by Jerry Jackson
The HP ProBook 4710s is a low-priced 17-inch business notebook designed to provide businesses with a good desktop replacement notebook without breaking the bank. If your company wants the HP Elitebook 8730w but has a tight budget, the ProBook 4710s might be a good alternative at a starting price of just $899. Is this budget-priced notebook as good as it sounds? Keep reading to find out.
Our pre-production review unit of the ProBook 4710s is configured as follows:
Build and Design
The HP ProBook 4710s, like the rest of the new HP ProBook family, is a low-cost business notebook designed specifically for small and medium businesses. Translation: this desktop replacement notebook needs to have a good balance of performance, security, reliability and extras all at an affordable price. Most notebooks designed for small and medium business tend to sacrifice build quality in order to help lower the cost of production and lower the cost to customers. On that note, the ProBook 4710s looks very similar to a HP EliteBook 8730w with all plastic construction, a new keyboard and all black finish.
The HP EliteBook line uses strong magnesium alloy chassis designs and premium internal components. In order to lower the cost and weight of the 17-inch ProBook 4710s, HP constructed this notebook mostly of plastic. The base of the laptop flexes heavily under pressure, the palmrests likewise bow when pressed firmly, and the back of the screen lid is similarly prone to flex. The plastics used in the 4710s will surely survive the typical use and abuse seen by most office desktop replacements, but the chassis might not survive multiple drops off a desk or the kind of abuse we expect the EliteBook series to handle with ease. The key point to remember in this section is that the ProBook 4710s looks pretty nice, but isn't designed to be a rugged mobile workhorse. Thankfully, HP still offers some good internal components to help make the ProBook 4710s a solid value.
The outer shell of the screen casing, like the rest of the notebook, is made of plastic. The lid is made of reflective, glossy plastic with the HP and ProBook logos printed in silver. The laptop screen housing is a mixture of firm and flexible materials. The frame around the screen is solid enough to prevent me from twisting the screen when force is applied, but the back of the lid is flexible enough that I was able to create ripples on the screen when I pressed on the back of the screen lid.
The simple black design of the ProBook series combines matte and glossy textures for a clean appearance without the personalized style of HP's consumer-oriented Pavilion line. Our review unit comes equipped with the "Noir" black finish but the smaller ProBook notebooks are also offered in a "Merlot" red color ... just in case black is too boring for your office.
Although it's fair to criticize the plastic construction, the 4710s still features hard drive shock protection in the form of HP 3D DriveGuard which will help to protect your hard drive in the event the laptop gets dropped or violently bumped. HP also includes HP ProtectTools with drive encryption, Device Access Manager, HP Spare Key (a program that helps employees access their computer in case they forget their password), HP Disk Sanitizer, File Sanitizer, and McAfee Security Solution for those small businesses that need reliability and ease of use but don't have the resources of a dedicated IT department.
However, I still have a hard time understanding why HP makes it so difficult to upgrade to the ProBook 4710s. Most notebooks have a removable panel (or panels) on the bottom of the notebook to access the RAM, hard drive, and wireless card. Not so with the ProBook 4710s. HP designed the ProBook series with a solid base so that you have to remove 10 screws and the entire top half of the chassis (including separate speaker grill, keyboard, and touchpad area) in order to replace or upgrade components. If you or your small IT department want to upgrade the RAM or replace a hard drive you've got to completely disassemble and reassemble the notebook to do it. Granted, many businesses will never upgrade their notebook and will simply use the stock configuration until the notebook is are replaced ... but the complexity of upgrades and repairs is something to keep in mind.
Screen and Speakers
The ProBook 4710s comes equipped with a 17.3" anti-glare display with a 16:9 widescreen ratio. At 1600 x 900 pixels, this high-definition display looks very nice with excellent details, good color and great contrast. We know many people are still concerned about the transition from 16:10 to 16:9 ratio screens (because this often means less vertical resolution) but since most 17-inch notebooks in this price range had WXGA+ screens (1440 x 900 pixels) the screen on the ProBook 4710s actually gives you more screen real estate ... not less.
Horizontal viewing angles are quite good and you only start to notice some color shift after you exceed 75 degrees off center. Vertical viewing angles are only average as the screen begins to wash out from above and colors begin to invert from below after about 45 degrees in either direction.
The speakers on the ProBook 4710s, like the speakers on the smaller 4510s, fail to impress. HP generally scores well with our editorial staff based on the quality of the speakers used in their notebooks. Unfortunately, while the audio quality from the 4710s is good enough for watching a webcast or hearing system sounds, the built-in speakers lack a full range of highs, middles, and lows. The highest volume settings are loud enough to fill an office with sound for a presentation, but audio begins to sound distorted at higher volume levels.
Despite the weak performance of the built-in speakers, they are well placed above the keyboard to direct sound up and toward the user. The headphone jack on the 4710s works well with the three different brands of earphones I used during the test. No static or other noise was noticed through the jack besides imperfections in the audio source itself.
Despite the weak performance of the built-in speakers, they are well placed above the keyboard to direct sound up and toward the user.
The headphone jack on the 4710s works well with the three different brands of earphones I used during the test. No static or other noise was noticed through the jack besides imperfections in the audio source itself.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The full-size keyboard on the 4710s is a new design that HP unveiled with the launch of the ProBook series. The keyboard provides extra spacing between the individual keys to help reduce typos and even includes a dedicated number pad (a major plus for businesses that use their computers for number crunching or data entry). Each key is relatively flat with a nice matte texture and the keys sit above a glossy black support frame. The support frame surrounding the keys is quite firm thanks to the design of the chassis which adds additional support for the keyboard. The only obvious area of flex in the keyboard is when you press on the number pad keys.
The height of the keys seems a bit much since they sit so far above the surrounding frame that dust or crumbs might settle beneath the keys. Other than that, this is a nice keyboard. The individual key presses are quiet without loud clicking sounds as you type. The throw of each key press is excellent, though some people may dislike the flat, chicklet-style keys. Overall the keyboard layout is nice and large ... like you expect to see on a 17-inch desktop replacement notebook.
The touchpad is very responsive to my touch with a scroll zone on the right side that works exactly as it should. The touchpad texture feels fine, but the plastics used seem to be the kind that will develop wear over time and use. The plastic touchpad buttons are about the right size, but require a deep press in order to register a click. This wouldn't be a problem if the area directly beneath the touchpad buttons was indented to allow the side of your thumb to press the buttons all the way down. Unfortunately, when you try to press the touchpad buttons your thumb hits the bottom edge of the notebook. This problem is compounded by the fact that if you press the outside edges of the touchpad buttons it's possible to press them without the buttons actually registering the click.
We would have also liked to see a dedicated touchpad disable button (like the ones HP uses on their consumer notebooks) so that you can disable the touchpad if you're using an external mouse.
Ports and Features
The 4710s features a good balance of ports on both the left and right sides, so let us take a brief tour ...
Left side: Here we see the Kensington Lock slot, GigE Ethernet, heat exhaust, VGA out, HDMI, an ExpressCard/34 slot, and two USB ports.
Rear side: The battery and hinges.
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