The HP ProBook 4520s is a small and medium business notebook that replaces the older 4510s from last year. The new model bumps the configuration from the older Intel Core 2 Duo family of processors to the newer Intel Core line, including the Core i3, i5 and i7 processors. In this review we look at what's changed and how the latest model stacks up against its predecessor.
Our HP ProBook 4520s Specifications:
The HP ProBook 4520s has a clean and semi-rugged outside appearance; a step up from the previous generation model. The screen cover instead of being plastic on the 4510s is now brushed metal which feels stronger and looks much nicer. The new metal cover keeps a clean appearance, hides most fingerprints and resists mild scratching from day to day abuse. The inside gets the same treatment with the bronze, anodized, brushed-metal finish for its palmrest and speaker grill.
Besides those changes the notebook retains much of the same design as the previous model. The keyboard is a chiclet design with a glossy black plastic inlay, continuing to the screen bezel which shares the same look. The bottom of the notebook has the same clean design at the expense of removing access to all user-upgradable parts.
Build quality is very good and a step up from the older model. The brushed metal lid gives the 4520s some much needed strength and screen protection that the plastic lid on the previous model lacked. The palmrest and speaker grill also gained some rigidity and now offer very little flex under strong pressure. The chassis as a whole feels very well built but still a step below full business notebooks like the EliteBook or ThinkPad series. The keyboard tray has some minor flex under pressure which wouldn't be a problem on the more expensive models.
Another area of questionable design is the lack of upgrade access which has its strengths and weaknesses. The solid bottom cover has very little flex, which you might find if the bottom was covered in individual panels. On the other hand, the lack of access makes it more difficult to replace defective components or upgrade items down the line.
Screen and Speakers
The ProBook 4520s comes equipped with a 15.6" anti-glare display with a 16:9 widescreen ratio. At 1366 x 768 pixels, this 720p high-definition display is perfectly usable and features good color and contrast. We know many people are concerned about the transition from 16:10 to 16:9 ratio screens (because this means less vertical resolution) but the difference is so minor that the vast majority of notebook users will never have a problem.
Horizontal viewing angles are quite impressive and you only start to notice some color shift after you get 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 matte finish really helped out a lot with the steeper viewing angles, since glossy panels can sometimes pick up reflections that overpower the screen at certain viewing angles.
The speakers on the HP ProBook 4520s performed roughly on average with other small and medium business notebooks. Compared to most consumer notebook speakers they left a lot to be desired, but for light music listening or catching your favorite TV show streaming on the road they should be more than adequate. Peak volume levels were fine for a small or medium size room. Bass and midrange were lacking, but that was par for the course with most notebooks in this class.
The full-size keyboard on the 4520s shares the same design as the one found on the 4510s and provides fantastic spacing between keys for typing as well as 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. Keep in mind, however, that we received a pre-production unit, and HP claims that the production units shipping to customers have even better support against flex.
The individual key presses are quiet without loud clicking sounds as you type. The depth of each key press is excellent, though some people may dislike the flat, chicklet-style keys. Overall the keyboard layout is extremely nice for a 15-inch laptop.
Overall the touchpad was very sensitive and easy to use (not including the aforementioned problems). Tracking speed was excellent and we had no problems with input lag. Multitouch gestures were quickly recognized and worked smoothly. The touchpad refresh rate was very high, allowing us to draw fast circles with very little trailing effect on the cursor. If the touchpad didn't have the problems associated with the left and right buttons with fingers resting on the surface, it would have been one of the nicer models we have used on a notebook.
Ports and Features
Port selection on the HP ProBook 4520s is good for a small-business notebook but it seems there is room leftover that could have been used for additional ports. The notebook has three USB 2.0 ports, one eSATA/USB combo port, VGA and HDMI-out, LAN, dialup modem, and audio jacks. The system also features an ExpressCard/34 slot and SDHC-card reader for expansion.
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