capsule review

HP Compaq nw8240

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder HP Business Notebook nw8240

    PCWorld Rating

    Light widescreen with detailed resolution, CAD zoom button and secondary hard drive option aims for graphics editors.

HP Compaq nw8240
Artwork: Rick Rizner

Attention, graphics pros: The 6-pound Compaq nw8240 combines portable computing with a 15.4-inch 1920-by-1200-resolution (WUXGA) wide screen powered by ATI's powerful Mobility Fire GL V5000 graphics chip. The hitch: Its high resolution makes small fonts hard to read. And this notebook isn't cheap. My test configuration listed for $3100, not including business applications. Nevertheless, if you need a wide workspace for graphics or for displaying big spreadsheets, the nw8240's wide screen delivers, offering 20 percent more information than a standard 15-inch UXGA screen can.

The nw8240's built-in connections are not remarkable, aside from the rare older serial port. You get the serial port, three USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port and a TV-out port. Wi-Fi comes standard, and Bluetooth is optional (my test unit had both). A built-in Smart Card reader for extra security and an SD Card slot are nice extras.

The nw8240 benefits from multiple storage options. In addition to offering a 60GB 7200-rpm hard drive option, it has a modular bay, so you can swap out the DVD burner for an 80GB secondary hard drive.

Its keyboard includes both touchpad and eraserhead pointing devices, each equipped with its own set of buttons that depress deeply into the case for satisfying feedback. Both sets of buttons have a center multidirectional document scroller that doubles as a zoom in CAD and animation programs, eliminating the need for an external three-button mouse or a function key combination. The only typing problem I encountered involved sometimes accidentally hitting this middle button, which is the same size as the left and right mouse buttons.

The nw8240 is a nicely designed notebook. Identifying symbols stamped on top of the case make locating side connections a breeze. The next-generation "soft-touch" mechanism that the interchangeable bay devices use surpasses even Lenovo notebooks' design. Rather than depending on separate bottom or side releases, the devices are spring-loaded, requiring only a gentle press to eject and swap out with one hand.

The nw8240's eight-cell rear-mounted power pack lasted an impressive 4.6 hours in our tests. According to HP, you could double this time with a $149, eight-cell travel battery that attaches to a bottom connector in the form of a thin base.

The nw8240's speed stacks up well against other notebooks we've tested that carried a 2-GHz Pentium M 760 processor and 1GB of RAM. Its WorldBench 5 score of 88 beat a Dell Inspiron 9300's 83 and fell just short of a Chem USA EDL70's 89.

To boost speed you can install up to another 1GB of RAM in the empty slot included in an easy-to-access bottom compartment. You can purchase only 1GB preinstalled, however. The process for removing the hard drive is spelled out for you on a step-by-step sticker located on the hard disk itself. Other add-on options include two bottom-mounted docking stations--a simple $179 port replicator, and a more advanced $279 expansion base that adds a second modular bay.

The nw8240's audio output isn't particularly loud, but the unit includes volume buttons and speakers that are strong enough to support a presentation to a small group.

This portable workstation isn't cheap, but it should satisfy well-heeled graphics workers on the go.

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Light widescreen with detailed resolution, CAD zoom button and secondary hard drive option aims for graphics editors.

    Pros

    • High-resolution screen

    Cons

    • Poor audio
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