HP offers affordable ultralight notebook

Elegantly designed PC is strong on security and price

If money were no object, there would be a lot more German cars on the road. And we might all be working on top-of-the-line Lenovo ThinkPads. Whether it's a car or a computer, however, those of us without deep pockets will have to give up something to bring the price down.

If you're shopping for an affordable ultralight notebook, you'll want to look at Hewlett-Packard's new Compaq nc2400. Its base price of $1,499 is several hundred dollars less than most of its competitors. And you'll have to look carefully to see the few places where HP made compromises to keep the price low.

The nc2400 is nice-looking, and its matte black case resists scratches and scuffs. We especially liked the laminated surface under the keyboard, which resists abuse from skin oil and friction.

The 12.1-inch wide-screen display is sharp and clear. We also found the unit's keyboard comfortable with great tactile feedback. All in all, the nc2400 looks and feels like a class act.

The unit also easily qualifies as ultralight, despite the fact that it's got an integrated CD/DVD drive (which is also a CD burner).

The case measures 11.1 inches wide, 8.3 inches deep and 1.2 inches thick, and weighs in at 3.6 pounds with the six-cell battery.

With a built-in fingerprint sensor and an embedded Trusted Platform Module chip that handles data encryption, security on the nc2400 is strong. HP also includes the ProtectTools Security Manager utility, which makes it simple to centrally manage the TPM, credentials, smart card security and even your BIOS configuration.

Finally, you can configure the nc2400 with as much as 2G of system memory, even though our test unit came with only 512M installed.

So where does the nc2400 fall short? For starters, it is not among the ultralight performance leaders. That should come as no surprise given the competition from units with dual-core processors. The fastest processor available for the nc2400 is a 1.2 GHz Intel Core Solo U1400, and its 40G hard drive is a relatively slow 4,200 rpm. Those features result in performance that is at best middling.

If you generally perform word processing or other tasks that are not particularly CPU- or drive-intensive, you won't notice the modest performance. But if you must do multiple tasks with more demanding applications, you might need a speedier unit.

The nc2400 also offers little in the way of ports and connectivity. The unit has two USB ports conveniently located on each side of the computer, a FireWire port, and a slot for Type I and II PC Cards, but there is no slot for ExpressCards.

The nc2400 offers built-in 802.11a/b/g, Bluetooth and Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. But it has no wireless wide-area network capability.

HP backs the nc2400 with around-the-clock telephone support and a three-year warranty. However, if you want on-site support, you'll have to pay extra.

The bottom line: The nc2400 is an attractive and attractively priced unit. If you don't need multiple ports and connectivity options or maxed-out performance, it's a bargain.

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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