The no-nonsense, AMD-powered HP Compaq nx6125 should particularly interest small businesses. It has an all-black case, weighs under 6 pounds, and starts from £579 plus VAT, including two layers of security beyond Windows passwords. The first layer is a biometric fingerprint reader, embedded in the lower right palm rest; the second is a Smart Card reader option. The latter works in combination with an optional ExpressCard/54 slot (£67 + VAT extra), which you can order in place of the PC Card slot.
In addition to its fixed DVD burner and full set of connections (including FireWire and TV-out ports), the nx6125 has a six-in-one media card reader. The reader's location front and center makes popping cards in and out easy. Another handy extra: it conveniently labels the card types it accepts (namely, everything but CompactFlash) on top of the case and next to the slots.
The nx6125's audio sounds surprisingly good for such an inexpensive laptop, and the notebook's dedicated volume buttons are easy to adjust. The sensibly laid-out keyboard features highly legible blue-and-white lettering, a touchpad with scroll zone, and ridged mouse buttons. A handful of shortcut buttons above the keyboard add creature comforts: One launches your favorite application with a customised power setting; another provides a collection of shortcuts to various HP utilities. A wireless communications button combines control for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi - both are either on or off. Separate buttons would have been nice, but one is better than none.
The nx6125's 3.4-hour battery life is about average. HP says that you can more than double your battery life by snapping its optional £103+VAT eight-cell travel battery onto the bottom of the notebook.
Different processor versions are available. We had a 2.2GHz Turion 64 ML-40 CPU and 1Gbyte of RAM. This compares to a Compaq Presario M2000 and an Acer Ferrari using with the 1.8GHz Turion 64 ML-34 chip, which earned scores of 73 and 85, respectively. The nx6125 posted a score of 81, indicating that it is plenty fast for most applications.
To upgrade the notebook's memory to its 2Gbyte maximum, you'd simply unscrew the bottom panel to reach the two slots. A bottom connector accepts either HP's £99+VAT basic docking station, which adds a few additional ports (DVI, serial, and parallel), or the £125+VAT advanced docking station, which compensates for the nx6125's lack of a modular bay by providing an enclosure for a second optical drive or second hard drive.
My only beefs are minor. The nx6125's 15-inch screen seemed a tad dull, and I missed having a USB port on the right side of the case. That said, I was pleasantly impressed with the nx6125's Getting Started printed booklet; a thorough electronic manual complements the booklet.
Businesses on a budget could do worse than pick up this sensible laptop.