capsule review

HP Compaq Business Notebook nc8230

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder HP Business Notebook nc8230

    PCWorld Rating

HP Compaq Business Notebook nc8230
Photograph: Rick Rizner

If you yearn for a wide-screen notebook for business travel and don't mind that a 15.4-inch model tends to engulf your lap or airline tray table, the $2379 HP Compaq Business Notebook nc8230 could be your perfect traveling and boardroom companion. It's relatively lightweight for a 15.4-inch widescreen notebook, at 6.3 pounds (not counting the power adapter). We looked at an nc8230 with a WSXGA+ 1680 by 1050 resolution screen, which is just right for most work. (HP Compaq offers two other widescreens, 1280 by 800 WXGA, and 1920 by 1200 WUXGA.)

At their default Windows settings, icons and screen elements are smaller than average at this resolution, but not eyeball-bustingly tiny. You should be able to put in several hours of work at a sitting without eyestrain, especially if you spend most of your time in graphics programs.

The nc8230 delivers blessedly long battery life: 5 hours and 11 minutes on one charge in our tests, which is plenty of time to hammer out a presentation during a cross-country plane ride. A port on the bottom of the laptop accepts an optional ($149) second travel battery, which will double the notebook's battery life, according to HP (we did not test it).

In the boardroom, the black and graphite nc8230 with its art-deco power button cuts a handsome figure. A quick-launch presentation button with a user-settable power scheme will get your talk off to a smooth start. The speakers stylishly flank the keyboard; though the sound they emit isn't stand-alone speaker quality, it is loud and rich enough for small-group presentations, and you can control it with a nice set of keyboard volume buttons.

The nc8230 is among the few laptops that do justice to dual pointing devices. Its pointing stick, located in the center of the keyboard, is an easy-to-steer nub with a finger-friendly texture. The traditional touchpad handles well, too. Each comes with its own set of mouse buttons, including a full-size third button in the middle for scrolling documents or zooming in CAD and animation programs; this eliminates the need for an external three-button mouse or a function key combination that requires two hands. All six mouse buttons sink deep into the case when pressed, unlike the stiff buttons we've found on many other laptops. If you prefer buttons with plenty of feedback, you'll love these.

The nc8230 offers all the basic connections you'll need: three USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port, a TV-out port, and a stacked threesome of SD Card slot, Smart Card security slot, and PC Card slot on the left side. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi both come built in, and you even get an old-fashioned serial port.

The fixed right-side combination drive on our test unit let us view DVD-ROMs but burn only CDs; upgrading to a DVD burner costs $100. The nc8230 is one of the first HP laptops equipped with the new spring-loaded modular optical drive design. Just remove a security screw (which can remain uninstalled) and press the front of the drive to pop it out. It's the easiest way we've seen to swap modular bay devices.

Our review nc8230 came with 512MB of RAM, but it also offered one empty memory slot in a compartment on the bottom of the notebook. The hard drive is located in another easy-to-access compartment. Either of two optional bottom-mounting docking stations (a simple port replicator for $179 or a more advanced add-on for $279) provide desktop convenience and additional ports.

We noted two minor design weaknesses: First, we had to take special pains to remove the bottom panels' small, cheap Phillips-head screws without stripping them. Second, removing the battery is a three-handed operation--you must hold open two sliding releases while simultaneously tugging out the battery.

Nevertheless, the nc8230 is a fine wide-screen portable; and when equipped with a 2-GHz Pentium M 760, it can handle any type of mainstream work or heavy multitasking. Our review unit earned a WorldBench 5 score of 85; two similar laptops equipped with 2-GHz Pentium M 755 CPUs--the Dell Latitude D600 and the Acer TravelMate 8000--scored 81 and 89, respectively.

A handsome design and quick-launch presentation button make this wide-screen notebook a great fit for business travelers.

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Classy-looking model has a quick-launch presentation button and high-resolution (1680 by 1050).


    • Classy design


    • Difficult to remove the battery
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