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HP Compaq NC8430 Review

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Specifications

Processor: T2500
Video Card: ATI x1600 256M
Chipset: Intel
Audio: Sound Max Digital
Weight: 6 lb.

System Ratings

Build Quality:
Screen Quality:
Battery Life:
Asthetics:
Port Placement:
Preformance:

Where it was purchased?

Purchased From: Not Specified
Date Ordered: 2006-11-26 00:00:00
Store Comments: Not Specified

How is the service?

Pre-sale Service:
Order Ease:
Price:
Shipping Price:
Post-Sale Service:
Tech Support:

The Review

I bought the NC8430 about 2 months ago and have used it daily since. Most of my applications are typical office/business use, such as Microsoft Office (2007), Adobe Photoshop CS (avid digital photographer), Autodesk QuickCAD, and some proprietary software for image processing/conversion. I have owned and used a number of other notebooks, and have managed corporate notebooks (MAC and PC) as well.

My NC8430 is equipped with the Intel Core Duo T2500 with 2G of DDR2 PC5400 RAM, 160G 5400rpm Western Digital SATA drive, dvd+/-RW optical drive, 15.4 antiglare, wide view screen at 1680×1050, ATI x1600 with 256M dedicated RAM, touchpad with pointing stick, fingerprint reader, smart card reader, sd/mmc reader, pc card slot, and an external extended life battery. XP pro is standard, and the notebook is Vista compatible. Oh, HP provides express upgrade to Vista Business free (well, almost free – there is a shipping/tax charge of under $20). Expected shipping is end of 1/07.

The case is very business-like, metal composite top, laminate palm rest, recessed touch pad, a solid latch. The magnesium frame prevents twisting and the dark gray color looks very professional. The display hinges are solid, ports are well arranged, and the latches that hold various items (battery, drive, etc) are all secure. Like most new HPs, all ports are identified on the top surface.

The screen is bright, no dead pixels, and the matte antiglare is great. The viewing angle is not as great as the brightview screens, but enough that several people can view the screen at normal distances. The contrast is good, the photo display is very good, and the colors seem rich and true. There is no ghosting, no light leakage, and the overall screen illumination is very even.

The keyboard has very large markings – looks a little odd, but is great for older users and in dim (airplane) lighting. The only thing I do not like is the location of the delete key, which is three in from the top right rather than the first key. The touch pad has a dedicated scroll area (clearly marked) and the buttons (3) work smoothly. The pointing stick is one of the large, textured concave head type rather than the typical nub, and provides excellent control. The three pointing stick buttons work equally well, and despite being just below the space bar, they are not easy to accidently push. Unlike the consumer grade HP/Compaq keyboards, the business class notebooks, like the NC8430, provide better travel and response.

Processor: The Intel T2500 is quite capable of running XP and Vista (the upgrade is free) and although it will not run 64 bit Vista, it is quite adequate for my needs. In real world applications, you should not see much difference between the Intel T2xxx vs the T7xxx core 2 duo processors. Combined with the ATI x1600, you have some serious heat to remove, and HP did their homework and kept the top of the computer cool and for us right handed people, put the exhaust on the left side.

Battery life seems very good, about 3 hours with power control enabled using just the standard battery (about double with the external extended battery – not the ultra, which is much larger). Combined, I get about 4 hours with maximum performance settings and full brightness. I suspect that reduced setting would result in a 5 to 7 hour battery life.

Wireless performance is very good, with 802.11 abg plus Bluetooth, you can be well connected. In my case, the router is in the basement, my office on the opposite 2nd floor, and I can still connect at full speed. I have not tried the Bluetooth as I do not have any blue tooth devices.

The location of the USB ports (3) works well for most, with two on the right (facing the computer) and one on the left. The dvd r/rw drive burns at 8x with most media, and is located on the right also. The audio jacks are on the right side with the usb ports, and a serial, yes serial, port is on the upper right side (hey, if you have a GPS unit, this could be one of the last notebooks with a serial port built in). The card slots are on the left, all stacked near the front, with the video (s video and ieee 1394), network and modem ports on the left as well. The top mounted speakers frame the keyboard and produce reasonable sound. The audio control is via three buttons located above the keyboard, mute, volume down and volume up. There is also a control for turning off the wireless, switching external/internal displays, and a programmable button too. The power switch is in the upper left. Oh, the auto dimmer sensor for the screen is located on the inside front LCD panel and works fine (but I prefer to manually set mine).

The bundled software includes 60 days of Norton Internet security/antivirus, but is not installed by default. You need to invoke the HP info center tool to install the application. The restore partition takes up almost 6G, but you can repair windows upon boot without destroying applications or data – worth keeping unless you upgrade to Vista. If you make a set of restore DVD/CDs, you can delete the partition, but it will take longer to restore. Of importance is the limitation that you can only make one restore set that includes the system.

Installing memory, larger hard disk, and even the PCI cards is all done without drama. The hard drive is shock mounted, and HP provides further data security options to secure all or part of your files and drive. The fingerprint reader is fabulous. Those who understand what it can do will use it. You can setup your system to allow login with the fingerprint reader (and/or smart card) and the system will remember passwords/logons for internet sites, along with any applications that require validation. Great time saver and a definite must have once you have tried one.

Although you do not get any CDs, HP does have them available. Since this is a business class PC, you get much better support, and you also get a 3 year warrantee as standard. The HP site (business) is easy to navigate and you can update your drivers and applications easily. The manual that comes with the unit is above average, and the full maintenance guide is available for free download as well.

All in all the NC8430 is a great buy. It has enough processing power to run business and CAD applications, and a GPU that runs most games very well. While not billed as a gaming machine, the x1600 puts it up near the top for all HP notebooks (actually, this is an HP Compaq notebook). The cool keyboard and top surface is rare these days, and the quiet fan does not disturb those nearby either. So far, this has been the best balance of performance, battery life, and appearance of any notebook I have seen.

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March 15, 2007 - Posted by | Compaq, HP

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