HP Compaq nx9420 Review — Page 2

HP Compaq nx9420 Review — Page 2


So how does this machine perform in various tasks? Although it is a business model, it is equipped with an Ati x1600 with 256MB DDR2 memory – a good card that can be easily overclocked. I haven’t tried FSB (actually CPU, FSB and main memory) overclocking yet. Undervolting works well with RMClock. I hope to see Notebook Hardware Control working well with Vista and Core 2 Duo eventually as I saw only blue screens of death with NHC so far.

Super PiBenchmark Results

NotebookTimeHP Compaq nx9420 (Intel Core 2 Duo)1m 12sMSI M677 (1.8 GHz Turion X2)1m 53sFujitsu LifeBook N6420 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo)1m 02sLG S1 (2.16 GHz Core Duo)1m 11sDell Inspiron e1505 (2.0GHz Core Duo)1m 16sLenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)1m 18sToshiba Satellite M100 (2.00GHz Core Duo)1m 18sSamsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo)1m 29sSony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)1m 53s

3DMark05 and 06

As I purchased the original configuration with 1GB RAM and later on I added 1GB more I have the results in both cases. I also have results with the original HP ATI drivers 6.11 (please read the Operating System and Software: Vista era section for more details) and the regular AMD ATI drivers 7.2 for Vista 32-bit. Both have the Catalyst Control Center or CCC in it.

1GB RAM and HP ATI 6.11 drivers2GB RAM and ATI 7.2 Vista driversI had some serious issues with HP drivers – they worked in Windows, but had texture problems in games and tests, and above all – poor performance. Even CCC had problems with showing 3d view which was disabled!? Even the Microsoft Vista drivers had the same issues and even worse performance (that is expected of course). But that might have been because of the HP settings or something. HP offers the 6.11 full language supported monster of 86MB, and 7.1 version is 121MB!Those drivers are much, much better than the original HP. First – you can download only 37 MB (English only). They are way faster and more stable. And finally all of the issues are gone in games that I have. Now CCC works very fast and takes way smaller amounts of RAM. Actually I am happy with the CCC in Vista, except for the 150 MB of the disk space. I can control powerplay, colour and contrast + AVIVO converter software (probably the fastest movie conversion available J)3DMark053,391 at 425/375 (default speeds)

4,370 at 570/477 (overclocked in Ati tray tools)3,895 at 425/375 (default speeds)

4,808 at 570/477 (overclocked in Ati tray tools no.2 on Futuremark ORB in mobility Radeon x1600 class)3DMark061,450 at 425/375 (default speeds)1,640 at 425/375 (default speeds)

2,140 at 570/477 (overclocked in Ati tray tools no.2 on Futuremark ORB in mobility Radeon x1600 class)

I can confirm that both at the stock speeds and overclocked x1600 in Vista with 7.2 drivers is faster than most of the XP results on ORB. That is one thing not in favour to those who say that Vista is a slow gaming platform. The drivers are slow, not the OS. When the drivers get better, and games are actually written to get along well with Vista – I am sure that many games will run faster than in XP.

Note: When I added more RAM, 3Dmark05 actually went DOWN with HP drivers! I expect that more RAM would actually bring the 3Dmarks down, but that was around 200 marks and I was disappointed even more. But the games of course were much faster. Installing AMD Ati drivers finally resolved all issues and numbers were much better. So the original configuration with 1GB + Windows XP would probably give even better 3Dmark05 and 06, but DO INSTALL THE AMD ATI DRIVERS or wait until HP offers some better version! Actually I think the earlier versions of the drivers that HP is offering are responsible for all those problems. I read somewhere that ATI is ahead of Nvidia in Vista drivers, but still these drivers are behind the XP versions. HP is actually just behind ATI in this story therefore providing the obsolete drivers.

Windows experience index

Note that this index can go up to 5,9 for each component and will go even further in the future Vista updates. Base score of 4 means that this machine can run Vista well and is quite responsive even in multitasking and runs most applications and games quite well. 5 is a high end machine (very high end machines will get mark 6 in the new index system).

Here is the overclocked ATI x1600 table index:

ComponentDetailsSubscoreProcessorIntel(R) Core(TM)2 CPU T5600 @ 1.83GHz4,8Memory (RAM)2,00 GB4,5GraphicsATI Mobility Radeon X16004,6Gaming graphics1023 MB Total available graphics memory4,9Primary hard disk10GB Free (39GB Total)4,5Windows Vista (TM) Ultimate

Notice the gaming graphics mark and the total available graphics memory after I installed the additional 1GB RAM.

HD Tune

ST9100828ASEnable caching + advanced performanceEnable caching (default)Transfer Rate Minimum: Transfer Rate Maximum: Transfer Rate Average:

Access Time:

Burst Rate:

CPU Usage:19.3 MB/sec

42.2 MB/sec

32.2 MB/sec

16.2 ms

58.9 MB/sec

17.1%11.4 MB/sec

42.2 MB/sec

31.7 MB/sec

16.1 ms

59.6 MB/sec


Note: Advanced performance in Device manager for the disk makes the transfer rate much smoother (no big drops in transfer speed). Otherwise the numbers are pretty much the same.

Heat and Noise

This notebook is cool, it doesn’t suffer from any excessive heat. Under normal work conditions on AC power the CPU is usually below 40 degrees C. In games it can hit 65. I undervolted the CPU to 0.95V on the lowest multiplier (6x) and 1.012V on the highest (11x), getting more than 10 degrees C lower temps. The last time I checked the highest temp was 52 while running 3Dmark05 and 06 benchmarks!  That is very low indeed which is very helpful in games.  The x1600 produces some extra heat that can be uncomfortable if you hold it in your lap.

The fan is big and quiet. It is located in the left upper corner and it has two fan grills on that corner – one on the left and one at the back.  This is very convenient and allows a much better airflow. It takes the cool air from below. On AC it is in the slowest speed and makes a very gentle hum. In games it can speed up but again there is nothing to worry about. It supports a gradual speed change making the noise even less obvious. 

It is slightly warm over the whole keyboard and cooler on the right hand side.  The disk is very quiet and cool (max 44 in the tests). On battery the fan stops after some time and it seldom goes on. On AC it is always on or it can turn off if you enable this feature in BIOS and lower the CPU and GPU speeds. I would really like the fan to stop at 40 or 45, as the temp in normal work conditions on both cores is around 38 (but then the fan is always on and it surely keeps the temp so low). I guess Aero is making the GPU work harder therefore producing more heat.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard is full size with a numeric pad, the keys are big and have a good amount of travel. It feels like an ordinary desktop keyboard.  Initially I was accustomed to the shallower notebook keyboards and was missing characters until I learned to type on this keyboard with greater button travel. The CTRL key is on the left of the FN (preferred), but that can be changed in BIOS and some people will appreciate this very much. The keyboard is also lower than the rest of the top area, so the screen can never touch it when closed and pressed in a bag or a backpack.

The nx9420 has a black touchpad with two buttons and a scroll area on the right. There is also a version with a fingerprint reader between the buttons. Arrow keys are positioned down a bit so they are more accessible.  There are only a few Fn key combo functions and can be used for sleep mode, dual displays, changing power modes, brightness, ambient sensor on/off.  It is interesting that scroll, prtscr, sysrq, pause and break are also used with the FN key. So to take a screenshot of the current active window I have to press Alt + FN + Print Screen! I don’t like the horizontal positioning of home, end, pgup and pgdn keys. There are also special keys like info centre that can be programmed for anything actually, wireless key (it turns on or off both wireless and Bluetooth), presentation key (by default runs the HP presentation settings and starts powerpoint), mute key (glows orange if the sound is off), and two volume keys. Above the numeric pad there is the Calculator key, and it is very handy indeed. But I still need to remember to use the numeric part!  Years of keyboards without the numeric part surely changed my perception of the keyboard. I give it 5/5 because I have never used a better keyboard than this one on a notebook. I love it.

Input and Output Ports

Front side view of nx9420 (view large image)

Left side view of nx9420 (view large image)

Right side view of nx9420 (view large image)

Back view of nx9420 (view large image)

When closed the front reveals two big speakers extending 15 cm from each side. In the middle is the 7-in-1 reader. On the left there are vent grills, power, VGA, S video, two USBs, FireWire, PCMCIA and a Smartcard reader. On the back there is the lock hole, battery, vent fan grills and the modem connector. And on the right there are headphones, microphone, two USBs, optical drive and LAN. Underneath there is a separate disk cover, memory cover, connector for extra battery and docking station. All USBs ports are 2.0 and powered. The LAN port has two LEDs for traffic monitoring.  The device manager reveals an ECP printer port, but there is no actual connector anywhere. It is used through the docking station. Unfortunately there is no DVI interface. It is provided on the docking station too.


Bluetooth is on by default and it uses the Windows Vista Bluetooth client (Enumerator). Wireless is based on the Intel 3945 a/b/g  card and can be easily accessed in the memory slot compartment. It is stable and works well. The wireless radius is much better than with the Intel 2915 in my old notebook. There is no infrared port. Wireless in Vista is a whole new story in comparison to XP. It is natively supported in OS and is very easy to set. A new thing is that you can choose what the security options for the current network are. Home, work or public – this helps a lot for a notebook user.

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