- ✓Large 17.3in. screen
- ✓Discrete ATI graphics subsystem
- ✓Full-sized keyboard with separate number pad
- ✓Good sound quality
- ✓Blu-ray support
- ✕Too big and heavy to carry regularly
- ✕No fingerprint scanner
- ✕No built-in mobile broadband
HP's ProBook range is intended to combine business functionality with elegant design. Originally launched with 15.6in. and 17.3in. widescreen models, the series has since been bulked out with a couple of 13.3in. variants. Here we examine the top-end ProBook 4710s with its massive 17.3in. screen. There are currently twelve variants of the 4710s, with our review sample, the 4710s NX427EA, one of the most expensive at £815 (ex. VAT). The least expensive is just £539 (ex. VAT).Design
The ProBook 4710s is large and weighty, thanks to its 17.3in. screen. The notebook measures 41cm wide, 27cm tall and 3.2cm thick, so it's not going to fit into any but the largest of carrying cases. And with the weight starting at 3.08kg, you're not likely to want to carry it far. This notebook is destined to be deskbound for most of its life.
The glossy black lid (a characteristic of the ProBook series) looks a bit brash, as well as being a magnet for finger-smears. There's a fair amount of give in the (very large) lid section, and with only the usual two hinges holding it in place we wonder about its long-term robustness.
The 17.3in. screen is vast. Its wide-format (16:9) 1,600-by-900 pixel resolution makes it ideal for data-rich activities. It's possible to have three document windows open side by side, and the screen is superb for showing presentations to large groups. It also performs well when it comes to DVD playback. The LED-backlit matt finish makes it easy to work with a light source such as a window behind you. Our only criticism is that the colours aren't quite as vibrant or bright as we'd like.
There's plenty of room for the keyboard, which has allowed HP to incorporate a separate number pad to the right of the QWERTY keys. The number row is full height, while the bottom row, which contains the space bar, has keys that are slightly taller than normal. All the keys are chiclet-style, individually separated and raised from their surroundings.
Touch typing on this spacious layout is comfortable, although there's a degree of flex in the keyboard that some may find irritating and we'd have liked a large, L-shaped Enter key. Also, given the amount of keyboard space available here, HP could easily have added a bank of user-definable shortcut keys — perhaps as an additional vertical column. As it is, the only additional keys are the on/off switch in the centre of the area above the screen (which contains the speakers) and a shortcut to the HP Info Centre, which provides access to a range of system settings and the notebook user guide.
The touchpad is large, but not large enough: we'd prefer it to be wider so you can sweep the cursor across the entire screen in a single sweep. It incorporates a vertical, but not a horizontal scrollbar.
There's a 2-megapixel webcam above the screen, but no fingerprint scanner.
The ProBook 4710s NX427EA has a 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8700 processor behind it (other models in the range) run on different processors. Our review sample had 3MB of RAM.
Graphics are handled by an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330 chipset. Windows Vista Business (32-bit) was preinstalled on our review sample, but you can opt for Windows 7 Professional (64-bit) or SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10.
Hard drive capacities are relatively consistent across the range. Our review sample had the most common configuration: a 320GB, 5,400rpm drive.
Connectivity options could be better. You get Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/Draft-N) and Bluetooth (2.0), plus Gigabit Ethernet. However, there's no integrated mobile broadband and no internal modem. Some other 4710s models do have a 56Kbps modem, but you have to look to the smaller screen sizes for mobile broadband support, or rely on a USB dongle.
There is a fair array of ports and connectors. The front edge houses a reader for SD and compatible media, a mechanical switch for wireless connectivity and the 3.5mm audio ports. On the left edge you'll find Ethernet (RJ-45), VGA, USB 2.0 (2) and HDMI ports. The two USB ports are very close together and so suffer from the usual problem that you may not be able to use both at once if your peripherals have sizeable connectors.
There are two further USB 2.0 ports on the right side (these suffer from the same proximity problem noted above), along with the optical drive. Unusually for a primarily business notebook, the optical drive is Blu-ray compatible. It also supports LightScribe, allowing you to personalise any (compatible) optical media you produce.
Given the size of the chassis, we think HP could have provided another pair of USB ports and FireWire at the very least.
The Windows Experience Index (WEI) for the ProBook 4710s of 4.1 (out of 5.9) is impressive. The WEI corresponds to the lowest component score, which was for Graphics (desktop performance for Windows Aero). The top rating was a maximum 5.9, for RAM (Memory operations per second), followed by 5.6 for Processor (calculations per second), 5.3 for Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate) and 4.8 for Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance). This is an excellent performer.
An 8-cell battery might be overkill in a smaller notebook, but this behemoth's 17.3in. screen and other features require plenty of power. Of course, battery life isn't as important as it would be with a smaller, lighter notebook. Still, HP suggests the battery will function for up to 4.5 hours. To test this, we asked the notebook to play a movie non-stop from a full battery charge, which it did for 2 hours 45 minutes, which is pretty good going. You ought to be able to work for at least a morning away from mains power if need be.
The built-in speakers deliver enough volume, with acceptable quality, for delivering presentations to a small group — something to which the big screen is ideally suited.
This is one large notebook, whose natural home is the desktop rather than the travel bag. HP could have been more imaginative with the extra space in the large chassis: more USB ports and a bank of user-configurable shortcut buttons would have been useful, for example. However for those who need plenty of screen and don't want to use an external monitor it could be a good choice.