Let's start with the requirements I had for my laptop. I needed a mobile workstation for 3D design, graphics design, video & audio editing, and programming. I also watch movies and do some gaming on my leasure time, and therefore the capability of the computer to serve as an entertainment center was important as well. The choice of HP Compaq nw8240 was very clear to me. I have been very satisfied with HP computers in the past, and HP Compaq nw8000 that my brother bought did not change this view. As I bought my new laptop now, I wanted it to be more advanced than nw8000, which was already over a year old model. Most imporantly, the graphics card had to be better, and FireGL V5000 128 MB was just what I had been waiting for. Luckily also, nw8240 arrived in Finland just a week before I was making the purchase decision. I trusted HP's quality and went ahead and ordered the computer.
I had some gripes about going to wide screen, since some older games didn't fully support it, but having little alternatives in mobile workstation class laptops, I had to accept the fact that everything was moving to wide screen. Also, there simply wasn't simply viable alternatives to HP Compaq nw8240. Dell Precision M70 was 400 euros more expensive and I would have needed to wait a couple of weeks for it to arrive, while I was able to get nw8240 delivered in just one business day. Another competitor, Fujitsu-Siemens Celsius H230, wasn't simply available at vendors (not that I had bought it even it had been).
Now to the specs:
HP Compaq NW8240 (Model PG817EA#AK8)
Processor: Intel Pentium M 760 (2.0 GHz)
Chipset: Intel 915PM (533 MHz FSB)
Graphics: ATI Mobility FireGL V5000 128 MB GDDR3
Screen: 15.4" WSXGA+ (1680x1050)
Memory: 1.5 GB DDR2-533 (512 MB original, 1 GB upgrade)
Hard Drive: 60 GB 7200 rpm (was advertised as 5400 rpm, but it appeared to be Hitachi Travelstar 7K60)
Dimensions (HxWxD): 1.1 (at front) x 14.0 x 10.2 in (28 (at front) x 355 x 259 mm)
Weight (with weightsaver): 5.8 lb (2.63 kg)
Weight (with DVD/CD-RW): 6.1 lb (2.77 kg)
Networking: Gigabit Ethernet, WLAN b/g
Warranty: 3-year world wide
3 USB 2.0 Ports, 1 Firewire port
Price: 2,433.38 euros (including VAT, extra memory, and shipping)
I checked the specs by using PC Mark 2004, and they gave some surprises. The hard disk was advertised as being a 5400 rpm drive, but it revealed to be Hitachi Travelstar 7K60 7200 rpm hard disk. Naturally I am quite happy.
Taken during the battery life test. You can judge the screen brightness and viewing angles there.
Click here for additional pictures by Vermintrex (they are much better than mine)
Weights are my preferences.
Performance 10/10 (20%)
3DMark 2005: 2431
PCMark 2004: 4052
3DMark 2003: 6131
I ran 3dmark 2005 1.2.0 by using the default settings, the latest HP Fire GL drivers, no overclocking, and Norton Anti-virus and all the HP software were running on the background. The same settings were used also for PCMark 2004 1.3.0 and 3dmark 2003 3.6.0. Even though some 17" notebooks can score better scores, I give the notebook 10/10 for performance. This rating must be taken as relative to what is available at the moment, and future computers will surely beat this computer in performance.
Build Quality 9/10 (7.5%)
The computer is made of sturdy magnesium alloy. The computer is very sleek and light. However, it is possible to cause screen bubbles by pressing the back of the lid.
Screen 9/10 (20%)
The first thing I noticed about the screen was that it had somewhat grainy whites and grays, and it also turned out to have some backlight leakage. There seemed also be a sweet spot in the middle of screen. However, its positive sides simply outshadow the downsides. The colors are simply great. I did some testing on Monthy Python and the Holy Grail DVD, and I must say that I'd never seen a DVD looking so good looking before (granted I'm not a TV enthousiast). I did battery life test later by watching Shrek DVD, and I was reassured. Also, there are no dead pixels and no ghosting. During the battery life test (unplugged), I swear that the viewing angles were full 90 degrees instead of 60 degrees implicated in quickspecs. That is, you can see the picture from any angle! I rate the screen 9 out of 10, since the colors are so good but backlight leakage and graininess annoy me slightly.
VGA output 7/10 (2.5%)
I tried now the VGA output by using dual displays and ATI hydravision. The quality of output is above average but it could be better (or it is just my CRT monitor - dunno - somebody prove me wrong). It is completely usable unlike the VGA output on Acer Travelmate 800 which I used a year ago (it was horrible).
Speakers 8/10 (7.5%)
Speaker quality is important to me, since it affects the movie experience. I don't usually use headphones when I watch DVDs, since I usually got friends with me. The sound on nw8240 is very good for a laptop of its size, but it lacks bass sounds. I like the sound of these speakers, even without their bass, but my audiophile friends confirmed that they do not match any actual speakers.
Audio system electrical noise 10/10 (5%)
A very important thing in audio editing is that the audio system or headphones do not pick noise. I checked it with my Sony MDR-7506 professional monitoring headphones, and I couldn't here any electrical noise. I didn't conduct more extensive tests, though.
Keyboard 8/10 (7.5%)
The keyboard layout is excellent and it is pleasure to type on. However, the keyboard doesn't register soft keypresses very well, and therefore it is possible to miss a stroke or two occasionally. The keyboard registers only two simultaneous keypresses (not counting control, shift and other similar keys) and therefore it is not possible to, for example, press a, w, and space at the same time (forward, left strafe, jump in many FPS games)
Noise 8/10 (7.5%)
The fans on the computer are always on, since the idle temperature of the computer (49) is higher than the lowest fan activation temperature (40). All the fan speed settings are pretty silent and comfortable, though. DVD spinning does make some noise when the movie starts, but afterwards the drive is completely silent.
Heat 8/10 (7.5%)
I don't like heating computers, and this one does so to some degree. The most heating areas are the left side of the keyboard (and air above it) as well as the left palm area. However, these areas don't become hot to touch, just warm. I checked the component temperatures (CPU&GPU) with MobileMeter and they are the following:
Idle Temperature: 48-50 degrees
Max Gaming Temperature: 81 degrees
Keyboard/palm rest temperature: Usually warm, but never too hot to touch
Battery Life (DVD Playback Test) 7/10 (5%)
2h 30 min. Tested with Shrek DVD, full screen mode, and maximum screen brightness. The screen is very bright even on batteries, so you don't have to sacrifice brightness on the move. I didn't test on lower brightness settings (e.g. ambient light sensor activated). I believe that lowering screen brightness could get a much longer battery life. The relatively short battery life gets the rating of 7 from me, but granted it is much longer than on AMD Athlon based laptops, e.g. Acer Ferrari 1 h 40 mins (source: Adam@PCTorque).
Warranty 9/10 (10%)
3-year worldwide, business level service. Only missing on-site.
Overall 8.8/10 (weighted sum) = very good
Performance is excellent, which is the main thing. Noise, heat, and battery life could be better but they are at acceptable levels. I'm happy with my purchase, and I don't think there are many better alternatives out there. This one is a great mixture of performance and portability. The wide screen display hasn't bothered me much at all, and actually it has been advantageous when watching DVDs.
- Great performance
- Great colors for watching DVDs
- Small size and weight
- Good build quality
- Good warranty
- Constant low fan noise
- Keyboard / palm rest heating
- Battery life 2h 30 min in the DVD test
- Keyboard misses strokes if you type sloppy
- Only DVD/CD-RW standard in this model (it cannot burn DVDs)