April 29, 2009, 10:44 AM — HP is giving its business laptops a facelift. The results: The HP ProBook S-series--a budget-minded little brother to the EliteBooks.
What happens when HP sheds the "Elite" status? You get a minimalist working solution that costs as little as US$529. You'll find a fairly large, comfortable keyboard with cut-out chiclet keys and a choice of colors beyond black ("Merlot" and "Noir" finishes). HP could be onto something. We don't put pre-production models through the PC WorldBench 6 test suite, so here's the skinny after a quick hands-on with the all-purpose wunderkind.
The 1366-by-768-resolution screen seems a little on the tiny side considering that it could (and if you ask me, should) go higher, but it can at least handle 720p video. Since the resolution is kept moderately low, the standard GPU will be a gimpy integrated Intel GMA 4500MHD. Of course, you'll be able to up the video ante with ATI's 512MB Mobility Radeon HD 4330 GPU for a few dollars more.
What really impresses is the spacious keyboard. The cut-out keys create enough of a gap between buttons and HP even manages to fit in a 10-key keyboard without it feeling too squeezed. Also, the final models come with a textured coating that makes the buttons more scratch-resistant. The mouse is slightly off-center and the buttons have a solid, lush feel.
Mobile travelers will welcome the option for built-in Gobi wireless broadband. And just about everyone else should welcome the option for a discrete GPU (highly recommended) because this machine probably won't exactly rock PC WorldBench 6 tests. The starter configuration (which sells for $529) ships with an Intel Celeron 1.83-GHz CPU, 2GB of RAM and a 250GB HDD. Model prices jump to $699 when you pop in a Core 2 Duo CPU.
And if you ask me, that "s" in the name is all about software. HP is pushing its business-friendly security features such as Drive Encryption, File Sanitizer, and Credential Manager (a one-stop sign-on for securely stashing credentials) into these value-proposition notebooks. Me? I'm more interested in the QuickLook 2 software. It provides access to basic contact info and e-mail without having to jump into the operating system. Just tap the shortcut button and you don't need to bother with Windows when you're in a hurry.
So, is this model right for you? Look for a full review as soon as we get a final unit.