With the Compaq range, HP has created some of the best-built, most usable and toughest laptops around; ideal tools for computing on the move.
HP's Compaq nc6400 (£999 ex. VAT) makes a compelling case for itself, due to its excellent build quality and keyboard. The chassis is stronger than the other machines on test, and the tough screen also contributes to the overall robustness.
Rubber pads around the display and keyboard, which prevent damage to the screen in transit, help to make this the best machine for everyday use. As with the Lenovo, the keyboard is one of the most impressive we've seen. The keys are well-spaced, of a good size, and move in near silence.
The HP is just as accomplished inside as out. Its Intel Core Duo T2500 processor, running at 2GHz, is a quick chip. As with most of the laptops we see these days, you'll find 1024MB of memory. Performance was predictably strong, and you'll be able to carry out the most demanding of tasks.
A MobileMark 2005 score of 231 shows that the nc6400 is a good performer, while battery life, under test, of 296 minutes marks it out as an ideal travelling companion.
This is partly due to the dedicated graphics card - HP has fitted ATi's Mobility Radeon X1300. Although it hinders battery life, it offers better multimedia performance than an integrated solution. With a 3DMark 2003 score of 3345, you'll have little trouble running graphically intensive applications or presentations.
The 14.1-inch display strikes a good balance between size and portability. With a WXGA resolution of 1440 x 900 pixels, images and text are crisp. The standard TFT display is suited for work in various lighting conditions outside of the office, as it's not prone to reflections.
When it comes to equipment, HP has included everything expected of a corporate machine. A fingerprint reader offers security without the need to remember passwords, and a dual-layer DVD rewriter enables you to back up your files. Wireless networking is dealt with by an 802.11a/b/g Wi-fi adapter, and Gigabit Ethernet enables optimal connections to fixed networks. S-Video and VGA-out ports enable connections to projectors and external monitors.
Despite the comprehensive features list and unsurpassed build quality, HP has kept the weight down to a fairly portable 2.4kg. Only those needing a longer battery life or ultraportable dimensions will find fault in the HP. Philip Barker & Michael Browne