- Integrated 3G connectivity, plus Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and infrared
- High-quality wide-screen display
- Fingerprint sensor and smartcard reader
- Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on/off controls are combined rather than separate
The HP Compaq 6910p is available in no fewer than six models in the 'balanced mobility' section of the company's web site. Our review sample, the GC021ET, is the highest specified and most expensive at £1,169 (ex. VAT), and is the only configuration with integrated 3G connectivity. The entry-level GH715ET model costs £899 (ex. VAT).
The HP Compaq 6910p's slate-grey lid sets off the silver-and-black HP logo nicely, and the overall design should appeal to business users with minimalist tastes. Inside, though, things get a little more cluttered. In particular, the black keys have huge white markings on them for the letters and other elements, while an embedded number pad and other function key combinations are marked out in blue. We'd have preferred a somewhat more restrained look here.
A very solid clasp keeps the upper and lower sections of the clamshell firmly locked together when the notebook is not in use, a factor that may be important if you intend to carry this system around much of the time. Without a good closure mechanism, foreign objects can easily slip between screen and keyboard and cause damage. The HP Compaq 6910p GC021ET weighs 2kg, and shouldn't be a huge burden in your travel bag. The weight is surprisingly low, given that this is a fairly bulky notebook measuring 33cm wide, 23.9cm deep and 2.9cm thick at its highest point.
The display is a 14.1in. TFT that lacks the shiny surface coating that some vendors apply in order to increase sharpness, but can also be rather reflective. As a result, the screen is easy to view with a light source is behind you or to one side. This is worth bearing in mind if you intend to spend a significant amount of time working on trains or even outdoors. With a native resolution of 1,280 by 800 pixels, it's possible to work with two document windows open on-screen at the same time.
Despite our comments about is appearance, the keyboard is satisfying to use. The QWERTY keys are large with a full-height number row sandwiched between it and a row of half-height function keys. The Delete, Home, PgUp, PgDn and End keys are in a column to the right of the main section, and there's an inverted-T arrangement of cursor control keys.
Above the function keys a narrow strip offers touch-sensitive controls for several features: accessing the HP Info Centre (a conglomeration of services, system information and user guides); turning Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on or off (together, not separately); and jumping to HP’s Presentation Settings applet (where you specify how the notebook should behave when you're making a presentation). Towards the right of this strip is a control for muting system volume and an area along which you drag a finger in order to raise or lower volume. These touch-sensitive controls are marked with icons and in some cases are backlit when they are active.
The main navigation method is the two-button touchpad that sits, slightly recessed, in the wrist-rest area. This has a vertical scroller on the right-hand side that's useful for browsing through documents or web sites. There's also a trackpoint nestling between the G, H and B keys, with a second set of mouse buttons between the space bar and the top of the touchpad.
All but one of the six 6910p models mentioned earlier run Windows Vista Business — the odd one out runs Windows XP Professional. Our (Vista-equipped) review sample is powered by Intel’s Core 2 Duo T7500 processor running at 2.2GHz, with 4MB of L2 cache and an 800MHz frontside bus. As standard, you get 2GB of RAM, while the system's two SODIMM slots can accommodate up to 4GB of RAM. Graphics are handled by a discrete ATI Mobility Radeon X2300 chipset with 64MB of dedicated video memory.
Storage comes in the shape of a 120GB hard drive spinning at 5400rpm. Other models either replicate this or drop to an 80GB drive. For optical storage, you get a fixed DVD+/-RW SuperMulti Double Layer drive in a bay on the right of the system.
Wireless connectivity is this system's forte: local area networking is provided by Intel’s Wireless WiFi Link 4965ABG module, while shorter-range connections can be made using Bluetooth (2.0+EDR) and — unusually these days — infrared. Wide-area 3G connectivity comes courtesy of an HP hardware module and a deal with Vodafone. The SIM lives in a slot under the battery, which is located on the back edge of the notebook. Vodafone’s software controls both 3G and Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity, and has a module for managing SMS messages.
Fingerprint recognition is another integrated function, the sensor being located at the front of the wrist rest area, on the right-hand side.
The HP Compaq 6910p GC021ET has ports and connectors spread around all four edges. On the front there are twin speakers and an SD card slot, while on the right edge is a slim smartcard reader for extra security features on top of the fingerprint sensor. This side also houses a single USB 2.0 port, the RJ-45 Ethernet port and RJ-11 modem port.
On the left edge are headphone and microphone ports, two further USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire (IEEE 1394a) port and a Type II PC Card slot that can accommodate both 16-bit and 32-bit CardBus cards. At the back is the battery, the power connector plus S-Video and VGA ports.
Windows Vista's Windows Experience Index reports an overall rating of 3.6 out of the maximum mark of 5. This is determined not as an average of all ratings, but by the lowest rating of the Index’s component scores, which in this case is for the graphics subsystem. The processor scores a very impressive 5.1, memory 4.7, gaming graphics 3.7 and the primary hard disk 4.7.
This is a notebook that should handle mainstream business tasks comfortably, although the relatively low graphics scores should warn users not to expect too much from this subsystem. Windows Vista should run fine with 2GB of RAM at its disposal, but don't be tempted to settle for any less than this in search of cost savings.
The display is impressively clear even in challenging lighting conditions and delivers a good viewing angle.
We found the HP Compaq 6910p GC021ET to be a very comfortable notebook to use, with excellent wireless connectivity, a high-quality 14.1in. wide-screen display and good security features. Despite its impressive specification, at 2kg it's not too heavy for mobile professionals to carry regularly.