top pair of selection buttons feels flimsy; and the bottom pair of selection buttons is stiff.

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A modular drive bay graces the nc8000's left side.

On the plus side, the nc8000 ran nearly cool to the touch in our hands, with only a little heat emanating from the middle of the bottom panel during our full-on graphics testing on AC power. The nc8000 also has above-average sound, with the front-edge-mounted speakers producing a surprising amount of volume and lower midrange. It's no boombox, but it's better than average for a notebook, and it's loud enough for tabletop presentations.

The standard array of connectors lines the edges of the nc8000: on the front, audio mute and volume controls; on the right, audio in/out jacks, dual Type II PC Card slots, an SD memory slot, and a modem port; on the left, a modular drive bay; and on the back, Gigabit Ethernet, VGA, parallel, PS/2, serial, AC jack, mini-FireWire, and USB 2.0 ports.

The nc8000 is currently sold in four preconfigured models, ranging from $2,049 to $2,849; however, you may season to taste with a variety of options: an Intel Pentium M processor from 1.4GHz to 1.7GHz; 256MB to 2,048MB of 333MHz DDR memory; 40GB or 60GB 5,400rpm hard drives; and a 15-inch screen with your choice of native resolution: 1,024x768 XGA; 1,400x1,050 SXGA+; or 1,600x1,200 UXGA (the latter two displays offer wide viewing angles). An ATI Radeon 9600 Mobility, with your choice of 64MB or 128MB of graphics memory, packs enough punch for all but the most avid gamers.

HP Compaq also markets an nw8000 as part of this line, with the main difference being the GPU. The nw8000 features ATI's Fire GL T2 OpenGL-certified graphics processor with 128MB of dedicated graphics memory.

Modules for the nc8000's left-mounted HP MultiBay (also found on the smaller nc6000) include a DVD+RW drive, a 24X/10X/24X+8X CD-RW/DVD combo drive, a 24X CD-RW drive, a 8X DVD-ROM drive, a 24X CD-ROM drive, a second battery ($169), a second hard drive, and a floppy drive. Wireless options include 802.11b/a/g and Bluetooth.

The nc8000 also features HP Protect Tools Embedded Security, a rather lengthy moniker for a security solution that includes firmware, software, and smart-card components. Advanced user verification and file encryption are its two main features.

The nc8000 comes preloaded with Microsoft Windows XP Professional or Windows 2000 for its operating system. The software utility bundle includes HP Compaq's Insight Management Agents, Intelligent Manageability Diagnostics for Windows, a plethora of user documentation, and Adobe's Acrobat Reader for displaying the system documentation.

The HP nc8000 came in second place in mobile performance in our latest roundup of mainstream systems. Hot on its heels was the Toshiba Tecra T1, which came in just two points lower than the HP nc8000. The IBM ThinkPad T41 was the winner, scoring nine points higher than the HP nc8000. In real-world terms, however, this is a very small difference that wouldn't translate to any noticeable performance gap between the two, since they both scored high. The HP nc8000 definitely has what it takes to run office and content-creation apps at a fast clip.

Mobile application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating  
IBM ThinkPad T41
HP Compaq nc8000
Toshiba Tecra M1

To measure mobile application performance and battery life, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's MobileMark 2002. 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:

HP Compaq nc8000
Windows XP Professional; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 32MB; Toshiba MK6022GAX 60GB 5,400rpm

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