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HP Compaq Rugged Notebook nr3600 review: HP Compaq Rugged Notebook nr3600

It takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'. HP's Compaq nr3600 tank of a notebook gives Panasonic's ToughBook CF-29 a run for the money with performance and go-anywhere ruggedness.

Brian Nadel
3 min read
HP Compaq Rugged Notebook nr3600
Aimed at mobile professionals and public-safety workers who need to take data into the field--literally--the HP Compaq Rugged Notebook nr3600 has the strength to stand up to the craggiest construction site. Its armor plating and a phalanx of protection from all sorts of abuse makes the nr3600 just as at home in Baghdad as in the boardroom. Based on the Itronix GoBook II, the nr3600 is similarly heavy and expensive, but for data-centric organizations that can't afford a breakdown, this system is worth it, though we liked the Panasonic ToughBook CF-29 better.

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.


HP Compaq Rugged Notebook nr3600

The Good

Indestructible; diverse wireless options; glow-in-the-dark keyboard; tilt handle.

The Bad

Heavy; no FireWire; expensive; lacks DVD-R options.

The Bottom Line

The HP Compaq nr3600 tank of a notebook offers go-anywhere ruggedness, but we like Panasonic's ToughBook CF-29 better.

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.

Mobile application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating  

Battery life  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
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.

System configurations:

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


HP Compaq Rugged Notebook nr3600

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7Battery 7Support 7