HP Compaq nx6125 biometric laptop
AMD's Turion gets its first HP business notebook outing
Review With IBM gone from the business notebook market, the old ThinkPad cachet is changing, and this seem to be an opportunity HP is trying to cash in on with its Compaq nx6125 range of ThinkPad look alikes. But it's only at first glance that the nx6125 could be mistaken for a ThinkPad - there are some major differences. The most obvious one is the AMD Turion 64 sticker, a first on an HP business laptop and not something you'd have found in a ThinkPad...
The processor in the review model (which more precisely is the nx6125 EK159ET) is a Turion ML-40 clocked at no less than 2.2GHz, making it among the fastest mobile processors out. It has a full 1MB of L2 cache to further enhance its performance, although the 35W thermal rating means it's slightly more power hungry than a rival Intel Core Duo CPU. It's a shame that HP has only fitted 512MB of memory as standard, but it's at least a single module and there's a spare slot for a second one. This won't impact performance as the current range of Turion processors contain only a single-channel memory controller.
The chipset of choice comes from ATI, something that is still far from common in mainstream laptops. The Radeon Express 200M chipset has integrated graphics and supports a wide range of power-saving features. There's more than enough graphics performance for everyday Windows tasks, but don't expect to be able to play any serious 3D games on this machine. However, it's rather annoying that the BIOS allocates 128MB to the graphics, as there's no need for this much memory for general usage. This can be remedied quite easily by changing a setting in the BIOS, which allows for 32, 64 and 128MB options.
HP hasn't skimped on storage. The nx6125 comes with an 80GB hard drive - the review sample had a Seagate unit - with a spin speed of 5,400rpm, which is quickly becoming the norm for 2.5in HDDs. The optical drive comes from Panasonic and writes to DVD±R media at 8x, DVD±RW at 4x and DVD+R dual-layer at 2.4x. A copy of Sonic RecordNow! is included for burning discs, although this isn't a product for advanced users.
Connectivity is also well catered for, with a total of three USB 2.0 ports, two on the left side and one on the back; a four-pin FireWire connector; a D-sub for an external monitor; S-video for use with a projector or TV; Gigabit Ethernet; and a 56Kbps modem - everything, in short, you'd expect. There is also a PC Card slot and a separate Express Card 54 bay, allowing a wide range of expansion cards, old and new, to be used with the nx6125. At the front is multi-format memory card reader that accepts SD, MMC, SmartMedia, XD and MemorySticks.
The nx6125 features built in Wi-Fi, natch. The controller is from Broadcom and supports the 802.11 b and g standards. Bluetooth is also part of the package, although I'm not a big fan of the Bluetooth code HP is using here as it's not the easiest to set up and use.
It seems that many companies still think - bizarrely - a business notebook shouldn't have a widescreen display, and that's why the nx6125 has a square 15in panel. The review model has a 1,400 x 1,050 resolution, although other models in the range only run to 1,024 x 768 - too low, in my opinion, for a screen this size. HP hasn't gone for one of the new glossy type of screens either, but the display is nonetheless bright and easy to read.
The keyboard is quite comfortable to use, although it's slightly rattly when you type on it. Interestingly, you can swap around the Ctrl and Fn keys in the BIOS, although as far as I'm concerned HP has already put them the right way round. The touchpad is responsive and quite comfortable to use and the buttons don't need excessive force to press. Above the keyboard is a set of buttons to launch HP's Info Center software, enable and disable the WLAN adaptor, switch the screen to presentation mode, and adjust and mute the volume.
Finally, just below the keyboard on the right-hand side of the wrist-rest is a swipe scanner that allows you to use your fingerprint instead of a password to log in to Windows. The HP ProtectTools Security Manager software manages the task and lets you use the same approach for other passwords, such as those used to access network servers and websites.
At 2.75kg this isn’t the heaviest of 15in laptops, but it’s still rather weighty if you’re doing a lot of travelling.
The good news for the nomad, however, is the battery life, timed at nine minutes short of three hours in the standard MobileMark 2005 test. The DVD playback test yielded two hours 26 minutes, not breath-taking, but the nx6125 wasn’t made for watching DVDs on. The performance numbers are pretty good as well, both in MobileMark 2005 and PCMark 2005, although it’s by no means the fastest notebook I’ve tested. The integrated graphics drags down the score to a degree and this is also apparent in 3DMark 05 which scored a mere 505, even with the full 128MB allocated to graphics.
The HP Compaq nx6125 EK159ET is a thoroughly decent laptop, with no major downsides, though it has some minor limitations. Yes, ThinkPad wannabe, although it is much more than just a cheap rip-off - it's well made, and offers a solid feature set and the reassurance of the HP brand. At £817 it's quite affordable and it’s the model I would go for out of HP's current range. ®