01 May 2009

HP ProBook 4510s

Low price; decent productivity performance; HP ProtectTools security extras; LED-backlit display

Sluggish 3D-graphics performance; no multimedia control keys; narrow viewing angle for DVD video; no fingerprint reader

Editors' Take
The all-new HP ProBook 4510s delivers some surprising features and decent performance for small-business buyers on a budget.

HP ProBook 4510s
Price (at time of review): $749

Key Specs
Processor: 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6570
Memory: 2GB RAM
Storage: 250GB hard drive
Optical Drive: DVD±RW
Screen: 15.6 inches (1,366x768)
Graphics: Integrated Mobile Intel GMA X4500 HD
Weight: 5.7 pounds
Dimensions (HWD): 1.3x14.6x9.8 inches
Operating System: Windows Vista Business

Reviewed by: Jamie Bsales
Review Date: April 2009

The debut of the HP ProBook 4510s marks the beginning of the end for the “Compaq” brand name HP has been using on its business laptops since acquiring the company in 2001. But who are we kidding? The Compaq moniker often connoted bland notebooks that always seemed slightly costlier than they should have been. The ProBook 4510s, on the other hand, looks sharp and delivers some surprising features given its $529 starting price, including a large LED-backlit display and a hard drive with active protection. Our configuration came in at a still-reasonable $749 (which includes an eight-cell battery, a Core 2 Duo CPU, and Bluetooth connectivity—features you don’t get at the starting price). Some extras have been trimmed to achieve the low price point—dedicated multimedia controls and a fingerprint reader come to mind—but there’s nothing missing that you can’t do without.

The ProBook line will deliver what HP calls “business essentials”: what you need to get the job done. It slots below the EliteBook series, which represents the super-sleek cutting edge. A ProBook with an “s” at the end of the model name is designed for small and medium-size businesses (SMBs), as opposed to corporate enterprise buyers. The series includes some impressive standard features, including a 15.6-inch LED-backlit display, active hard drive protection to guard against data loss, a spill-resistant keyboard, HDMI connectivity, and a 2-megapixel Webcam. Just as impressive for a budget platform are the available options, which include a Blu-ray (read-only) drive, discrete graphics, and built-in Gobi wireless broadband.

The 5.7-pound ProBook 4510s won’t win any design awards, but its angular chassis with a lacquered lid (available in black or "merlot") looks sharp; just be prepared for the fingerprint smudges whenever you touch it. The simple-yet-modern design continues under the lid, where flat-top keys pop out of a glossy backdrop. The large 16-to-9-aspect-ratio screen means there’s room for a dedicated number pad, though the main keyboard’s Function, Ctrl, and Alt keys are truncated to fit. The keyboard is plenty roomy otherwise, and the keys have good tactile and audible feedback without being too noisy when you type on them.

One victim of cost cutting is the multimedia control panel we’ve grown accustomed to on HP’s Pavilion line; you’ll have to use the Chiclet-size Function keys to change the volume and software controls to change tracks. The touch pad isn’t as large as we would like, but its low-friction surface makes mousing easy. The somewhat narrow mouse buttons take a little getting used to, though, as you have to press closer to the bottom to register a click.

The 15.6-inch screen (with a 1,366x768 native resolution) is very good but not perfect. We love the size and the LED backlight, which consumes less power and delivers more-saturated colors than the screens found on most budget laptops. Text is crisp, and the panel is plenty bright. You can opt for a glossy finish or the more fluorescent, light-friendly antiglare finish that was on our build. But while the screen's viewing angles looked fine in Windows apps, in DVD playback we noticed that blacks shifted to gray when the screen was viewed off-center, which means you won’t want to use this wide-screen LCD to share movies with a group. Audio quality from the built-in stereo speakers is fine for this class of notebook. Music sounds a bit thin and brassy, but we’ve heard worse from pricier notebooks.
HP ProBook 4510s

The ProBook 4510s includes a fairly standard selection of ports: LAN, VGA, HDMI, four USB, headphone, and microphone. As expected at this price, eSATA and FireWire ports are AWOL, and the modem is hidden behind a rubber covering. HP has included Bluetooth and 802.11a/b/g/n wireless, a flash-memory-card reader, and an expansion slot—but the last is only the narrower ExpressCard/34 variety, which is unusual for a full-size notebook. The ProBook's closest competitor, the Lenovo ThinkPad SL500, manages to include both a FireWire port and a full-size ExpressCard slot. The 2-megapixel Webcam delivers very good low-light performance, with a dark but usable image even when the subject is lit just by the light of the screen.

The security extras you get with the HP ProtectTools suite should certainly appeal to SMB buyers. You can set software-based full drive encryption to protect files, and you can choose to completely wipe files or the entire drive with HP File Sanitizer and HP Disk Sanitizer. Should you forget your system password, HP SpareKey can give you the chance to reset it by answering a couple personal questions; just be sure to set up the utility when you get your machine. There’s an optional privacy filter that slips over the screen, so those next to you on a bus, plane, or train can’t peek at what you're doing, and HP offers the LoJack for Laptops Pro service from CompuTrace. Harried business users may also appreciate the HP QuickLook 2 feature: Just hit the small button next to the power button when the PC is off or in hibernation, and you can access your contacts and calendar without having to boot to Windows.

As for performance, the ProBook 4510s delivers speed appropriate for its price, and it edged out the $748 ThinkPad SL500 on all of our productivity tests. Our unit came with a 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6570 processor, 2GB of RAM, a 250GB 5,400rpm hard drive, and Mobile Intel GMA X4500 HD integrated graphics. It delivered a score of 2,949 on Futuremark’s PCMark Vantage benchmark test, which is very close to the average score for mainstream notebooks we’ve tested and better than the 2,811 we saw from the ThinkPad SL500. The ProBook 4510s also held its own on our encoding tests, completing the Windows Media Encoder 9 trial in a faster-than-average 7 minutes and 31 seconds and our iTunes trial in a slightly slower-than-average 4 minutes and 52 seconds. And just for comparison’s sake, the 4510s’s scores also beat out the $779 Gateway M7818u, as well.
HP ProBook 4510s

As expected, the integrated graphics are enough to handle the Aero effects of Windows Vista Business, but you won’t be playing any intense shoot ’em ups on this laptop. The ProBook 4510s delivered a score of 841 on 3DMark06 (at 1,024x768), which is in line with other low-cost notebooks. To put that in real-world perspective, the machine mustered only 16 frames per second (fps) when playing F.E.A.R. and 6.7fps on Company of Heroes. While the ProBook's graphics scores are a little lower than those of the ThinkPad SL500, neither system can handle modern gaming.

The lower-priced ProBook 4510s models come with a six-cell battery, but our SKU included an eight-cell power pack that delivered exactly 3 hours of runtime on our harsh DVD-rundown test, which should equate to 5 to 6 hours under more judicious use. (Again, compare that with Lenovo’s 2 hours and 12 minutes on the ThinkPad SL500.) Opting for the six-cell battery instead would save you $50, but you'd also forgo the laptop's Bluetooth connectivity; the lesser battery lasted 2 hours and 11 minutes.

HP backs the ProBook 4510s with a one-year warranty with 24/7 phone support. For small-business buyers on a budget, the model represents a compelling value. In our test configuration, you can get better performance and battery life with this system than with the Lenovo ThinkPad SL500. And for just a little more than $500 for the base model, you can still get a big screen and plenty of features.

See Our Slide Show!
Price (at time of review): $749



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