HP has built a solid foundation of smart and efficient business notebooks and if you don’t want to spend the extra money needed for one of the EliteBook range, then the latest in the junior ProBook selection may well appeal to the more limited budget.
The ProBook 4310s comes in five model specifications, ranging in price from £468 to £693 (plus VAT) and we were given one of the higher end versions to examine. Black, glossy plastic seems to equate these days with ‘chic business sex appeal’ but it also acts as a fingerprint magnet which is far less cool; so you might prefer to opt for the more seductive Merlot alternative.
Overall this is a somewhat curious machine that tries to be a bridge between purely functional business needs and fun personal use. Thus you have a 13.3-inch, 16:9 ratio widescreen display with a native resolution of 1366 x 768 that is fine for watching HD movies on Blu-ray (and our review model came with a Blu-ray optical drive), yet viewing angles deteriorate rapidly after about 45 degrees.
The machine itself won’t win any dieting awards as it’s a fairly chunky 325 x 228 x 27.3mm (at front) and weighs in around 2kg, but in many ways that’s quite reassuring. The good news is that you have a full QWERTY keyboard with the square Chiclet spill-proof keys much beloved of workers on the move, although the trade-off is the absence of number keys. You do get a pretty basic touchpad with not entirely friendly, spring-loaded mouse buttons, but there’s added security with fingerprint recognition plus a built-in 2-megapixel webcam.
What is peculiar, however, is the fact that the keyboard base overlaps the sides and front of the unit, thus providing you with unwanted snagging material; why not go for a smoother, rounder approach?
At first sight there’s a pleasing array of peripherals, including three USB 2.0 ports, a 5-in-1 memory card reader, HDMI output, VGA, stereo microphone input, ExpressCard/34 slot, modem and Ethernet. Most of this is very welcome apart from the bozo in the design department who decided to squeeze the modem in between the Blu-ray player and the two USB ports on the left side, thus making it impossible to attach two flash drives into the USB ports at the same time.
When it comes to performance, we’re on much more confident territory. The unit is powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo T6670 processor running at 2.20GHz and with 2MB L2 cache, it’s pre-loaded with Windows Vista Business 32-bit and it has a sizeable 320GB hard drive running at 7,200rpm which is protected by HP’s 3D DriveGuard technology against disastrous impacts. It’s fully wireless, Bluetoothed and Mobile Broadband capable.
In practice it’s a speedy machine and had no problem coping with multiple functions running simultaneously, although battery life varied from up to four hours on lowest settings and optional hibernation down to about one and a half hours when given a rough ride. So you might like to invest in a higher capacity unit than the 4-cell Li-Ion battery that’s supplied.
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