Nowadays it’s possible to buy a portable PC to meet virtually any possible scenario, ranging from the super-light, super-small mini-notebooks and tablets for stuffing into a backpack or small briefcase, through to widescreen, 17-inch monsters designed to be mobile desktops for serious gamers or CAD users.
One of the latest trends had been towards ‘rugged’ portables like the GETACs, which are aimed at journalists or the armed fores in war zones, and this need for added durability is now extending towards medium-weight business laptops like the HP EliteBook 6930p.
Although HP says it’s passed the rigorous Military Standard 810F testing for vibration, dust, humidity, altitude and high temperature, this notebook is not as armour-plated as the GETAC models. However it does have a robust aluminium lid with anti-scratch coating and a similar protective coating on the full-size keyboard. The whole machine feels reassuringly solid, although it weighs only 2.1kg and measures 3.1 x 33.1 x 24.3cm, plus it’s made to withstand extreme temperatures of 60°C and -29°C.
Once you flip the lid up you’re faced with a 14.1-inch Illumi-Lite LED display with a native resolution of 1280 x 800 which will adjust its brightness according to prevailing light conditions. On the whole this is reasonably sufficient, though you might feel it’s advantageous to spend a bit more for the 1440 x 900 variation. One handy little extra is a keyboard light which pops up above the display should you want to type, say, on board a darkened ‘plane.
The review sample we had came with a 2-megapixel HP webcam which was better than expected, producing good flesh tones but poor audio quality. There’s no shortage of cursor controllers, with a firm (possibly too firm?) pointing stick, a TouchPad with north-south scrolling and no fewer than two sets of left-right mouse buttons; another touch of overkill? Above the keyboard is a series of touch-sensitive controls for Information, WiFi, Presentation, Mute and a Volume slider, while to the right of the TouchPad is a fingerprint scanner for extra security.
As for other components, there are three USB 2.0 ports, an SD card reader at the front, a Smart card reader, an ExpressCard slot, a DVD-RAM GSA-T50L LightScribe drive, modem and Ethernet connectors, a FireWire 1394 port for digital cameras, a couple of audio jacks and VGA for an external monitor. Some users have complained about problems with the VGA but on our sample it plugged and played as expected. However, it would have been preferable to have also been offered a DVI output.
Under the bonnet lurks an Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 2.40GHz processor with 2GB RAM (expandable to 8GB) with a 160GB hard drive running at 5,400rpm, the laptop using the Mobile Intel 4 Series Express chipset. The hard drive is upgradeable to a 250GB and 7,200rpm model, or you can opt for an 80GB SSD. Even the basic set-up is decent enough to handle multimedia operations such as DVDs, spreadsheets and the Internet, all running concurrently.
Wireless options include both Bluetooth and optional HP Mobile Broadband (the SIM fits into the battery bay) and to emphasise that this is aimed at the business community, Windows Vista Business comes as standard and you can use the webcam for scanning business cards via the supplied Presto! BizCard 5 software.
Battery life averages around 3 hours of punishing activity, and it may be worth investing in either the HP Extended Life Battery or the HP Ultra-Capacity Battery which should take you towards double figures. Battery usage can also be manually adjusted via the in-built ‘power plan’ which balances performance and longevity.
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