HP's B series ProBooks are all about marrying sleek professional looks with affordability and performance. And the ProBook 6460b lives up to that mission statement with an attractive, durable design and Core i3 power inside. At $799, this laptop is a tempting pick for those with a small budget. How tempting? Read on.
The bead-blast aluminum lid on the ProBook 6460b not only looks sophisticated, it's also effective at keeping smudges to a minimum. The rest of the chassis is made of magnesium-reinforced ABS plastic. To prevent damage from spills, the 6460b uses a bottom-case drain, which works in combination with the spill-resistant keyboard.
At 13.3 x 9.1 x 1.3 inches and 5.2 pounds, the ProBook 6460b certainly isn't the lightest 14-inch business laptop around. For example, the 14-inch ThinkPad Edge E420s weighs 4.4 pounds and has a thinner 1.2-inch profile. The pricier HP EliteBook 8460p weighs a heftier 5.4 pounds, but it's also more durable than the ProBook 6460b.
After we played a video at full screen for 15 minutes, the keyboard and touchpad on the ProBook 6460b only reached 83 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. The center of the bottom only reached 86. This is among the coolest-running notebooks we've tested this year.
Keyboard and Trackpad
HP's island-style keyboard on the ProBook 6460b gets the job done, but it could be better. While the layout is spacious enough, the keys are flat and don't offer the strongest tactile feedback. We also wish that the Backspace key weren't undersized, as we kept accidentally hitting the Home key right next to it.
The ProBook 6460b's 3.9 x 1.8-inch touchpad is comfortably wide and has a friction-free matte texture for easy navigation. This Synaptics pad is capable of multitouch gestures, but two-finger scrolling didn't work some of the time. Pinch-to-zoom was jerky, and we noticed lag with three-finger gestures.
The two mouse buttons on this laptop turned us off. Not only are they narrow, but the feedback is mushy.
Display and Audio
The 14-inch display on the ProBook 6460b produces a fairly bright image, and the matte finish means you won't be bothered by glare. When we watched an HD trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2, colors looked accurate and the action was smooth. Just don't expect wide viewing angles for giving presentations to more than two people at once.
Located on the bottom-left side of the laptop, the ProBook 6460b's speaker produces plenty of volume. Not only could we hear over medium background noise, but the audio also had a modicum of depth to it. That's thanks to the SRS Premium Sound drivers. On the audio configuration screen, we were even able to improve the quality of John Barrowman's "All Out Of Love" by choosing the Voice audio enhancement, which brought the center forward. We noted present, but not strong, bass when listening to Tricky Pixie's "Alligator in the House." The Harry Potter trailer also got surprisingly loud.
Ports and Webcam
In line with its business DNA, the ProBook comes with a few ports you don't see on many mainstream notebooks: a modem, a DisplayPort, and a FireWire port. There's also an ExpressCard/54 slot. On the bottom you'll find a docking connector and the secondary battery connector.
The included webcam is capable of recording 720p video and taking stills at up to 640 x 480 resolution. When we were chatting over Skype, the camera auto-adjusted for backlighting with overhead fluorescents, but it did so slowly and often unnecessarily. While recorded video looked clear enough, the audio was slightly out sync with the video.
The ProBook 6460b is powered by a 2.1-GHz Intel Core i3-2310M CPU backed by 4GB of RAM. This is why the machine costs just $799 for this configuration, but is the performance trade-off worth the money you save versus Core i5 business notebooks? In PCMark Vantage, the 6460b turned in a score of 5,532, which is slightly below the thin-and-light notebook category average of 5,584. The 15-inch Dell Vostro 3550 ($682), which has the same processor, notched a higher score of 5,914. The 15-inch, Core i5-powered ProBook 4530s ($729; 2.3-GHz Intel Core i5-2410M; 4GB of RAM) turned in a score of 6,220, but it's not as portable as the 14-inch 6460b.
The 320GB, 7,200-rpm hard drive inside the ProBook 6460b completed the LAPTOP File Transfer Test in 2 minutes and 46 seconds for a transfer rate of 30.7 MBps. Though comfortably above the average (25.8 MBps), the ProBook isn't quite as fast as the competition, scoring just under the ThinkPad Edge E420s (31.6) and well under the ProBook 4530s (38). Still, the 55-second boot time is quite speedy; 10 seconds faster than most notebooks in this category.
The notebook converted a 114MB MP4 file into AVI in 1 minute, 16 seconds with Oxelon Media Converter. This is not only slower than the average thin-and-light laptop (58.1 seconds), but also behind the 6460b's competitors. We'd suggest that users step up to the Core i5 model of this system, which at least as of this writing cost a very reasonable $814.
Intel's integrated graphics (HD 3000) earned the ProBook 6460b a 3DMark06 score of 3,741, which is comparable to the category average (3,722). Surprisingly, this score is slightly above both the ThinkPad Edge and the ProBook 4530s (3,627 and 3,633) with the same graphics chip.
The system handled HD video played from the hard drive and streamed online just fine. Even during languid scenes, we noticed no hitching, and the notebook handled transitions from light to dark well, without any pixelation or blocking in the color.
As expected, you won't get much gaming oomph from this machine. The highest frame rate we saw on World of Warcraft was 27 fps with the resolution at 1366 x 768 and graphics set to Good.
Battery Life and Wi-Fi
HP claims that the six-cell (55 Whr) battery that comes standard with the ProBook will last up to 7 hours and 15 minutes. On our test, it came very close to hitting that mark, surfing the web over Wi-Fi for 6 hours, 56 minutes. That's almost two hours above average and well above the 15-inch ProBook 4530s (4:53). The Edge E420s and the Portege R835 come close (6:41 and 6:22), but the ProBook 6460b's less-intensive processor wins out in this round.
A strong wireless signal is always a good thing for a laptop that's designed to be portable, and the Broadcom 43224AG radio inside this notebook didn't disappoint. We measured throughput at a blistering 50.7 Mbps at 15 feet from our router. This only dropped to 30.5 Mbps 50 feet away. In this category, the 6460b beats the average (35.5/21.8) and all of the competition.
Small Business and Security Tools
One of the big draws of the HP ProBook 6460b is its robust security software. The laptop comes with HP Protect Tools, one of our favorite security suites. Within are wizards to quickly set up Windows passwords and protect and manage passwords for web services. You also get a choice of authentication methods, including face recognition, fingerprint ID, and smart card cadapter. After we set it up, we were easily able to log into this laptop through a swipe of our finger or just with our face.
Other welcome security tools include Drive Encryption, which makes data unreadable if the ProBook is lost or stolen. If you are worried about loss or theft, you can also activate Computrace, which can remotely delete your data and track your system down. The Premium package that includes these features costs $42.89 per year. Lastly, it's possible to enable a BIOS-level password for added security.
Software and Warranty
Aside from the security tools mentioned above, HP includes a nice suite of software and utilities with the ProBook 6460b.
We like HP's DayStarter utility, which shows your calendar and battery charge level as the machine boots into Windows. Another convenience, HP's QuickWeb 3.0, is an instant-on environment that launches the 6460b into a simple yet very functional interface for getting online without Windows. Activated by hitting a dedicated key located on the top right of the deck, it provides at-a-glance info such as weather, time, stocks, social networks, news headlines and a calculator. QuickWeb also includes a version of Thunderbird, so users can check e-mail and Skype. Users can even set up printers, external monitors, and network proxies from QuickWeb. It's a handy tool for travelers who need to get in the loop fast.
The HP Power Assistant utility is more robust than Windows 7's existing power options, though it mirrors some of that functionality. Not only can you control what power profile the notebook is using, but it also shows how many watts are being used and how much wattage certain elements take up, and it can give a summary of your power usage over time. The tool can also collect and export power data--something more useful for IT managers than for many SMB users, but nice to have on board. We particularly like the ability to schedule changes in power profiles. This utility also has a Battery Health Checker, which is useful as batteries get older.
The only productivity software included is Microsoft's ad-supported Office Starter 2010. For antivirus protection, a 60-day trial version of Norton Internet Security 2011 is on board. Windows Virtual PC software is also available.
HP backs the ProBook 6460b with a one-year limited warranty and a one-year warranty on the primary battery. The on-board HP Support Assistant will help owners maintain the pre-loaded software, troubleshoot issues, and put them in contact with support reps if needed. HP Care Pack Services are also available, as is an extended three-year warranty. Check out HP fared in our Tech Support Showdown.
Configurations and Add-ons
If you dig the ProBook's style but want better performance, there are multiple options at reasonable prices. HP is currently selling a 2.3-GHz Core i5 version of this laptop for just $14 more than the configuration we reviewed, though it previously cost $100 more, at $899. You can also step up to a 2.5-GHz Core i5 CPU and order the 6460b with a touchpad and pointing stick.
Businesses can also configure a ProBook B series model to their liking on HP's website. Choices there include: Windows 7 Professional and Home Premium plus SUSE Linux; a Core i7 CPU option; AMD Radeon HD 6470M discrete graphics; mobile broadband; hard drives ranging from 250GB up to 700GB, self-encrypting drives, and 128GB and 160GB SSDs; Blu-ray optical drive or a secondary hard drive in the same bay; and a smart card slot.
Battery options include a three-cell, a nine-cell, and a long-life six-cell that promises a three-year life span and steady performance over that time. HP also offers Ultra Extended Life Notebook Batteries that are rated to provide up to 20 hours of usage and can charge while connected to the dock. Compatible docks range from $179 to $299 for this model.
The $799 HP ProBook 6460b is an attractive business notebook for a good price with robust security features. If you don't need a lot of muscle, the Core i3 version we reviewed is a solid choice, but those looking for more performance should upgrade to the Core i5 version. Among 14-inch small business laptops, we prefer the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E420s, which has a superior keyboard and touchpad. But the ProBook 6460b's long battery life, durable chassis, and strong audio make it a viable choice.