Heat, Fan, & Noise
I ran extensive testing on the notebook, measuring the various temperature readings while engaging in the benchmarking and game playing process. From what I can tell, there is only one thermal diode that monitors both the CPU and GPU temperatures, while the hard drive and motherboard have their own sensors. Please keep in mind that I recorded only the highest temperatures during any particular activity.
Test (and Power Scheme)
CPU & GPU Temps (in C)
HDD Temps (in C)
Motherboard Temps (in C)
On Battery (Max Battery)
Plugged In (Always On)
Plugged In w/ Super PI (Always On)
Plugged In w/ Oblivion (Always On)
Docked (Always On)
Docked w/ Super PI (Always On)
Docked w/ Oblivion (Always On)
Also, when the notebook is just running or doing normal tasks, the fan is barely audible to me. When benchmarking with Super PI or running CPU intensive apps like my TV Tuner decoder, the CPU tops out in the high 60s. Once the CPU/GPU temp hits 67 degrees Celsius, the fan kicks into the highest setting. It is clearly heard and has a high pitched whine to it, as the fan is currently running at a VERY fast setting. Fortunately, music playing in the background or a game sound track can drown out the fan noise if you turn it up a little. Regardless of what the notebook is doing, the fan is able to keep the notebook CPU and GPU from rising above 77 degrees while playing Oblivion.
For non-Gaming tasks, the notebook feels perfectly fine sitting on my lap. It does get a little warm if I push the processor, but not uncomfortably slow. Up until then, the fan does a good job of pushing all the heat out through the exhaust port on the left side of the notebook. The air is moving pretty well, and is fairly warm. If I put an ice cube next to the laptop, I’m sure it would melt in due time.
If I attempt to play a game like Oblivion when the notebook is on my lap, the temperatures get too uncomfortable and I have to sit the notebook on another surface. The air blowing out the vent is very hot then (probably around 75-77 C), and I really don’t want to touch the vent again during this scenario. Also, the bottom of the notebook (~low 70s I guess) and the left speaker (~mid 60s) get pretty warm as well. I can still type without problems though; however the bottom of the notebook is too warm to sit on my lap. If I put an ice cube next to the notebook here, I’m sure it would start melting immediately. However, once you exit a game the fan does a very good job of quickly cooling the notebook. It falls down to normal temperatures within a matter of a few minutes.
Unfortunately, the docking station leave little to no room to place a USB cooler underneath the entire setup. But, the docking station does provide some additional cooling as it allows for a better flow underneath.
Keyboard & Touchpad
As I’m typing this review up on the new notebook, at am amazed at the quality of the keyboard. It a lot firmer than my old M140, and even more so than the Inspiron 9100 my girlfriend has (I believe Dell still uses the same type of keyboard on the Latitude series). So it is probably a little better than the Latitudes as well. Before, my M140 keyboard felt mushy and was not so pleasant to type on; this notebook’s keyboard feels very firm and I really enjoy typing on it. While I do not feel or see any dips in the keyboard, the right side of the keyboard has just a little flex. Regular typing will not cause this flex to occur; you have to intentionally push down in order to produce the flex.
Both the keyboard and the mouse pad are inset from the rest of the notebook, which makes it very easy to locate (in the dark) and prevents the keys from touching or scratching the LCD screen when the notebook is closed. Above the keyboard are several useful buttons as well, as you can see in the picture below.
Buttons above the keyboard (Left to Right): Power, HP Info, Wi-Fi On/Off, Presentation Mode, Mute, Volume Down, and Volume Up buttons. The Caps Lock and Num Lock lights show up in green.
The keyboard feels very firm.
As you can see in the bottom right hand corner of the above picture, the notebook also comes equipped with a fingerprint reader. While this is a very nice security feature to see on a business notebook, I didn’t have a use for it and did not test it out.
The touchpad is also pleasant to use. At default settings from when I received the notebook, the touchpad is satisfyingly responsive. It also comes with markings highlighting the vertical scroll section of the touchpad, yet another feature I love to see in notebooks. One can also enable horizontal scrolling using the touchpad, but I didn’t test this feature out.
The notebook also comes with a pointing stick, which is another useful feature of a business class notebook. It responds well, but I really don’t use a stick unless I have to. The pointing stick also does not stick out too far, so I can type without it getting in my way. The notebook also comes with secondary mouse buttons just below the spacebar. Speaking of mouse buttons, the nc8430 comes equipped with three of them! While I haven’t really used the third one yet, it does make the primary and secondary click buttons feel a little too far apart on both sets of mouse buttons. However, the buttons themselves are made of some type of rubber material and are both responsive and comfortable to use. They are also not too loud, which is nice.
The touchpad and its three buttons (view large image)
Input & Output Ports
The HP nc8430 comes with a plethora of ports, in which it is only short in the number of USB ports and the lack of an Express Card Port. It comes with three, while most 15.4″ notebooks are equipped with four or more USB ports.
Front of the notebook
Left side of the notebook, with the Lock Slot, Modem Port, Ethernet Port, S-Video Out, Firewire, One (1) USB, PC Card Slot, Smart Card Reader, Multimedia Card Reader…
Right side of the notebook, with the Headphone Jack, Integrated Microphone, Microphone Jack, Two (2) USB Ports, DVD+/-RW Drive, Serial Port…
Back of the notebook with the battery, AC In, and VGA out port.
Also, all of the ports on the sides of the notebook also have a corresponding label that you can find on the edge of the keyboard deck! This is a very useful thing on a notebook, and should not be taken for granted.
For example, the markings highlight the locations of my Ethernet, Phone, and S-Video Out Jacks.
The docking station attached to the bottom of the notebook and prop it up at an angle while providing additional ports and connections. What is really nice with the docking port is that both the top of the notebook and the top of the dock have alignment lines in the center. Line them up, place the notebook back as far as it can against the dock, and press down to hear that click and you’re attached!
The connector of the dock and the bottom of the notebook… (view large image)
As well as the alignment marks used to aid in docking. (view large image)
The dock also props up the notebook… (view large image)
And provides quite a few more ports. From left to right: S-Video Out, Composite Video Out, Mini-VGA Out (I think) (view large image)
Microphone and Headphone Jacks, 2 PS/2 Ports, Parellel & Serial & VGA & DVI Ports, Power In (See the green light?),
Phone Jack, Ethernet Jack, and 2 USB Ports. Also, 2 additional USB ports are on the side of the docking station.
View from the top, which highlights the green power button and blue undock button on the docking station. (view large image)
Wireless & Optical Drive
The Wi-Fi card is the Intel 3945a/b/g card, which has no problem connecting to the various signals that I set up. Currently, I am connected at 54Mbps through my 802.11b network and can remain at that speed throughout my apartment.
The notebook also comes equipped with MATSHITA DVD-RAM manufactured by Panasonic. The write speeds for the drive are as follows:
- DVD+R9 Dual Layer: 2.4x
- DVD+R: 8x
- DVD+RW: 4x
- DVD-R: 8x
- DVD-RW: 4x
- DVD-RAM: 5x
- CD-R: 24x
- CD-RW: 10x
When using the drive to install several tens gigabytes worth of programs (Oblivion, MATLAB, Need For Speed, Office, etc), the drive runs at a snappy speed without vibrating the notebook much or emitting too much noise. Burning the Recovery DVDs also was no trouble and produced little noise.
To test the battery, it set the power scheme to Max Battery and set Turn Off Monitor, Turn Off Hard Disks, Standby, and Hibernate to NEVER. I also turned on the Wi-Fi, set the screen setting to MAXIMUM BRIGHTNESS, and muted the speakers. I also had a CD in the DVD drive but did not access it. However, Windows does check the DVD drive for the continued presence of the CD so a small amount of power was used for that.
During the next few hours, I continued to write this review and take simple screen shots. I also accessed the internet for a while as well as checked my email. Additionally, CPU-Z and Everest were running in the background sniffing my computer for information. The hard driver was rarely accessed. It is also important to note that I restart the computer twice during this time, as I had uninstalled and reinstalled a small program that was giving me issues. Overall, I was able to actually use the computer for 2 hours and 50 minutes before hitting 5% battery and plugging it back in. Without the restarts, a slightly dimmer screen, and Wi-Fi off I would probably have been able to hit 3 hours 15 minutes without too much trouble…which approaches HP’s claimed battery life of 3 hours 30 minutes for the nc8430.
Also, HP batteries support a Fast Charge technology which claims to recharge the battery to 90% within 90 minutes when the computer is off. Considering that it took my computer an hour to recharge to 65% when the computer was running, the recharge rate on the battery is quite good. I also want to mention the small size of the battery and AC adapter, which is surprising given how much power is in there. Don’t worry; the battery isn’t made by Sony.
Both the AC Adapter and the Battery are VERY lightweight, yet pack a punch. (view large image)
OS & Software
As the nc8430 is a business class notebook, it comes with no bloat ware installed. It comes with the basic Windows XP Pro installation and the bare minimum of software preinstalled that is needed to run the notebook. For the end users convenience, the notebook also comes with a host of other software that you can install, such as WinDVD, the HP Protect Suite, Sonic MyDVD and CD/DVD Creator. The Protect Tools Suite is actually quite interesting as it allows you to modify the BIOS settings without rebooting, as well as manage your passwords, fingerprint & smart card information, and other security settings needed in a corporate (and even home) environment. One can even choose to disallow the operation of select ports, or deny particular media (like USB keys) from working on the machine.
The notebook also comes preinstalled with a backup utility that both manages your backups and creates the Recovery DVDs. Once I burn the DVDs, I erased that partition to reclaim the 6 GB of space that it was using. All of the preinstalled software and other (not factory installed) software install routines can be found in the C:SwSetup directory, so you will not lose your applications if you delete that partition.
Also, the notebook comes with NO documentation. While it is nice to not have to deal with all the paperwork and manuals, a quick guide would have been appreciated!
Overall, this is a very fine machine that has done much to impress both myself and my co-workers. While it does have its minor flaws, the notebook itself is build business-class touch. It delivers top notch gaming and processing performance while still maintaining a sleek and small profile for a 15.4″ notebook. Most of the ports are positioned very well on the notebook, and its functionality is further enhanced with the Basic Docking Station. However, with power there comes great responsibility — don’t put this notebook on your lap and play a couple of high powered games. For general purpose activities the notebook is fine no matter where it sits, so feel free to check your email, play solitaire, and surf the net from your living room couch. And for the amount of power in this notebook, the battery life is also very respectable and can be further enhanced through the secondary battery options provided by HP.
Its benchmarks are among the highest I’ve seen for the X1600 graphics card, no doubt thanks to the 256MB of dedicated DDR2 memory built into the graphics card. The CPU also laughs at just about anything that I can throw at it, and it isn’t even the fastest mobile processor in existence. Power, portability, entertainment, and excellent build quality…what more could you ask for?
- High quality business class build (10 out of 10 for most of the notebook) and professional appearance
- Top notch CPU and GPU for a 15.4″ notebook
- High quality LCD screen with great horizontal viewing angles
- Lightweight and thin, and with a respectable battery life
- Small battery and AC Adapter
- Extensive security features and extras for functionality
- Useful software, NOT bloat ware
- A lot of ports available on the notebook and docking station, with corresponding labels on the keyboard deck
- Excellent keyboard, touchpad, and buttons
- LCD lid build (7.5 out of 10) could be a little better given the quality of the remainder of the notebook
- Runs warm when running intensive apps and runs fairly hot while gaming, but it isn’t so hot to be unacceptable
- Not as great, but still tolerable, vertical viewing angles
- Three mouse buttons, which make the most important two feel too far apart
- Only 3 USB ports