For years, the business laptop industry has largely produced an endless stream of sturdy and affordable computing devices that tended to be long on business-friendly capabilities but embarrassingly short on user-friendly features. Although consumer laptops are sleek lightweight devices, business laptops have tended to be boxy, gray, heavy, and drab.
Nobody wants to lug a 10-pound laptop to a business meeting when a sleek 4-pound model will do the job nicely. So, traditional IT hardware vendors such as Dell, HP, and Lenovo are responding to the challenge of providing employees -- in particular, top executives and other high-performing staff members -- with the mobile devices they need. One of the best attempts yet at a business laptop makeover is the HP ProBook 5330m. Can the ProBook provide an equal dose of style and business productivity? Let's find out.
Brains and Beauty
The ProBook 5330m I reviewed shipped with a 2.5GHz Sandy Bridge Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB 7200rpm Serial ATA (SATA) drive, Intel HD Graphics 3000, and Beats Audio technology. The 13" screen (1366 ´ 768 maximum screen resolution) came covered in a nice anti-glare coating that was easy on the eyes, perfect for prolonged bouts of writing and editing. Three USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port, a VGA port, a headphone jack, and an HDMI port rounded out the complement of available ports. Wireless and Bluetooth support were also included.
The laptop is attractively designed but a bit more boxy and utilitarian than more svelte laptops on the market. Most of the laptop case is fashioned out of attractively styled brushed aluminum bits, but the underside has a grippy rubber coating. This underside material makes the laptop firmly plant itself on a variety of surfaces, which can be a benefit for people with vigorous typing styles.
This particular ProBook tips the scales at just under 4 pounds and comes equipped with a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) and Intel's vPro technology. Other noteworthy IT-friendly features include the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Professional and HP's ProtectTools suite of security software. This suite handles hardware encryption, facial recognition as a password replacement, and other security features that could make this laptop a more attractive buy for IT pros in security-minded industries.
A Day in the Life
I tested the ProBook 5330m for several weeks, including taking it to several trade shows and other work-related events. I found the battery life to be fairly good, averaging three to four hours when I was primarily using the laptop for light-duty tasks, such as editing, writing, and web surfing. The battery life was understandably less impressive when I was watching videos or performing other more processor-intensive tasks.
Although it’s not as light as other laptop offerings, I found the ProBook's weight to be one of the most attractive features, especially when I had to carry the laptop between meetings or trade show briefings. The backlit keyboard worked great in low-light conditions, but I found the laptop keys to be overly noisy and squeaky during use, almost as if they needed a shot of WD-40. I eventually grew accustomed to the noise, but HP might want to revisit the backlit keyboard design in future versions of the laptop. One potential negative for some IT pros is the lack of an internal DVD or Blu-ray drive, but this can be remedied by purchasing an external drive as an accessory.
Big Strides Made
The ProBook offers a compelling combination of being lightweight, having an attractive exterior design, and offering business-friendly features. Although the ProBook might not have the goods to best the Apple MacBook Air and other ultraportable laptops and mobile computing devices, HP has made big strides with it. I'm looking forward to what the company might do for an encore.
HP ProBook 5330m
RECOMMENDATION: It might not be able to best the ultraportable MacBook Air, but the HP ProBook 5330m is lightweight, attractive, and business-friendly.