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.
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 ...
Here we see the power jack, modem port, USB port, and optical drive.
ExpressCard slot, SD card reader, FireWire, Audio-out jack, microphone/line-in jack, USB port, VGA out and docking station connector.
The battery, Ethernet jack, and the security lock slot.
There are no ports on the front, just indicator lights and the mono speaker located on the bottom.
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.
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, ther 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.
* 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.
* 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.