The HP ProBook 4720s is a new 17-inch notebook aimed at small and medium business users. Replacing the older 4710s, this model adds the newer Intel Core i3 and i5 processors with ATI Radeon 4350 dedicated graphics. Read on to see how well it holds up to our tests and if you should consider adding it to your arsenal of business machines.
HP ProBook 4720s Specifications:
• 17-inch HD+ display with LED backlighting (1600x900)
• Windows 7 Professional (64-bit)
• Intel Core i5 430M (2.26GHz, 3MB cache)
• ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4350 with 512MB VRAM
• 4GB DDR3 RAM
• 500GB 7200RPM hard drive (Seagate st9500420as)
• Atheros AR9285 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth
• DVD SuperMulti (+/- Double Layer) with Labelflash
• Warranty: 1-Yr Parts and Labor, 1-Year Battery
• 8-cell Li-ion battery (73Wh)
• Weight: 6.92lbs
• Dimensions: 16.17 x 10.49 x 1.11 inches
• Price as configured: $1,059
Build and Design
The 4720s has a clean and stylish appearance with a brushed metal exterior finish. The brushed metal is found on the screen cover as well as the palmrest inside the notebook. The dark copper or bronze finish complements almost any business attire and looks very professional. Inside the notebook the interior trim is split between the brushed metal finish and a glossy black trim around the keyboard. Both finishes hold up to most types of day-to-day abuse, including light scratches and fingerprints.
Build quality is very good; the metal finish adds strength to the screencover and prevents excessive flex. There were no screen distortions even when heavy pressure was applied to the back of the cover, meaning it did its job in protecting the LCD underneath. Compared to the older design which was entirely made of plastic, the new design not only looks better but also feels much stronger. Overall we were very pleased with the look and feel of the ProBook 4720s.
The ProBook 4720s was not designed to be easily upgraded by the end-user, since its target market is the business world. For a regular consumer looking to purchase a notebook with slightly better build quality, they might be displeased with the effort required to access the RAM or hard drive. Neither includes a simple access panel; instead, the entire notebook must come apart.
Screen and Speakers
The ProBook 4720s comes equipped with a 17.3-inch anti-glare display with a 16:9 widescreen ratio. At 1600 x 900 pixels, this high-definition display looks very nice with excellent detail, 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 4720s actually gives you more screen real estate, not less.
Color saturation was slightly above average compared to other similarly sized notebook screens, but with a matte finish it loses some of the contrast and color increases of a glossy design. Viewing angles were also slightly better than the norm, with colors staying consistent even when tilted 15-20 degrees forward or back. Viewing brightness was excellent for bright office conditions, and with the matte finish it might be partially readable outdoors in a spot of shade.
The speakers on the ProBook 4720s were less than impressive for a 17-inch notebook. Most consumer notebooks in this size use the increased real estate for high quality speakers and sometimes even a subwoofer. Compared to most consumer notebooks, the speakers rate below average. For streaming music or participating in a VOIP conference call they should be fine, but don't expect the best when it comes to enjoying a high-def movie. Headphones would be the best option for watching movies on the road.
Keyboard and Touchpad
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 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 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 17-inch laptop.
HP updated the touchpad on the 4720s from the older 4710s, and the notebook now includes a button-free Synaptics ClickPad. The primary difference is a larger surface to use for making gestures and a cleaner appearance without additional buttons. With that said, we experienced some difficulties adjusting to the new format. If you are a notebook user who likes to rest their fingers on the touchpad buttons while you move your cursor around the screen you will be in for a world of surprise. Even in the defined touchpad button zones the touchpad picks up your stationary finger input and tries to incorporate it into a multitouch gesture. Pinch zoom is the gesture that most frequently activates; even after all multitouch gestures were disabled we still noticed the cursor would "hop" around the desktop. This is very similar to the experience we had with the Dell Inspiron 11z (insert link) which had an Elantech button-free touchpad. Making the touchpad button areas a "dead zone" would completely resolve this problem.
As a whole, 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
The HP ProBook included three USB 2.0 ports, (mention lack of USB3.0 ports?) one eSATA/USB combo port, VGA and HDMI-out, Ethernet, and even a legacy modem. Expansion slots include a SDHC-card reader and an ExpressCard/34 slot. The notebook also features a tray-loading DVD-burner.
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