The HP ProBook line of business notebooks has always attempted the meet the needs of businesses and consumers alike. The new HP ProBook 5330m looks like the perfect solution if you want a powerful, aluminum-wrapped laptop for work and play but can’t afford a MacBook Pro. Is it possible to find a lust-worthy business laptop for $899 or less? Keep reading to find out.
Build and Design
Let’s be honest. Anyone who thinks the new HP ProBook 5330m wasn’t designed to directly compete with the 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro is likely suffering from some type of delusion. The 13.3-inch ProBook 5330m combines all the aluminum-clad beauty of the MacBook Pro with the Windows-based business features of the HP Elitebook laptops.
The 5330m is less than 1-inch thin (if you don’t count the rubber feet on the bottom of the notebook), features a dual-tone color scheme, brushed aluminum chassis and backlit keyboard and is HP’s first business notebook to offer “Beats Audio” with software-enhanced audio playback over the built-in speakers and the earphone jack. The ProBook 5330m features a 13.3-inch anti-glare display (1366×768) and second-generation Intel Core i-series processors, including the dual-core i3 and i5 variants. It does not have an internal optical drive but weighs only 4.0 lbs.
The design is a quantum leap over most of the previous HP ProBook laptops — which are mostly just low-cost alternatives to the enterprise-class HP EliteBook line. The 5330m gives you the durability of aluminum construction combined with an underside made of magnesium alloy and covered in rubberized black paint similar to what you’ll find on the Lenovo ThinkPad line of business-rugged notebooks.
Overall, the build is exceptionally strong for a notebook that has a starting price of just $799. At first glance the build and design has a lot of drool-worthy elements for both IT geeks and average computer users. Of course, you can’t have everything on a budget.
Ports and Features
Most notebooks designed for business have an impressive array of ports so you can connect your laptop to any number of devices. Unfortunately, HP didn’t include that many ports since the ProBook 5330m was designed for budget-conscious businesses and consumers. Of course, you also don’t get a built-in DVD drive. What you do get are two USB 2.0 ports (three if you count the eSATA/USB 2.0 port), Ethernet, VGA, HDMI, an SD card reader and a headset jack.
Gone are the days of ExpressCard expansion slots, FireWire or dedicated microphone and headphone jacks. HP decided to offer HDMI on the 5330m rather than DisplayPort since more consumers will likely connect their notebook to consumer-grade monitors or HDTVs. The only connection I’m disappointed isn’t here is a USB 3.0 port. USB 3.0 is the new USB standard and we’re seeing more and more external storage and accessories take advantage of the faster speeds offered by this port. I understand that HP was aiming for a street price of $899 or less, but this 5330m should have come with USB 3.0.
The 5330m’s small four-cell battery lasted three hours and twenty-six minutes in our battery rundown test, which involves playing a movie off the hard drive over and over with WiFi on and the screen’s brightness set to 65 percent. Typically, we like to remind readers that that’s a taxing test, and that you might expect longer battery life if you plan on staying inside your browser. In this case, though, we were on track for a similar time of four hours when we went about our usual routine, which includes checking and responding to Gmail messages, reading various blogs, streaming music through Grooveshark, and writing reviews, like this one. After an hour of doing all those things in the cloud, our battery life rating fell 30 percent.
The real shame here isn’t so much the battery life, since the X1 notched a near-identical score with a similar processor-graphics card combo. (To be fair, of course, the low-powered MacBook Air made it nearly five hours, while the Samsung Series 9 came close to four and a half.) Rather, we have a bigger problem with the fact that this business laptop, of all things, isn’t offered with an extended or slice battery, which is how Lenovo is compensating for the X1’s less-than-stellar longevity. You can buy a spare for $86.89, and extands the battery life with the replacement battery.
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