Business laptops used to be business laptops and consumer laptops consumer--and never the two did meet--but, things have changed over the past few years. Mainly, that's attributable to companies like Apple boldly offering a single line of pro/consumer laptops, but other companies have gotten into the mix with business laptops that carry a crossover "regular person" appeal. Sexed-up laptops we've seen lately include the Lenovo Thinkpad X1, Toshiba Portege R835, and Dell Vostro V130.
The $799 HP ProBook 5330m is aiming squarely for that middle ground with an all-metal, thin 13-inch body that's designed to be more appealing than chunkier business alternatives. Cleaner, more-minimal looks, a backlit keyboard, and Beats-branded audio are a part of the ProBook 5330m's attempt to be the cool guy in the boardroom meeting. But do they succeed? We'd say the experiment's a bit of both hit and miss. Yes, the ProBook's more portable and attractive than all-business models such as the ProBook 6360b. Still, no one's going to confuse this for anything other than a business laptop.
At $799 for a Core i3 processor and 4GB of RAM with a 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive, the ProBook 5330m is affordable compared with the Toshiba Satellite R835, but with a battery that underperforms by comparison. And as for Beats Audio...well, let's just say it's not exactly an essential feature, nor does it actually endow this laptop with good-sounding speakers. We'd focus on the ergonomic benefits of the ProBook's solid keyboard instead, even if they're ostensibly less sexy. If you want sexier than that, look for another laptop.
|Price as reviewed||$799|
|Processor||2.1 GHz Intel Core i3-2310M|
|Memory||4GB, 1,333 MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||500GB 7,200rpm|
|Graphics||Intel HD 3000|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Professional (64-bit) w/ SP1|
|Dimensions (WD)||12.9 inches x 8.9 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||13.3 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||4.1 / 5.0 pounds|
Clad in two-tone metal inside and out, the ProBook 5330m has a look that actually feels like a throwback to the days of gray-metal boom boxes and the PowerBook Titanium. If early-2000-era industrial design is your bowl of noodles, then the ProBook's your clean-cut hero. We're not saying the ProBook isn't nice to look at, but it's the laptop equivalent of looking at a clean desk. This doesn't feel like a sports car. The firm, wide brushed-metal palm rests and rubberized underside of the laptop feel rock-solid on a desk, with no flexing whatsoever. A hair under an inch thick and weighing in at 4.1 pounds, the ProBook is compact-feeling, but not as trim by any means as a Samsung Series 9 or MacBook Air.
As you sit down and type on the ProBook 5330m for a while, it really does feel like a MacBook wannabe, especially when it comes to the keyboard. The black squared-off backlit keys have much of the same soft but solid feel as Apple's keyboard. Top function buttons require simultaneous pressing of the Fn key in order to raise/lower volume and the like.
The keyboard strongly resembles a MacBook, but the narrow touch pad is definitely Windows-style. Narrow real estate and mushy physical buttons underneath leave one wondering why the touch pad space couldn't have been expanded. Nevertheless, the recessed matte surface is very responsive, even to multitouch--although there isn't much vertical space for pinch-to-zoom.
A few extra buttons on the top right directly activate the Wi-Fi antenna, a Web launcher, and volume muting. On the top left of the laptop, a thin bar of a power button sits above the Escape key.
A fingerprint reader is included with the ProBook 5330m, but oddly enough it was absent on our review model. We can't comment on its specific functionality in this laptop, but we've used HP's fingerprint reader implementation on other Pavilion and ProBook models and found it to be an excellent feature for security and hot-launching commonly used programs.
Good news for those who hate glare: the HP ProBook's 13-inch 1,366x768-pixel screen is covered in a matte antiglare coating that looks great, offering very readable text at most screen angles. Maximum brightness is sufficient but not eye-popping, but we found movies, documents, and Web pages to look sharp on the ProBook--it's an above-average laptop screen, but not one that's tuned to showing off movies and games.
A Beats Audio logo graces the top-right corner of the ProBook 5330m, and there's also a small red "b" on the front lip--the clearest tip of the hat on the whole unit that HP means for this laptop to appeal to the younger crowd. It's a subtly placed logo, and its effect is equally subtle: no room-shaking beats come out of this ProBook, at least with the included speakers. Front-firing stereo speakers tucked under the bottom edge of the ProBook max out in what sounds like middle-range audio, best left for spoken word and videos more than music. With headphones on, it's a better story. Beats Audio only promises circuitry and software improvements, not physical speaker design. We listened to some movie trailers and videos from the Beastie Boys' recent "Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2" and found that, like the that also had Beats audio, the music was well-amplified and filled with deep bass. If you listen to music on your laptop with headphones on, that's good news for you--however, we doubt this is a killer feature for many executives, unless they're looking for better headphone volume levels when traveling.
An included 2-megapixel Webcam offers HD video chat and better light sensitivity than the average VGA Webcam. It's a solid upgrade, but HD Webcams are fast becoming the norm rather than the exception.
|HP ProBook 5330m||Average for category [13-inch]|
|Video||HDMI, VGA||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers w/ Beats Audio, headphone/mic jack||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||1 USB 2.0/eSATA combo, .0, 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional 3G||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||None||DVD burner|
Despite being targeted for business, the HP ProBook 5330m has a pretty sparse selection of ports. USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, SD card slot, eSATA...and that's it. The wide swaths of space on the sides and front of the 5330m suggest more ports could have been added. USB 3.0, at the least, should have been standard. A 3G HSPA+ Mobile Broadband antenna is included in HP's Web site preconfigurations, which could be more worthwhile.
HP offers two CPU configurations with the ProBook 5330m: a second-gen Core i3-2310M, or Core i5-2410M. Ours was the $799 Core i3 model. Though we'd generally prefer the fast, video-friendly performance of the Core i5, the Core i3 held its own. It's not as quick, but for most office tasks and HD video streaming, not to mention multitasking, it'll easily get the job done. Still, the benchmarks reveal a definitely lower-performing laptop compared with recent competition. Alternatively, for an extra $100 you could upgrade to a Core i5-2410M CPU and make up the difference.
Our ProBook had 4GB of RAM, expandable to 8GB, and a 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive. Equipped with these specs, we found start-up and system performance to be zippy, and it was able to handle large tasks well. The ProBook 5330m also supports vPro, a technology and set of tools enabling remote access and encryption for IT support on business laptops. Many businesses require vPro on their computers, hence its importance on the ProBook 5330m, but it's not a consumer feature.
There aren't any dedicated graphics options on the ProBook 5330m, not a huge surprise considering this is a slim business laptop. Integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics offer enough muscle to enable basic graphics work, video editing, and even some gaming. In case you're curious, Unreal Tournament III ran at 59 frames per second at native resolution, while Street Fight IV even technically played, albeit at 15.5 frames per second. Expect this laptop to handle some strategy or casual games in case you're stuck in an airport.