Editor's note: We listed an incorrect battery life score when this review first published. The battery life information has been corrected, and the rating adjusted to reflect this change. We regret the error (8/14/07).
Fans of ultraportable laptops have had a lot of products to be excited about in recent months, with two excellent models in particular standing out--the Toshiba Portege R500 and the Sony VAIO TZ150. Those are flashy consumer systems, designed to be thin, light, and eye-catching, but with high-end prices to match ($2,000 and up). HP offers a more business-oriented answer to these systems in the HP Compaq 2510p, which boasts similar stats but a more button-down design along with some corporate extras.
Basic models start around $1,500, but our review unit cost $2,478, or about as much as the Portege R500 or the VAIO TZ150. Business features on the HP Compaq 2510p not found on the Toshiba or Sony units include hard-drive encryption and Intel's Active Management Technology (or AMT), which allows for remote IT management even when the laptop is powered off. We found using the solidly built 2510p a genuinely enjoyable experience and though you can't put a price on security (or maybe it costs $2,500), those looking for an ultraportable at a lower price should check out the Averatec 1579, which lacks the corporate-friendly features but costs only $1,299.
|Price as reviewed/starting price||$2,478/$1,549|
|Processor||1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Ultra Low Voltage U7600|
|Memory||2GB of 533MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||80GB at 4,200rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel 965GM Express Chipset|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Business|
|Dimensions (LWH)||11.1x8.4x1.2 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||12.1 inches|
|System weight/weight with AC adapter||3.4/4.4 pounds|
Compared to the impossibly slim body of the Sony VAIO TZ150, which measures less than an inch thick, the HP Compaq 2510p looks almost boxy. In truth, the HP's 1.2-inch thick frame is still very easy to carry around, although at 3.4 pounds, it's markedly heavier than other recent ultraportables that come in under the 3-pound mark, such as the VAIO TX150 and Toshiba's R500. On the plus side, it feels much sturdier than either the R500 or TZ150, and the HP's keyboard and lid are both extremely inflexible, good points for frequent travelers to keep in mind.
Besides a solid keyboard, the touch pad on the HP Compaq 2510p is also noteworthy. While a bit on the small side, like most ultraportables, the touch pad has a finger-wide discrete scroll zone marked off. This highly responsive bar is much easier to use than the invisible scroll zone found on most laptops, where we just end up running our finger along the right edge of the touch pad trying to find it (or else randomly accidentally scrolling when we just want to click on something).
You won't find a Webcam or media control buttons on the 2510p, but you do get a fingerprint reader, plus more of the touch-sensitive buttons we like so much. Besides a volume scroll bar, tiny buttons along the top of the keyboard tray can launch a display utility for routing your signal to external display (useful when showing off PowerPoint presentations), control the Wi-Fi antenna, and bring up a window with all the built-in security programs in one place.
These programs include HP's ProtectTools, which can encrypt a hard drive so that data on the drive can't be read unless an authorized user is logged in. That way, even if the laptop is stolen and the drive removed, sensitive information remains safe.
Despite the LED backlit display, dubbed Illumi-Lite by HP, the screen is not nearly as thin as those in the Sony and Toshiba ultraportables. Its native resolution of 1,280x800 is standard for a 12-inch wide-screen display, and you should have no problem reading text and seeing icons. As do most business laptops, it has a matte screen finish, as opposed to the glossy and bright but glare-prone screens found on many consumer systems.
|HP Compaq 2510p||Average for ultraportable category|
|Audio||Headphone/microphone jacks||Headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||Two USB 2.0 ports, a mini-FireWire, and an SD card reader||Two USB 2.0 ports, a mini-FireWire, and an SD or multiformat memory card reader|
|Expansion||Type I/II PC Card slot||Type I/II PC Card or ExpressCard slot|
|Networking||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, WWAN||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner or none|
The ports and connections on the HP Compaq 2510p are in line with what we'd expect from an ultraportable, and it includes support for 802.11n Wi-Fi technology, aka Draft N, although on HP's Web site, we can't tell which configurations include this, as they all just list the older, but still prevalent, 802.11g standard (which is what you'll find at almost every Wi-Fi hot spot). Mobile broadband is quickly becoming a must-have, and you have a choice between AT&T and Verizon (our review unit had the latter).
While we love mobile broadband, you can actually save a significant amount by skipping it and choosing one of HP's other preconfigured builds of the 2510p. An identically configured system, minus the mobile broadband antenna, is only $2,228 on HP's Web site. By dropping the RAM down to 1GB and the CPU to a slightly slower Core 2 Duo U7500, and opting for a smaller 60GB hard drive and no Bluetooth, you can get the price down to $1,549, although we generally suggest sticking with 2GB of RAM for Windows Vista.
Compared to other recent ultraportables, nearly all of which use CPUs from the same Intel ultralow-voltage family, the HP Compaq 2510p performed on par, with the exception of the Sony VAIO TZ150, whose collection of resource-hogging bloatware led to generally lagging scores. Surprisingly, the Averatec 2371, a sub-$1000 ultraportable powered by a 1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52, easily matched or outclassed ultraportables costing nearly three times as much. Although the Averatec's poor battery life, when compared with the ULV Intel systems, shows that the AMD laptop may not have been playing on equal footing.