At first glance, it would be easy to label the HP ProBook 5310m a knockoff of a late 2007 MacBook. The all-black casing made from aluminum and magnesium alloy and the chiclet-style keyboard certainly support that judgment. However, the ProBook is a laptop aimed at business users, not consumers. It's also something we've been longing to see: a decently powerful, sub-$1,000 ultraportable with a 13-inch screen and a long battery life. However, you'll have to spend a little more on upgrades to make it truly awesome.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$899 / $699|
|Processor||2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SP9300|
|Memory||2GB, 1,333MHz DDR3 (system runs at 1,066MHz)|
|Hard drive||320GB 7,200rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel GS45|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 4500MHD (integrated)|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Professional|
|Dimensions (WD)||12.9 x 8.7 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||13.3 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||3.9/4.8 pounds|
The ProBook is very stately looking. The brushed-aluminum lid is marked with a simple, silver HP logo with ProBook barely visible below it. On the other side of the lid is a 13.3-inch diagonal LED-backlit wide-screen display with a typical resolution for its size of 1,366x768 pixels. It is available with a matte antiglare coating or HP's glassy HD BrightView finish. The screen gets adequately bright for working outdoors, text and graphics are sharply rendered, and color is very good. Viewing angles aren't the best, though. (Not a huge issue for a business laptop.)
The system weighs less than 4 pounds and the power adapter adds just less than a pound to the travel weight. This is borderline ultraportable, but unless you absolutely need the lightest thing possible, this is light enough for regular travel. The brushed aluminum used on the lid continues inside with a strip above the keyboard and for the palm rest. The wide, flat matte-black keys are surrounded by glossy black plastic; this is used for the screen bezel and the touch pad, as well. The touch pad has no texture to it, so fingers do not slide easily--a shame since there is support for multifinger gestures that can be easily activated through the touch-pad software.
The keyboard is extremely comfortable to use with good response and no flex while typing. It's also spill resistant. There are no multimedia controls--it is a business laptop, after all--but you do get a wireless on/off button and two quick-launch buttons for e-mail and Web applications. The buttons work when the system is completely shut down by opening HP's QuickLook 3 for reading e-mail and contact information from Outlook and QuickWeb for simple Web surfing. We're still not sure anyone uses these preboot environments--especially with Windows 7 booting reasonably fast--but it's there if you want to give it a try. If you're the type not to carry a smartphone or have one but want fast access to all your messages, appointments, and contacts--past and present--it's a valuable addition.
Above the LCD is a 2-megapixel Webcam flanked by microphones on each side. The setup worked well in our informal Skype tests, with good voice and video clarity. Down-firing speakers are positioned under the front edge of the notebook, and though they don't get very loud, they sound good for both voice and music.
Because this is made for professional use and frequent travel, HP loaded this ProBook up with security and shock protection features. The HP ProtectTools has options for complete data shredding for files, folders, and storage drives, drive encryption, setting up preboot security, and, should you forget your password, its SpareKey feature lets you answer three personal questions to identify yourself. To protect against bumps and drops, the 3D DriveGuard uses a three-axis digital accelerometer that parks the hard drive to minimize damage to your data.
|HP ProBook 5310m||Average for category [ultraportable]|
|Video||DisplayPort||VGA-out, mini-HDMI or Mini-DVI|
|Audio||headphone/microphone jack||headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader||2 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||None||None, or DVD burner|
To keep things light and simple, HP ditched the optical drive, kept ports, inputs, and outputs to a minimum, and used a wide, but thin four-cell battery. On the left side are the AC power jack, a USB 2.0 port, a DisplayPort output, and an Ethernet jack. The right side has two more USB 2.0 ports, a combo stereo headphone/mic jack, and an SD/SDHC card slot. For the most part, all of them are well positioned; however, we'd prefer the left side ports to be more toward the back. Again, there is no optical drive, which is fine by us, but you'll need to factor in the cost of an external drive should you need one. What would have been nice is an ExpressCard slot for expansion, but it's not a deal breaker for us.
The 5310m is available in three preconfigured models or you can pick and choose what you want in it. Our review sample featured a 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Processor SP9300, 2GB of DDR3 memory, a 320GB 7,200rpm hard drive, and Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD integrated graphics for $899. This includes 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but if you want mobile broadband, it'll cost you another $100 for the adapter and will work on AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon Wireless networks (charges for service are your responsibility, too, of course). The system can also be stripped down to a $699 version running on a 1.2GHz Intel Celeron Processor SU2300, which according to HP gets you about 30 minutes extra of battery life (considering the performance difference between the two processors, the cash savings and extra time don't seem worth it). Storage also gets cut to 160GB and wireless to 802.11g. Should you choose to configure it yourself, additional options include a choice of Windows 7 Professional or Home, Windows XP (available through downgrade rights), or FreeDOS, 4GB of memory, and a 128GB SSD.
The configuration we tested turned in excellent results both in our lab tests and real-life testing. Handling basic office tasks, light photo editing, Web browsing, and running e-mail and instant-messaging clients, all simultaneously, didn't prove to be a problem for this laptop. That's not to say you can't overtax the system (we wouldn't try anything more than casual gaming, for example), but it shouldn't have a problem keeping up with most office use. If you want to get more performance out of it, you'll need to upgrade the notebook's single 2GB memory stick to a 4GB module and swap the hard drive for a solid-state drive.
|Mainstream (Avg watts/hour)||HP ProBook 5310m|
|Raw kWh Number||43|
|Annual energy cost||$4.88|