HP ProBook 6550b business notebook
An HP business notebook that's packed with features, performs well and is comfortable to use
- Good mix of old and new connectivity, sturdy build quality, good performance
- Slightly 'sticky' touchpad, 32-bit version of Windows 7, touch-sensitive buttons are slow and sometimes unreliable
If you're a business user that absolutely must have as many connectivity features built into a notebook as possible, then HP's ProBook 6550b is worth looking into. Not only do you get modern facilities such as eSATA and DisplayPort, you also get ageless wonders such as a 56Kbps modem and a serial port. Its Core i5-540M CPU gives it good speed and its keyboard is crisp and comfortable to type on. Overall, a very good business laptop.
Price$ 1,399.00 (AUD)
The HP ProBook 6550b is a 2.6kg, 15.6in notebook designed for business users who want something solidly built and fully featured. It has everything from a built-in DVD burner to a FireWire port, and you even get a 56Kbps modem and a serial port, which are components from an era when terms such as 'BBS' and 'IRQ conflict' were in everyday use. It's this mix of old and new components that makes the ProBook 6550b desirable as a tool for professionals who need a laptop for more than just browsing the Web and updating an iPod.
Design and usability
The ProBook is designed to be an affordable business notebook that doesn't compromise on features and build quality, and it delivers on both of these fronts. Similar to the ProBook 6540b, a sturdy design is what's immediately noticeable when you start handling the ProBook 6550b: it has metal hinges, the base feels solid when you pick it up from either corner, the lid can take a fair bit of force before puddling appears on the screen and the keyboard has keys that are crisp and perfect for long sessions of typing.
The keyboard also includes a number pad. Just above the keyboard is a row of touch-sensitive buttons that can be used to manipulate the volume, launch your e-mail and Web browser applications, as well as disable Wi-Fi. We're not a fan of these buttons; not only are they too bright (the LEDs on most HP notebooks seem to be too strong) but they are also a little sluggish. Volume changes, in particular, take a couple of seconds before you can see the effect via an on-screen indicator. The response of the touch buttons is also not reliable and sometimes you have to press a button more than once to activate its function.
One thing we wish this ProBook had is a screen-mounted light that could shine down onto the keyboard, similar to what HP's EliteBook 8440p has. Another thing that's missing is a dual-pointing device, but there is an option to add one so that can use both a touchpad and a 'pointing stick' to move the pointer around the screen. We did find the touchpad to sometimes be 'sticky'. The screen itself uses LED backlighting and is reasonably bright. It has a native resolution of 1366x768, but an optional 1600x900 panel is also available.
Configuration and performance
Multiple configurations of the ProBook 6550b are available, but the one we reviewed used an Intel Core i5-540M CPU running at 2.53GHz; an integrated Intel HD graphics adapter; a 7200rpm, 320GB hard drive; and 4GB of DDR3SDRAM, around 1GB of which was used by the graphics adapter. The notebook ran the 32-bit version of Windows 7, so an update to the 64-bit version will be required if you want to install more RAM (the laptop supports up to 8GB). In our tests, this configuration performed very well. It can be used to run office applications and multimedia tasks with ease. Its real-time 3D rendering performance isn't great, but you could run World of Warcraft or StarCraft 2 if you wanted to.
In 3DMark06, the ProBook 6550b recorded a score of 1750, which is around what we were expecting. Our Blender 3D and iTunes MP3 encoding tests averaged times of 53sec and 59sec, respectively, which is a couple of seconds faster than what Dell's similarly configured Studio 17 laptop recorded in the same tests. Transcoding a DVD file to a 1.5GB Xvid file using AutoGordianKnot took 1hr 6min, which is what we expected. In our hard drive transfer tests, the 7200rpm hard drive averaged a result of 27.17 megabytes per second (MBps), which is around 4MBps slower than what the Probook 6540b achieved with its 250GB drive; we would have liked to see it go over 30MBps. You do have the option of installing a solid state drive (up to 160GB).
On the software and security side of things, the ProBook 6550b ships with HP ProtectTools, a fingerprint reader and a trusted platform module. You can use the fingerprint reader as a substitute for typing in passwords and HP Protect Tools allows administrators to lock down the machine so that certain devices can't be used, and also to encrypt the hard drive. We've talked more about ProtectTools in our review of the ProBook 6540b.
The ProBook's 6-cell, 55 Watt-hour battery lasted 2hr 12min in our rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise the screen's brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video. This is only two minutes off what the ProBook 6540b recorded with the same battery and only a slightly slower CPU speed. You could get a lot more life out of this battery by employing a balanced power profile, lowering the brightness and letting the screen switch off during idle periods.
With a base that's filled with features, a hardware configuration that supplies good performance and management tools that can be useful, the ProBook 6550b is definitely a laptop worth considering. It looks a feels a little bulky, but it's not overly heavy and, most importantly, it's easy to type on.
Become a fan of PC World Australia on Facebook
Follow PC World Australia on Twitter: @PCWorldAu
Stay up to date with the latest news, reviews and features. Sign up to PC World's newsletters
Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!
Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop
Epson EcoTank Expression ET-2500
Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive
Smart LED Bulb LB130
Everki ContemPRO Roll Top Laptop Backpack
UE Boom 2 Bluetooth speaker
Linksys AC5400 MU-MIMO Gigabit router
Epson WorkForce ET-4550
Logitech G403 Prodigy mouse
Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive
Epson WorkForce DS-360W
Lexar® Portable SSD
3SIXT Ultra HD Sports Action Camera
Huawei Mate 9
Belkin MIXIT Metallic Lightning to USB Cable
Acer Swift 7
Google Daydream VR headset
Dell XPS 13 laptop
Blade 28 backpack by Arc’teryx
Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive
Dell Inspiron 5000 series 2-in-1
HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450
Surface Pro 4
Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones
Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards
Garmin Fenix Chronos smartwatch
HP Pavilion x360 13”
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Star Wars Death Star Bluetooth levitating rotating speaker review
- 2 Finally! LG OLED TV 2016 range review
- 3 Fetch TV Mighty review: Better than Foxtel
- 4 Fetch TV Mini review: Make your TV a smart TV
- 5 Panasonic Viera DX900U UHD 4K smart TV review
Latest News Articles
- Samsung's UHD Monitor covers 99.5 per cent of Adobe colour spectrum
- HP settles cases with inkjet cartridge vendors
- Study predicts PS3 will win the console war
- Samsung wave makes a splash at Mobile World Congress
- Sony finally back in the black (but not thanks to PlayStation)
PCW Evaluation Team
A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.
I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.
As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.
I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.
Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!
For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.
- Horizon Zero Dawn review
- How to quit Pokemon Go (or to start enjoying it again)
- Japan's pop culture, anime-friendly, J-Pop shrine, Kanda Myojin
- Which flagship TV is best? Sony 4K HDR Bravia 2016 versus LG 4K HDR OLED 2016
- 10 Blu-ray movies / Best looking Blu-ray movies
- FTSenior Business AnalystNSW
- FTPresales Solutions ArchitectQLD
- FTFull Stack DeveloperQLD
- TPSenior Service Desk AnalystNSW
- TPSenior Test AnalystQLD
- CCSenior Systems AdministratorNSW
- FTNV1 Cleared Software Engineer (Mid level) - Defence Projects - North Ryde areaNSW
- TPFull Stack .NET DeveloperWA
- FTMicrosoft ConsultantVIC
- FTSecurity Engineer - Permanent - IT Services - SydneyNSW
- CCFinancial Business AnalystACT
- FTChief Architect - Public SectorACT
- FTPart Time - IT Service Desk AnalystVIC
- FTTelecommunications Services Manager - Voice/Data/UCQLD
- FTRelease CoordinatorQLD
- FTHead of ApplicationsVIC
- CCSystems Engineer (Systems Architect/Designer)VIC
- CCSalesforce DeveloperNSW
- TPChange and Communications CoordinatorQLD
- FTSAP BOBJ ConsultantACT
- CCLevel 1/2 IT Service Desk OfficerQLD
- FTSenior Security Sales SpecialistVIC
- CCDevOps/Senior Sys Admin - eCommerce - Contract - Sydney Northern BeachesNSW
- CCMicrostrategy DeveloperVIC
- FTTechnical Business AnalystNSW