- Excellent build quality and design
- A good price (when pre-configured)
- Nice keyboard and touchpad
- No optical drive
- Custom configurations are overpriced
- Limited configuration options
HP promises that the new ProBook 5310m is a “stylish” business notebook that packs performance, battery life, and value inside a thin-and-light 13-inch notebook. Is the ProBook 5310m truly a lust-worthy business laptop, or is it just another black box? Continue reading to find out.
Our review unit of the HP ProBook 5310m features the following configuration:
- Intel Core 2 Duo P9300 Processor (2.26GHz, 6MB L2 cache, 1066MHz FSB)
- Microsoft Genuine Windows 7 Professional (32-bit)
- 13.3-inch LED-backlit anti-glare HD display (1366 x 768)
- Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD
- 2GB DDR3 1333MHz RAM
- 320GB 7200RPM HDD
- WiFi (802.11a/b/g/draft-n), Ethernet, Modem, and Bluetooth Connectivity
- 4-Cell 41WHr Battery (14.8V)
- Limited 1-year standard parts and labor warranty
- Dimensions: 12.9 x 8.7 x 0.93 inches
- Weight: 3.81lbs
- Price as configured: $899
Build and Design
For those people who aren’t already familiar with HP’s ProBook laptops, the formula is very simple: Take HP’s popular EliteBook line of durable business-grade notebooks and make them more affordable so small and medium businesses can buy them. This is where the new ProBook 5310m comes to the table … and it’s why this is the first laptop with the “ProBook” name on it that we really, really like.
The previous generation of ProBooks all tried to deliver a good balance of features and security at a low price. Unfortunately, those notebooks sacrificed build quality and design (two of the hallmarks of HP’s EliteBooks) in order to create a low-cost business laptop. The new ProBook 5310m is the first ProBook that lets you have your cake and eat it too. The 5310m succeeds where previous ProBooks failed by offering a thin-yet-solid magnesium alloy chassis with durable rubberized paint, aluminum display enclosure and a design that looks like a premium business notebook rather than a budget laptop. Sure, like the rest of the ProBook line, the 5310m has a square, industrial-looking exterior, but that’s part of the “all business” look that made the EliteBook line such a success.
So how did HP go from an all-plastic ProBook to this new-and-improved design and still make it thinner and lighter than previous models? The answer will probably get a mixed reception among our readers: HP got rid of the optical drive. That’s right. There’s no built-in DVD or Blu-ray drive with this laptop. Honestly, as someone who frequently travels for business, I can tell you I never use my notebook’s optical drive. However, there are still plenty of business travelers who like to watch DVDs during flights, so the lack of a DVD drive might bother some business buyers.
The outer shell of the screen casing, as previously mentioned, is made of aluminum. This is significantly more solid than the plastic-covered screen on older ProBooks, and along with the magnesium alloy bottom chassis the 5310m should survive anything a typical business traveler will throw at it. While I wouldn’t recommend standing on this notebook, you could easily stack a dozen or so heavy books on top of the 5310m without any concern for the safety of the laptop.
Tthe 5310m also features the now standard 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.
One of our primary criticisms about the older ProBook 4510s and 4710s was the fact that it was too difficult to make upgrades to those notebooks. Thankfully, HP engineers made it quite easy to access the RAM, hard drive, and wireless cards inside the 5310m. RAM and the hard drive are located on the bottom of the notebook beneath the palmrest area and the WWAN card is easily accessed after removing the battery. Speaking of the complexity of making upgrades, it’s also worth mentioning that buying a pre-configured model is still the only way we can recommend purchasing the 5310m (or any ProBook) at a reasonable price. This configuration of the ProBook 5310m is available for only $899 on the HP website as a pre-configured system, but if you attempted to customize a 5310m with identical specs it would cost you more than $1,100! That’s a painfully overpriced premium to charge for custom orders.
Screen and Speakers
The ProBook 5310m comes equipped with a 13.3″ 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. The LED-backlit panel offers excellent brightness and we typically left the brightness set to between 50% and 70% when using the notebook indoors. 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 between 1366 x 768 and 1280 x 800 is pretty minimal.
Horizontal viewing angles are pretty good 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.
HP generally impresses our editorial staff with the quality of the speakers used in their notebooks. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with the ProBook line. The speakers in the 5310m are good enough for watching a webcast or hearing system sounds, but the built-in speakers sound tinny and lack a good range of highs, middles, and lows. The highest volume settings are loud enough to fill an office with sound for a presentation, but the audio sounds distorted at the highest volumes.
The combo headphone/microphone jack on the 5310m 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.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The full-size keyboard on the 5310m is a chiclet style design and provides fantastic spacing between keys for typing. 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. On the larger ProBook 4510s and 4710s we noticed some flex in the keyboard above the optical drive, but the keyboard on the 5310m is quite firm and a joy to use.
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, chiclet-style keys. Overall the keyboard layout is extremely nice for a budget 13-inch laptop.
The touchpad is very responsive to my touch with a scroll zone on the right side that works exactly as it should. The glossy touchpad texture is okay, but the low-cost material used is sure to develop wear over time and use. The plastic touchpad buttons are about the right size and have the correct amount of depth or throw when pressed. 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 … but that’s a minor complaint for what is otherwise a great keyboard and touchpad.
Ports and Features
The 5310m features a good number of ports on all sides, despite the lack of an optical drive, so let us take a brief tour …