nc4010 – HP’s Weapon on the SubNotebooks Arena

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HP Compaq nc4010 - side view

For those wanting to have serious computing power in every moment at any place – HP Compaq nc4010 is the subnotebook to look for. It has a Pentium M processor ranging from 1.5 to 1.8 GHz and 2 MB L2 cache, up to 1 GB of RAM, HDD spinning at 5400 RPM with 8 MB cache. What else could one dream of?

 General Specifications of HP Compaq nc4010

CPU Intel Pentium M 1.6GHz
System memory (quantity & type) 512MB DDR 333 (2 slots, 1 free)
Hard disk size/interface & speed 40GB, 5,400RPM, 8Mb cache
Optical drive (make & model) N/A
Graphics processor ATI Radeon IGP 350M
Memory & type 32MB shared memory
Audio controller (manufacturer & model) SoundMAX
Additonal features (S/PDIF etc) Stereo Headphone out, microphone jack
Display 12.1inch, 1,024 x 768
Modem 56k V.90
Network card Broadcom 10/100/Gigabit
Misc Hardware Integrated 802.11 b/g, Bluetooth
USB 2.0 ports 2x USB 2.0
Card Reader
Yes, SD and MMC cards
PS/2 / Serial / Parallel ports N/A
Other ports S-Video out, D-SUB, SD/MMC Card reader, single Type II PC Card slot, IrDA
Width x Depth x Height 279.4 x 233.7 x 27.94 mm
Weight 1.59kg

nc4010 First Look

HP Compaq nc4010 - openThe HP Compaq nc4010 will definitely please people on the run – it’s small, light and powerfull. With only 1.59kg it is far from a heavyweight machine and is fairly small at 279.4 x 233.7 x 27.94 mm (WxDxH) which makes it a perfect travelling companion for anyone that doesn’t want to lug anything too heavy around. In the past small notebooks have often suffered from poor keyboards, lack of connectivity, disappointing screens and atrocious battery life. However, none of these apply to the nc4010.

Computing Power

The model on review is the DY883AA but HP offers a wide range of different models with various processors speeds, hard drive sizes and connectivity packages to suit any and all needs. The nc4010 DY883AA is placed towards the top end of the range – with a 1.6GHz Pentium M processor, 512MB of DDR SDRAM and a 40GB hard drive this is a pretty reasonable configuration. There is also a spare memory slot for future upgrades and you can add up to 1GB of additional memory.

This is not a Centrino branded machine however, as unusually for an ultra portable notebook HP is using the ATI IGP 350M chipset. There is no real advantage compared to Intel’s equivalent chipset, but nor are there any blatant downsides. The integrated graphics chipset shares 32MB of the system memory, so don’t expect blisteringly fast games performance. This can be changed to 64MB in the BIOS, but doing this isn’t going to bring any major advantage.

Display

The display, as with most ultra portable machines is a 12in unit with a resolution of 1,024 x 768. The display is crisp and clear and is easy to read – just how it should be. With your average notebook sporting a 1,400 x 1,050 resolution these days, this is the one big compromise with an ultra portable machine. But unless you need loads of windows open at once, use huge spreadsheets or plan to do a lot of image editing on the move, 1,024 x 768 should be fine.

Networking  and I/O ports

HP has added support for 802.11b/g wireless networking, Bluetooth and IrDA – this means that you can connect to pretty much anything wirelessly, be it a wireless network, a PDA or a mobile phone. If you don’t like the idea of your data travelling through the airwaves, then there is also built-in 10/100/Gigabit Ethernet from Broadcom and a 56k V.90 modem to choose from.

Looking at where the ports are situated, on the left hand side are the headphone and mic connectors, a card reader for SD and MMC cards and a single Type II PC Card slot as well as the IrDA port. Around the back are the modem and network connectors, the power connector, two USB 2.0 ports, a D-SUB connector and an S-Video output. Finally at the bottom of the nc4010 is a connector for a port replicator, although this is an optional accessory.

Keyboard and touchpad

Keyboard of the nc4010But let’s get back to the nc4010 and take a closer look at the keyboard, which in my opinion is a very good example. The keys are in the right places, although the function keys are tiny, making them very hard to use. The Spacebar is also on the short side, but I didn’t find myself missing it while typing. In general use this is one of the best keyboards I’ve used on an ultra portable notebook, and HP should be commended for producing such a good input device on a chassis so small. It’s still not quite up to the standard of the ThinkPad X40, but it’s not a million miles away. Above the keyboard are some quick launch buttons, one of which is programmable, while another enables or disables the wireless antenna and the final one sets the nc4010 up for use with a projector. Next to these are the power button, a mute button and the audio volume buttons.

Amazingly HP has managed to squeeze in both a touchpad and a trackpoint, allowing the user to choose which ever pointing device they prefer. Both are of a high standard, and simple and efficient pointer manipulation can be achieved via either.

Working with the nc4010

For those concerned about noise, the nc4010 is very quiet under general usage and it never gets particularly hot. It’s not noiseless but the noise that it did produce didn’t bother me that much in all the time I was using it.

Looking at the performance figures, one of the most important scores for a laptop is of course the battery life and this is sadly one of the nc4010’s weaker points with the standard battery lasting only two hours and 28 minutes. You can however get a second battery that HP claims will add a further 3.5 hours of battery life, but at a cost of £130.98. To be fair to the nc4010, the IBM ThinkPad X40 produced similar battery life and the extended battery was definitely a necessary option for anyone that wanted to work all day.

General performance is good, with a SYSmark 2002 score of 155 this little HP will be more than capable of handling general office tasks, although the PCMark 2004 scores aren’t the most impressive I have seen.

Conclusion

All in all the HP Compaq nc4010 is a high quality laptop with an excellent set of features for the business traveller. It has all needed ports, good connectivity, convenient keyboard and most of all – it’s light and yet powerful. You won’t make a mistake buying the nc4010 if you are a frequent traveler.

 

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