by J.Steven A.
Overview and Introduction
Recently my office purchased for me a HP Compaq nw9440 mobile workstation. I was charged with the task of researching what notebook computers would be acceptable by me, so the decision of what to acquire fell squarely on my shoulders. I’m an attorney, working mainly with office and internet research applications, but I’m also a computer enthusiast and gamer in my private time. Therefore, I needed something that looked all business, but had a core that could satisfy my off-time personal uses.
HP Compaq nw9440 (view large image)
The specs of the nw9440 purchased are as follows:
Reasons for Buying
When starting my research on a laptop that fit my bill of particulars, I first looked for the internal components. After a little research on current notebook components (my last laptop was purchased back in the Spring of 2002), I decided that I did not want to get something that would be left in the dust in a few months. My former Sony Vaio FX Series had been purchased with all top-of-the-line-at-the-time components, and worked fine for over four years. In fact, it’s still working fine as a college computer for my sister-in-law now. Therefore, I started looking for the best components available within a reasonable price range of less than $2,500.
My search first led me to Alienware computers, which I later found out were rebranded Clevo shells. I looked hard at the AW m7700 mobile workstation (also, Hypersonic Aviator EX7) before deciding that I wanted a notebook processor and not a desktop processor. Staying with a new Core 2 Duo in mind, I also looked at an AW m5750, a Dell XPS, and a Hypersonic Aviator CX7. I hadn’t considered HP at all. I have had bad dealings with the consumer line Pavilions, but was pressured into trying out a business class notebook by my office’s computer hardware & service provider, a local tech shop. The sales guy had a 17” nx series notebook in his office that he offered to let me play with so I could see for myself the difference in design, stability and structure. I took him up on his offer, and was amazed at the difference in the business class notebooks. A little more research and configuring, and I ended up selecting the nw9440 because I could get a high end Core 2 Duo, a very capable nVidia Quadro FX 1500M (7900 GS core), a dual-layer DVD-RW super multi drive and 1 GB of system memory all in a sleek, 17” widescreen businesslike appearance package. The icing on the cake was that this notebook features a full numeric keypad, which is very helpful for entering loads of numeric information during the tax return season.
Where and How Purchased
This notebook was purchased by my office, through a local tech provider, as part of an office-wide technology upgrade. Our local tech provider is also an authorized HP Dealer and Repair Service Center, so if anything goes wrong they can take care of it in-house while utilizing my 3-year warranty instead of voiding it.
Build & Design
This laptop looks really good. It’s definitely better than any other HP I’ve had experience with. The HP/Compaq Business Class notebooks are all about a professional external appearance, and the nw9440 certainly doesn’t slouch from that standard. Everything is color schemed in black and metallic charcoal, with small LED accents of green, blue and orange, indicating different functions.
The case is made from thin hard plastic cover panels and reinforced around the edges and at other key spots (around the keyboard, for example) with thicker plastic. This keeps the weight down while allowing for a high degree of rigidity. When pushing on the screen from the back, nothing is noticed on the LCD. Likewise, the amount of flex allowed by the 17” widescreen when twisting is minimal unless a high degree of force is applied. The hinges on the LCD also allow for minimal wobble when the screen is tapped from the front.
One thing I’m not absolutely crazy about is that almost all of the ports on the laptop are located on the sides instead of the back.
Having used a Sony Vaio FX Series layout, I would have liked the AC Power connector, RJ-45 Ethernet, a couple USB connections and the Video Display connectors to be on the back panel of this notebook. The AC and Ethernet connections, which I use a lot, are awkward to get used to on the sides; and since I use a USB wireless mouse, having the receiver poke out of the side can be somewhat annoying. I couldn’t even imagine having to use a USB corded mouse.
However bad that problem is, though, I have gotten used to the configuration in the couple months I’ve had this notebook. I’m to the point that I don’t even notice the cords anymore when at home. When at work the problem no longer exists because I use the HP Docking Station, which I absolutely love. It’s a must-have for working with a laptop. I arrive at my office in the morning, slip my notebook out of my briefcase, pop it onto the dock and fire it up. No connecting anything, because it’s already done.
While not a Toughbook, overall the notebook is of very sturdy design. There exists plenty of rigidity to withstand the daily packing into a padded briefcase and transportation to and from work.
The screen on my particular model is not a BrightView, but rather is a 17” widescreen WSXGA (1680 x 1050) matte finish LCD. I work in an office with an overhead light, so a glossy screen would not have worked well because of the glare.
The screen shows rich colors at all available brightness levels. There are zero dead pixels and I haven’t noticed the slightest bit of light leakage. To check and confirm that, I ran a little app that floods the screen with varying solid colors. It’s one of many dead pixel testers you can find with a simple Google search.
A feature I like about this notebook is that it has an ambient light sensor. When enabled, a small sensor located at the bottom of the screen lid, below the LCD, picks up the amount of ambient light in the area you are using your computer and automatically adjusts the screen brightness level accordingly.
Marked as a Business Class mobile workstation, the nw9440 comes with a pair of no-frills, two channel stereo speakers. They aptly do the job of laptop audio, but don’t expect an out-of-this-world gaming audio experience from them. While perfect enough for the occasional mp3 or internet audio or video clip, I do recommend headphones or external speakers for a richer audio experience.
Processor and Performance
This notebook is very fast. I noticed a bit of a hangup in boot up time, but have attributed it to the fact that I use the HP Credential Manager to log in with a swipe of my fingerprint instead of a alphanumeric password (although the password option is still available). Once in the OS, everything runs smoothly and quickly. The dual core processor allows me to multitask like never before.
This is all achieved with the T7200 Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz, 1 GB 667 MHz RAM (1 x 1 GB, dual channel available upon RAM upgrade), and 80 GB 7200 rpm HDD.
I have run a few benchmarks to show the performance of this workhorse. First up is Super Pi. I was able to calculate Pi up to 32 million digits in just under a half hour (27m, 24s). The more standard 2 million digit benchmark was done in 1 minute, 3 seconds, which is about the same as other T7200 Core 2 Duo processors. Here’s how my laptop stacks up to some competition:
|Notebook||Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits|
|HP Compaq nw9440 (Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 2.0 GHz)||1m 03s|
|Dell Latitude D620 (Intel Core Duo T2400 1.83 GHz)||1m 21s|
|Dell Latitude D610 (Intel Pentium M 750 1.83GHz)||1m 41s|
|Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 16s|
|Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Alviso Pentium M)||1m 48s|
|Asus A8JP (Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz)||1m 02s|
|Dell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Alviso Pentium M)||1m 52s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 18s|
The 7200RPM hard disk is also very responsive and reliable while maintaining a very cool temperature. I ran HD Tune, and include the results here as well.
PCMark05 Comparison results:
Here’s the benchmark result for PCMark05, showing a very good result of 5364 Marks.
|HP Compaq nw9440 (Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz, NVIDIA Quadro FX 1500M)||5,364 PCMarks|
|Asus A8JP (Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz, ATI x1700 256MB)||4,378 PCMarks|
|Toshiba Tecra A8 (1.83 GHz Intel T2400, Intel GMA 950)||3,038 PCMarks|
|Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, Nvidia Go 7400)||3,646 PCMarks|
|Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400)||3,487 PCMarks|
|Panasonic ToughBook T4 (Intel 1.20GHz LV)||1,390 PCMarks|
|Toshiba Tecra M6 (1.66GHz Intel T2300E, Intel GMA 950)||2,732 PCMarks|
Although not considered a “gamer” notebook, I love to play video games and this laptop seems capable enough to hang with the rest. So, I ran 3DMark05 to get a benchmark and was pleased with the score there as well, showing 7,288 Marks.
3DMark05 Results and comparison:
|HP Compaq nw9440 (Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz, NVIDIA Quadro FX 1500M)||7,288 3DMarks|
|Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)||4,157 3DMarks|
|Dell XPS M1710 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia 7900 GTX 512MB)||8,524 3DMarks|
|Asus V6J (2.16GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7400)||2,918 3DMarks|
|Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60 Nvidia GeForce Go7800 GTX)||7,078 3DMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, nVidia GeForce Go 7400)||2,013 3DMarks|
Heat and Noise
The heat this laptop puts out is barely noticeable. This is a far cry from my prior Sony FX Series, which would shut down automatically from heat if the room was a little warm and it wasn’t given a ton of room to vent. One thing I noticed right off is that this laptop does not have the little swing-out rear feet to boost the rear height. I was concerned about this at first, but after using the laptop and knowing how little heat is produced I no longer view this as a potential problem.
Also, this laptop is very quiet. I can barely hear it running most of the time, and only hear the fans going at startup or when I’m playing a graphic intensive game for awhile. At no point has the noise from the cooling fans been a factor in the audio experience of a movie or game. They’re just not that loud.
Keyboard and Touchpad
This laptop model comes with a keyboard w/ full number pad, a touchpad with left/right buttons and a center biometric fingerprint scanner, and a touchstick with three individual click buttons of its own.
The keyboard is laid out very nicely and is constructed well. It is a bit of a tough switch to get used to having a full numeric keypad again, but it’s a switch that has benefits that outweigh the occasional hitting the “home” key instead of “delete.” The keyboard shows no signs of flex or sag when depressing keys, and the included touchstick and buttons do not get in the way like I thought they might. When typing, I don’t even realize the touchstick is there.
The touchpad also works well as intended. I love using the biometric fingerprint scanner to login to my system, and setting it up to recognize my fingerprints was a breeze with the included instructions. The touchpad also includes a scroll field on the right side for quick vertical scrolling, but it does have its problems. It will only vertical scroll so long as there is a selected frame. You may be thinking “so what?” What that means, though, is that you not only have to start up IE or Firefox, but you also have to click somewhere on the page (avoiding hyperlinks) to select the frame in order to scroll. If you switch between tabs or use a searchbar, you have to select the page frame again in order to scroll with the touchpad. I really don’t view this as too much of a problem even though it is a hassle, because I rarely use the touchpad. When I do use the touchpad, I have hardly ever used a scroll field anyway, so it still doesn’t bother me too much.
There are seven other HP Quick Launch keys included above the keyboard. These keys are for the HP Info Center, the Wireless Assistant, Presentation setting, Mute, Volume Down, Volume Up and Calculator. The ones I use the most are the Volume and Mute keys, the Wireless Assistant (one touch turns off wireless networking for power savings), and the calculator. The calculator key is conveniently located right above the numeric keypad.
Input and Output Ports
Included are four powered USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire port, a 7-in-1 media card reader, a Smart Card reader, one PCMCIA slot, and both VGA and S-Video out ports. When docked, the laptop also supports four more USB 2.0 ports (one powered); Digital Video, VGA, S-Video and Composite video out; audio in and out; PS-2 mouse and keyboard ports; a serial port and parallel port; and, of course, RJ-45, RJ-11 and AC power ports.
The only wireless that came with this laptop is an integrated Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG (Centrino technology). Other configurations can include internal Bluetooth, but mine did not. Instead, I added a Zoom Technologies ultra-slim PCMCIA Bluetooth card. It draws no power unless I have the Bluetooth Wireless Manager software fired up, so I just keep it in the PCMCIA slot permanently and turn it on when I need it.
The battery lasts an adequate time. When conserving power by shutting down unnecessary drains (such as wireless networking, screen brightness, and full CPU utilization), this notebook can run for hours. A session wirelessly surfing the web will drain the battery after somewhere between two and three hours, and I haven’t tested the battery while watching a DVD but I have no doubt that it will hold out for the entire length of the movie so long as other drains are minimal.
Overall, power consumption is better than what I would expect from a 17” widescreen notebook with an 8-cell battery. I should also note that this laptop supports two additional external batteries that purportedly give it an operating life of up to sixteen hours.
When on AC power, the notebook flies. The power brick is somewhat large, but that hasn’t ever really bothered me. The cord is longer than what I was working with previously, which is a little bonus since the outlet I use at home is a little farther away from the table.
Operating System and Software
HP includes an OEM WinXP Professional SP2, but also includes all the necessary files in the C:\i386 folder to create a reinstall disk. All the included software and drivers are in the C:\swsetup folder for easy backup as well. When opening up the HP Backup and Recovery Manager, you are prompted to make backups of your hard drive immediately. I did this with DVDs, and then was able to safely delete the Recovery Partition and remove the C:\i386 and C:\swsetup folders from my hard drive (after a separate backup was made of those folders as well).
There is a bit of software included, but not much that I would consider bloatware. There is a host of HP applications, but most pertain to the embedded TPM Security Chip and the HP Credential Manager security software. I chose to keep and use those security features rather than uninstall them, and find them to run cleanly and without any hassles.
HP also preloaded InterVideo WinDVD and the Sonic Digital Media Suite which allows me to use my DVD-RAM drive with Drive Letter Access like a second hard disk. Since I have 80 GB to use on my C:\ drive and a whole host of networked drives at home and at work for storage, I choose to rarely use this feature. However, included in the Sonic Digital Media Suite is the Express Labeler, which is supposed to be able to be used to create a Lightscribe printed disk. I haven’t been able to get Express Labeler to recognize my DVD-RW drive as a Lightscribe enabled drive yet, though.
All other software I have installed myself. Other than the Basic Edition of MS Office, Motorola Mobile PhoneTools and my games (Mount & Blade; Stronghold Legends), everything is open source or freeware. This includes Mozilla Firefox, Thunderbird and extensions; AVG Anti-virus; Foxit PDF Reader; Alcohol 52% Free Edition; CDex; a suite of other free CD and DVD ripping tools; Gaim; The GIMP; Winamp; and Lavasoft AdAware Personal Edition.
I have not had any opportunity to contact HP Customer Support, as my office purchased this through a local computer retailer who also acts as our HP Certified Repair Center. Everything in our office runs through that company, so our customer service experience will be unlike what anyone else experiences dealing directly with HP.
Overall I have found this HP Compaq nw9440 Mobile Workstation to be an eye-opener and a breath of fresh air coming from HP. Admittedly, I have not been a fan of HP products in the past. This was, of course, before I tried their Business Class notebooks, which appear to be much different from their consumer line in overall quality. In the end, I got my notebook that, on the cover, looks all business; but inside has the power of some of the better gaming laptops. I would very much recommend it to anyone in my same situation, needing the appearance of a business-like laptop with the core of a gaming system hidden under the lid.
To read about the accessories, including an HP docking station, purchased and used with this laptop please read here.
more than 100 focused websites providing quick access to a deep store of
news, advice and analysis about the technologies, products and processes crucial
to the jobs of IT pros.
All Rights Reserved, Copyright 2000 - 2013, TechTarget | Read our Privacy Statement