HP Compaq nx9420 Review — Page 3

HP Compaq nx9420 Review — Page 3


The battery is good – an 8-cell HP. It lasts well over 3 hours. In the best case with maximum power saving options (lowest brightness and powerplay + lowest multiplier CPU) it goes over 4 hours in normal Windows work.  The disk supports sleep modes, as well as Vista. There is also a hybrid sleep mode where all components turn off, and come on almost instantly – very handy. It charges quite fast perhaps due to the HP fast charge technology. In BIOS there is an option to enable this feature for the secondary battery.  The computer works with or without battery and it can be detached while the computer is on (and connected on AC). I usually work without the battery and while I was typing this text there was a rare power cut in the neighbourhood. And just a bit before that I had turned on the advanced HD caching that can prevent data loss on sudden power failures.  I was typing this text and the notebook turned off (as did all the other things in my house too). When the power came back – Vista booted and I opened the document and everything was there. I lost nothing! I guess Word 2007 took the liberty and autosaved just a moment before that power cut had happened. Or my automatic Ctrl+S pressing saved the day.


Since this notebook has some extra security options, many can be set in BIOS. There are standard passwords for system and setup, but also additional smartcard, TPM, disk passwords etc. There are also settings for devices like enabled wireless, Bluetooth, serial, parallel, usb, firewire ports. Then things like Fan on AC, dual core support, native SATA, virtualization technology etc. You can use the disk check and memory check + disk sanitizer too. There is also a boot option menu and you can choose what devices can be used for the booting process and in what order.  And of course you can see the system info. No temps or advanced power settings. F10 works only if you are very fast since the enter BIOS option is by default set to 0s. F9 gives you the boot menu.

Operating System and Software

There are different models of this notebook coming that come with Windows XP Home, Professional or FreeDOS.  My guess is Vista is available installed too. Check with your dealer.

Windows XP era:

We are still living in it. So if this is your first purchase, and you don’t have any access to Vista or you find it too expensive and troublesome, you would probably use the Windows XP on this notebook (except if you took the FreeDOS version and are installing Ubuntu or something). Otherwise this notebook fully supports Vista and I have tested it to the limits with the Vista Ultimate edition.

I bought the notebook that comes with 32bit Windows XP Home edition  (no FreeDOS version available at the time) and a bunch of software. It has a visible 8GB partition on disk that holds the Windows installation, drivers and additional software. When you turn on the comp for the first time it will immediately install Windows with all drivers and settings – nice, but I would add a word try to complete the sentence so it ends with nice try. Why? Because of the other software that comes with it. I must have missed it (hardly) or there is actually no setting option when you install software for the first time. I apologize but I needed to finish some work and didn’t pay enough attention to the initial Windows XP Home installation (I have done it at least 60 times in my life). When it finishes you can notice that actually all is already preinstalled and when you log in for the first time it will start installation of the (well…) Norton software (Internet security) which will protect you for 60 days and then make you so irritated that you would wish to forget the whole thing. Actually although I immediately stopped the install program and skipped the installation, an ordinary user would most certainly install everything.  Incidentally my father has got the same model two months ago and installed everything. He called me a few days ago and asked me if he could remove that friggin Norton and replace it with something else because he couldn’t take anymore of the nag dialog boxes, alerts, slowdowns (both boot and in work), resource depletion and stuff. Of course I gave him directions how to do it, but there was still this bitter feeling of the cheap advertising in the worst form. If you want Norton – install it, but think twice beforehand.  I recommend reading the quick guides because it will help you to see all of the important info on installation and post installation procedures. I will not cover the other software under XP (you can find some HP software covered in Vista. Read further.), except HP tools. Now Backup and Recovery management is the best tool there is because it allows you to make a DVD or CD copies of the 8GB partition on the disk with Windows and all that stuff. It can be done only once! So I did it (I recommend this very much), and put everything on two DVDs. Then you can delete the 8GB partition and reclaim the disk space. But I took a different path – closed the application, put in my Vista DVD and restarted the notebook! That is how I ended the Windows XP era on my brand new notebook.

Windows Vista era:

Now this is what I wanted and bought this notebook for. Vista setup features the partition management during install – here you go – 8GB back in the game! It installed Vista Ultimate 32-bit in around 30-40 minutes. Vista Ultimate takes 8GB on disk (much better use than before). It installed EVERY SINGLE device on the notebook except the smartcard reader. Aero is on by default and everything works! I was surprised. I went to the HP support pages and was quite happy to find drivers for both Enterprise and Business versions for both 32 and 64 bit versions of the drivers. I downloaded everything from the Vista Business 32-bit section (later on I discovered that the Enterprise section offers different versions) and installed:

  • A new BIOS (F.19) (no info on it except I noticed a new option in BIOS – Virtualization Enable/Disable – this is Intel technology for better usage of the processor by virtual machines like VMware on your computer – check Intel for more info on this)
  • Essential system updates (Microsoft hotfixes)
  • Quick launch buttons manages the special buttons like Presentation and more – pretty useful app. It includes also Qmenu – a quick menu for managing displays (internal, external, dual, extended desktop etc…)
  • System default settings (probably HP power plan)
  • HP Mobile Data Protection (protects hard drive data in drop situations)
  • HP wireless assistant (manages Bluetooth and Wireless adapters)
  • SoundMax driver (I installed this although Vista native driver has the same features – so it is probably just taking up my disk space)
  • Texas Instruments reader driver (the only one that was missing).
  • I tried the HP ProtectTools and I find it professional and powerful, but I don’t need it, so I uninstalled the program. It manages TPM chip features for hardware encryption and security of data and some advanced settings. My notebook doesn’t have a fingerprint reader and disk encryption is an overkill for my needs. On the other hand – if you are a business professional – you would need most of it. This software is essential if you hold any important data that should be kept encrypted on the disk. More can be found on the HP website. There is also the HP ProtectTools Security Suite (95MB) with all security apps in one place including BIOS tools and credential manager.

Customer Support

I haven’t had any need for customer support so far. As the First steps booklet says there is a service centre here in Croatia and I subscribed for RSS info on new drivers and software.  The RSS feed doesn’t work sometimes.  Other booklets in the box are complete rubbish (except the accessories leaflet perhaps).  In Croatia there is free HP Technical Support available for the first 90 days. I have never called them and I believe I would know more than them if something happens. I would contact them only if I had some specific question about BIOS or things in connection to hardware itself – otherwise I wouldn’t waste my time or their time.

The notebook is usually covered by a 1 year warranty. I use it every single day for more than 8 hours. I think it will be tested thoroughly in the first year and if something breaks, I hope the warranty will cover it. I think there is a self repair option available here where they can send you a part (such as memory) and you can install it on your own with a little help from a technician over the phone. An extended warranty can be purchased for an additional 1 or 2 years.


This is my fourth notebook after having gone through six desktops. I always buy the best value/money model at the given time. I don’t usually wait or calculate with price drops or special offers. I buy my notebooks for work and usually through my company. All notebooks are actually tools for my work, so I am sure every time I buy another one, it will pay off. This is my first 17 notebook and I find it very good for my eyes. I spend a lot of time in front of the screen and I need a high quality screen.  The nx9420 provides that. I also tend to be a tester of all new technology that comes in for our company, so I am currently testing Vista as a business/home OS.  It already has some new features enabled and is used for non usual Windows tasks (like the ASP enabled server for developing multiple websites for example – IIS 7.0 is great). This notebook fully supports Vista with Aero. I also take my work home (or better – I usually work at home) and use notebooks as desktop replacements or main computers. That also includes games and multimedia. This notebook copes very well with both.


  • Very good 17 screen (BrightView 1680×1050)
  • Excellent  full size keyboard
  • Intel Core 2 Duo with Ati x1600 256MB performance (both speed and heat wise) + overclocking abilities
  • Performance with 2GB and Vista
  • Very affordable in its class
  • Great business security options provided with TPM chip
  • Ambient light sensor
  • HD 3D protection in case of fall and shock
  • Good battery, fast charging
  • Interesting buttons like Presentation – for quick settings on the fly or the Calculator key for example
  • Visible 8GB recovery partition after the initial XP installation. You can save everything on a couple of DVDs and delete it. I appreciate the transparency policy with such things. It is clearly stated in the quick guide and recommended to leave it on, but there is also stated that it can be deleted after the system backup.
  • Good sound performance


  • 1GB or 512MB are the only options in the shop. 2GB is highly recommended, and HP PC5300 RAM is expensive ($130 USD 1GB). 2GB sticks needed for larger amounts are insanely expensive.
  • Current Vista HP Ati drivers should be avoided in all cases.  I recommend the usual AMD ATI ones.
  • No fingerprint reader on all models even when advertised.
  • Aggressive nature of the Norton 60 day’s trial in the software bundle.
  • Fan should really turn off at 45! But this is nitpicking really.
  • No DVI or infrared! The docking station is required for this but it also offers many other connectors.

Who should look at this model?

This notebook is built for a business professional with a clear vision of the tasks that will be done on this machine. Security features make it even more attractive for confidential data processing. It can also run the most advanced applications, servers and processes with ease. Presentation features access is simplified down to the level of pressing on the Presentation button.

The nx9420 be purchased as a home desktop replacement and used for multimedia and games. It will most certainly run all present games except the newest ones requiring DX10. It was tested on FEAR Combat (1280×800) all on high, Counter Strike Source at 1680×1050 all on high. 3900 on default and 4800 3dmarks05 overclocked show the current potential. I think that games written for Vista with better drivers will still be playable on this notebook in the future. But remember this is not a gaming notebook.

It provides the power and ability to show the best of the Vista OS. Use it for work and free time. Vista Ultimate’s Windows Media Center absolutely rules in the segment of home entertainment on a Windows based PC. DVD Creator (probably the fastest ever software I have seen for making professional looking DVDs from ANY film you have a codec for), Windows Media Player 11 (faster than XP version) with the ATI support for HD reproduction and Photo Gallery (similar to Picasa, not so nice – but useful) are a great help and more than able to cope with the multimedia content on this machine. Ultimate also offers the DreamScene Content for animated (infinite movie scenes) desktop backgrounds that really look good (and take 20MB of RAM along the way), Aero with all of its fancy graphics and transparency is a real resource eater (and has some nice features too – like 3D task manager), but this notebook runs all that with ease at 1680×1050 resolution. And at the same time in the background runs multiple web servers in IIS 7.0 for example!

Networking became easy and simple yet powerful so you don’t actually need 3rd party clients like Proset for wireless connections. Security is greatly improved – from wireless settings to the network sharing features and settings that brought a new dimension to the notebook users. Boot and shutdown times are greatly improved. Vista’s caching and resource management + advanced disk cache and power states take the usability of this machine to the higher level.

BIOS supporting Intel’s virtualization technology (VT) brings another possibility for business and advanced users and developers – running multiple virtual machines on the same computer with advanced hardware utilization and speed. That pushes multiprocessing to the fullest enabling multiple platforms with different operating systems using the power of one machine.

I know this model is quite popular in the business I am in (web programming, core programming, presentations, office work, and mobile workstation usage) and many people have it. I now understand why it is so. It is the good value for money. I rate it 5/5.

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