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The nr3600 has superstrong magnesium skin, a reinforced internal frame, a shock-resistant hard drive, and the right stuff to meet the military's 810F standard for battlefield ruggedness. Slightly thinner than Panasonic's ToughBook CF-29, which has a larger screen, the HP Compaq Rugged Notebook nr3600 measures 2.3 by 9.8 by 11.9 inches. (Its rubber feet add another 0.2 inch to its profile.) Its 9.1-pound heft makes this one of the heaviest notebooks around; however, if you leave the handle behind, it weighs 7.9 pounds.
On the other hand, the nr3600's internal technology is yesterday's news: a reliable 1.7GHz Pentium 4-M processor; 512MB of 333MHz memory (it can hold up to 1GB); and a 4,200rpm, 40GB hard drive. The 12.1-inch touch screen comes with an ATI Mobility Radeon graphics accelerator and 16MB of dedicated memory, but the square stylus is awkward to write with. Unlike the ToughBook CF-29, the nr3600 provides a handy place to stow the stylus on the left edge of the screen. Finally, the notebook's modular bay can house a floppy drive, a variety of optical drives, or a second battery but not a DVD burner.
The nr3600 can connect to networks through its integrated Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GSM, and CDMA cell-phone adapters. Like the ToughBook CF-29, the nr3600 lacks a FireWire port, but it does have a PC Card slot and serial, PS/2, and audio connectors. Its single USB plug uses the antiquated 1.1 spec. All of its ports have rubber covers--even the screws that hold it together have gaskets.
We like the nr3600's clamp-free lid latch and the handy carrying handle, which you can use to tilt the keyboard to a comfortable angle. Our favorite is the glow-in-the-dark keyboard; it offers comfortable 19.5mm keys and is great for night work.
The nr3600 scored a 146 on our MobileMark performance benchmark, outrunning the nearly identical GoBook II and Panasonic's Pentium M-powered ToughBook CF-29 by 15 and 7 percent, respectively. While the nr3600's 6,000mAh battery could run for an acceptable 3.5 hours, it couldn't touch the ToughBook's nearly 7 hours of runtime.
|BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating|
|BAPCo MobileMark 2002 battery-life minutes|
While the nr3600 comes with a business-class three-year warranty, HP views the battery and the AC adapter as consumable items and covers them for only a year. Should you have a problem, HP's Web site has it all: downloads, forums, troubleshooting help, and even trade-in and recycling information. You can also e-mail the support staff or set up a chat session with a technician. The toll-free help desk is open 24/7 and kept us waiting for less than two minutes.
HP Compaq Rugged Notebook nr3600
Windows XP Professional; 1.7GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon APG 16MB; IBM IC25N 40GB 4,200rpm
Itronix GoBook II
Windows 2000 Professional; 1.7GHz Intel Pentium 4M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 8MB; IBM Travelstar 30GN 30GB 4,200rpm
Panasonic CF-29 ToughBook
Windows XP Professional; 1.2GHz Intel Pentium M; 256MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Intel 82852/82855 GM/GME up to 64MB; Hitachi DK23EA-40 40GB 4,200rpm