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HP Compaq nx9600 Notebook PC review: HP Compaq nx9600 Notebook PC

HP Compaq nx9600 Notebook PC

Stephanie Bruzzese
4 min read
Some professionals, such as graphic designers and database managers, need an extra dose of computing power to handle their intensive applications. Built expressly for them, the HP Compaq nx9600 Notebook PC is a well-designed desktop replacement, but it lags behind the competition on performance.
While a lot of laptop manufacturers are producing slimmer and lighter desktop replacements, HP goes the opposite route with the nx9600 Notebook PC's design. The dark-gray system measures a considerable 15.7 inches wide by 11.1 inches deep by 2 inches thick and weighs a hefty 9.4 pounds by itself or 12 pounds with the enormous, three-pronged AC adapter. These dimensions put the nx9600 Notebook PC in hernia-inducing territory, but they also allow for several excellent design features. There's a handy dedicated numeric keypad--found on few laptops--and a comfy, full-size keyboard. There are also four convenient buttons above the keyboard for Wi-Fi on/off and volume control, and a large, rectangular touch pad with two mouse buttons and a third button that disables the pad so that you don't accidentally misplace your cursor while typing. We also really like that HP clearly labels the ports to the right and left of the keyboard and places the JBL Pro speakers in the front-edge corners, which adds dimension to what would otherwise be flat sound.
The business-focused nx9600 Notebook PC series is available through HP's toll-free sales line, the company's own Web site, and other online retailers. Though the list of available components is by no means short, it lacks a few key options, such as a double-layer DVD burner or fast 533MHz RAM, that are found in other corporate desktop replacements such as the Dell Latitude D810. CNET's nx9600 Notebook PC series review contains additional information on specific configurations.
The reasonably priced $2,249 (as of May 2005) nx9600 Notebook PC we tested carried a mix of impressive and mediocre components. While its 3.6GHz desktop Pentium 4 processor is theoretically fast, the system's fairly slow 400MHz memory and poky 4,200rpm hard drive kept it from achieving top scores on CNET Labs' benchmark tests. However, the drive's massive 100GB of storage space will let its target audience--employees who work with enormous data files--store several years' worth of information. Our test unit also carried an immense 17-inch display with a superfine 1,680x1,050 native resolution, a cutting-edge 128MB ATI Mobility Radeon X600 graphics chip, 802.11b/g and Bluetooth cards, and a multiformat DVD burner.
The nx9600 Notebook PC proves that when it comes to performance, it's not necessarily how many megahertz you have, but how you use them. In CNET Labs' benchmark testing, the nx9600 Notebook PC's 3.6GHz Pentium 4 processor couldn't help the laptop outrun the Dell Latitude D810, which carried a 2GHz Sonoma Pentium M and the same 128MB ATI Mobility Radeon X600 graphics chip (we should note that the Latitude D810 included a faster 5,400rpm hard drive, but slower 266MHz RAM). The nx9600 Notebook PC also barely outscored the entertainment-oriented Toshiba Satellite P35-S611, a multimedia laptop with a 4,200rpm hard drive, a 3.3GHz processor, and 512MB of 333MHz RAM. Worth noting, however, is the nx9600 Notebook PC's graphics performance, driven by its cutting-edge ATI Mobility Radeon X600 chip. Not only did this business-oriented laptop earn a respectable score in our 3-D graphics application tests, it bested the Satellite P35-S611 in our Unreal Tournament 2004 tests.
One of the benefits of the nx9600 Notebook PC's big case is that there's extra room for plenty of ports and slots. The laptop offers FireWire, S-Video out, standard VGA, Gigabit Ethernet, 56Kbps modem, headphone, microphone, and last--but certainly not least--four USB 2.0 ports distributed around the case. The nx9600 also includes one Type II PC Card slot, an ExpressCard/54 slot, and a handy 6-in-1 slot that accepts Secure Digital, SmartMedia, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, MultiMediaCard, and xD-Picture storage media. It also features a dedicated slot for HP's own SD-based storage solution, the USB Digital Drive. Unfortunately, the system lacks the security measures of other business systems--there's no Trusted Platform Module chip or simple file- and folder-encryption fingerprint reader--though it does include HP ProtectTools security software for simple file and folder encryption. The nx9600 Notebook PC shows its business bent by shipping exclusively with Windows XP Professional. Like most corporate laptops, the system lacks an office productivity suite, but HP bundles a few other apps for disc viewing (InterVideo WinDVD 5.0) and burning (Sonic RecordNow 7.0, Sonic DLA 4.0, and in some configurations, InterVideo WinDVD Creator 2.0).
The nx9600 Notebook PC comes with an industry-standard one-year warranty. While customers can always purchase a longer warranty, it's worth noting that Dell backs the similarly priced Latitude D810 with a three-year warranty. We also take issue with HP's limited tech support policy: 24/7, toll-free phone support is available only for the life of your warranty rather than the life of the system. With competitors such as Dell offering unlimited phone support, there's no excuse for HP not to provide it as well. At least the company lets you engage in free online chat with virtual tech-support reps and other customers via its support Web site.
Application performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
BAPCo's SysMark 2004 rating  
SysMark 2004 Internet content creation   
SysMark 2004 office productivity  
Dell Latitude D810
HP Compaq nx9600
Toshiba P35-S611

3D gaming performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
Atari Games/Epic Games Unreal Tournament 2004  

System configurations:
Toshiba P35-S611
Windows XP Home; 3.33GHz Intel Pentium 4 548; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 IGP 64MB; Fujitsu MHU2100 100GB 4,200rpm
Dell Latitude D810
Windows XP Professional; 2GHz Intel Pentium M 755; 1GB DDR2 SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility x600 128MB; Hitachi Travelstar 5K80 80GB 5,400rpm
HP Compaq nx9600
Windows XP Professional; 3.6GHz Intel Pentium 4 560; 1GB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon x600 128MB; Fujitsu MHU2100AT 100GB 4,200rpm