HP EliteBook 2530p Review

by Jerry Jackson Reads (296,825)

by Jerry Jackson

If you’re a corporate road warrior or a student trying to fit as much computer as possible in the smallest space possible, the HP EliteBook 2530p might be the perfect notebook for you. This 12.1″ workstation featuring the latest Intel low voltage processors and integrated graphics for extreme battery life, and plenty of ports and storage options inside an impressively durable shell. The EliteBook 2530p looks like a surprising amount of computer in a rugged three-pound chassis. Is it worth a little extra cash to get your hands on this tiny titan? Keep reading and find out.

The 2530p starts out at $1,549 but more powerful pre-built configurations top out at $2,499. Because of the Intel solid state drive (SSD) our custom configuration is priced at $3,006 … with 3-year next business day on-site warranty costing an additional $129.

Our pre-production review unit as configured:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo SL9400 Low Voltage Processor (1.86GHz, 6MB L2 cache, 1066MHz FSB)
  • Microsoft Genuine Windows Vista Business
  • 12.1-inch WXGA anti-glare (1280 x 800)
  • Intel GMA 4500MHD Integrated Graphics
  • 2GB DDR2 800MHz RAM
  • 80GB High Performance Intel SSD (Solid State Drive)
  • DVD+/-RW Optical Drive
  • WiFi, Ethernet, Modem, and Bluetooth Connectivity
  • 6-Cell 55WHr Battery
  • 3-Year on-site Warranty
  • Dimensions: 11.11″ x 9.18″ x 0.99″ (with 6-cell battery)
  • Weight: 3.75lbs with 6-cell battery

Build and Design

The HP EliteBook 2530p is an ultraportable business notebook, and as such corporations (and many consumers) expect the highest quality of materials and the best features and designs for their money.  HP’s other EliteBook notebooks meet or exceed those expectations, but what about the smallest member of the EliteBook family?

The answer: Nobody puts baby in the corner … because baby will kick your ass.

The main body of the EliteBook 2530p is covered in the new “HP DuraCase” and “HP DuraFinish” which is essentially a hard plastic and strong magnesium alloy inner shell much like its predecessor strengthened by a brushed aluminum outer shell that is so scratch resistant you can’t even scratch it with steel wool.  The base of the laptop feels very strong and would definitely survive many bumps and bruises that other laptops might not.  There is absolutely no flex in the amazingly solid keyboard … none.  The underside of the notebook is also similarly rigid and strong with just a tiny amount of flex in the area immediately underneath the notebook’s optical drive.

The outer shell of the screen casing is made of metal, but the inner screen bezel is plastic. Unlike the 15-inch EliteBook 8530w we previously reviewed the display lid does flex slightly when significant pressure is applied to the center of the lid, but the lid is still much stronger than what we typically see on even the best 12-inch business notebooks.

When HP says that this EliteBook was designed “to meet the military standards (MIL-STD 810F) for high/low temperatures and dust.” they mean this notebook is built to withstand years of use and abuse.

As mentioned in our review of the EliteBook 8530w, we found the “DuraCase” and “DuraFinish” are indeed quite rugged. In the review of the 8530w I discovered this when I accidentally dropped the 8530w on its screen and the notebook sustained no damage.

This time, I decided to be more careful with the 2530p and took it home one evening to extended testing. After a few hours at home I left the notebook on the kitchen table and walked into another room for a few minutes. When I returned I found my two-year-old daughter pulling the 2530p off the table … and dropping it on the hard wood floor with the screen still open.

Luckily, the 2530p survived with no damage … not even a scratch.

Additionally, the 2530p also features hard drive shock protection in the form of the new HP 3D DriveGuard which will help to protect your hard drive in the event the laptop gets dropped or violently bumped … or dropped by an editor’s two-year-old daughter.

Of course, if you select the solid state drive (SSD) option such as the one in our review unit then you never have to worry about shock protection for your hard drive because SSDs have no moving parts and aren’t vulnerable to failure due to sudden movement or impact.

With all this rugged durability built into the deisgn you have to expect a trade off, and the trade off in this case is weight. Some 12-inch business class notebooks tip the scales at 3 pounds or less. The EliteBook 2530p weighs in at 3.75 pounds with the 6-cell battery. Although that is indeed a slight increase in weight, the added durability you get more than makes up for the very minor increase in weight. 

Finally, in the same way that the gray and black exterior and smooth design suits a professional environment, so do the internals. The EliteBook 2530p uses three simple plastic covers on the bottom of the notebook (each held in place with Phillips head screws) so that the user or your IT department can easily access the hard drive, wireless cards or RAM for fast upgrades. There is a forth tiny expansion slot cover on the bottom of the notebook but this is only used for the dedicated Bluetooth card. The rest of the notebook interior is protected by Torx screws which help deter unqualified employees from messing around inside their work-issued notebook.

Screen and Audio

The 2530p comes equipped with a 12.1″ anti-glare widescreen with a typical WXGA resolution.  At 1280 x 800 pixels, this display is capable of displaying fine details without making things too small to work comfortably while on the move.  Of course, the resolution might be limiting if you plan to use this notebook as a mobile video and photo editing platform … but most people interested in a 12-inch notebook aren’t editing high-resolution photos on the road.

When viewing the screen from straight ahead, colors are rich and the contrast is excellent. Full-screen movies are look quite good with deep blacks and good viewing angles.  Horizontal viewing angles are particularly impressive so you won’t have trouble showing a presentation to multiple people sitting at a desk. The vertical viewing angle from above starts to wash out at extreme angles and colors begin to invert from below … but the overwhelming majority of users will never view the screen from high above or far below.

 

 

 

HP generally impresses our editorial staff with the quality of the speakers used in their notebooks, and the mono speaker in the 2530p was generally impressive. The built-in speaker is above average with a good range of highs, middles, and acceptable lows that doesn’t sound as “tinny” as most mono speakers.  The highest volume settings are more than loud enough to fill a small office with sound for a presentation, but are still clear and not horribly distorted. The only negative about the speaker is its location on the bottom front edge of the notebook.

Since the speakers are located on the bottom front edge of the notebook the sound isn’t being directed up and toward the user when the EliteBook is used as a laptop. In fact, our staff usually refers to laptop speakers with this type of placement as “crotch speakers” because the speakers are directing sound to your lap and waist rather than your ears. If you’re using the 2530p on your desk this isn’t as much of a problem, but if you’re a road warrior constantly working from your lap then you might be annoyed by the speaker placement.

The headphone jack on the 2530p works well with the two 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.

Performance and Benchmarks

Our pre-production EliteBook 2530p came with the Intel SL9400 low voltage processor, clocking in at 1.86GHz, and jammed packed with 6MB of cache. For graphics, HP included Intel GMA 4500MHD integrated graphics. A fast 80GB Intel SSD was also included in our test configuration, which helped applications load without much lag, helps reduce temperatures and extend battery life. As mentioned previously, the SSD option also makes the notebook less prone to accidental failure due to hard drive impact.

Older generation low-voltage processors performed a much lower levels than standard processors … a trade off for extended battery life. Thankfully, the latest generation of Intel low-voltage processors perform quite well and nearly rival standard processors in most tests. Typical business users who are only concerned with working in Microsoft Office and encoding the occassional video for work will have more power than they know what to do with it.

Although we appreciate the acceptable performance and low power consumption of the Intel GMA 4500MHD integrated graphics, we would have liked to see HP use the same high-performance ATI integrated graphics solution found on their consumer notebooks. Unlike the Intel solution, the latest ATI integrated graphics chipset rivals the performance of low-end dedicated graphics … with less power consumption than dedicated graphics. As it stands, this isn’t a deal killer because every notebook in this class uses Intel’s integrated graphics, and these machines aren’t designed for playing video games.

With that said, let’s jump into the performance benchmarks.

wPrime is a program that forces the processor to do recursive mathematical calculations, the advantage of this program is that it is multi-threaded and can use both processor cores at once, thereby giving more accurate benchmarking measurements than Super Pi.

Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
HP EliteBook 2530p (Intel Core 2 Duo SL9400 @ 1.86GHz) 41.263s
HP Compaq 2230s (Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 @ 2.26GHz) 35.484s
Lenovo ThinkPad X200 (Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 @ 2.40GHz) 32.119s
HP EliteBook 8530w (Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 @ 2.53GHz) 30.919s
Lenovo T400 (Intel Core 2 Duo T9600 @ 2.8GHz) 27.410s
Lenovo T61 (Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2.0GHz) 42.025s
Dell Vostro 1500 (Intel Core 2 Duo T5470 @ 1.6GHz) 53.827s
HP Pavilion dv6500z (AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz) 40.759s
Sony VAIO TZ (Core 2 Duo U7600 @ 1.20GHz) 76.240s
Zepto 6024W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz) 42.385s
Lenovo T61 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 37.705s
Alienware M5750 (Core 2 Duo T7600 @ 2.33GHz) 38.327s
Hewlett Packard DV6000z (Turion X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz) 38.720s

PCMark05 comparison results:

Notebook PCMark05 Score
HP EliteBook 2530p (1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SL9400, Intel 4500MHD) 5,787 PCMarks
HP Compaq 2230s (2.26GHz Intel P8400, Intel 4500MHD) 3,945 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X200 (2.40GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600, Intel X4500) 4,298 PCMarks
HP EliteBook 8530w (2.53GHz Intel T9400, Nvidia Quadro FX 770M 512MB) 6,287 PCMarks
Lenovo T400 (2.80GHz Intel T9600, ATI Radeon 3470 256MB GDDR3)   6,589 PCMarks
Lenovo T400 (2.80GHz Intel T9600, Intel X4500)    N/A
Lenovo T61 Standard Screen (2.0GHz Intel T7300, NVIDIA NVS 140M 256MB) 4,839 PCMarks
Dell Vostro 1500 (1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5470, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 3,585 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,925 PCMarks
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 3,377 PCMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,591 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 4,153 PCMarks
Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 3,987 PCMarks
Lenovo T60 Widescreen (2.0GHz Intel T7200, ATI X1400 128MB) 4,189 PCMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 4,234 PCMarks
Sony VAIO SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 3,637 PCMarks

 

3DMark06 comparison results:

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
HP EliteBook 2530p (1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SL9400, Intel 4500MHD) 898 3DMarks
HP Compaq 2230s (2.26GHz Intel P8400, Intel 4500MHD) 712 3DMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X200 (2.40GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600, Intel X4500) 927 3DMarks
HP EliteBook 8530w (2.53GHz Intel T9400, Nvidia Quadro FX 770M 512MB) 5,230 3DMarks
Lenovo T400 (2.80GHz Intel T9600, ATI Radeon 3470 256MB GDDR3)   2,575 3DMarks
Lenovo T400 (2.80GHz Intel T9600, Intel X4500)   809 3DMarks
Lenovo T61 Standard Screen (2.0GHz Intel T7300, NVIDIA NVS 140M 256MB) 1,441 3DMarks
Dell Vostro 1500 (1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5470, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 1,269 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,329 3DMarks
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 532 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,408 3DMarks
Samsung Q70 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 and nVidia 8400M G GPU) 1,069 3DMarks
Asus F3sv-A1 (Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz, Nvidia 8600M GS 256MB) 2,344 3DMarks
Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB 2,183 3DMarks
Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi 1526 (1.66 Core Duo, nVidia 7600Go 256 MB) 2,144 3DMarks
Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, ATI X1700 256MB) 1,831 3DMarks
Asus A6J (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB) 1,819 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 827 3DMarks
Sony VAIO SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 794 3DMarks

 

HDTune storage drive performance test:

 

The layout of the keyboard is just slightly different than what you might find on the HP consumer notebooks. The individual key presses are quiet without loud clicking sounds as you type.  Keys are flatter and have a little less space in between them. The key spacing had to make room for the addition of the pointstick.

HP also includes the same keyboard light you’ll find in the larger EliteBook notebooks on the EliteBook 2530p. Just press the tiny light bulb button above the screen and a small LED pops out and shines down on the keyboard. The light isn’t very bright, but it is bright enough to allow you to see the keyboard in the dark and not annoy the person seated next to you on an airplane

Above the keyboard also rests a series of touch-sensitive media buttons similar to what you find on HP consumer notebooks.  There is an Info, WiFi Toggle, Presentation Mode, and Mute touch buttons on this glossy strip.  Additionally, next to the Mute button is a volume control slider that enables the user to raise and lower the volume by sliding their finger across that area. One nice addition on the 2530p is a touchpad disable button that allows you to turn off the touchpad and use just the pointstick for moving the mouse cursor.

The touchpad also features the DuraFinish so that oils from your fingertip don’t build up on the surface and make the touchpad look weathered after just a few months. The Synaptics touchpad is very responsive to my touch, and the two rubber mouse buttons are quiet and about the right size.  There is also a secondary set of mouse buttons above the touchpad to work with the pointstick that comes with all 2530p notebooks.  The pointstick is amazingly accurate and comfortable to use.

Ports and Features

The 2530p features a good number of ports on all sides, so let us take a brief tour …

Left side:

Here we see the power jack, modem port, USB port, and optical drive.

Right side:

ExpressCard slot, SD card reader, FireWire, Audio-out jack, microphone/line-in jack, USB port, VGA out and docking station connector.

Rear side:

The battery, Ethernet jack, and the security lock slot.

Front side:

There are no ports on the front, just indicator lights and the mono speaker located on the bottom.

Bottom side:

 

The 2530p features an 802.11 a/b/g/draft-n WiFi card and Bluetooth 2.0, both of which always worked without any dropped signals. HP also offers buil-in broadband wireless card options (AT&T or Verizon) for people who need to stay connected to the internet anywhere there’s a cell phone signal.

Heat and Noise

During normal use (browsing the web or working on a text document) the EliteBook 2530p remained quiet enough not to disturb anyone in a quiet office or classroom. However, after watching streaming video online and after stressing the graphics the cooling fan inside the laptop gets louder than we would like.  When doing tasks that stress the processor and graphics card, the laptop’s fan works hard to keep this laptop cool.  This is completely understandable since there’s so much hardware squeezed inside the 12-inch chassis, but it is something to keep in mind.

 

Finally, we recorded the following external temperatures using an IR thermometer after running two consecutive PCMark05 benchmarks. This should serve as an indicator of how hot the notebook will get after about 30 minutes of serious use. All temperatures are listed in degrees Fahrenheit. While the 2530p isn’t the coldest notebook we’ve reviewed, it does stay amazing cool considering the performance and how much hardware is packed into such a small space.

 

Battery

The 6-cell (55WHr) Lithium-ion battery in the EliteBook 2530p performs quite well.  During our timed tests, we decided to test the “worst case scenario” for the EliteBook 2530p … setting the notebook to the ‘High Performance’ profile, screen brightness at 100%, WiFi on, and accessing the SSD while listening to about 30 minutes worth of multiple music files and editing documents in Microsoft Office.  The laptop shut down after exactly 5 hours and 49 minutes with 3% of the battery left, which is quite amazing for a laptop running in “high performance” mode and draining the battery with the screen on maximum brightness. 

Battery life can also be extended via using the “power saver” power profile in Vista, or with a 9-Cell (83WHr) battery. For people who want the smallest and lightest notebook possible, there is also a 3-cell (31WHr) battery option.

Conclusion

The HP EliteBook 2530p is the best business-grade 12-inch notebook currently on the market. Despite a large number of business solutions from Dell and Lenovo in our office, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone on our staff who doesn’t think the 2530p is currently the best all-around choice in the 12-inch form factor. If extreme portability, durability, and long battery life are important to you, the EliteBook 2530p makes an ideal choice. However, while it’s fair to say the 2530p is “best in class” that doesn’t mean it’s perfect.

The biggest potential criticism you can leverage against the EliteBook 2530p is the same problem every notebook in this class has to deal with: In order to provide long battery life and maintain low heat levels in such a small notebook you have to use low voltage or ultra-low voltage processors. This means that some applications that rely heavily on the CPU (such as video editing applications) will run a little slower than they would on a notebook with a standard processor. That said, people interested in this notebook generally won’t be trying to edit feature-length 1080p movies.

Again, that’s just something you have to expect if you want a notebook in this class. The Lenovo ThinkPad X200 offers a more powerful traditional processor in a 12-inch notebook, but lacks an optical drive, has fewer ports, doesn’t have a touchpad, and doesn’t feel as rugged. The EliteBook 2530p doesn’t make those kind of sacrifices.

Bottom line, if you’re looking for a business-grade 12-inch notebook then the HP EliteBook 2530p belongs at the top of your list.

Pros

  • Attractive and sleek design.
  • Extreme durability in an extremely small package.
  • Excellent overall performance in its class.
  • Fantastic screen with good viewing angles and excellent brightness.
  • Great port selection for a 12-inch notebook.
  • Small form factor and low weight WITH an optical drive!
  • Excellent battery life for road warriors.

Cons

  • Less than ideal location for tiny mono-speaker.
  • Fan can run a little loud.
  • Too much bloatware for a business notebook.
  • HP won’t let me keep it.

 


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