The monochrome, sunlight-readable displays remain largely synonymous with e-readers, but they're moving into other devices large and small.
Caption by: Sandra Vogel
HP's ProBook notebooks are designed to handle mainstream business tasks and hit an affordable price point. The 13.3in. ProBook 5330m comes in a range of configurations starting at £539 (ex. VAT) — there are no fewer than nine variants listed at HP's web site, although only three are available to buy off the page. Our review sample is the LG724EA with a 128GB SSD, which retails for £799 (ex. VAT) and is the most expensive on offer.
The ProBook 5330m's silver chassis looks solid enough, but although there's aluminium and magnesium to be found in the build it's not all solid metal, and the lid section exhibits some flex. You won't want to rest anything heavy on this notebook, and with no clasp to keep the lid firmly closed, it would be advisable to invest in a protective sleeve.
For a 13.3in. notebook the ProBook 5330m is relatively heavy at 1.82kg. It's not particularly small either, measuring 32.8cm wide by 22.5cm deep by 2.52cm thick. The thickness of the base section is especially notable as its edges are mostly square rather than heavily tapered. In short, the ProBook 5330m looks blocky and angular.
The matte 13.3in. screen has a standard resolution of 1,366 by 768 pixels and sits within a fairly thick bezel. Viewing angles are good on both vertical and horizontal planes, although colours could generally be a little sharper.
Above the screen sits an HD webcam, for which HP provides the somewhat consumer-grade but perfectly usable ArcSoft Camera Suite. The webcam can handle video at up to 720p (1,280-by-720-pixel) resolution.
The spill-resistant keyboard has large keys that are well separated from each other. They have a springy, somewhat rubbery feel that we found pleasant to work with.
The keyboard is backlit, and the light goes off if there's been no keyboard action for about 14 seconds to save on battery power. The backlighting is great if you're sitting in a standard working position at a desk, but if you're slouching, using the computer on a sofa or in bed, for example, the light bleeds around the edges of the keys and can be distracting.
If you'd rather not have the keyboard backlight on it's easily disabled with a Fn key combination. Our review sample had a US-configured keyboard, but we assume this convention holds for the UK version too. The cursor keys are relatively large, but unlike on some models they have no secondary Fn key roles.
The touchpad incorporates two-finger zooming but although the specifications say there is two-way scroll support we couldn't make that work. The fingerprint scanner on the wrist rest comes as standard on the ProBook 5330m range.
With nine models of the ProBook 5330m on offer, you'd expect a range of specifications. Processor options are divided between just two choices though — a 2.1GHz Intel Core i3-2310M or, as in our review sample, a 2.5GHz Core i5-2520M. All models have 4GB of RAM, expandable to 8GB.
Most of the ProBook 5330m variants, including our review unit, run Windows 7 Professional 64-bit, although one has Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit while another runs Windows 7 Professional 32-bit. You can opt for Windows 7 Home Basic 32-bit, SUSE Linux Enterprise 11 or FreeDOS too. None of the preconfigured models have discrete graphics, nor is this an option — in all cases Intel's CPU-integrated HD Graphics 3000 GPU does the honours.
There are only two storage options: a 500GB SATA II hard drive spinning at 7,200rpm or — as in our review sample — a 128GB SSD. All models have Gigabit Ethernet and Wi-Fi, although how the latter is provided varies. In our review sample 802.11a/b/g/n was provided by an Intel chipset, while others in the range offer 802.11b/g/n via a Broadcom chipset. Bluetooth (2.1+EDR) is present in every model and some (including our review sample) also add integrated mobile broadband (HSPA+).
It's unfortunate that HP has not been able to fit an optical drive into the ProBook 5330m chassis — as manufacturers of some other similarly sized notebooks do.
As far ports and connectors are concerned, we're disappointed by the absence of USB 3.0, while the security conscious will bemoan the lack of a smartcard reader. We'd have preferred four USB ports, but there are only three. Two are on the right side, one of which is powered so that devices can be charged when the notebook itself is switched off.
Also on the right side are a headphone/microphone combo jack, the Ethernet (RJ-45) ports and the power input. The left edge carries the third USB 2.0 port (this one combined with an eSATA connector), VGA and HDMI ports and a reader for SD-compatible media.
HP's Power Assistant utility provides fine control over power management
Hewlett Packard includes a range of tools and utilities. Its ProtectTools security suite includes features like drive encryption, password management and biometrics control. Meanwhile Power Assistant gives you detailed power management capabilities — you can even set up different power usage profiles and have them kick in at set times on a daily schedule.
Performance & battery life
The Windows Experience Index (WEI) for our ProBook 5330m review unit was 4.7 (out of 7.9). The WEI corresponds to the lowest component score, which was for Graphics (Desktop performance for Windows Aero), thanks to the system's intergrated Intel graphics. By contrast, the system's 128GB SSD propelled the score for Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate) to a massive 7.8.
The remaining component scores were an impressive 7.1 for Processor (calculations per second), 6.1 for Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance) and 4.9 for RAM (Memory operations per second). A fast CPU and excellent I/O performance should make for a generally sprightly system, although you won't want to run too many graphically demanding applications.
The ProBook 5330m comes with a 4-cell battery that HP says will last up to 5 hours and 35 minutes. To test this we chose the HP Optimised power plan and played movie footage from a USB stick continuously from a full charge. Under these conditions, the notebook lasted for just 3 hours and 25 minutes.
The ProBook 5330m incorporates the Beats Audio sound system, and there are stereo speakers which output through grilles on the front of the notebook. Sound quality is pretty good, with quite high maximum volume. It's certainly good enough for personal video viewing, and loud enough to deliver multimedia presentations to a small group.
The HP ProBook 5330m is nicely made, with a responsive keyboard, integrated mobile broadband and generally good performance. We'd have liked it even more with an optical drive, USB 3.0 and better battery life.
Caption by: Sandra Vogel