Though plenty of 17-inch wide-screen laptops are on the market, the HP Compaq nx9420 is the only one of them from a major vendor that's designed specifically for large business and enterprise deployment. Starting at approximately $1,399, the nx9420 is a bit pricier than HP's consumer-focused siblings (the top thin-and-lights for business).
With the staid, dark gray and black nx9420, HP isn't breaking any new ground in corporate laptop design. The system feels relatively well built, though not as solid as Lenovo's ThinkPad line, which has no 17-inch model. Measuring approximately 15.5 inches wide, 10.75 inches deep, and just short of 1.5 inches thick, the nx9420 is a big desktop-replacement laptop, and at 7.4 pounds, it's too heavy for regular travel. That said, it's surprisingly lightweight for its size, and it's portable enough to move from room to room. Its modest AC adapter adds nearly another pound.
The nx9420 has a large, sprawling keyboard and is one of the few laptops on the market to feature a separate number pad. Its keyboard is comfortable to type on, though not quite as responsive as a ThinkPad keyboard. The nx9420's touch pad, which has a vertical scrolling strip and nice rubbery buttons, is a tad small for our taste and lacks an external on/off switch--a feature we like to see on larger, more sedentary laptops that are often connected to an external mouse. Above the keyboard are a set of external volume controls, as well as a Wi-Fi on/off button; a button that toggles on and off audio, video, and system settings for presentations; and a button that summons HP's Info Center system management utility, which lets you adjust security settings, manage wireless devices, and search a preinstalled support database.
As mentioned above, the nx9420's hallmark feature is its 17-inch wide-screen display. Though it's not as bright as the screens on other more entertainment-driven systems, such as the , the , or HP's new dual-lamp Pavilion dv8000, the nx9420's display is bright enough for most business tasks. An ambient-light sensor below the screen automatically adjusts the display's brightness level.
Like many of HP's laptops, the nx9420's display can be configured for one of a variety of native resolutions. Our test unit had a fine 1,680x1,050 (WSXGA) resolution, though not the BrightView variety, which has a hard, glossy finish. HP says the finish makes for a brighter image; we're not sure about that, but we do prefer the glossy finish because it better protects the LCD. While it's not designed as an entertainment system, the nx9420's speakers deliver audio that is very clear and reasonably loud, though lacking bass.
When it comes to ports and connections, the nx9420 has everything a business user should need and then some. You get VGA, S-Video-out, four-pin FireWire, and four USB 2.0 ports (two on each side), as well as headphone and microphone jacks and a docking port for connecting to one of HP's several docking stations. There's a PC Card slot that supports both Type I and Type II cards, though not ExpressCards. Networking connections include Gigabit Ethernet, 56Kbps V.92 modem, integrated 802.11a/b/g, and Bluetooth (which is optional, but was featured on our test unit); given the laptop's large size, it lacks the built-in EV-DO capabilities found on the more travel-friendly . Our test unit included a double-layer DVD burner with HP's LightScribe technology, which might be overkill for a business laptop.
The nx9420 offers a full array of security features. In addition to an integrated smart card reader, the laptop is equipped with a fingerprint reader and a TPM module, as well as Absolute Software's Computrace LoJack software. As with most business laptops, the nx9420's included software is pretty basic: Windows XP Pro, a few disc burning apps, and a handful of HP's homegrown system utilities.
Our $2,399 nx9420 test unit was configured with some very high-end components: a top-of-the-line 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo T2600 processor; 1GB of DDR2 RAM (1x1024); an ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 GPU with 256MB of VRAM; and an 80GB, 5,400rpm hard drive. With such a strong lineup of components, it's no surprise that the nx9420 blazed through CNET Labs' benchmarks, scoring right in line with a similarly configured Dell Latitude D820. In our battery-drain test, the nx9420 lasted a very respectable 4 hours, 8 minutes, which is considerably longer than most other comparably sized laptops.
HP backs the nx9420 with an industry-standard three-year warranty; adding a fourth year costs about $100, while three years of onsite service costs approximately $150. The company has a reasonably good reputation for tech support and provides an easy-to-navigate Web site chock-full of downloads, troubleshooting tips, and a very helpful user forum to swap horror stories and help. If you need to communicate with a technician, the best bet is to use HP's chat room, but the company also has a toll-free, 24-hour support line and promises next-day answers to e-mail queries.
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Find out more about how we test Windows notebooks.
Dell Latitude D820
Windows XP Professional; 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo T2600; 1GB PC5300 DDR SDRAM 666MHz; Nvidia Quadro NVS 120M 512MB; Fujitsu MHV2100BH 100GB 5,400rpm
HP Compaq nx9420
Windows XP Professional; 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo T2600; 1GB PC5300 DDR2 SDRAM 666MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 256MB; Seagate Momentus 5700.2 80GB 5,400rpm
Lenovo ThinkPad T60
Windows XP Professional; 2GHz Intel Core Duo T2500; 1GB PC4300 DDR2 SDRAM 666MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon X1400 512MB (256MB shared); Hitachi Travelstar 5K100 100GB 5,400rpm