The HP ProBook 650 G2 is the business laptop for those who want the past and the future in one system. The 15-inch notebook ($760 as tested; $1,167 as reviewed) provides a 1080p display and a USB Type-C port, as well as an optical disc drive and a serial port. Companies making the transition to the latest hardware will be able to maintain their legacy peripherals in the process, as long as they're willing to deal with a screen that isn't as vivid as competitors' panels and a keyboard that's slightly sticky.
The HP ProBook 650 G2 has an all-plastic, no-frills design that feels a bit cheap but keeps all of the focus on your work. The lid is matte black with HP's logo in reflective plastic. When you open the lid, you'll see the 15.6-inch, 1080p display surrounded by a chunky black bezel, as well as the full, backlit, island-style keyboard with a number pad and a shiny silver deck.
At 4.8 pounds and 14.9 x 10.1 x 1.1 inches, the ProBook 650 G2 falls in line with the competition, size-wise. The Toshiba Tecra Z50 (5 pounds, 15 x 10.1 x 0.9 inches) is a bit larger, the Lenovo ThinkPad T560 (4.8 pounds, 15 x 10.2 x 0.9 inches) is a little slimmer and the Dell Latitude E5570 (5.6 pounds, 14.8 x 9.9 x 0.9 inches) is slimmer but far heavier.
The ProBook 650 G2 has a port for just about everything. On the left side of the laptop, you'll find a lock slot, CD/DVD drive and smart card reader. The headphone jack, a USB Type-C port, a DisplayPort, a pair of USB 3.0 ports, an Ethernet jack, a SIM card slot and an SD card reader are on the right.
Still not enough? If you're still clinging to that gear from the '80s, you'll be happy to find a VGA output and serial port on the back of the machine.
Durability and Security
The ProBook should be able to handle getting knocked around on your commute. HP claims that the ProBook 650 is MIL-STD-810G tested to withstand drops, dust, vibrations and shocks. Additionally, the ProBook includes a spill-resistant keyboard.
It also has some built-in security features to keep your IT department happy. Models with vPro are available for remote management, and the computer uses TPM to encrypt sensitive data. Our Windows 7-powered review unit included a fingerprint reader. I was able to set up the reader easily using HP's Client Security software, but if you're using Windows 10, you could opt for Windows Hello.
The ProBook also includes HP BIOSphere technology, which can restore the system to a safe state if it is damaged or corrupted.
The 15.6-inch, 1080p display on the ProBook is very bright, but not incredibly vivid. When I watched the trailer for Justice League, I could see all of the sparks and lightning that indicate the Flash's superhuman speed, but actor Ezra Miller's red shirt appeared to be brown. A blue light on Cyborg's forehead appeared white.
In our tests, the ProBook's display reproduced 82.2 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which is less than the mainstream category average (92 percent), as well as the Latitude E5570 (107 percent) and the Tecra Z50 (117 percent). In this group, only the ThinkPad T560 (71 percent) was less vivid.
The display's Delta-E color accuracy score of 3.5 (zero is best) is worse than the mainstream average of 2.3. The Tecra Z50 did worse (4.2), while the ThinkPad T560 (0.6) and Latitude E5570 (0.7) had far better scores.
But when it came to brightness, the ProBook outshone the competition. It reached an average of 355 nits, surpassing the 269-nit average. The ThinkPad T560 (237 nits), Latitude E5570 (242 nits) and Tecra Z50 (285 nits) were dimmer.
Keyboard and Touchpad
I tripped over my own fingers when I typed on the ProBook's keyboard. While the keys have a comfy 1.5 millimeters of travel and require 58 grams of force to press down, I felt that the keys were a bit sticky and didn't pop up immediately after I pressed them. I typed just a tad more slowly than usual on the 10fastfingers.com tying test (104 words per minute, down from about 107 wpm), and my errors skyrocketed from my average of 2 percent to 6 percent.
The 4 x 2.2-inch Synaptics touchpad was smooth, accurate and responsive to gestures such as pinching to zoom and scrolling with two fingers.
The speakers on the ProBook can easily fill a room with sound. When I listened to Redbone's "Come and Get Your Love," I heard the guitars, sitar and vocals clearly from anywhere in a medium-size conference room. I could make out the drums, but I wish they stood out more, and I couldn't make out the bass at all.
The DTS Studio Sound software that comes preinstalled includes a few equalizer presets. Switch from Voice to Music for the best listening experience.
Our ProBook 650 review unit came with a 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-6600U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, and ran Windows 7. It was a fine multitasking machine, allowing me to keep 40 tabs open in Chrome (one streaming 1080p video from YouTube) before I noticed any lag.
The ProBook earned a score of 6,924 on the Geekbench 3 overall performance test, which fell short of the mainstream average (7,979) but beat the Tecra Z50 (Core i7-6600U; 6,843) and the ThinkPad T560 (Core i5-6300U; 6,210). The Latitude blew away the competition (12,148), thanks to its quad-core Core i7-6820HQ CPU.
It took 35 seconds for the ProBook to copy 4.97GB of mixed media files, which translates to 145.5 megabytes per second. While that's faster than the category average (139.1 MBps), the Latitude E5570 (159 MBps), the Tecra Z50 (186.2 MBps) and the ThinkPad T560 (181.8 MBps) all had faster SSDs.
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The ProBook completed our OpenOffice spreadsheet macro, which involves pairing 20,000 names and numbers, in 3 minutes and 43 seconds, which is quicker than the 4:40 category average. The Latitude E5570 (3:29) and the Tecra Z50 (3:42) were faster, but the ThinkPad T560 (4:14) was slower.
You won't be able to play any intense games on the ProBook 650. Its integrated Intel HD Graphics 520 aren't suited to play Doom, Grand Theft Auto V or Overwatch. The ProBook notched a score of 59,351 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics benchmark. The average, which includes some gaming PCs, is 79,540.
The ThinkPad T560 with the same integrated graphics performed worse (55,599), while the Latitude E5570 (91,399 with AMD Radeon R7 M360) and the Tecra Z50 (82,706 with Nvidia GeForce 930M) had higher scores, thanks to discrete graphics cards.
The ProBook's battery should get you through the workday. It survived for 8 hours and 14 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves browsing the web continuously over Wi-Fi. That's longer than the 6:40 mainstream category average, as well as the Latitude E5570 (7:17) and the Tecra Z50 (7:18). The ThinkPad T560 endured far longer, though; it lasted 10:10 with its standard three-cell battery and a whopping 21:03 with its extended battery.
The 720p webcam on the ProBook takes adequate photos. A sample image I shot was slightly grainy, but you could make out details such as the individual hairs on my head and the seams on my collar. The colors, however, were a bit cool.
Even if business negotiations get heated, the ProBook will stay cool. After streaming 15 minutes of HD video from Hulu, the bottom of the laptop hit 95 degrees Fahrenheit (matching our comfort threshold), the center of the keyboard reached 79 degrees and the touchpad measured 77.5 degrees.
Software and Warranty
The HP ProBook 650 G2 has a bit of preinstalled software, but at least a decent portion will be useful for work. Our test unit included Skype and a suite of software from CyberLink: PowerDVD for video playback, YouCam webcam software and Power2Go to burn discs. Curiously, the Desktop Burning Gadget app from CyberLink, which also burns discs, is included as well. The HP Software Setup program allows users to update drivers and install HP-recommended programs.
Our review unit was running Windows 7, but a majority of the available configurations come with Windows 10.
The $1,167 ProBook we reviewed included a 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-6600U CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a 1080p display, and ran Windows 7.
The $760 base model includes an Intel Core i5-6200U CPU; 4GB of RAM; a 500GB, 7,200-rpm HDD; and a 1366 x 768 display, and also runs Windows 7.
The most expensive preconfigured model costs $1,705 and comes with Windows 10; an Intel Core i5-6440HQ CPU; 8GB of RAM; a 500GB, 7,200-rpm HDD; and a 1366 x 768 display. This model is likely far more powerful, but I would recommend grabbing the SSD and 1080p display instead.
HP also makes the ProBook to order, and includes a wider variety of CPUs, operating systems (for everyone who wants FreeDOS or Windows 8), a touch screen, up to 16GB of RAM, SSDs or HDDs up to 1TB and the option to extend the warranty to three years (an extra $75).
The HP ProBook 650 G2 is a solid performer, with a battery that will last a full workday. Unfortunately, its screen, though very bright, isn't terribly vivid, and its keys tended to stick a bit when I typed.
For even better battery life, similar performance and an excellent keyboard, consider the Lenovo ThinkPad T560 (starting at $625, but you'll need an extended battery for 20+ hours).
But if you need a whole bunch of ports, including USB Type-C, and a disc drive, the ProBook 650 G2 will work for you.