HP Compaq nx8200 / nc8200 Series Review (pics, specs)

by Venombite Reads (132,364)

By Philip Yip, Ontario Canada

Product: HP Compaq Business Notebook

Model: nx8220 (nc8230 in US)

Mfg P/N: PU314UA#ABA

Website: www.HP.ca

MSRP: $2099CDN

Introduction

The HP Compaq nx8220 notebook is one of HP’s new offerings to the small-to-medium business market that sports a newly redesigned look and upgraded features.  The nx8220 effectively replaces its predecessor, the HP Compaq nx7000, a wide and thin notebook.  With a 15.4″ wide screen LCD, a high-end graphics card and a multi-format DVD writer, this unit can pull double duty whether it’s for work or play.

Reasons For Purchase

I have been searching for a notebook that has the ability to play the latest games, while still having the battery life and weight that will allow me to be mobile.  After finding the HP Compaq nx8220, it fit my requirements perfectly.  The Centrino technology would provide the long battery life, the ATI Mobility Radeon x600 allowed me to play the latest games and it was pretty light for a 15.4″ wide screen notebook.

I went on to HP’s online shopping website via www.HPShopping.ca and placed my order.  The unit only came with a standard 1-year worldwide coverage, so I decided to get the 3-year extended warranty for an additional $167CDN.  Having that extra 2 years of coverage is definitely an insurance policy that’s worth it.  Repairs after the standard 1-year warranty will more than pay for the cost of the extension.

Frontal View (Large Image)

Below are the specifications for the HP Compaq nx8220 (PU314UA#ABA).  This is the Canadian version I purchased.  I have checked a few HP regional sites looking for the model’s availability, but it seems that this model is not available in the United States.

HP Compaq nx8220 Purchased Specs
(Price As Tested: $2366CDN*)

  • CPU: Intel Pentium M 740 (1.73Ghz)
  • Memory: 512MB DDR2 @400Mhz (1 x 512MB Module)
  • Storage: 60GB @ 5400rpm (8MB Buffer), DVD+/-RW MultiBay II (9.5mm) Optical Drive
  • Screen: 15.4″ WSXGA+ LCD w/Ambient Light Sensor (1680 x 1050) (Matte Finish)
  • Weight: From 5.7lbs
  • Dimensions (W x D x H): 14 x 10.4 x 1.1 in.
  • Battery: 8 Cell 69Wh
  • Slots: SD/MMC Media Card Reader, Smart Card Reader, one Type I/II Cardbus Slot
  • Ports: 3 x USB 2.0, IEEE1394 Firewire, Headphone & MIC Jacks, Built-In MIC, S-Video TV Out, IR Port
  • Communications: Broadcom NetXtreme Gigabit LAN, Intel 2200BG 802.11b/g WLAN, Agere 56K Modem
  • Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2
  • Warranty: 1 Year, Worldwide (3 Years with Purchased Extended Warranty)

(* Price before taxes.  A price reduction of $100CDN and a free upgrade to a 3 Year Warranty has occurred since the purchase of my unit.)

Product Link: http://www.hp.ca/products/static/notebooks/nx8220/index.php

Design & Build

At first glance, I liked the clean lines of this unit.  In previous business models, they had silver accenting pieces throughout the notebook that looked too flashy, but HP has switched to a toned down color scheme and has decided to use just one color, which is more suited for a business environment.  From a distance, the notebook looks black, but on closer inspection, it’s more of a dark gray/graphite color.

Top of LCD Cover (Large Image)

The outer casing is generally plastic all around, except the LCD top cover.  It’s made of a Magnesium-Alloy and feels solid.  Pressing on the back of the LCD panel did not produce any rippling on the screen (the effect you get when you press an LCD screen).

All exposed surfaces, with the bottom being an exception, were designed flat and smooth. 

The hinges were firm, but not overly tight.  It allowed the screen to be opened with one hand without any problems.  The screen locks in place with two latches at the top of the screen.

One design feature of the unit I really liked was the rubber feet.  Who cares about the rubber feet?  Well, HP used to design their units with one of the rubber feet attached to the battery.  If you were using the notebook without the battery, this would cause the unit to rock back and forth while typing on it.  With all of the feet attached to the casing instead of the battery, it’s completely balanced on your desk.  There are also four additional feet to give another level of stability.

 

Rubber Feet Indicated in Red (Large Image)

LCD

The screen that came with my nx8220 was a 15.4″ WXGA+ LCD.  It provides a wide horizontal viewing angle with a maximum resolution of 1680×1050.  I personally found this resolution proper for an LCD this size.  The fonts on the screen are sharp and clear, but sometimes on the small side if I decide to sit back on my chair.

As with all LCD purchasers, everyone is worried about dead pixels.  I can happily say that this unit arrived without a single dead pixel.

The screen is not one of the glossy, extra-bright LCD’s that most people seem to love.  HP does have this type of LCD labeled Brightview, but they decided not to use this type on their business models.  It has a standard matte finish, which I guess is more suited for an office environment.  The LCD is generally bright, but it could have been 10-15% brighter or at least have a Brightview LCD option.

The LCD also includes an Ambient Light Sensor that can be disabled.  This sensor, when enabled, will change the brightness of the screen depending on your current light conditions.  In a brightly lit area, the screen will automatically get brighter, and will reduce brightness in low light conditions. 

I enabled the light sensor and found that the range from light to dark was not very noticeable.  I think they should have spent this money on a better LCD.

Audio

You would normally expect to get very shallow, tinny audio from a notebook computer that is as thin as the nx8220, but surprisingly it’s not.  When watching a DVD movie, the overall power output was very impressive.  I was capable of increasing the volume to 100% without any audio distortion or crackling.  With the audio at 85%, I was still capable of hearing the audio clearly from 6ft away in a quiet room.  Even though the notebook lacked the heavy bass, it was still adequate to provide a good movie experience.

If you’re one of those types of people that must have heavy bass, then external speakers or headphones would be recommended, but I’m sure most would be satisfied with the sound the internal speakers produce.

Storage

The Fujitsu HDD used in my unit was probably one of the quietest drives I have ever had in a notebook.  It executed applications and performed disk reads/writes quickly.   The heat produced was a marginal 40 C to 45 C during operation.  The HDD sits right under the right palm rest and would get a little warm, but it did not produce enough heat to really be a problem.

The nx8220 was also pre-configured with a DVD+/-RW MultiBay II Optical Drive.  This drive is built with the new 9.5mm height form factor.  This allows the notebook design to be thinner while still allowing the unit to have an optical drive.  Being a MultiBay II device, it allows hot swapping.  This means that the drive can be pulled out and another device popped in while the OS is still active and the power is still on.  It’s nice to see that HP has decided to utilize multi-format DVD burners in their notebooks.  Especially since HP is one of the supporters of the +R/RW format.

Processor & Performance

At the heart of my nx8220 is one of Intel’s new Pentium-M 740 CPU’s operating at 1.73GHz, with 2MB of L2 Cache & a Front-Side Bus @ 533MHz.  It was accompanied by 512MB of DDR2 memory @ 400MHz and a 60GB HDD @ 5400rpm.  I found the 1.73GHz CPU a good balance between performance and battery life.  The Pentium-M 1.73GHz CPU allowed my nx8220 to out-perform my P4 2.0GHz desktop computer in Boot-up Times, PCMark04 & Super Pi scores and are listed in the chart below.

Even with all this computing power, I found that noise and heat was not a big issue.  At first power on, the CPU fan would kick into high gear, but would quickly turn off.  Once in the OS, the fan would run at a slower rate (while connected to AC), which was hardly noticeable in a quiet room.  The fan kept the CPU at an average operating temperature of 45 C.  At this temperature, I found that the system would get fairly warm on the underside of the unit. 

The warmest area of the notebook is on the top of the keyboard, just left of the center.  This is where the graphics processor is located.  It primarily uses passive cooling to keep the temperature down. 

Benchmarks

I put the nx8220 through its paces using a variety of benchmarking utilities.  I ran the tests twice with different configurations.  First, with the default OS from the manufacturer, and second was on a manual load of the OS and only the drivers to make all hardware operational.

Benchmark Utilities Used:

I utilized all of the free demo versions available from each website, so the tests are limited to only the available options. 

System Configuration

HP Compaq nx8220

Factory OS Load

HP Compaq nx8220

Manual OS Load

P4 2.0Ghz Desktop

1GB Ram, 200GB @7200rpm ATI 9800 Pro w/128MB

OS Boot Time

-          To Windows Login

 

39s

 

32s

 

36s

3Dmark05

746

1578

2080

PCMark04

3483

3542

2654

AquaMark3

19,395

22,660

34,633

BatteryEater Pro

-          Classic

-          Idle

-          Recharge

 

100mins

212mins

121mins

 

114mins @88%

251mins

Same

 

N/A

N/A

N/A

 

 

 

 

HDTune

-          Min

-          Max

-          Average

-          Access Time

-          Burst Rate

-          CPU Usage

 

2.8MB/s

34.2MB/s

27.6MB/s

21.6ms

37.9MB/s

5.2%

 

9.2MB/s

34.2MB/s

27.8MB/s

18.1ms

63.1MB/s

4.3%

 

40.0MB/s

58.4MB/s

50.5MB/s

13.2ms

72.2MB/s

9.0%

Super Pi

-          Calculated to 2M

 

1m 49s

 

1m 43s

 

3m 17s

** Below are the drivers used for the Manual OS Load tests:

  • ATI Catalyst 5.5 Display Drivers from the ATI Website
  • Intel Chipset Drivers v7.0.9 from the Intel Website
  • Intel 2200BG WLAN Drivers v9.0.1.9 from the Intel Website
  • Audio, Bluetooth, LAN, Media Card Reader & Modem Drivers were all used from the HP Website

Other than the above listed drivers, no other drivers on the HP Support page were used.

From the above tests, we can see that the original OS load is very bloated with utilities and applications running in the background, which reduced overall system performance.  These performance numbers were achieved without any “tweaking” of the system settings. 

Keyboard/Touch Pad

The full-sized keys on the keyboard were nicely spaced and provided just enough resistance.  While typing, the keyboard felt solid and I did not notice any flexing.  Typing was quiet.

Placement of the keyboard was also positioned well.  A lot of manufacturers tend to position their keyboards away from the user, towards the LCD.  This would cause almost half of your forearms to be on the palm rests.  With HP setting the keyboard half an inch to one inch closer to the user, my hands were in a more comfortable position when typing.

HP claims that the keyboard is spill-resistant.  I looked at the underside and found a piece of plastic adhered to the bottom.  I guess this would prevent the liquid from seeping though the small holes on the bottom of the keyboard, but on a big spill, the liquid may find its way down anyways.

It also comes with a couple of programmable Quick Launch keys, a button to enable/disable WLAN & Bluetooth and three volume buttons (up, down & mute). 

 

Quick Launch Buttons (Large Image)

A 2 button Touchpad was used on the nx8220.  Using the Touchpad, I found that it was fairly accurate and tracked pretty quickly.  A dedicated scroll zone on the right of the Touchpad made it easy to scroll through web pages and long documents.  You can configure the Synaptics Touchpad drivers to allow for side scrolling as well.

 

Touchpad with Dedicated Scroll Zone (Large Image)

Input and Output Ports

The nx8220 comes with a variety of ports that should be more than enough to allow connectivity of any device you may have.

The front of the nx8220 is very clean.  No ports or jacks to ruin the look.  The only port on the front is a Fast Infrared Port on the bottom left, which is hardly noticeable against the dark color of the unit.

 

HP Compaq nx8220 Front View (Large Image)

The left is fitted with a few ports and slots to help with your daily usage.

From left to Right:

  • Security Lock Slot
  • Gigabit Ethernet Jack (RJ-45)
  • Modem Jack (RJ-11)
  • S-Video TV Out
  • Air Vent (Output)
  • IEEE1394 Firewire Port
  • USB 2.0 Port
  • (1) PCMCIA Slot (On Top)
  • Smart Card Slot
  • SD/MMC Memory Card Slot

The Smart Card slot is designed for added security.  I didn’t have a smart card to try in the unit, so I could not test this feature.  Generally, a smart card is used as an additional layer of security.  The system can be set up so that a smart card is required to be inserted for it to boot or log into Windows.

HP Compaq nx8220 Left Side (Large Image)

On the right side we have from left to right:

  • Headphone/Line Out Jack
  • Built-in Microphone
  • Microphone In Jack
  • (2) USB 2.0 Ports
  • MultiBay II DVD+/-RW Drive (9.5mm)

The DVD+/-RW drive utilized in the nx8220 is the new MultiBay II.  It has a slimmer profile, only 9.5mm high, allowing for thinner notebook designs.

 

HP Compaq nx8220 Right Side (Large Image)

The only port available on the back of the unit is the RGB Monitor Out connector.  The remaining space on the back is reserved for the battery.

HP Compaq nx8220 Back View (Large Image)

As you have seen, this notebook does not have any legacy style connector (e.g. Serial or Parallel port).  As with most new notebooks, these ports are a thing of the past, but on the right side of the unit, you may have noticed a small spacer beside the optical drive (Right Side).  This spacer would normally house a serial port, but unfortunately it is only available on the HP Compaq nc8230, a unit marketed towards large-to-enterprise level businesses.

Wireless

The nx8220 came with an Intel 2200BG 802.11b/g WLAN card and an HP Bluetooth module installed.  It’s starting to become common practice for manufacturers to include a WLAN card in a notebook, but usually a Bluetooth module is an optional item.  In some cases, a Bluetooth option is not even available, forcing users to purchase an external USB Bluetooth adapter.  Having an external adapter, in my opinion, contradicts the mobile nature of a notebook computer.  With everything integrated in the unit, it eliminates the necessity to carry additional items that can get lost when you’re on the move.

I was only capable of testing the wireless using an 802.11b (11mbps) access point.  Setting up the WLAN interface was simple and only took a few minutes.  All I had to do was enter my settings and encryption keys, and everything was found in approx 3 seconds.  The Intel 2200BG WLAN card supports both 128-Bit WEP and 256-Bit WPA Encryption methods, thus providing increased security for your wireless communications. 

While connected, I was capable of moving to all two floors of my house, including the basement, and still maintained a very good to excellent connection.  I did have a couple of dropouts and reconnects while using the wireless a few feet from my access point, but I believe that is a problem with XP SP2 as I have also noticed this with other wireless devices I have connected to other computers in the house.

I did not have a Bluetooth device to test with the Bluetooth module.

next page 2 >> (Battery, Software, Complaints, Conclusion)


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