The aluminium-finished HP ProBook 5330m looks a lot more expensive than it actually is. It’s a $999, 13.3in laptop with a full-voltage Second Generation Intel Core i3 CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive located in its 17mm thin chassis. It’s designed for business users who want something reasonably small and stylish that can be easily transported to and from work, and we think it’s a great proposition considering its low price.
Specifications, performance and battery life
A Core i3-2310M CPU (a Core i5 model is also available) gives the ProBook 5330m good speed for typical office and Web tasks and it’s also adequate for tougher tasks such as video transcoding and editing. It performed as expected in our tests: it recorded 57sec in the Blender 3D rendering test, 1min 7sec in the iTunes MP3 encoding test, and 1hr 7min in the AutoGordianKnot video transcoding test. The Blender and iTunes times are almost identical to both the Toshiba Satellite C660 and the Dell Inspiron 15R N5110, which are sub-$1000 consumer notebooks that use the same CPU. The ProBook was faster than the Dell in the video transcoding test.
Intel HD 3000 graphics are integrated in the CPU, and notched up a score of 3487 in 3DMark06. It’s a faster result than the Dell and Toshiba notebooks. In our hard drive test, a transfer rate of 33.12 megabytes per second was recorded by the 7200rpm, 500GB hard disk, and this is also a faster result than both the Dell and Toshiba consumer laptops. A solid state drive is optional.
The battery life of the ProBook 5330m isn’t good though. In a bid to make the unit look clean and classy, the battery has been constructed to sit within the chassis and not protrude at all. It’s a slim, 4-cell battery with a 41 Watt-hour rating and it only lasted 2hr 21min in our rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi maximise brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video.
Even while using the notebook for basic Web browsing and creating documents, we found ourselves getting caught out much sooner than expected compared to other recent notebooks we’ve reviewed. At most, we got three hours out of it before having to find the charger. There are no other battery options.
Build quality and user comfort
The charger itself is very slim (17mm) and light, and perfect for travelling — it even has a USB charging port built in, which can charge devices faster than the notebook’s USB ports. We had no problems carrying the ProBook 5330m to and from the office regularly. However, it isn’t MacBook Air-like in its dimensions or weight: it has an overall thickness of 25mm when closed, weighs just under 2kg and actually feels a little too heavy.
But it also feels very solidly built. Indeed, despite its low price point, the 5330m doesn’t feel cheaply made. Anodised aluminium panels give the chassis and the lid good strength (as well as looks), while the bottom panels are made from magnesium alloy. Only the plastic-finished hinges look a little cheap.
It’s a very simple notebook to service. The battery cover can be removed without tools and, once removed, it exposes three screws which can then be undone so that the main panel can be removed. There two RAM slots (one free) that make it easy to add or replace RAM; the 2.5in hard drive is held by three screws. Our test model had a dual-band Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 Wi-Fi module installed, and there was also space (and antenna connections) next to it for a mobile broadband module. (A SIM card slot is present in the battery compartment, but the mobile module is optional.)
The overall user comfort of the 5330m is high. We really like its backlit and spill-resistant chiclet keyboard, which has full-sized keys that possess good travel and bounce. The backlight switches off after around 20 seconds of inactivity and switches on again when you press a key or nudge the touchpad. Its slightly purple colour looks great while typing at night. The 84x42mm touchpad feels smooth and is highly responsive, especially when performing multi-finger gestures. We love the matte screen, which isn’t susceptible to reflections, and which has good brightness and contrast for displaying photos and movies.
However, the ProBook 5330m tends to get rather warm when it’s not used on a hard, flat surface, which means using it for prolonged periods while resting it in your lap could get uncomfortable. The location of the fan’s vent is under the chassis, so it’s very easy to block, and the extraction vent has a tapered edge that can be just as easily obstructed when typing with the unit in your lap. Conversely, the aluminium palmrest can get very cool overnight and it will feel uncomfortably cold until the unit has been on for a while and the metal draws some heat from the hard drive and RAM, which are located under the palmrest
Around the edges, the ProBook 5330m has all of the usual ports and slots: three USB 2.0 ports (one is also an eSATA port), VGA, HDMI, a combination headphone and microphone port, Gigabit Ethernet, and an SD card slot. You also get Bluetooth, a webcam, and a fingerprint reader and TPM 1.2 that can be used for authetication in conjunction with the installed HP ProtectTools software. You don’t get USB 3.0 with this notebook, and we think that’s a little more than a minor drawback, even for a business model.
Despite being a business laptop, the ProBook 5330m has Beats Audio branding and features lots of equaliser settings to play with. For a small laptop, its tiny speakers are very good. While they understandably don’t have a deep bass response, the equaliser can be used to adjust their output and create an enjoyable music-listening experience while in a small room. In fact, pound-for-pound, we think it produces better quality audio than the Pavilion dv6 multimedia notebook.
The HP ProBook 5330m is a very enjoyable notebook to use on an everyday basis. It could use longer battery life and a USB 3.0 port, but for $999 we think it nevertheless represents good value for money: it’s well built, has a backlit keyboard, performs well and offers good security features.