Review: HP ProBook 5310m Design Smears System

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The HP ProBook 5310m is thin and light, and offers business-class features and performance, but the unit is let down by some questionable design choices

The HP ProBook 5310m is a thin and light notebook with business-class features and performance that sometimes trips up because of design choices that mar the otherwise nicely built system. 

The small, smeary trackpad – the first I’ve used that lacks an oleophobic (skin oil-repelling) coating – and squared off key caps made mousing and rapid touch typing an unsatisfactory experience. Not affecting performance but a constant source of annoyance was the smudge-loving glossy plastic interior surfaces and exterior anodized aluminum case. 

I tested the $899 model, £628.48 in the UK including VAT, with an Intel Core 2 Duo SP9300 processor, 2GB of DDR3 memory and a 320GB 7200 RPM SATA hard drive. An AMD processor option is available.

The system, which was released in the US in October, also can be outfitted with an ultra low-voltage Intel Celeron processor. The Celeron should increase battery life by several hours. There will also be a decrease in performance, although this configuration would be more than adequate for email, word processing and spreadsheet handling.

My test unit came pre-built with Windows 7 Professional and myriad standard add-on software packages from HP, including Protect Tools, Advisor, Biz Solutions and Printing, along with a trial version of McAfee anti-malware products.

Using the FutureMark PCmark Vantage tool (using the PCMark Suite test), the ProBook 5310m scored a respectable 4,100 when run on the system with all the aforementioned preloaded packages. The system is intended for modest-sized organisations that have small IT departments or consultant-only IT support. In these cases, preloaded software often stays on the system, so I benchmarked only with the pre-loaded software. (A system without the software would almost certainly perform faster.)

The ProBook 5310m incorporates touchpad gestures, a feature already found in HP consumer notebooks. Gestures are disabled by default but are easy to enable, and allow for zooming, rotating and movement of on-screen images.

Features

HP also has equipped the ProBook 5310m with two quick keys that enable pre-boot access to a web browser and the Microsoft Outlook mail client. During tests, I configured the Outlook quick access function to synchronise my mail every 15 minutes. When the ProBook was turned off, accessing my mail by pressing the button took about 5 seconds. Web access was available in a similar manner. 

The ProBook 5310m is well equipped to keep wireless road warriors connected. The system can be configured with either Intel or Broadcom 802.11a/b/g/n, as well as optional EV-DO/HSPA mobile broadband wireless access. The system also supports Bluetooth 2.1 connectivity.

The ProBook isn’t much to look at, however. Compared with the premium display on a MacBook Pro 13-inch system or other PC-based thin and light systems, including Lenovo’s T400s, the ProBook 5310m is dull and flat. For business applications, however, the screen will suffice.

As with other thin and light (less than 4 pounds) notebooks, the ProBook does that have an onboard optical drive. There is, however, a full complement of external connectors and optional docking stations that enable the ProBook 5310m to provide all the functionality of larger notebook systems.

The ProBook 5310m has three USB 2.0 ports, one of which is powered, and a DisplayPort with an optional dongle to convert to VGA. It also has the usual network, headphone/mic and power connectors, as well as a Secure Digital slot.

With the ProBook’s dropped-hinge design, all ports and connectors are placed along the side of the system. This makes for some inconvenient connections (the wired Ethernet port is far forward, on the left side). In addition, the longer-life six-cell 62WHr lithium-ion battery increases the depth of the system. (A four-cell battery is also available.)

Conclusion

HP just keeps pace with other notebook makes when it comes to design choices in the main user input area – the keyboard and touchpad.

During normal use in tests, the ProBook 5310m developed warm, but not uncomfortably hot, areas near the wrist rest area. The recessed touchpad did a good job of rejecting stray palm inputs.

It seems like HP has mimicked Apple in adopting a Chicklet-style of squared-off key caps, with a shallow and unpleasant key press depth. Most keys on the full-pitch keyboard were effectively placed for accurate typing, but the short space bar was easy to miss during rapid typing.


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