HP/Compaq nw9440: the purchase, review, problems and solutions

11 Sep 2007

In June 2006 I started working as a self employed software consultant. To mark this momentous occasion I decided to buy myself a shiny new laptop (as mentioned in an earlier post). After a reasonable amount of searching, including asking those I know who are knowledgeable about such things, I plumped for the HP/Compaq nw9440.

The nw9440 is a beast of a machine being a workstation replacement rather than a dedicated laptop. At the time of searching it was the highest spec'd machine that I could find. It boasts a 17 inch widescreen with 1920 by 1200 resolution which is the best I could do considering I'm used to a two monitors with a desktop PC. It comes with a 100GB 7200rpm hard disk, 2GB of memory, a 512MB Nvidia Quadro FX 1500M graphics card, DVD RW and is equipped with an Intel Centrino Duo 2 2.33GHz processor (do-do doo-doo).

I made the purchase direct from HP and the process wasn't quite as smooth as it should have been. I had to attempt to make the payment four times since it was declined on the first three occasions for a variety of administrative issues (I'm not dodgy - honest!).

When the payment was finally accepted I tried to get delivery on a Saturday as a way of HP saying "sorry" for the troubles I'd had so far. This didn't happen.

I finally got my laptop over a week after I first phoned up the sales desk to make my purchase.

At the time the nw9440 came with XP SP2 pre-installed and they didn't offer a Vista upgrade so I went and purchased the shiny new Windows Vista Ultimate to go with my shiny new laptop. Installation went smoothly and HP had all the drivers I needed available on their site. When all the drivers were installed I re-tested my Windows Experience Index (new to Vista) which gave me a 4.7 rating which was restricted by my 2GB of memory.

HP nw9440 Windows Experience Index

However, there were a few teething issues. The HP Credential Manager software caused a variety of problems which led to the machine auto-shutting down when attempting to log into the machine. I eventually had to uninstall it leaving the finger print reader pretty useless. I've recently heard that this may be fixed but I reluctant to try it again.

The second software problem that I've had is the NVidia Quadro FX 1500M drivers cause a really horrible problem where the entire screen redraws over itself causing a really strange blurred/you-could-be-really-drunk effect. I read on various forums that there were problems with the 1500M drivers and that the best solution was to force install the 1500 drivers. This is done by trying to install them, which extracts the drivers to a directory, and then after the installation fails manually installing the driver for your graphics card from the Device Driver dialog.

Since I'm used to having two monitors when I'm not mobile I use a second monitor with my laptop. Unfortunately the nw9440 only comes with a VGA out and not a DVI which I just assumed would be on such a hi-spec machine. When using a second monitor I see interference on the external monitor, or any display, when the machine is under any sort of use. It's most noticeable when hard disk is being thrashed but can even be seen when wiggling the mouse around.

When I purchased my machine I also signed up for the HP Care Pack. I've now had the engineer out three times to look at this. I've had my system board and graphic card replaced but the issue is still there. I don't see the problem as much on my Samsung monitor at home but do see it on the DELL monitor that I'm using on my current contract. The Samsung monitor has around a 6 milli-second response time which may help negate the interference - but to be honest I don't really know. I have bought a docking station, which has DVI out, which I'm hoping will show no interference.

My experience with the HP Care Pack has been pretty good. The engineers seem knowledgeable and honest. When my graphics card was replaced, a 256MB replacement was sent out rather than the 512MB version and whereas some engineers may have just fitted it this engineer noticed the problem, highlighted it to me and sorted out getting the 512MB version. This did cause a week delay but this wasn't the engineer's fault.

Three months on from my purchase the nw9440 is performing pretty well despite the initial problems. It seems to cope with Vista's Aero UI although I've turned some of the features off; the fading in and out of the windows just gets on your nerves after a while. I normally have up to two an Eclipse IDE instances open, Outlook, Internet Explorer, Firefox, run a Virtual Machine and have a variety of other background processes running at the same time. There are a few problems with the VM causing the hard disk to be thrashed but I'm putting this down to problems with the VM.


  • Good all round specification
  • Great screen and resolution
  • Separate numerical keypad – yep the nw9440 is that big
  • Easily handles Windows Vista


  • Nvidia FX 1500M drivers are problematic
  • Only has a VGA port, no DVI, and interference when output from VGA
  • All inputs and outputs are on the side of the machine
  • HP Credential Manager software causes shutdown