At times, the laptop industry seems like it's in a design standstill compared with the fast-paced worlds of smartphones and tablets. That perception will only be reinforced after some time with the HP ProBook 6360b, as staid a laptop as you're likely to find in 2011.
To be fair, the ProBook 6360b probably isn't meant for the typical consumer. ProBooks are Hewlett-Packard's line of business laptops, with a focus on IT-deployable design, enterprise features, and not rocking the boat. We have seen some high-design business laptops, particularly thin 13-inchers, emerge as trendy alternatives to the consumer laptops, but the ProBook 6360b isn't one of those. While well-appointed, this $814 laptop is neither a bargain nor a real looker, and it's one of the thickest 13-inchers we've ever seen.
If your IT department hands you one of these, don't worry: it's a solid laptop. We just wouldn't advise running out and buying one for home use.
|Price as reviewed / starting price||$814 / $814|
|Processor||2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M|
|Memory||4GB, 1,333MHz DDR3 RAM|
|Hard drive||320GB, 7,200rpm|
|Graphics||Intel HD 3000|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Professional (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||12.7x8.7 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||13.3 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||4.7 pounds/5.6 pounds|
Squared-off, darkly bronzed, and thick like an office chair, the HP ProBook 6360b is the plain blue blazer of laptops. It's timeless, but not in a way you'd be proud of. Open it up in a coffee shop, and you'll instantly be seen as someone who took your business laptop for a walk. At least laptops like the business-targeted Toshiba Portege R835 and Lenovo ThinkPad Edge series have some show-off appeal. Not so here.
The bead-blasted aluminum lid and keyboard deck, in their tungsten color scheme, are minimalist and clean-cut, but the formality of the whole design just leans too far into business mode for our tastes. The chassis is magnesium-reinforced and feels very solid, but the bottom of the laptop has a pebbled plastic feel. The throwback locking lid clasp gave us fits when we kept trying to instinctively lift the lid, only to be thwarted. Some features are best left off modern laptops.
Why is the HP ProBook 6360b so thick? Part of the reason may be the built-in drainage, which should protect against minor spills (we hesitated to test this feature too much, lest we short out our review unit), and partly the large battery, we imagine. Still, at 1.3 inches thick, it's chunkier than we'd prefer. The 4.7-pound weight of the 6360b, not counting the AC adapter, is pretty standard for this size range, but this laptop just comes off as incredibly thick to nearly anyone we've shown it to.
At this point, you might be wondering what the advantage of a "pro" laptop is over a standard "consumer" laptop. Really, from a consumer point of view, there is none. For business users, of course, it's helpful that laptops like the ProBook feature extra security software and features convenient for IT deployment (such as a TPM chip and Intel's vPro platform), not to mention a design that interfaces easily with existing HP hardware (the dock connector on the bottom, for instance).
Also, the ergonomic experience is solid. An inset island keyboard has the same smooth response we've liked in HP's business laptops, and the raised, slightly concave keys emulate some of the feel of a ThinkPad Edge. Typing feels crisp and flex-free. A wide touch pad below offers a fair amount of finger space, with two large raised discrete buttons underneath.
Three dedicated buttons above the keyboard activate Wi-Fi on/off, a Web launcher, and audio mute. It's a random trio of functions, but not without some use. When the system is shut down, the Web button launches HP QuickWeb, which is a fast-launch OS environment with its own browser and widgets. It definitely launches more quickly than Windows, but it's far more limited. Weather and stock data, a calculator, and other applications are offered along with the browser, but most business users would be more likely to use their smartphones for such information. A fingerprint reader below the right side of the palm rest can be used for security as well as custom-launching different applications per finger.
The 16:9, 13-inch, 1,366x768-pixel display has a matte antiglare coating that does wonders for visibility in different lighting conditions. The screen is also readable from a fair range of viewing angles, but it's not an IPS screen, and doesn't come close to that range of 180-degree crispness. Text pops well on the screen, and videos look sharp. Stereo speakers at the front of the palm rest carry decent volume but sound a little washed out to us; audiophiles may want to wait for one of the just-announced HP ProBooks with built-in Beats audio.
A 1,280x720-pixel HD Webcam has better-than-average light sensitivity and picture quality, plus added resolution for wider-screen video chat. Many consumer laptops are still stuck with 640x480-pixel Webcams, although the landscape is quickly changing to HD.
|HP ProBook 6360b||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||VGA, DisplayPort||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 2.0/eSATA combo port, SD card slot, mini-FireWire||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi,||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
Part of the problem consumers face when adopting a business laptop such as the ProBook 6360b is being stuck with features and ports that aren't relevant to their needs. Instead of HDMI-out, the ProBook 6360b has a DisplayPort. It has an eSATA port, FireWire, and even a rare ExpressCard slot, but no USB 3.0 or Bluetooth (on the reviewed configuration, although it's available as an option). At this point, it might make more sense for all laptops to carry similar ports, but that problem's not going to be solved anytime soon.
The 4GB of RAM included in the ProBook 6360b is increasingly standard on mainstream Windows laptops, but the 320GB hard drive, albeit at 7,200rpm, feels a little small for the price now that we've become used to seeing 500GB.