Last week, we got an early look at some of HP’s new business-oriented notebooks – the ProBook 400 Series. Part of the company’s mid-year refresh, the new ProBooks pack some exciting technology inside, including Intel’s next-generation ‘Haswell’ CPUs (to be fair, HP was very careful to explicitly not say Haswell, likely on request from Intel).
The lineup includes models from both AMD and Intel, and for the most part it seems like AMD is a better partner this time around. New models like the 430, 440, 450, and 470 use Intel third-gen and fourth-gen (Haswell) Core CPUs; the 445 and 455 laptops use AMD CPUs. Some models come with optional optical drives, discrete AMD Radeon 8000M series GPUs, lots of RAM, hard drives or SSDs, etc.
HP’s new ProBooks aren’t encased in metal like some of their earlier entrants, though they do feature metal accents, and despite the extensive use of plastic, don’t feel overly cheap. There is also soft-touch plastic on the tops of the machines, which feels great in the hand. These new laptops are the first in HP’s newest attempt to bring together their entire lineup of PCs under a single design theme – we’ll see more computers later on that build upon some of the themes you see here.
The speakers for these computers have been moved to just below the screen, and they don’t sound half bad; while the Beats Audio branding is reserved for the company’s consumer and high-end notebooks, the ProBooks do get DTS-enhanced sound, as well as Skype-certified webcams built in.
Following the new design themes, the power/wireless/etc buttons have all been relocated, and should all be in the same spots on HP’s notebooks going forward.
I tried out the trackpads, and while I’m not sure of the manufacturer right now, they did feel responsive, with clear mapping. The buttons weren’t too mushy. Similarly, the full-sized keyboards felt great, with just a little flex present.
By and large the new computers felt fast, capable, and solid – and not too heavy, coming in at 3.3 pounds for the 13-inch ProBook 430. The ProBook 430 also happened to be my favorite of the set – it’s thin and reasonably light, and it looks great.
The one complaint I have with the new machines is the screen quality, which is subpar at best – at least, in the models that HP had on display recently. Viewing angles were only adequate, and the company only offers 1366×768 resolution on the 13-, 14-, and 15-inch models; the 17-inch model only moves up to 1600×900 – at 17 inches, 1920×1080 should really be a minimum standard.
If the displays aren’t super important to you, then HP’s new ProBooks have a lot to offer. They feature fast new CPUs, plenty of RAM, your choice of flash or spinning storage, and just about every networking protocol you might want, from Gigabit Ethernet to LTE.
Perhaps most importantly, the new machines are pretty affordable, too: the lineup will start at $499, with general availability to hit sometime within the next month.