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At an HP press briefing I attended last year, HP representatives took much pride explaining how the company had a new found focus on the consumer. Its new products would be more liveable with, exude more personality and be more desirable. None of that is really evident in the Compaq nc6400, and actually that's no bad thing at all. There's no reason it should posses those qualities either, as the nc6400 is clearly a business notebook.
My first impressions of the nc6400 were rather negative, due to its rather drab, corporate appearance and indeed its specification - nobody needs a fingerprint or smart card reader for home use. However, after using the nc6400, I was quickly seduced by it's dull but worthy charms.
The nc6400 is a medium sized notebook - it's neither headline grabbingly small or overly big. Laptops are so named so that you can, yes, use them on your lap, but all too often manufacturers seem to forget this. The acid test was opening it up and using it on the train - it felt just right in terms of size and weight to use. At 2.3Kg, it's no fly weight but it's still practical to slip in into a shoulder bag and take it with you for the day.
The lid is held in place by a sliding grip and opening it up reveals a widescreen, 1,280 x 800 pixel display. I have to say that I was a little disappointed by the 14.1in screen - it's just not as sharp as the best I've seen, or as bright. Its viewing angles are not fantastic, with colour shift both vertically and horizontally. However, for general text and office work it's perfectly serviceable. Its conventional fluorescent backlight tech also makes the screen thicker than newer LED backlights on laptops such as the Sony SZ3XP. Then again, this notebook is a lot more affordably priced.
Beneath the screen you'll find one of the best keyboards around. The keys have a matt finish that give them texture, enabling you're fingers to grip. The travel is short but not overly firm - in a word, it's excellent. The Backspace, Enter, and right Shift keys are all a good length, and the Page Up, Down, End and arrow keys are easy to access on the right. The blue of the function keys is a little overdone though. It does match the track point that sits in the middle of the keyboard. This is my preferred method of controlling the cursor on a keyboard as it means that in conjunction with the mouse buttons under the space bar you can move about the screen without having to remove your hands from the keyboard.
If you prefer the conventional track pad though, you're fine, because there's one nestling underneath - in correct widescreen aspect ratio and with a scroll area on the right. Above the keyboard you'll find some shortcut buttons. There's volume controls and a mute button and a switch to turn wireless the connections on and off. There's also a 'Presentation' button that let's you fire an application of your choice - presumably PowerPoint, and go into the correct power mode.