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HP ProBook 4310s

  • Editors' rating
    7.0 Very good

Pros

  • Good keyboard
  • High-quality audio subsystem
  • Optical drive supports Blu-ray

Cons

  • Relatively bulky and heavy
  • Glossy shell attracts fingerprints
  • Disappointing battery life

HP's relatively new ProBook range sits below the corporate-focused EliteBook range and is aimed primarily at small businesses. There are several models in the range and we have previously examined the large 17.3in. 4710s. The ProBook 4310s is a recent addition bringing the screen size down to 13.3in. to make a much more portable system — at least in theory. There are 14 models available, with prices ranging between £468 and £844 (ex. VAT). Our review sample, the NX571EA, costs £641 (ex VAT).

Design
Like many consumer notebooks, but thankfully few business models, the outer lid of the ProBook 4310s is black and shiny. This attracts fingerprints, and although it's more resistant than some we've seen you'll still need to wipe it clean regularly. We also noticed a fair amount of flex in the lid section, as we did with the much larger 4710s.

Despite its 13.3in. screen, the 4310s isn't the most compact or lightweight of notebooks: it's quite thick at 2.73cm, weighs 1.97kg and has a footprint measuring 32.5cm wide by 22.8cm deep.

Inside, the chiclet-style keyboard has a positive action that makes it comfortable to touch-type at speed. HP's familiar touch-sensitive bar for volume control sits above the row of half-height function keys; it also incorporates a mute button, an on/off switch for the wireless and a shortcut to email software.

The touchpad incorporates a vertical scroll bar but lacks horizontal scrolling. It's recessed into the wrist rest, which will probably please and irritate in equal measure. The two mouse buttons do not depress entirely — instead, just their lower sections depress, the upper one remaining static. This, plus the fact that they are also in the touchpad recess, makes them a little awkward to use.

The 13.3in. screen is LED backlit and delivers reasonable but not outstanding viewing angles (the best being in the horizontal plane). The wide-screen native resolution of 1,366 by 768 pixels allows you to open two document windows side by side, and is also suitable for viewing 16:9 movies.

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There is a 2-megapixel webcam above the screen, and a fingerprint reader on the bottom right edge of the wrist rest.

Features
The ProBook 4310s is an interesting blend of professional and more consumer-focused features. The operating system in our review sample was Windows Vista Business, but Windows 7 models are also available. One model in the line-up comes with a downgrade to Windows XP Professional, while others run Vista Home Basic.

The optical drive is a Blu-ray unit, which is rare for any business notebook. It also supports LightScribe, so you can personalise any discs you burn (you'll need compliant media and software).

Our review unit had a fast (7,200rpm) 320GB hard drive. The capacity is generous for a business machine, but the drive lacks the shock protection that we're used to seeing in high-end business notebooks.

The processor in our review sample was a 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6670 with 2MB of Level 2 cache. The system had 3MB of RAM, its two SODIMM slots supporting 8GB in total. Graphics are handled by the Intel GM45 Express chipset's integrated GMA 4500MHD.

We played a movie (not Blu-ray) and found that sound output was both louder and of better quality than we'd normally expect from a business notebook. If you need to give presentations with audio, or simply like to watch movies after work, this notebook will do the job satisfactorily

Wireless connectivity includes Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g, Draft-N) and Bluetooth (2.1). Some models come with mobile broadband, but not this one. Gigabit Ethernet is present, and some configurations also include a 56Kbps modem.

As far as ports and connectors are concerned, the main issue is with the USB ports. There are only three of these, none of which support sleep-and-charge, and two of which are very close together on the left-hand side. It would be difficult to use the latter simultaneously unless the peripherals involved have small connectors.

The modem port on our review sample was next to the two left-hand USB ports, and we wonder whether this legacy feature might have been better omitted completely in order to allow them more space. The optical drive and mains power connectors are also on this edge.

The right side houses the third USB port, an HDMI port and a VGA connector for an external monitor. There's also an ExpressCard/34 slot on this edge plus the RJ-45 (Ethernet) port. The front edge has a flash card slot which can accommodate both SD and Memory Stick compatible media. The audio ports are also on the front edge.

Performance & battery life
The ProBook 4310s's overall Windows Experience Index (WEI) rating of 3.3 (out of 5.9) is a little disappointing, thanks to the two graphics subsystem scores. However, our review sample was not a final build, so tweaking here and there could improve things.

The lowest rating of 3.3 went to Graphics (desktop performance for Windows Aero), while the highest (5.7) went to Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate). In between came 3.6 for Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance), 5.1 for RAM (Memory operations per second) and 5.2 for Processor (calculations per second).

The ProBook 4310s comes with a 4-cell battery, for which HP claims a battery life of up to 4 hours 15 minutes. We selected HP's 'optimised' power plan, disabled wireless connectivity and asked the notebook to play a movie continuously from a full battery charge. It did this for precisely two hours, giving up when the battery reached 15 percent. In the real world we think you'd struggle to reach the four-hours-plus that HP suggests this notebook can deliver.

Conclusion
The ProBook 4310s is an unremarkable 13.3in. notebook that's bulkier than we'd like and delivers disappointing battery life. The price is competitive, the keyboard is comfortable to use, and we do like the wide screen and good quality sound output. But even with those points in its favour, it did not win us over.

 

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