HP ProBook 4710s (FM851UT) Review

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Pros: Above-average performance; Long battery life; Fast boot time; Sleek, understated design

Cons: Awkward touchpad buttons; No fingerprint reader

Verdict: For little more than a grand, this 17-inch notebook delivers good performance and battery life--not to mention a dose of style--for small business users.

Editors' Note:Portions of this review were taken from our review of the ProBook 4510s.

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In the wake of HP's excellentProBook 4510s, a 15.6-inch budget notebook for small business users, comes its big brother, the 17.3-inch 4710s. For $1,099, this sleek desktop replacement will exceed your expectations; its performance and battery life are above average, making it a sterling choice for business users seeking a big-screen notebook.

Design

With the exception of screen size, the 4710s is identical to the 4510s. It, too, has a glossy, fingerprint-prone black lid, with an interior whose textures include a glossy keyboard deck, a satin palm rest; and the speaker strip lines the top of the keyboard. Because the bezel is thin, it's easy to focus instead on the bright 16:9 display. As an added touch, the power and QuickLook 2 buttons and LED lights all glow turquoise blue, which also keeps the design interesting. At 6.6 pounds, the ProBook is light for a desktop replacement, and, indeed, we had no problem shuttling it around the office.

Keyboard and Touchpad

One of the freshest parts of the ProBook's design is its keyboard: it's the first HP laptop that features island-style keys. This layout makes any budget notebook look more refined. On the one hand, we took quickly to the keys' slightly textured, scratch-resistant finish, and their comfortable spacing. The deck has a number pad on the right, as does its 15-inch sibling. The keyboard is spill-resistant, to boot. On the other hand, as we typed, the keyboard felt rigid.

The touchpad's rubbery texture provides just the right amount of friction. The touch buttons, meanwhile, feel like piano keys. Instead of being straightforward push buttons, they're hinged at the top, so only the part closest to the edge of the notebook depresses. We would have preferred traditional buttons.

Display and Sound

The 17.3-inch (1600 x 900 display) looked bright when we watched the season finale of The Office on Hulu. Thanks to the matte finish, we comfortably watched from an oblique side angle, although the picture looked overexposed and washed out when we dipped the screen forward.

Although the speaker strip takes up an awful lot of space on the keyboard deck, the volume is hardly booming; it was loud enough for us to hear the show we were watching, but not nearly loud enough for an engrossing movie-watching or game-playing experience. And, as for the sound quality, its speakers sounded slightly tinny when we played the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army."

Ports and Webcam

The 4710s has a standard collection of ports and slots: four USB 2.0 ports, HDMI and VGA output, Ethernet, headphone, and mic jacks, a 4-in-1 memory card reader, and an ExpressCard/34 slot. None of the ports are on the back, which is a plus. Most are on the left side, whereas two of the USB ports are on the right, in front of the tray-loading DVD burner. The headphone and mic ports are on the front lip. Oddly, this small business machine lacks a fingerprint reader, something you'll find even on a slew of consumer notebooks.

The 2-megapixel webcam produced smooth VGA video, but we wish it were brighter. Also, even though we spoke at a normal volume, the mic didn't pick up our voice well; we had to crank it up to make out our voice, and, even then, it sounded faint. Our still photos showed good detail, such as the wrinkles in our shirt, but the lighting was bluish and dark. Although we like the HP webcam software's sleek, simple interface, we wish there was a pane, so that we could easily review recent photos and video captures.

Performance

Armed with a 2.53-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8700 CPU and 4GB of RAM, the 4710s delivered better benchmark scores than the average desktop replacement, an impressive feat given that the category includes more powerful workstations and gaming rigs. On PCMark Vantage, it scored 3,795, which is about 200 points above average. Moreover, it booted up in just 46 seconds, which is a full 22 seconds faster than the average Vista notebook.

The 4710s' 500GB 5,400 rpm hard drive fell a bit short of the category average, however. It transferred a 4.97GB mixed-media folder at a rate of 16.8 MBps, which, although respectable, is slower than the average rate of 22.2 MBps. Still, that rate is adequate, and certainly commensurate with the budget price tag.

In our hands-on testing, the 4710s was able to keep up as we switched back and forth among six open tabs in Internet Explorer, clicking through stories on a few blogs, expanding comment threads, and loading images on JCrew.com, where we did some shopping. All the while, the computer downloaded and installed jZip and Handbrake without interrupting our Web surfing.

We transcoded a 5-minute-and-5-second MP4 clip to AVI using Handbrake, the 4710s in 6 minutes and 8 seconds. When we repeated the test while zipping our 4.97GB mixed-media folder in the background, it took 11:22. These times fall below the category averages (4:50 and 8:34, respectively), but that's not so bad when you consider that the $3,242HP EliteBook 8730wdidn't fare much better, completing the same tests in 5:28 and 9:46, respectively.

Graphics

Although its 3DMark06 score falls a whopping 3,460 points below the average (remember, gaming rigs almost fall into the desktop replacement category), the 4710s' score of 2,384 is still sufficient for smooth everyday computing, and then some. The discrete ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330 graphics card even managed 40 frames per second on Far Cry 2 when the resolution was set to 1024 x 768. That doesn't compare to the category average of 71 fps, of course, but it's still playable. On the other hand, we don't recommend using the 4710s to play graphically intensive games at their maximum settings. On Far Cry 2, for example, the 4710s slowed to a crawl of 10 fps.

Battery Life and Wi-Fi

The eight-cell battery lasted 3 hours and 53 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test. Not that you're likely to leave this machine unplugged often, but it is worth noting that the battery life is way above average for a desktop replacement; the typical notebook of this size lasts just 2:57.

The Intel WiFi Link 5100 wireless-N radio delivered throughput of 20.6 Mbps and 16.7 Mbps at 15 and 50 feet, respectively. That's better than the category averages, which are 19.5 Mbps and 16.0 Mbps.

Security and Durability

Although the 4710s has a spill-resistant keyboard and 3D accelerometer to protect the hard drive in the event of drops, you'll have to opt for something from the higher-end EliteBook line to get a magnesium alloy chassis, and HP's scratch-resistant DuraKey finish. The 4710s also lacks a fingerprint reader, which is not an option here, but comes standard with EliteBooks.

The 4710s does have plenty of business-friendly software designed to keep the system secure and running optimally. These programs include HP ProtectTools Security Manager Suite; Device Access Manager; HP SpareKey (for when you forget your login password); HP Disk Sanitizer; Drive Encryption for HP ProtectTools; Credential Manager; File Sanitizer; and HP QuickLook 2, an instant-on OS that requires Microsoft Outlook.

Configurations

Our $1,099 configuration, the FM851UT, is one of two preconfigured models. The other, the $899 FM850UT, has a 2.1-GHz CPU, 3GB of RAM, and a 320GB hard drive. It, too, has an eight-cell battery, discrete ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330 graphics, 802.11n, and Bluetooth 2.0.

If you like, you can configure the 4710s in myriad ways. CPU options range from a 2.1-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6570 to a 2.8-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9600 ($350). While this notebook comes standard with 3GB of RAM, you can save $50 by opting for 2GB, or add $50 for 4GB of RAM. (If you choose a 64-bit OS, the system will accommodate up to 8GB of RAM.) A 320GB 5,400 rpm drive is standard; you can subtract $50 for a 250GB drive, $100 for a 160GB drive, or get a 500GB drive for $100 more.

The 2-MP webcam is a $30 option, as opposed to having no webcam at all. You can also upgrade to a Blu-ray drive for $150. If you wanted to shave $5 off the price, you could get a Broadcom wireless-N adapter instead of the Intel WiFi Link 5100 radio. All configurations come with ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330 graphics, including 512MB dedicated memory, and an eight-cell battery.

Software and Warranty

The budget 4710s comes with a modest amount of bundled software and trialware. These programs include InterVideo WinDVD 8, Microsoft Office 2007, PDF Complete, Roxio Creator Business, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo Toolbar.

The 4710s has a one-year parts and labor warranty, including 24/7 toll-free phone support. If you want longer protection, step up to HP's EliteBook line, which come standard with three-year warranties.

The Verdict

There are plenty of desktop replacement notebooks with more graphics power and overall performance than the HP ProBook 4710s. But, if you're on a tight budget and need a big screen, this system provides plenty of speed and the features small business customers want at an affordable price.

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
CPU 2.53-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8700
Operating System MS Windows Vista Business (32-bit)
RAM 4GB
RAM Upgradable to 4GB
Hard Drive Size 500GB
Hard Drive Speed 5,400rpm
Hard Drive Type SATA Hard Drive
Display Size 17.3
Native Resolution 1600x900
Optical Drive DVD /-RW DL
Optical Drive Speed 8X
Graphics Card ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330
Video Memory 512MB
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth Bluetooth 2.0
Mobile Broadband
Ports (excluding USB) Kensington Lock
Ports (excluding USB) Headphone
Ports (excluding USB) HDMI
Ports (excluding USB) Ethernet
Ports (excluding USB) VGA
Ports (excluding USB) Microphone
USB Ports 4
Card Slots 4-1 card reader
Warranty/Support One-year parts and labor/24/7 toll-free phone
Size 16.2 x 10.6 x 1.3 inches
Weight 6.6 pounds
Company Website http://www.hp.com