HP Compaq nc2400

GCN Lab review

Mixed bag: HP Compaq nc2400's security is good, performance so-so.

Pros: Best security features, optical drive built-in

Cons: Sluggish performance, no cellular comms

Price: $1,499

Performance: C

Battery life: B+

Features: A-

Value: B

The Compaq nc2400 is all about security. Between its suite of security software and various hardware features, we found it to be the most secure notebook in the review.

One of the main security features is the Protect Tools Umbrella, with is a suite of modules that enable you to coordinate how the Trusted Platform Module, BIOS and the reader devices interact. It also allows you to make changes to the BIOS without having to enter it during system boot-up. The Credential Manager module keeps track of all the passwords a user may have, as well as configuring the level of authentication (combination of password and readers) that's needed for each user. Its biometric fingerprint and smart-card readers are tied in closely with this module. The notebook also has a Device Access Manager that lets an administrator enable and disable USB devices, which is a perfect feature for a shared pool of notebooks.

Another key data security feature is HP's Disk Sanitizer, which ensures that data is removed completely when it's deleted or when a drive is formatted. Disk Sanitizer employs a Defense Department algorithm to make sure deleted data is not recoverable. The nc2400 even has built-in CompuTrace functionality, which means you're able to track a stolen notebook when it connects to the Internet.

Want more? The nc2400's Drive Lock feature is a hardware-level password that can be set for additional security. And its automatic drive head-parking algorithm uses three-dimensional motion sensors to stop a drive from spinning if a sudden movement is detected.

The nc2400's 12.1-inch wide aspect display is large enough to see a few windows open at once. Its integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 is a good low-power chip set that performs just fine for an ultraportable notebook. The keyboard's main keys are full-sized, but other function keys are barely big enough to allow for a fingertip. Someone with large fingers or who tends to type quickly may have problems hitting the correct function key. Although many people may not like touchsticks in general (those eraserhead pointers), the HP's is wider than most, allowing for greater control.

Unfortunately, the nc2400 falls short in the performance department. It only scored a 3,953 in our benchmark tests, the lowest in our review, mostly due to the Core Solo processor, which is Intel's newest ultralow-voltage, single-core mobile processor. Even though its weight of 3 pounds, 10 ounces is fairly light, its performance relative to weight is still the lowest tested.

In our battery life test, the Compaq lasted 3 hours, 48 minutes. This was a bit less than we would have expected from a system with an ultralow-voltage processor and a six-cell battery. If this is not sufficient, it might be advisable to go with the nine-cell battery option, although it would increase both cost and weight.

We found the list price of $1,499 to be attractive if security is your primary consideration. From a performance perspective, it's less of a bargain.

Hewlett-Packard Co., Palo Alto, Calif., (800) 888-9909, www.hp.com

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