HP Compaq nx9420 Review (pics, specs)

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HP Compaq nx9420 Review


Compaq nx9420 17-inch screen business notebook (view large image)

Overview and Introduction


The HP Compaq nx9420 is the lower end of HP’s 17 inch business notebooks (whereas the nw9440 is the higher end) and could be classified as a desktop replacement or a mobile workstation. In Canada there are 4 pre-configured models (now 8 with the addition of Core 2 Duo) ranging from the T2300 to the T2500 (and T5600 to T7400) as the choice for processors. This model is the second to the most expensive configuration (EV268AA) for the Core Duo processor. The specifications for this model are as follows:

  • Intel Core Duo processor T2400 (1.83-GHz, 667-MHz FSB, 2-MB L2 cache)
  • 17.0-inch WSXGA+ wide viewing angle BrightView display with 1680 x 1050 resolution and 16M colors
  • 1GB (1x1GB) 533-MHz DDR2 SDRAM
  • ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics controller with 256 MB of discrete video memory
  • 100GB 5400RPM Hard Disk Drive
  • Built-In Intel PRO/Wireless 3945 A/B/G
  • HP Integrated Module with Bluetooth 2.0 Wireless Technology
  • 8-cell high capacity Lithium-Ion (68Wh)
  • DVD+/-RW SuperMulti with Double Layer
  • Ports: 1x IEEE 1394a Port, 1x Type I/II PC card slot, 1x S-Video TV out, 1x VGA/External Monitor, 1x 7-in-1 Media Reader, 4x USB 2.0, 1x headphone out, 1x microphone in
  • Security features include integrated Smart Card Reader, TPM Embedded Security Chip, and Biometric Fingerprint Sensor
  • Comes with Windows XP Professional
  • Dimensions: 1.3 in (at front) x 15.5 in x 10.8 in (33 mm x 393 mm x 275 mm)
  • Weight: 7.4lb (3.36kg)
  • 1 Year Worldwide Limited Warranty

The higher model (EV269AA) comes with a T2500, the same display without the BrightView, and an 80GB 7200RPM Hard Disk Drive. If you like the BrightView (Glossy) screen over an Anti-glare (Matte) display, then the EV268AA would be the model of choice. One good point about these configurations is that one stick of RAM is supplied so there is one free slot on the underside for an easy upgrade.


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Note: the EV268AA model is the only notebook with BrightView.

Reasons for Buying


nx9420 box (view large image)

I have been looking for a nice notebook for use in university for quite some time and early on, I decided to go for a 17 inch notebook. Since I would not be moving this notebook around frequently and desired sufficient performance, the HP Compaq nx9420 caught my eye ever since it was released earlier this year. Note that I am located in Canada and the choices of notebook selection are slightly more limited than the United States availability. Other models that I was considering to purchase were the Dell 9400, HP dv8000 series, Toshiba P100 series, and the upcoming HP dv9000 series. Since I could not hold out any longer, I had to purchase my notebook relatively early.

I decided on the HP Compaq nx9420 because of its build quality, numeric pad, and its decent graphics card. The Dell 9400 and the Toshiba P100 supported the superior nVidia 7900GS but with these configurations, it was a bit out of my price range (~$2,000 CAD) plus the Dell 9400 did not have a built in numeric pad. For people that are concerned about future proofing, this notebook seems to be quite upgradeable and I believe most parts from an nw9440 are interchangeable. If you have a higher budget, I would suggest purchasing the nw9440. Disassembly of this notebook is quite easy in my opinion if you have the required tools.

Where and How Purchased

This notebook (being bought in Canada), was purchased online through www.atic.ca, a company located in British Columbia. On the www.hp.ca website, the model that I bought is listed at $1949 but other places sell them at lower prices. From what I have read around online retailer reviews, ATIC isn’t really the place to go if the customer service is important to you as it seems some people were not treated very well. From my online experience, there wasn’t anything of major concern. Another company, I believe it is located in Quebec, is Central Direct www.cendirect.com which is quite reasonably priced as well. As a family member had already previously purchased from ATIC, (the desktop in use right now) he kind of knew what he would get out of the company but from what I’ve seen, Central Direct seems like a good place to purchase an nx9420 in Canada.

Build & Design


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Right from the start, I noticed how thin this notebook was and I loved the overall black of this nx9420. The hinges are really not too stiff but strong enough to hold the screen up. No flexing from my experiences that causes ripples in the screen and even though it is not the flashiest of notebooks like the Dell XPS 1710, it is sleek and has a really professional look. All the ports are placed quite conveniently and the overall design of this notebook is great. If needed, you can place the nx9420 on your lap and it does not feel too heavy. Just be sure not to block fan vent on the bottom on the top left side to ensure that there is enough air flow.

Screen


The nx9420 screen is wide and can come with BrightView or matte (view large image)

I decided to go with the BrightView (glossy) display. Without anything on the display (all black), it is almost like a mirror. But after you turn on the screen, there are vibrant colours and it is very pleasing to the eyes. After some use, there was no eye strain or reflections that I was afraid of while working in indoor conditions/lighting. The ambient light sensor works fine but it is not essential for most people. It is an added feature that turns the screen dimmer in the dark and brighter while in a luminous environment. This feature is easily turned off if you don’t need such a feature. The only light leakage noticed was mainly at the bottom of the screen and possibly a bit on the top. This can only be seen when the screen is completely black otherwise it is not even noticeable. Any pressure placed on the back of the notebook does not result in any ripples. When viewing the screen in an outdoor condition with plenty of sunlight, some areas may be more difficult to view due to the reflection.

Speakers

The nx9420 does not have a subwoofer and therefore lacks the bass that some people are looking for from a large laptop. Besides lack of bass, the speakers produce a clear signal without distortion even at the loudest setting. The volume is plentiful and can be heard from quite a way off. Having the speakers at the front of the notebook may have been planned towards presentations as it seems the sound travels more efficiently. With a good set of headphones, the audio is quite nice and can also achieve high volumes.

Processor and Performance

Coming from a Pentium 4 clocked at 2.40GHz on my desktop, I expected quite a bit from what I have heard of the Core Duo. I wasn’t blown away from the performance of the T2400 with the 1 gigabyte of RAM, but I was pleased with the performance. The GPU in the notebook was also a big jump from my desktop which was built awhile back for everyday use and is not a gaming desktop. There was a bit of lag while running some programs, but that may be due to the bloatware that was pre-installed by HP. Otherwise, the performance of this notebook is great and can withstand most programs. I do not have any really high demanding games but any games released before this year would easily be playable with the ATI x1600.

Benchmarks

SuperPi

SuperPi measures CPU performance by calculating Pi to a specific number of digits.

Notebook

Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits

HP Compaq nx9420 (1.83GHz Core Duo)

1m 19s

HP dv6000z (1.8GHz Turion64 X2 TL-56)

1m 54s

Compaq V3000T(1.6GHz Core Duo)

1m 26s

Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.00 GHz Core 2 Duo)

1m 02s

Toshiba A100(2.0GHz Core Duo)

1m 18s

Acer Aspire 5102WLMi(1.6GHz Turion64 X2 TL-50

2m 22s

Gateway E-100M(1.2GHz Core Solo ULV)

2m 02s

Dell Inspiron 600m (1.6 GHz Dothan Pentium M)

2m 10s

HP dv5000z(2.0GHz Sempron 3300+)

2m 02s

 

3DMark05 Results and comparison:

3DMark05 tests the graphics processing capabilities of a system:

Notebook  3DMark 05 Results

HP Compaq nx9420 (1.83 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)

 3,704 3D Marks
Apple MacBook Pro (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB)  2866 3D Marks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60 Nvidia GeForce Go7800 GTX)  7,078 3DMarks
ThinkPad T43 (1.86GHz, ATI X300 64MB graphics)  727 3DMarks
 Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI Radeon Mobility x700 128 MB)  2,530 3D Marks
 Fujitsu n6410 (1.66 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)  2,273 3DMarks
 HP dv4000 (1.86GHz Pentium M, ATI X700 128MB)  2,536 3D Marks
 Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)  4,157 3DMarks

 

PCMark05 Comparison Results:

PCMark05 provides an overall system performance evaluation that includes the graphics card and processor.

 Notebook PCMark05 Score

HP Compaq nx9420 (1.83 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)

3,888 PCMarks
Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo) 3,487 PCMarks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60) 5,597 PCMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 3,637 PCMarks
Panasonic ToughBook T4 (Intel 1.20GHz LV) 1,390 PCMarks
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400) 3,646 PCMarks
Sony VAIO FE590 (1.83GHz Core Duo) 3,427 PCMarks

 

3DMark06 Comparison Results:

3DMark06 tests the graphics capabilities of a system, it is more demanding than 3DMark05.

Notebook  3DMark 06 Results

HP Compaq nx9420 (1.83 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)

1,662 3DMarks
Apple MacBook Pro (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB) 1,528 3DMarks

Dell Precison M90 (2.16GHz Core Duo, nVidia Quadro FX 1500M)

3,926 3DMarks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60 Nvidia GeForce Go7800GTX) 4,085 3DMarks

Compal HEL80 (2.0GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7600 256MB)

1,654 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1710 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia 7900 GTX 512MB) 4,744 3DMarks

 

Heat and Noise

After initial start up and installation the bottom of the notebook was definitely heating up, although no heat was felt around the keyboard or on the palm rest. When running 3DMark, the fans were pushing out somewhat hot air, but cooled down soon after. When the fans are on full power they emit a quiet whir. The processor does not seem to exert much noticeable heat but under intense graphics processing the GPU’s heat can be felt.

Lastly, the DVD drive is quite loud in my opinion when spinning up or burning, but I do not expect a quiet DVD drive anyways. The hard drive would probably be the second loudest component next to the DVD drive and exerts some heat but not to the extent where it is uncomfortable on the palm rest. So far the temperature of any sensors or components has not exceeded 50 C. With a good set of headphones, I was able to block out all of the sounds and no noises bothered me.

After having the fan replaced due to some problems, I do not recall how loud the fans were prior to servicing. As of now, when the fans are supposedly running at full speed, I am not able to hear any noise unless I place my ear close to the vent. In my opinion this notebook runs quite hot when plugged into AC power but cooler and more comfortable while running on the battery.

Keyboard & Touchpad


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Since this is my first notebook, I can’t compare it to any other models but so far I love the keyboard. It has responsive key strokes (coming from a desktop keyboard) and nice deep buttons below the touchpad. All of the keystrokes were processed and the feel of depressing the keys feels comfortable. The numeric pad is one of the reasons I went for the HP instead of the Dell. Just like the keyboard, the numeric pad was easy to use. The touchpad feels fine but the travel of the pointer on the touchpad was a little short. Although I will be using a mouse, the touchpad is a good alternative but it is more of a hassle to travel from one corner to another using the touchpad.

Input and Output Ports


HP Compaq nx9420 left side (view large image)


HP Compaq nx9420 right side (view large image)


HP Compaq nx9420 front side (view large image)


HP Compaq nx9420 back side (view large image)

My only concern before receiving the notebook was that the power connector was placed somewhat in the middle of the left side of the nx9420 due to the vent placed in the top left spot where it would usually be placed. But once I plugged the power cord into the notebook, it felt fine and there were no problems having the spot shifted down a bit. The PC card slot is in a regular place with the Smart Card reader under it. On the right side are two more USB slots and the headphone and microphone jacks. Compared to the left side, the USB slots on the right side were tighter and inserting USB devices required more force and would need to be wiggled out to remove. The left side ports slide in and out smoothly while still holding any USB plug in firmly.

Wireless

The wireless card is able to detect any wireless network quite easily and connecting to networks is not a problem. I am not sure of the range of the wireless but it is not solely the wireless card that affects the range. Speeds are reasonable with a fast connection but the speed may vary depending on the distance from the wireless router.

The nx9420 also has integrated BlueTooth but I have not BlueTooth devices to test this with.

Battery


Battery and adapters (view large image)

I was quite pleased how small the battery was as I have seen some bulky batteries that are supposed to give more battery life. In very minimal use, the battery can last up to and possibly more than 4 hours. In intensive use, the battery usually lasts around 2.5 to 3 hours.

Operating System and Software

After some use, I realized how little software that was installed initially. This may be either a good or bad point depending on how one views the situation. Windows XP works fine and there are no real complaints in this category.

Customer Support

Unfortunately, I have had to use HP’s customer support mainly due to problems with my notebook. Before I continue, I would like to mention that my problems were not defects in the build and are not a problem widely experienced by consumers with the same notebook. I believe it is only my bad luck and it is not a manufacturer’s defect such as the HP dv8000′s keyboard problems discussed by many users.

I used the online chat support and the technician attempted to diagnose a problem with the notebook fan through myself, but the result was to send it to a Local Authorized Service Provider. Authorized Service Providers can be easily found using the HP website. The company I brought my notebook too were very kind and understanding of my situation and ordered parts through HP. All parts to my knowledge should be able to be delivered the next day unless it is on back order. Since I was on a tight schedule, I had to leave before my fan would be delivered because it was on back order. I had to take the notebook with me and give it to another service provider. This happened to be in Toronto and the company I brought it too were not as friendly as the first but they got the job done. The fan was sent the next day and after my long wait, it only took one day to have the part sent and installed. Depending on one’s situation, most certified HP repair locations should be able to help quite well as it is mainly HP who controls what gets sent out. Make sure that you take your notebook somewhere you can trust.

Conclusion

After using the nx9420 for quite some time, I really enjoy the overall quality of this notebook. Everything about the notebook is solid in my opinion and it is a very good alternative to big, heavy 17 inch powerhouse notebooks. This unit is priced nicely and would be recommended to anyone looking for a light notebook with a large 17 inch screen.


Pros

  • Relatively light weight for its 17-inch screen size (7.4lbs)
  • Good build quality
  • Easily accessible RAM modules
  • Upgradeable
  • Biometric Fingerprint reader
  • Not filled with stickers on the palm rest
  • Great customer support

Cons

  • Only 1 year standard warranty
  • 533MHz Ram instead of 667MHz
  • Relatively short travel for the touchpad (could just be me)
  • Slightly under-clocked GPU
  • No cover over the docking port
  • I was expecting a Smart Card




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