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Anyone that has to travel a lot with a notebook in their bag will appreciate that a super powerful desktop replacement machine is not always the best option. If you always need to have your computer with you, no matter where you are, something sleek and portable is definitely the preferred solution. The HP Compaq nc4010 falls squarely into this category and it is very similar to the excellent IBM ThinkPad X40, although not quite as small or light.
Still, at 1.59kg it is far from a heavyweight machine and is fairly small at 279.4 x 233.7 x 27.94 mm (WxDxH) which makes it a perfect travelling companion for anyone that doesn’t want to lug anything too heavy around. In the past small notebooks have often suffered from poor keyboards, lack of connectivity, disappointing screens and atrocious battery life. However, those days are thankfully gone and as we saw with the IBM ThinkPad X40 you really can get a great ultra portable machine with all the features you need.
Of course HP has created excellent ultra-portable notebooks in the past, and it’s good to see the nc4010 building on that heritage. It might not sport all the bells and whistles that some of the larger laptops have, but I think you’ll find that HP has managed to squeeze in pretty much everything you need into the nc4010.
The model on review is the DY883AA but HP offers a wide range of different models with various processors speeds, hard drive sizes and connectivity packages to suit any and all needs. The nc4010 DY883AA is placed towards the top end of the range - with a 1.6GHz Pentium M processor, 512MB of DDR SDRAM and a 40GB hard drive this is a pretty reasonable configuration. There is also a spare memory slot for future upgrades and you can add up to 1GB of additional memory.
This is not a Centrino branded machine however, as unusually for an ultra portable notebook HP is using the ATI IGP 350M chipset. There is no real advantage compared to Intel’s equivalent chipset, but nor are there any blatant downsides. The integrated graphics chipset shares 32MB of the system memory, so don’t expect blisteringly fast games performance. This can be changed to 64MB in the BIOS, but doing this isn’t going to bring any major advantage.
The display, as with most ultra portable machines is a 12in unit with a resolution of 1,024 x 768. The display is crisp and clear and is easy to read - just how it should be. With your average notebook sporting a 1,400 x 1,050 resolution these days, this is the one big compromise with an ultra portable machine. But unless you need loads of windows open at once, use huge spreadsheets or plan to do a lot of image editing on the move, 1,024 x 768 should be fine.
HP has added support for 802.11b/g wireless networking, Bluetooth and IrDA – this means that you can connect to pretty much anything wirelessly, be it a wireless network, a PDA or a mobile phone. If you don’t like the idea of your data travelling through the airwaves, then there is also built-in 10/100/Gigabit Ethernet from Broadcom and a 56k V.90 modem to choose from.