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HP ProBook 4310s review

Verdict

It might look a little 1980s, but it skilfully blurs the line between business and pleasure

Review Date: 3 Dec 2009

Reviewed By: Sasha Muller

Price when reviewed: £550 (£632 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
4 stars out of 6

After laying eyes on HP's ProBook 4310s for the first time, you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd travelled back through time to an age when laptops were square and practical, but never particularly pretty. But despite the fact that there's hardly a curve to be found on its chiselled, retro-styled figure, the ProBook 4310s has an eccentric charm all of its own.

It isn't particularly attractive, with a thick-set, glossy black frame that stands 40mm proud of the desk, but the 13.3in display makes it reasonably compact while just tipping over the 2kg mark. It's a shame the battery life isn't better, though; with a little over four hours of light use and 1hr 19mins of heavy use, you'll need to carry it back to the mains on a fairly regular basis.

Get your hands on the ProBook, however, and you might just be pleasantly surprised. The keyboard might look a touch suspect, but it's much better than appearances suggest. The large, square keys have a nice positive action, and the wide spacing between each key helps keep typos to a minimum. Only the trackpad has room for improvement, with the hinged buttons occasionally feeling somewhat awkward under the finger.

The screen gives away the ProBook's more sensible pretensions, as unlike the glossy display of many consumer models, the ProBook has a matte panel. It's a good thing, though, as reflections are kept to a minimum, and despite the slight loss in vibrancy, the HP still made a good fist of our test photos. Reasonably accurate colour reproduction helps keep skintones looking fresh and lifelike, with only the weak contrast disappointing.

The presence of Windows 7 Professional will be welcome for business applications, too. This version adds XP Mode, automatic backup capabilities, and the business-friendly Domain Join features to the standard Home Premium. HP also adds some of its own proprietary software. The ProtectTools suite takes on drive encryption duties, and Disk Sanitizer allows users, or security-conscious IT departments, to wipe a hard disk of sensitive data without any fear of it being undeleted.

For all its seriousness, though, the ProBook has a lighter side. There are both VGA and HDMI ports at the side, and the ATI graphics even allow a little bit of light gaming, despatching our least taxing Crysis test at 39fps. General performance isn't to be sniffed at either, with the 2.1GHz Core 2 Duo processor and 7,200rpm hard drive helping to earn the HP a score of 1.03 in our benchmarks.

It might not do quite enough to win an award, but we can't help liking the little ProBook 4310s. It's as comfortable hooked up to an HDTV as it is churning through an Excel spreadsheet, and as a sensible, compact, all-round laptop, it has plenty to offer.

Author: Sasha Muller

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User comments

XP Mode

Your review mentions that Windows 7 Professional includes XP mode (for enhanced backward software compatibility). I thought that this feature requires a processor with hardware assisted virtualization. The T6570 does not include this feature according to the Intel website. Therefore XP mode should not be available on this laptop - right?

By BinghamStephen on 4 Dec 2009

Fanous last words?

Further to my comment above:

Some intel pages suggest that the T6570 supports virtualisation:

http://ark.intel.com/Product.aspx?id=42841

but others suggest the contrary:

http://processorfinder.intel.com/details.aspx?sSpe
c=SLGLL

well I'm confused... Has anyone actually tried XP mode with a T6570?

By BinghamStephen on 4 Dec 2009

Funnily enough...

I've tried it and it works perfectly. In fact, the only difference between the seemingly identical T6500 and T6570 processors is that the latter supports Intel VT-x.

One word of warning though. Once you've enabled virtualisation in the BIOS, make sure to completely power off the machine before you start Windows. If you just restart the laptop after making the necessary changes in the BIOS, VT-x won't be enabled.

By SashaMuller on 4 Dec 2009

Thanks

Thanks for the clarification Sasha. I'm sure I'm not alone in having obscure "technical" 1995-2000 vintage software that I need to keep using. Windows 7 "XP mode" virtualisation does sound very helpful on the face of it, but finding out which hardware supports it is not as straightforward as it should be. Apparently, even if the processor supports virtualisation some BIOS's don't allow it. For example, many recent Sony laptops need a BIOS upgrade to use XP mode it seems.

A couple of further comments:

A useful thing about the HP ProBook range is that they offer what seems to be a comprehensive range of XP drivers and utilities.

Readers might also look at the ProBook 5310m, which is more portable in style than the 4310s and only about £80 more.

By BinghamStephen on 4 Dec 2009

Probook 4320s

I am interested in the 4320s, but gather there may be issues with the touchpad/integrated buttons. Any comments?
Also, would you recommend the 4320 over the 4310, or vice versa, for general 'productivity' tasks?

By usera on 26 May 2010

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