I’m not so sure there is such a thing as a “bad” laptop anymore. This is the thought that is going through my head as I try to form an opinion about this latest widescreen offering from Hewlett Packard. Sure, certain laptops are better than others and certain formats appeal to us more than others, but are any of them outright “bad”? I don’t really think so. No, it seems to me that the computer industry is coming to a point that the automotive one arrived at a few years back. This was when even the most basic cars came with antilock brakes, CD player, central locking, fuel efficiency and a bit of pep. Outright criticism faded and was replaced by personal preference. Now the nx9110 from HP may not be quite at the bargain basement end of the market, but its pricing is fairly mainstream and like most of the machines we test these days it is very well equipped. Perhaps I’m just down because I don’t get to complain about poor products that much these days and a rant can be good for the soul. But I’m not going to get one here, because once again what we have is a very solid machine, from a big name manufacturer.
From the moment you open the HP box and pull out the nx9110 you are struck by two things, its screen and its weight. Quite simply put, there is something about the stretched format of widescreen machines that makes them look superior, even if the black finish to the nx9110 does remind me of a Bakelight suitcase. The second thing is the weight, because despite measurements of 284 × 50 × 362mm (WxDxH) and a bulk of 3.7kg, the nx9110 feels a lot heavier. It may be the thickness of the machine in hand which creates this sensation, but I had to reweigh it twice before I believed HP’s official figures. On the plus side, HP finally seems to have gotten over its HP/Compaq labelling schizophrenia as HP logos dominate the layout apart from the obligatory small Compaq wording beside the model name. Also the styling is gathering a little more consistency after a few years where machines were clearly created in one of two stables.
Getting down to brass tacks, what you get for your money is an Intel P4 3.2GHz CPU with 512MB of DDR333 RAM, a 60GB 4,200rpm HDD and a DVD writer. The DVD writer will burn DVD+R discs at four-speed, DVD+RW media at 2.4-speed, write CD-Rs at 16-speed and burn CD-RWs at 10-speed. On the video side the screen is a stunning 15.4in widescreen display capable of a 1,280 x 800 resolution, fuelled by an ATI Radeon Mobility 9000 graphics chipset. Audio is also well catered for courtesy of HP’s JBL Pro integrated speakers – the overall effect is excellent.
Connectivity options are extensive to say the least, given that accompanying the four USB 2.0 ports, single FireWire, S-Video, 4-in-1 memory card reader, modem, 10/100 Ethernet, PS/2, serial and parallel ports is the now thankfully almost standard 802.11 b/g wireless adapter and Bluetooth.
So where are the holes in this impressive line up? Well, an obvious one is the graphics solution. The Mobility Radeon 9000 is certainly not going to be breaking any speed records as its score of 3,127 in 3DMark2001 SE showed and the fact that it shares its memory with the system RAM is disappointing. Less obvious is that HP supplied our machine with two 256MB RAM modules, meaning there is no spare space for future upgrades without removing some of the existing memory.