- Review Price: £1382.00
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.
Countering the negative points are a top end processor, a fabulous screen and a speaker set up that would dumbfound even the most cynical critics of laptop acoustics. In fact, it’s a shame that there’s no real laptop benchmark available for sound because first, it would embarrass manufacturers into making more of an effort with what is probably the most flawed part of current notebooks and second, it would allow me to produce some cold, hard statistics to back up my praise. In absence of this, I can sum up the JBL Pro speakers with the following words – loud, deep, multidirectional and distortion free.
Another feather in the nx9110’s cap is its user friendliness. Its spacious design lends itself to some well marked and well built chunky buttons for muting, decreasing and increasing the audio volume and toggling the wireless. Furthermore, HP has stuck closely to the keyboard layout of the HP nx7000 which we found close to perfect. Consequently just about every key on the nx9110 is full size, the arrow keys remain slightly detached for greater accessibility and the travel and feedback from each key is almost indistinguishable from a standalone keyboard. I could criticise HP for not including a trackpoint, but by consolation it has included a button to toggle the touchpad on and off to avoid accidentally activating it in the middle of heavy typing.
Battery life is also pretty good for a machine this size, especially considering the large widescreen display. The nx9110 lasted 165 minutes in MobileMark meaning you will get nearly three hours out of it in normal use. So, while its size may not make it the most portable of notebooks, its battery life does at least give you the option to take it with you. The nx9110 shouldn’t be too shoddy in and around Windows either with SYSmark 2002 scores of 240, 376 and 153 for Overall Score, Internet Content Creation and Office Productivity respectively – this ranks alongside some of the faster notebooks we have had in the TrustedReviews labs.
The obvious competitor for the nx9110 will be Fujitsu-Siemens’ well received Amilo A1630 which we reviewed last month, since the two are very closely matched. Which machine you go for will depend entirely on your priorities as the nx9110 has a significant battery advantage of 40 minutes over the A1630 but graphically the Mobility Radeon 9000 can’t come close to the Mobility Radeon 9700 that nestles inside the Fujitsu-Siemens machine. The A1630 also has a slight edge in PCMark and SYSmark. Both feature excellent sound, though the A1630 has a larger 80GB HDD while the nx9110 has a better keyboard. It really is photo finish stuff – the kid in me wants the A1630, but the man needs the nx9110.
HP has produced a super laptop with incredible user friendliness, stunning sound and a battery that lasts longer than you’d probably want to carry a laptop of this size around. If it’s games you want and a little extra power, go for the Fujitsu-Siemens A1630, but for the business user or regular typist the nx9110 has the edge. As I was saying, I’m really beginning to think that there’s no such thing as a bad laptop anymore.
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