- Plenty of ports
- large screen and usable keyboard
- three-spindle design
- touchpad off button.
- plastic lid construction
- fairly average battery life.
There’s something rather reassuring about the HP Compaq NX9005. It took us a while to put our finger on just why: it wasn’t the double-barrelled tier-one brand name, nor the reasonably tasteful silver and dark grey trim -- although these no doubt helped. No, the reason why the £769 (ex. VAT) NX9005 feels comfortable to be around is its traditional approach.
You might think that this would mean no surprises, but in an odd way, there are. In this age of ‘legacy-free’ kit, it’s becoming rare to find a notebook with a serial port or a PS/2 port for an external mouse or keyboard, but the NX9005 has both. And it’s got a proper parallel port, not to mention an expansion bus for use with a port replicator. It even stretches to dedicated hardware volume controls for the integrated speakers. When you take this along with the three-spindle design (yes, you get a built-in floppy drive too) and the equally old-style 3.3kg of heft, you almost feel as if you’ve been gently transported back to a time when notebooks were notebooks and everybody had sore shoulders. Weight is the price you pay for having everything in the one case, but so long as you treat this notebook as a portable desktop replacement rather than a must-have travel accessory, all should be well. The keyboard holds its end up, mainly because there’s plenty of room for it within the full-size footprint of the system as a whole. The space means that the main pad isn’t cramped and the modifier keys are sensible sizes. That plus a quiet, moderately firm action made for fast typing and gave the NX9005 the feeling that you could do real work on it without suffering as a result. If you are of an organised turn of mind, you can program the five shortcut buttons above the keyboard to launch your preferred email client, Web browser and so on, or you can plough your own furrow and pick whichever five programs or folders you fancy. In a clever move, the designers have added a slightly recessed button above the large touchpad that turns it on and off, so you won’t get the cursor leaping about all over the place when you are typing. The pad itself has a dedicated vertical scroll area at the right side that’s nearly -- but not quite -- as good as a wheel or rocker button. All in all, this is an easy notebook to use, and therefore to like. The build is average, with a rigid enough internal chassis clad in plastic mouldings which give the machine a slightly budget feel. This is particularly true of the lid, which had a little too much flex in it and didn’t look as though it would shield the screen from a serious impact. Still, you get what you pay for, and fancy alloy lids cost more.
There’s much to recommend the NX9005, starting with its sensible core configuration of a Mobile AMD Athlon XP-M 2400+ processor, 256MB of PC2100 DDR memory and a 40GB hard disk. This is complemented by a reasonably bright 15in. XGA TFT screen, which is very readable thanks to its wide diagonal and standard 1,024 by 768 native resolution. Everything you might reasonably want from a general purpose notebook is provided, from the twin Type II/III PC Card slots, internal V.92 modem, 10/100 LAN and FireWire port to the S-Video TV output. You even get a combo optical drive offering 8X DVD playback, 24X CD-R writing and 10X CD-RW rewriting, which isn’t bad for a budget business portable. There’s no 802.11b Wi-Fi -- but again, we refer you to the price tag.
Performance wasn’t stellar, with the Business Winstone 2001 benchmark registering a rather ordinary 40.8, although to be fair, this is perfectly sufficient for everyday business use. A closer look at the component test results pointed the finger at the hard disk and the ATI Radeon IGP 320M graphics module, both of which were undistinguished performers. Not surprisingly, the high-end Content Creation Winstone 2002 test produced an unimpressive score of 20.7. Battery life from the 8-cell 4,400mAH Li-ion pack (which is graced with one of those useful LED charge indicators) was no more than average at 2 hours and 54 minutes under the BatteryMark 4.01 test. Ideally, we’d have liked to see 3.5 hours or more, but around 3 hours is still acceptable. The graphics chip borrows system memory rather than having any of its own, and like most shared memory architectures, it suffers by comparison to GPUs with dedicated VRAM. Again though, the performance on offer is fine for 2D business applications, and shouldn’t be a problem for the typical NX9005 customer. If this is you, then you could do worse. The NX9005 doesn’t aspire to glamour, but it’s strong on practicalities, and that’s what counts when it comes to what is, to be blunt, a workhorse. This notebook isn’t perfect, but it’s free from serious flaws and has plenty of good points in its favour, not the least of which is a realistic price.