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Review: New Generation Of Business Notebooks Eases Integration Woes

Some mobile users want the very lightest notebook computers available. Others will settle for a compromise between weight and feature set.

HP COMPAQ nx9420
Weighing in at 7.4 pounds and powered by Intel's new T2600+ Core Duo dual-core processor, the nx9420 is the most powerful in its line. The processor is supported by as much as 4 Gbytes of 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM. HP has equipped the notebook with mobile data protection that helps protect the hard drive from shock and vibration.

All nx9420s feature a 17-inch wide-screen display available with different native resolutions. The top-of-the-line display for the nx9420 is a WUXGA unit with a wide viewing angle and native resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 pixels; an ambient light sensor adjusts the backlight accordingly. The display is driven by an ATI Mobility Radeon x1600 graphics controller with 256 Mbytes of dedicated memory.

The HP nx9420 is fully equipped for connectivity. It includes a Broadcom Gigabit PCI Express Ethernet controller, an Intel a/b/g wireless NIC and a 56K modem. The unit is priced at $2,399.

Most impressive is the nx9420's performance. It was tested using PassMark's PerformanceTest software, which can be used for free for up to 30 days. The nx9420 earned a score of 515.7, which is the highest score CRN Test Center engineers have seen from any product in recent months—even better than two dual-core servers. HP's top performance earned it a CRN technical rating of five stars.

The nx9420 is available to partners under HP's Partner-One program. Broken down into three tiers—Business Partner, Gold and Platinum— HP's program aims to give product access to solution providers of all sizes. The most basic, the Business Partner level, is for those solely looking to resell HP's product line. Gold and Platinum partners have extended requirements and access to marketing funds. Gold-level partners are required to employ five certified staffers and have $10 million in HP product revenue annually. Platinum-level partners must have 15 certified staffers and $75 million in annual sales.

Training is available at no charge and HP offers incentives for training and certification. HP did not disclose margins or additional information differentiating partner levels. It is recommended that prospective partners further investigate the channel program.

Toshiba recently rolled out its Tecra A6 business-class notebook, which offers enhanced functionality in a redesigned form factor at an affordable price. The Tecra A6 combines Centrino mobile technology with Toshiba's EasyGuard technology.

Weighing only 5.49 pounds. the Tecra 6 has a 14.1-inch high-brightness wide-screen display with a native WXGA resolution of 1,280 x 800 pixels.

The Tecra A6 is a good value, with prices starting at $1,149 for a unit containing a single-core Intel T1300 processor. That configuration includes 512 Mbytes of memory expandable to 4 Gbytes, and a 60-Gbyte hard drive. Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11a/b/g wireless, both by Intel, along with Fast Infrared, a V.92 modem and a 5-in-1 media reader also are featured. Windows XP Professional comes preinstalled.

Toshiba's hard-coated screen has a glossy black appearance when turned off, and a bright, vivid image when turned on. Its fit and finish are good, as is its construction quality, although the entire housing is made of plastic. Many ports, including VGA, are located on the side of the notebook, which can be inconvenient, depending on where and how the notebook is used. Toshiba's power-saving utilities override those of XP; this can take some getting used to for those familiar with XP's standard power utilities.

The Tecra A6 earned the PassMark score of 283, which compares favorably to results from two otherwise identical Intel- and AMD-based notebooks in which the Intel-based unit scored 274 and the AMD-based unit scored 228.7. However, Tecra's score compares less favorably to Acer's dual-core Aspire 9500, which scored 385.5, and even less favorably to HP's nx9420.

Toshiba's channel program has three tiers: Silver, Gold and Platinum. Silver resellers are required to sell up to $100,000 yearly in Toshiba products. Gold VARs must sell a minimum of $100,000 in Toshiba products during the vendor's fiscal half and are also eligible to participate in the Monthly Reseller Rebate Program. The premium tier, Platinum, is for resellers that sell a minimum of $250,000 in Toshiba products during the vendor's fiscal half and participate in the Monthly Reseller Rebate Program. Platinum partners are eligible to participate in the Marketing Development Fund Program. Partners can see margins as high as 40 percent on select products and get significant discounts on demos.


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