HP EliteBook 6930p (Long Lasting Battery) Review

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$2085
Editors' rating:
The Pros

Unprecedented 14 hours of battery life (with extended battery); Strong overall performance; Fast solid state drive; Durable, elegant design

The Cons

Heavy with extra battery; Weak graphics performance

Verdict

This first-class business notebook returns with 14 hours of battery life--but considerably more heft.

[Editors' Note: Portions of this review were taken from the originalEliteBook 6930preview.]

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When we first reviewed the HP EliteBook 6930p, we gave it an Editors' Choice, praising its style, performance, and price. The one knock was its slightly below-average endurance, which HP has found a way to ameliorate. By adding an extended battery, solid state hard drive, and LED-backlit display, HP says that this EliteBook can last up to 14 hours--which it did on our tests. This longevity will be welcome for globe-trotting road warriors, but is the machine's 6-pound weight and $2,085 price tag worth it

Design

HP bills the 6930p as a business-rugged notebook, and with its brushed metal design, it looks both tough and elegant. It includes a brushed, anodized aluminum lid combined with a magnesium alloy chassis. Indeed, this 5.2-pound notebook is sturdy, but at 13.0 x 9.6 x 1.2 inches it's a bit wider and thicker than theDell Latitude E6400(13.2 x 9.4 x 1.0 inches).

Unfortunately, with the extended battery--a crucial component for getting that 14-hour battery life--the notebook weighs 6 pounds, unheard of for a thin-and-light or road warrior-worthy machine. The battery adds so much weight and heft to the backside of the notebook, that it can't lie flat when on a lap. However, the U-shaped extended battery provides a pleasant lift to the back of the machine when the notebook is sitting on a flat surface, making the typing experience slightly more ergonomic.

Inside, the matte-black, spill-resistant keyboard is offset by a brushed metal deck and upper panel, both of which match the lid. HP's DuraKeys feature a fingerprint-resistant UV coating that claims to be six times more scratch-resistant than HP's previous business notebooks. The only design element we found off-putting were the two holes flanking the touchpad, which is where the metal posts for the lid hook when the system is closed.

Above the keyboard are touch-sensitive controls for HP Info Center, which contains ProtectTools Security Manager and Connection Manager, Wi-Fi, Presentation Options, mute, and volume settings. The touch controls responded immediately and didn't require much pressure; all we had to do was tap.

The keyboard, which has a comfortable textured finish, was easy to type on and made little noise. Although the touchpad is well sized and has the right amount of friction, the touch buttons are a bit narrow and required more pressure than we preferred to activate.

Display and Audio

The 14.1-inch (1280 x 800) display looked muted when we watched an episode of Sex and the City on DVD, but, as with the other 6930p, the matte display also allowed for good viewing angles, both head-on and from the sides. Our display was LED-backlit (HP calls this feature Illumi-Lite), a critical ingredient for attaining 14 hours of battery life. Although the standard resolution doesn't change, users can opt for a display that isn't LED-backlit. This option shaves $50 off the price.

The audio, while not booming, was pleasant and not at all tinny. While watching the same episode of Sex and the City, for example, we felt immersed in the experience, and the volume was loud enough that we could listen comfortably from across our bedroom.

Ports

The 6930p has three USB 2.0 ports, FireWire and VGA ports, Ethernet and modem jacks, headphone and mic ports, an SD/MMC Card reader, fingerprint reader, and an ExpressCard/54 slot. Although a 2-megapixel webcam option is available, our unit did not come with an embedded camera.

The headphone and mic ports and two of the USB ports are on the left side of the system; one is on the right. The VGA port is on the back, the memory card reader on the front, and the Ethernet and modem jacks on the back end of the right side.

Performance

A 2.53-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 CPU combined with 2GB of RAM notched 3,123 on PCMark Vantage (a Vista benchmark), which is about 600 points lower than what the $1,399 configuration of the 6930p scored with a slightly slower CPU and 4GB of RAM, but 300 points higher than the average thin-and-light. We had no problem navigating between three windows in Internet Explorer, one of which had five tabs open. During our hands-on we simultaneously sent and received e-mails, explored Facebook, read a blog, and created a presentation in Zoho Show without a hiccup.

The 80GB Intel SA2MH080 61HP solid state drive booted Vista in a relatively brisk 53 seconds and transferred a 4.97GB file in just 2 minutes and 3 seconds, which translates to a blazing speed of 41.4 MBps (our first 6930p unit took 3:22 to complete this task). That's even faster than that of the 64GB SSD on the Lenovo ThinkPad X301, whose transfer rate of 32.4 MBps blew us away at the time of our review.

Graphics Performance

One trade-off HP had to make in extending the 6930p's battery life was to dilute its graphics performance. Its Intel GMA 4500MHD GPU scored 2,002 on 3DMark03, which, while about 800 points below the category average, is less than half the first 6930p unit's score of 4,597. On 3DMark06, which simulates more graphically demanding games, this configuration scored a weak 697, about half that of the thin-and-light average, and way below the first 6930p's score of 1,762. On F.E.A.R. it managed only 20 and 10 frames per second, respectively, on autodetect and maximum settings.

These graphics won't stop the notebook from speedily completing everyday tasks. But if you wanted to spend that long plane ride indulging your Far Cry 2 addiction, think again: you'll be limited to casual games.

Extremely Long Battery Life

To achieve such long battery life, HP combined an Intel solid state drive, LED-backlit display, and extended battery ($159). Our unit lasted 14 hours and 5 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi), which is right on target for HP's predicted endurance. It's by far the best battery score we've seen in any category; the second-best, the Dell Latitude E4300, lasted 10:59, and the Lenovo ThinkPad X200s held on for 10:43. Without the extended battery, the 6930p still lasted a very respectable 5:24.

Although we were unable to get official wireless throughput scores, the 802.11a/b/g/n wireless radio performed well; it smoothly streamed a four-minute clip on Vimeo, even when we had just a bar or two of connectivity. The 6930p is also available with mobile broadband; using Gobi technology, customers can opt for service from AT&T or Verizon Wireless.

Security Features

As the crown jewel of HP's business line, the EliteBook series offers plenty of security features for mobile professionals. For starters is the 3D accelerometer, which shifts the hard drive into a safe position whenever it detects sudden movement. You also get a fingerprint reader, located on the right side of the deck, and TPM circuitry. Although our unit did not have this, the 6930p can be configured to include Intel's vPro technology, a hardware solution that lets IT managers remotely manage and secure the system easily and faster.

On the software side, the 6930p has HP's QuickLook 2, which lets you press a button to get your e-mail, calendar, tasks, and contact information before the system boots. HP SpareKey makes forgetting your password less stressful by letting you configure three predetermined questions as an alternate form of authentication. HP Privacy Manager protects against identity theft by using digital signatures and encryption in e-mail and IM. Finally, HP File Sanitizer permanently deletes files and personally identifiable information.

Software and Warranty

As all business notebooks should, the 6930p comes with less bundled software than its consumer-oriented siblings. However, users can install recommended and optional software packages in the HP Software Setup by clicking the left-most touch-sensitive button on the keyboard deck.

The recommended software includes HP Update, Webcam, PDF Complete, HP Wireless Assistant, Embedded Security and Device Access Manager for HP ProtectTools, Privacy Manager, Roxio Creator Business 10.1, and InterVideo WinDVD 8. Optional software includes McAfee Total Protection, NewSoft Presto BizCard, HP QuickLook 2, and Windows Live Messenger.

The 6930p comes with a three-year warranty, including 24/7 toll-free phone support.

Verdict

If all-day endurance is what you're looking for, the HP EliteBook 6930p will satisfy with an unprecedented 14 hours of battery life, partly thanks to a blazing Intel SSD. However, it's heavier and clumsier, and its performance scores are lower than what you'd get with a $1,399 configuration. Because of its higher price and heavier weight, this configuration of the 6930p is best-suited for people who demand elegance, durability, and long battery life in one package--and don't mind schlepping a six-pound laptop.

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
CPU 2.53-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9400
Operating System MS Windows Vista Business
RAM 2GB
RAM Upgradable to 8GB
Hard Drive Size 80GB
Hard Drive Type SSD Drive
Display Size 14.1
Native Resolution 1280x800
Optical Drive DVD+/-RW DL
Optical Drive Speed 8X
Graphics Card Intel GMA 4500MHD
Video Memory 384MB
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth Bluetooth 2.0
Ports (excluding USB) Ethernet
Ports (excluding USB) Docking Connector
Ports (excluding USB) VGA
Ports (excluding USB) Modem
Ports (excluding USB) Microphone
Ports (excluding USB) Headphone
Ports (excluding USB) Firewire
USB Ports 3
Card Slots ExpressCard
Card Slots 2-1 card reader
Warranty/Support Three-year parts and labor/24/7 toll-free phone
Size 13.0 x 9.6 x 1.2 inches
Weight 6.0 pounds (with extended battery)
Company Website http://www.hp.com