Hewlett Packard claims that its newest variation of notebook computer will have the “highest productivity in a mobile PC.” There must be some truth in advertising here, because the version of the Omnibook 6000 that I looked at could certainly hold its own with any of the desktop models typically found in corporate offices.

In this article, I’ll highlight some of the features of the Omnibook 6000, including:

  • What ports are available
  • What makes this laptop support-friendly (hint: it’ll only need two screws loose)
  • What makes it user-friendly (hot-swaps and rubber bumpers, for starters)

Small package, big features
The Omnibook 6000 costs $3,599 from HP and features a 1 GHz Intel Pentium III processor, 128 MB of SDRAM, a 30-GB hard drive, and an 8X DVD. It comes with a floppy disk drive and a cable to connect the drive to the machine if you don’t want to remove the DVD. Finally, it comes with Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional installed within its rugged magnesium case.

You can imagine the performance potential of such a box, but what makes this 5.2-lb., 1.26-inch thick notebook really stand out is the 15-inch display that belies its petite size.

But the display isn’t the only feature that is larger than expected. There is also an 87-key, full-size keyboard with plenty of room to rest your wrists while typing. (This includes 12 function keys and the embedded numeric keypad.) The touch pad is joined by an eraser-head pointing stick and two sets of left-click, right-click buttons, one of which includes a scroll button that works in conjunction with the pointing stick.

There also is no shortage of LED lights on the Omnibook 6000. Everything from caps lock and number lock to main battery status and power mode has a corresponding light display.

What else do you need to know about supporting laptops?

These job aids can help you solve other user problems:

The ports it sports
The Omnibook 6000 comes with a full complement of ports—exactly what you would expect from such a top-end machine.

On the left side of the Omnibook 6000, you’ll find:

  • One Type III or two Type II PC Card slots that are CardBus-enabled
  • One RJ-45 for Ethernet 10/100 connectivity
  • One RJ-11 for a 56-Kbps modem
    Note: The RJ-11 and RJ-45 ports connect to a 3Com Mini PCI card.

Around the backside of the notebook is:

  • The port for the power adapter, which comes in two parts
  • A 240-pin PCI connector for docking into either the 4150 or 900 families of HP docking stations (covered by spring-loaded flaps)
  • A VGA video out port
  • A 25-pin bidirectional ECP and EPP parallel port
  • A 9-pin, male, 115,200-bps, serial port
  • A USB port
  • One PS2 keyboard or mouse port that supports a Y adapter

On the right side of the machine is:

  • A Kensington security slot
  • A set of audio in, microphone in, and headphone jacks
  • Volume and mute controls for the sound
  • A 4-Mbps IrDA-compliant infrared port
  • A recessed reset button that is only accessible with a paper clip or something similar
  • The options bay release

Bottoms up!
Not only is the Omnibook 6000 fully loaded with ports, but it also boasts a very anti-laptop feature: It’s support-friendly—with easy access to most of its internal components.

How many times have you had to switch out a notebook computer’s hard drive in order to get a functioning computer back to the user in a hurry? On the Omnibook 6000, this is simply a matter of unscrewing two small screws, pulling down on a clasp, and then gently pulling the hard drive out the left side of the machine. Installing the new hard drive is just the reverse. You could do it in maybe two minutes, tops.

Another 2.5-inch-square access panel with one screw reveals two RAM module slots with memory in at least one of them. There’s plenty of room under the panel and around the memory slots to make access particularly easy.

The last panel underneath, again with only one screw holding it in place, is an access to the Mini PCI card with the integrated 3Com modem and NIC. It is held in place much like the RAM cards but with the addition of a couple of mini plugs.

The one item that is either too cleverly hidden, or just not easily accessible, is the BIOS battery. According to HP support, the battery must be replaced by an HP-certified technician, who would be authorized to open the notebook’s case without invalidating the warranty.

Hot swap and other user-proof options
Laptops are notorious for falling prey to the careless user, but the HP Omnibook 6000 offers some nice features that should allow it to take some user-abuse.

The magnesium alloy case should be able to weather a bump or two, and it is fitted with rubberized surfaces so users can get a good grip on it. Rubber bumpers are screwed into the front corners of the base of the machine to take some of the shock of a drop. The built-in RJ-45 network access point eliminates the need for the frequently lost PCMCIA variations that require vendor-specific dongles.

Another nice feature is that a user could conceivably change the battery, which is readily accessible through the bottom of the computer. If the user wants to check the charge on the battery before starting it up, there is a series of LED lights that show the charge level after the user pushes an integrated button on the battery.

One feature that could be problematic for users is the DVD or CD drive module, which can be ejected and replaced with a floppy drive. These modules are hot-swappable to allow the user to interchange them without restarting the computer. Users might have trouble stopping the driver for the DVD or CD module that they have removed from the options bay, even though there is an icon on the task bar for that purpose.

But the Omnibook 6000 does its best to help out any users in trouble. After a user puts in a new device—in this case, the floppy drive—without stopping the old device, the computer will take the user through a series of windows. In several tests of the machine’s patience with users, I swapped the modules without following the rules, and the Omnibook 6000 never locked up or misbehaved when the DVD drive and floppy drive were hot-swapped.

All systems go
From the full-size keyboard and large display to its support-friendly nature, HP’sOmnibook 6000 has all the makings of being a solid option for corporate IT shops. This high-performance, port-wielding machine should make both IT pros and laptop users happier and more productive.

What do you think?

Have you been using the HP Omnibook 6000 in your organization? What’s your experience in supporting these feature-rich notebooks? What are your users telling you about them? Tell us what you think in the discussion below or send us a note.