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Review: Have Notebook, Will Travel

When it comes to notebook PCs, there's no such thing as a level playing field, since users' needs and wants vary. But for business travelers, it's hard to beat the HP Compaq NC6400, a laptop that pulls together the best components to offer reliability without sacrificing economy or flexibility.

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As computer sellers know, prospective notebook buyers value different factors when choosing a product. Some will prefer speed over cost, others may focus on battery life and some might think weight is the top consideration. VARs must find a way to balance all of those needs while giving customers with what they want. Short of carrying dozens of models and brands, solution providers can consolidate their offerings by relying on highly customizable notebooks.

And that's where the HP Compaq NC6400 stands out. VARs can order the NC6400 in various configurations, ranging from units with high-performance processors, such as Intel's new Core 2 T7600, to those with more economical processors, such as the Intel Core Duo T2300. The laptops also can be equipped with 512 Mbytes, 1 Gbyte or 2 Gbytes of RAM and Serial ATA (SATA) hard drives ranging from 40 to 100 Gbytes. Several optical drives are on the menu as well, ranging from basic DVD drives to DVD+/-RW drives.

Other add-ons include multiple wireless options and two different 14.1 inch widescreens. All models feature a three-year warranty and weigh as little as 5 pounds.

The CRN Test Center sampled an NC6400 with an Intel Core 2 T5600 1.83GHz dual-core processor, 1 Gbyte of RAM and an 80-Gbyte SATA drive. The unit, priced at $1,549, also included 802.11 a/b/g, Bluetooth and Verizon EV-DO wireless. Test Center engineers were impressed with the quality and construction of the unit. The only downside was the 14.1-inch widescreen display. Though there's nothing wrong with the screen, many business folks seem to prefer 15-inch traditionally shaped displays. But that really comes down to a matter of taste.

In terms of performance, the NC6400 was quite snappy, scoring an overall Passmark score of 453.7, which is impressive for the tested configuration and price point. A Gateway M255-E equipped with an Intel T2500 2ghz Core Duo processor tested a few months back scored 427.6 on the Passmark tests. A usable battery life of about four hours makes the NC6400 a good companion for a cross-country flight, and the widescreen/low-profile design works well on the typical airline tray.

Overall, HP brings the goods to market with the NC6400. The unit offers an impressive warranty, good pricing, high margins and plenty of options, making the unit ideal as the mainstay VAR offering.

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HP Compaq NC6400 Notebook
www.hp.com

Tech Rating:
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Channel Rating:
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Note: "Recommended" status is earned with a score of 8 stars out of 10.

HP notebooks are available to partners under the Palo Alto, Calif., company's PartnerOne channel program. Broken down into three tiers -- Business Partner, Gold and Platinum -- the program aims to give product access to solution providers of all sizes.

The most basic level, Business Partner, is for VARs solely looking to resell HP's product line. Gold and Platinum partners have extended requirements and access to marketing funds. Gold partners must have five certified staffers and revenue of $10 million in HP products annually. Platinum partners must have 15 certified staffers and $75 million in annual HP sales.

Training is available at no charge, and HP offers incentives for training and certification. HP's exceptional warranty on this particular product line and dedicated support is a great addition to the company's channel program and helps to ease customer concerns.

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