HP Compaq nc4200 review

Price when reviewed

As one of HP’s thinnest and lightest notebooks, the nc4200 is undeniably desirable. An all-in weight of 1.8kg means you won’t get tired of carrying it around, while its 12.1in 1,024 x 768 TFT makes working long hours a pleasure. The twin touchpad and trackpoint are as welcome as they are on the Dell, while the keyboard is excellent: full-sized and logically laid out – we had no problems touch-typing on it.

HP Compaq nc4200 review

HP has also thought carefully about how people will actually use the nc4200. A light sensor automatically adjusts the brightness of the screen depending on the ambient light, and a dedicated button allows you to instantly switch between the TFT and the VGA output, avoiding embarrassing delays during presentations.

The nc4200 is no slouch when it comes to performance either. An application benchmark score of 1.92 proves that the 1.86GHz Pentium M 750 makes light work of office tasks. It’s helped along by 512MB of DDR2 RAM and there’s a spare socket too.

The 60GB hard disk isn’t the biggest on test, but is more than sufficient for office use. The SD/MMC card reader is the only removable storage, though; we were surprised to find no optical drive in the 35mm-thick chassis. Amazingly, there isn’t an external drive in the box either. HP charges £149 for a CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive, but you’ll find better deals from third-party manufacturers.

The processor at the heart of the nc4200 isn’t a ULV (Ultra Low Voltage) model, and the HP suffered in our intensive battery test. An hour-and-a-half of use under constant strain and full brightness isn’t reassuring for those constantly on the move. The light-use test yielded a time of four hours, 37 minutes, and most users can expect a time somewhere towards four hours.

If you ignore the lack of an optical drive, the nc4200 is a great ultra-light notebook. The fans produced only 32.6dBA (from the front) when fully loaded and the price includes a three-year collect-and-return warranty, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios. Also note its excellent build quality; this laptop will withstand the test of time.

There are reasons it doesn’t win an award though: battery life is unexceptional, and every other system on test offers optical storage, including models both smaller and lighter than the nc4200. Nevertheless, if you want a well-built machine and the quality of the screen and keyboard are more important than weight, the HP offers phenomenal value.

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