HP Compaq nc4200 Notebook PC
At a Glance
HP Business Notebook nc4200
This business-oriented laptop has no optical drive, but it successfully marries portability and a great keyboard.
The HP Compaq nc4200 Notebook PC has a great keyboard for any laptop--but especially for one that weighs only 3.9 pounds. Other attractive features include the external battery gauge, powered USB port, presentation button, and built-in Bluetooth.
Apart from those elements, this business laptop is fairly spare. Unlike most other corporate portables these days, it has no optical drive, stereo sound, or FireWire port. It eschews a wide screen in favor of a standard-aspect 12.1-inch display. For the nc4200's $1549 price (as of 2/16/06), you can buy a different notebook with a much nicer screen, better speakers, and more connections.
But the nc4200 does have an edge: a killer keyboard. It's doubly blessed with eraserhead and touchpad pointing devices, and both are uncommonly comfortable to use. They're well calibrated and work smoothly with their dedicated mouse buttons, which depress deeply for satisfying feedback, much like that of a Lenovo ThinkPad. The layout is superlative, aside from the PgUp and PgDn keys' being positioned side by side and buried in the top row of Fn keys (instead of being standard size and laid out vertically).
One application shortcut button sits at the top, next to buttons that raise, lower, and mute the volume of the notebook's lone speaker. I didn't mind having a power switch on the left side of the notebook instead of a button at the top of the keyboard; it's easily located just around the corner. The only extra slot is an SD Card reader.
Equipped with a 1.86-GHz Pentium M 750 and 512MB of system memory, our review unit turned in decent speed, earning a WorldBench 5 score of 79, the slowest by a small margin of all other CPUs we've tested in this class. The 60GB hard drive and both memory slots, one of which is located beneath the keyboard, are user upgradable. The system's battery lasted an impressive 5 hours, 12 minutes, one of the best times we've seen in this category. The optional $149 snap-on HP Travel Battery offers up to 5.5 hours more, according to the company.
For adding features at the office, HP sells a wide range of interchangeable docking stations, including a $259 model that houses an optical drive or second hard drive. And the nc4200's three-year warranty is long for this category.
If you do a lot of typing in a business setting, this machine makes a fine laptop.