HP is one of a handful of vendors that last year announced a partnership with Vodafone to add wireless broadband capability to some laptop models, holding out the promise of download speeds up to 1.4Mbit/s.
The HP Compaq nc6400 has all the usual connectivity options as well as an integrated HSDPA (high-speed downlink packet access) adapter, but this is the one to use if you need to have a connection to the internet from virtually anywhere.
Having tried out 3G services in their early days, I was surprised and impressed with the performance the Vodafone connection affords, at least when at IT Week's offices in central London. Browsing the web felt as responsive as using a Wi-Fi link, and I was able to view streamed video from the BBC website as well as some of IT Week's web seminars, without noticing any dropped frames or loss of quality.
Away from London, I was slightly disappointed to see the connection drop back to bog-standard GPRS, even though the area in which I live is supposed to have 3G coverage, according to Vodafone's online maps.
Nevertheless, even GPRS is good enough to pick up emails, and a spot of web browsing (If you can tolerate the longer time it takes pages to load). A fall-back to GPRS is also much preferable to losing connectivity altogether, which is what happens if you stray too far from a Wi-Fi access point.
I should point out that the Vodafone 3G connection requires a subscription to one of Vodafone's data plans, which isn't included in the purchase price of the laptop.
A full review of the HP Compaq nc6400 will appear in a future issue of IT Week.
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