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HP Compaq nc6400 (RH576ET) - HP Compaq nc6400 (RH576ET)
At the top left you'll find the large silver power switch with a yellow light to indicate power - you know where you are with that. A microphone is located at the top right. At the bottom right you'll find a fingerprint scanner – yes, Biometrics is the new black. It’s not foolproof but it’s a useful extra additional layer of protection. Someone may find out your password, but it will be harder to replicate your fingerprints. Once you've registered your finger, you can swipe to logon instead of typing a password.
On the left hand side of the notebook, you'll find headphone and microphone socket, two USB ports and a PC card slot. I can only wonder why HP hasn’t moved to Express card, especially as with integrated HSDPA the most popular use for PC Cards is not applicable. Towards the rear there’s an exhaust fan for the CPU. It does spew out a fair amount of heat and the fan does spin up every now and then.
At the front you’ll find an SD/MMC card slot – Memory Stick and xD card users aren’t accommodated. Lights for Wi-Fi, power, charge and disk activity nestle in the left corner.
On the right hand side you'll find a smart card reader, making it fit right into corporate networks. The smart card reader is slotted just above the optical drive, but it's just a ye olde, CD-RW/ DVD-ROM combo drive - so you can't burn DVDs on it. What is really cool is that once you’ve removed a small screw, which can be left off, you can hot swap the drive out and replace it with a weight saver, which is great if you know you won’t need the drive during the day. Permanent storage is taken care off buy an 80GB Seagate spinning at 5,400rpm.
A third USB port is located on the right, while there's also a Gigabit Ethernet port and a modem. Round the rear of the notebook you'll find the power plug, and S-Video and VGA outputs – perfect for attaching to a projector for presentations.
That's the exterior of the notebook taken care of. However, the insides are pretty impressive too. There's a T5600 1.83GHz Core 2 Duo running the show, along with 1GB of 333MHz RAM - this is supplied on one stick, which means that there's no dual-channel support, but that can be remedied but adding a second stick. The 1GB supplied is not user accessible but more memory could be added quickly by removing the cover on the DIMM slot on the underneath of the notebook.
Graphics are provided by an integrated Intel 950 chip. It was set up with 128MB as shipped but can grab up to 244MB of system memory if required. It’s fine for business tasks that will be thrown at this but not really suitable for games.
Wireless is naturally built in, but in addition to 54G Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, this HP has an integrated HSDPA SIM provided by Vodafone. To actually get this going proved to be a bit of a palaver. When I started the HSDPA application it told me the Wireless was switched off. I turned it on and tried again, but was asked to activate the SIM via web or phone. Once past this, the software then finally installed itself. After that you still have to accept the licence agreement and you'll then be told that the Microsoft Wireless Zero configuration is conflicting with the Vodafone software - at least it offers to disable that for you.