Laptops come in all shapes and sizes, from sub-2kg ultraportable systems up to desktop-replacement machines that few would care to transport very far. The HP Compaq nx9420 Business Notebook PC falls at the latter end of the spectrum. It's large and heavy, although it can be carried if necessary, and in our review configuration runs a 2.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor.
The nx9420 is a giant. It weighs a hefty 3.35kg and is designed to spend most of the time on the same desk rather than being moved from place to place. Its 393mm wide by 275mm deep footprint and 17-inch screen means that if you were to try to use it on the train you would almost certainly encroach on the space of your fellow travellers.
The nx9420 offers excellent features in its screen and keyboard. The display measures 17 inches from corner to corner, and its widescreen format delivers a maximum of 1,680x1,050 pixels. The display is wonderfully sharp and clear and working with two, or even three, application windows open at once is not a problem. We don't like the reflectivity of the screen, however: working with a light source behind you can be especially offputting.
This laptop's 393mm width means that there's room for a numberpad to the right of the main keyboard. Its keys, like those on the Qwerty area, are extremely responsive: we were able to touch type quickly with no problems at all. For all its size, one or two compromises have been made with the keyboard. The spacebar is not as long as we would like, although it's a perfectly good size for a laptop. Also, the inverted-T arrangement of cursor keys is a little small and fiddly compared to the main keys. These are relatively minor complaints, however.
The touchpad could be larger: as it stands, you need three complete sweeps from left to right to move the cursor across the full width of the screen. The two buttons beneath the touchpad are large and comfortable to use, though. There's an optional fingerprint reader (not present on our review model), that sits between these two buttons. On the right side of the touchpad is a 'scroll zone', which you use to scroll vertically within documents, Web sites and spreadsheets.
Above the number row and the row of two-thirds-size function keys is a row of seven buttons running the width of the laptop. On the right, sitting on its own, is a button that calls up the Windows calculator; the other buttons control system volume, configure the display and power settings, and automatically open presentations. There's also a handy button that enables and disables the built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections. If you want to control Bluetooth and Wi-Fi independently, you can do so via the System Tray.
Our review model of the HP Compaq nx9420 (RH457ET) features a 2.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7400 processor with 4MB of Level 2 cache and a 667MHz frontside bus. It comes with 1GB of RAM as standard, and this can be upgraded to a maximum of 4GB. Graphics are handled by ATI’s Mobility Radeon X1600 with 256MB of dedicated video memory.
Intel's PRO/Wireless 3945ABG adaptor provides Wi-Fi connectivity, while wired Ethernet is catered for by BroadCom's NetXtreme controller. For those who still need one, there's a standard 56Kbps dial-up modem too.
As far as storage is concerned, there's a capacious 120GB hard drive, which spins at 5,400rpm. Our review model also had a DVD+/-RW SuperMulti Double Layer optical drive located on the right-hand side.
There's plenty of room around the bulky nx9420 for a large array of ports and connectors, and much of the space on both sides is occupied. With the lid open, icons frame the left, right and bottom edges of the keyboard to indicate the location of the various ports, connectors and slots. This makes for a somewhat cluttered look, but it could prove useful to many users.
The front edge houses a flash memory card reader that accepts SD, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, MultiMedia Card, SmartMedia and xD media. To either side long grilles hide the system's stereo speakers. Much of the back edge is taken up by the Li-ion battery and a fan vent, but the RJ-11 modem connector is also here.
On the left-hand side, working from back to front, are the mains power connector, external monitor port, S-Video connector, two USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire (IEEE 1394) port and, right at the front, a Type II PC Card slot (with CardBus but not ExpressCard support) and a SmartCard reader beneath it. Because the USB ports on the left side are vertically stacked, it may prove difficult to use both at once with some peripherals.
There are two further USB 2.0 ports on the right-hand side, this time sitting side by side. Unfortunately these are very close together too, so using them both at the same time may also prove difficult. Also on the right-hand side are headphone and microphone jacks, while at the back, beyond the optical drive, is the RJ-45 Ethernet connector.
A laptop of this size and weight needs to function well as a desktop computer, because the desk is where it will spend much of its life.
With its high-end configuration, it's no surprise that the nx9420 blazed through our benchmarks, scoring right in line with a similarly configured Dell Latitude D820. In our battery-rundown test, the nx9420 lasted a very respectable 4 hours and 8 minutes, which is considerably longer than most other comparably sized laptops.
Edited by Charles McLellan
Additional editing by Nick Hide