HP Compaq nx9420 Review

by ikovac Reads (61,727)
  • Pros

    • Elegant appearance
    • Good speakers


by Ivan Kovac, Croatia

Recently I bought the HP Compaq nx9420 to replace my good old Prestigio 1590W laptop. This is the fourth notebook I have purchased since 2000. I had a great opportunity to sell my old notebook and purchase this one at a lower price, so I went for it. Where I live, in Croatia, HP Compaq notebooks are quite popular and can mostly found being used by business people. The nx9420 offers great power in its class at a moderate price. The nx9420 comes in many configurations, I decided to go for one with a T5600 Core 2 Duo processor because it was much cheaper than the one with a 2.0GHz T7200 processor. The 2MB L1 cache in comparison to 4MB in the T7xx series shows no big drawbacks so far. The nx9420 can be configured with a 17“ screen with resolutions that go from 1280×800 up to 1680×1050, I decided to take the latter. RAM also varies from 512MB up to 1GB, with the ability to be upgraded up to 4GB.


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I purchased the following configuration:

Processor Intel® Core 2 Duo T5600 CPU 1.83 GHz L2 Cache: 2048K, 667 MHz FSB
Chipset Intel® 945PM Express chipset
System memory 1 x 1024 MB DDR2 667 MHz, max 4 GB DDR2
Hard disk 100 GB, IDE S-ATA 5400 rpm
Optical device DVD-RW dual layer
Monitor 17.0″ WSXGA TFT LCD, BriteView display, Resolution 1680 x 1050
Graphics ATi Mobility Radeon x1600 with 256MB video memory
Audio ADI High Definition CODEC, integrated 16-bit Sound Blaster Pro compatible audio
Speakers 2 x stereo speakers
Microphone Integrated in the lid
Networking NetXtreme 10/100/1000 Ethernet card (Gigabit LAN) with HP power down NIC technology
Wireless 802.11a/b/g wireless lan Bluetooth module
Modem 56K V.92 modem with digital line guard
I/O Ports
  • 4 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x IEEE1394
  • 1 x Audio out
  • 1 x Mic In
  • 1 x Modem RJ-11
  • 1 x LAN RJ-45
  • 1 x S-video TV-out
  • 1 x VGA out (15-pin mini D-Sub)
  • 1 x Docking connector
  • 1 x Travel battery connector
Slots
  • PCMCIA type II slot
  • 7-in-1 flash media reader (XD, SD, MS, MS PRO, MS DUO, MMC, SC)
  • Smart card reader
Battery 8-cell lithium-ion battery with HP Fast Charge Technology, up to 4 hours charge
Dimensions 393 x 275 x 33 mm (13.3 x 10.8 x 1.3)
Weight 3,35 kg (7.4 lbs)
Software Adobe Acrobat Reader; HP Backup and Recovery Manager; HP Help and Support, HP Mobile Print Driver; HP ProtectTools Security Manager: BIOS Configuration for HP ProtectTools, Embedded Security for HP ProtectTools, Credential Manager for HP ProtectTools; HP One-Touch Button Software, HP Wireless Assistant; Sonic Digital Media Plus: RecordNow!, MyDVD, Synaptics Touchpad Driver, Symantec Norton Internet Security with complimentary 60-day live update, Intervideo WinDVD – DVD Player

 

Reasons for Buying

I wanted a 17“ screen notebook since I work with many windows that contain a lot of code. I was very happy with the 1680×1050 resolution on my old notebook with a 15.4“ screen and decided to go for a bigger screen and the same resolution. It came with Windows XP Home OS and with the pre-installed programs mentioned above. As my company has access to licensed Microsoft products, I decided I would install Vista Business, so I wanted a desktop replacement with decent graphics good enough for Vista. I initially considered the Toshiba Tecra A8 that already came with Vista, but didn’t like the resolution of the screen offerings plus they were more expensive.

Where and How Purchased

I purchased this notebook from my company’s dealer, one of the largest HP dealers in Croatia. The final price I paid was around $1,800 USD including 22% for VAT, the price was $1,500 without tax. This is a very good deal considering the prices are much higher in smaller shops in Croatia. I believe this particular model (RH441EA) is unique for South and Eastern Europe since it has an originally installed Croatian keyboard and manuals.

Build & Design


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Design is, well, a standard business like black box shape with sharp edges and sturdy looks. It has a dark gray lid with the HP logo in the middle.   The notebook is quite thin for its size, measuring just a bit over 3 cm (1.3 in) when closed. The overall dimensions are 1.3 x 15.5 x 10.8 in (33.0 x 393.0 x 275.0 mm).

Standing open on a table the notebook looks elegant.  The plastic case is sturdy and thick, the metal frame inside makes sure the overall sturdiness is good. The fan grills look simple and thick. The speaker grills are somewhat simple and cheap looking.  The battery is very long and narrow. It has a hook that looks a bit cheap and of poor quality in my opinion, as I keep the battery in my backpack 99% of the time I have a fear that it will break. Most people keep their batteries in their notebook and will never see this as a problem though. The USB connectors are very firm and connecting USB devices requires a firm grip and a bit of force. There is a large metal silver button for power with a large green LED on the left. It is the only metallic detail worth mentioning.  I’d rate the design with 3.5 / 5. It is a business notebook after all – strong and reliable – nothing fancy.

Screen


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The screen frame looks thicker than I expected, it is probably necessary to support the big 17“ screen. It is strong and doesn’t bend at all, plus it makes no sound when opening and holds firm in an upright position. It has a microphone built into the top right corner.

The screen shows some differences in brightness when you move your head up and down, but this is a common thing on a larger display. I have noticed some brighter areas near the bottom (around 2cm high), and a bit darker lower left corner (only 5mm or so). But I notice it only if I search for it – so I guess backlighting is ok.

An interesting thing is the ambient sensor that can be turned on or off if desired. It makes the screen dimmer in the dark and brighter in light conditions thus helping the eyes to adjust. There are no dead pixels and that makes me very happy!

I also have noticed that the colours, brightness and contrast are much closer to some professional 23” desktop screens (namely one 23” Sony I have) that are colour calibrated and this is an additional plus.  I have seen better screens than this one, but the overall score is very good at 4.5 / 5. This notebook has a screen that looks better from a distance. If you don’t mind stretched arms (you can use an external keyboard) – I would recommend being at least 70 cm away.

Speakers

The speakers are quite good. They are positioned in the front and are quite large.  The sound is very good, reproducing both high and low tones. You cannot expect any bass, but they are still very good for everyday use or presentations. They are better in comparison to many notebooks I have used. Notebooks generally either have very thin and weak sound on the cheapest models or they cost so much that JBL or Harman Kardon must be included for all that money you pay.  The HP Compaq nx9420 falls somewhere in the middle and has decent sound, no question about it. 4/5.

Processor and Performance

This notebook has the Intel T5600 Core 2 Duo processor with 2MB L1 cache at 1.83 GHz.  The FSB is set at 667 MHz. It should be fast and many benchmark results show that. Newer models have the T7200, 7400 and 7600 processors. It is quite cool, with temperatures while idle below 40 degrees C, and while gaming around 60-65. I tried undervolting  with RM clock and the gaming temperatures went down more than 10 C.

I have installed Vista Ultimate and it boots in 31 seconds to the login screen and close to 1 minute when to load everything (all the fancy Vista stuff + Gtalk and ATi CCC ). You can start working immediately after the login. Shutdown varies but is around 30-40 s.  Hibernate (2GB RAM) needs 45s to turn off but on the other hand brings the full operation state in 22 seconds.

Hybrid sleep needs 43s to fall asleep (actually the same time as hibernate) and it turns on instantly (1 s). It will drain the battery out eventually, but everything is actually off except for RAM.  The hard drive holds the data from RAM, so you can safely turn off the power or remove the battery. Other power events like the timed hibernate also work – so the notebook will hibernate properly after an hour or so if you have enabled this function.  Normal sleep takes 12 secs and wakes up instantly.

Here is a summary table:

Action Time to enter Time to wake up Can you leave it for in this state for a day and carry in a bag?
Restart (shutdown + boot) and Windows up. 30s to shutdown 31 s to login, 1min to the full functionality (with all of the stuff loaded) No.
Sleep 12s 1s Not really. But some people do.
Hybrid sleep 43s 1s Yes.
Hibernate 45s 22s Yes – indefinitely

 

The disk is a SATA 100GB 5400 rpm Seagate Momentus that is very quiet.  The overall disk transfer speed is OK (around 30MB/s), and Vista supports better caching on SATA drives making the transfer even better (in fact smoother – no big oscillations in the transfer speed).  I use the machine mostly for web programming and office work running multiple applications (up to ten or more at the same time) and it feels fast and reliable.  It is responsive with Vista Aero and I have no regrets turning this feature on.  I have found some issues with the Vista start menu (0,5-1 second delay on the program group click), and sometimes it waits a bit while clicking on folders in Windows Explorer, but otherwise it is fast and responsive. I also think Outlook opens too slowly for the first time. The fan is always on when plugged in, and turns off when cool enough when on battery. There is an option in BIOS to turn off the fan when on AC, but I haven’t seen that yet even if the temp is 37 or lower. I mean it turns off in the beginning, but afterwards it is always on. I guess if I were to lower the clock speed and force some optimized powerplay mode it would eventually turn off while on AC. HP should make the fan turn off at 40 degrees C in all cases.

I can play FEAR at 1280×800 on high settings and other games look good and fast. CSS runs at 1680×1050 with all on high. The notebook comes originally with 1GB RAM (but there are also 512MB versions) – that is the minimum requirement for Vista optimal work. Vista uses the advanced caching technology called Superfetch (it follows the “empty ram is wasted ram” logic) and REP (Resource Exhaustion Prevention) – so it actually always uses the entire available RAM making Vista look responsive and snappy. But once you start games like FEAR you realize that 2GB is optimum for this computer. I haven’t tested the XP performance, but I expect it to be very fast.

The optical drive is a model with a 24x CD and 8x DVD writing performance and there is nothing special about it. It is a fast notebook and I will give it 4.5/5 instead of the top 5 due to the fact that 1GB is actually the minimum requirement for serious work and the ATI x1600 in this notebook is underclocked by default to BIOS settings of only 390/250 MHz (according to the CCC hardware info). Don’t worry –  Powerplay sets much better 425/375 on AC power and 210/135 on powersave. 425/375 is in the range of other x1600 card’s clock settings and luckily still way lower than this card can reach – so check the benchmark section.

HP Compaq nx9420 Review Page 2 >>


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