MSI looks to add executive chic to a winning laptop formula
HP EliteBook 6930P (FW086PA)
Long battery life, perfect for business users.
- Good battery life, sturdy build, fast hard drive, keyboard light, two navigation devices
- Lid's latch can be difficult to use, very long set up time, no 'Sleep-and-Charge'-like ports
The 6930P's size makes it both comfortable to use, as well as easy to transport, and users who require a lot of running time away from an outlet will appreciate the option for a larger second battery. We don't particularly like its latch system, nor the prolonged set up time, and we wish HP would also implement 'Sleep-and-Charge'-like USB 2.0 ports.
Price$ 2,199.00 (AUD)
There's no doubt about it, the 6930P is ideal for the road warrior. Not only does its 14.1in screen size straddle the fence when it comes to user comfort and portability, its battery life is stellar. But what's most impressive about the EliteBook is the attention to detail and the user-friendly features that HP has added.
Before we get to those, let's get the description of the engine room out of the way. Being a business model, the EliteBook has no shortage of CPU power, but it is a slow-coach when it comes to processing graphics. HP has equipped the 6930P (FW086PA) with a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 CPU, 2GB of DDR2 RAM and a 160GB, 5400rpm hard drive. However, the graphics are handled by the integrated Intel GM45 chipset, which uses approximately 90MB of system RAM. It recorded only 714 in 3DMark06, so if you need decent 3-D performance you'll have to opt for the 6930P (FW087PA), which has an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3450 installed.
The CPU is powerful enough to run everyday applications and multitask without any sluggishness, and it's also strong enough to undertake encoding and video rendering tasks. In the iTunes MP3 encoding test, the machine took 1min 18sec to encode 53min worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3s, while in the Blender 3D benchmark it took 1min 15sec to complete a two-threaded job. As for its hard drive speed, despite having a 5400rpm instead of a 7200rpm disk it recorded a blistering average of 32 megabytes per second in our file transfer tests.
We used Windows XP for our tests, which was preinstalled on the system, but a license for Windows Vista Business is also supplied. The only quibble we have with the unit is the amount of time it takes to set it up once you boot it. The HP set up process takes at least 30min to complete, which includes installation of a trial version of Microsoft Office 2007 in addition to HP's utilities.
For security, the system ships with a fingerprint reader and HP ProtectTools Security Manager software. This software allows you to manage your login credentials, as well as back up your data and encrypt your hard drive. The hard drive encryption requires the use of a USB device in order to store the encryption key; you'll have to supply your own.
The ease of use of the EliteBook is high, thanks mainly to a roomy, full-sized keyboard with responsive keys. It's comfortable to type on and it can be illuminated by a concealed LED that resides in the screen's top bezel. This pops open like a Mazda RX7's headlights to shine on the keyboard and make it easier to type at night.
An ambient light sensor is also built in to the bezel; it can detect the level of light in the notebook's environment and adjust the brightness accordingly. This can be enabled by hitting the Function and F11 keys, and it's a good way to maximise the notebook's battery life while you're away from an outlet. Its battery life using the standard 55Wh (Watt hour) battery was 3hr 55min in our DVD run-down test. If you need more battery life, HP supplies a C-shaped 52Wh power pack that attaches itself to the underbelly of the notebook. Using this battery, as well as the standard battery, the notebook lasted 8hr 5min in the same run-down test.
After prolonged periods of use the notebook didn't get overly warm, making it comfortable for lap use. However, if you opt to buy the second battery pack, you'll want to use the notebook on a hard, flat surface instead of your lap, as it will be uncomfortable.
The build quality of the unit is strong and it looks good. Without its power supply, the notebook weighs in at 2.35kg, and it weighs 2.9kg with it. With the second battery but without the power supply the notebook weighs 2.8kg, so you do have to lug a bit more weight if you want to get more battery life out of it.
Around the edges of the notebook there is a port for all occasions. The left side is where the USB 2.0, FireWire and audio ports reside, as well as the ExpressCard/54 slot. The spine has a D-Sub port, in addition to the power port and a Kensington lock facility, while the right side has 56Kbps modem, Gigabit Ethernet and one more USB 2.0 port, in addition to the built-in DVD burner. A memory card reader sits at the front of the machine, right next to the lid's release button.
The notebook's lid has an unusual latch system, which is composed of two pins instead of sliding hooks. Our test model didn't close very easily using these pins, as we had to press down hard and sometimes multiple times in order for them to secure.
On the surface, the HP's brushed metal lid and palm rest areas are very stylish, and we like the implementation of the touch controls above the keyboard. They make it easy to adjust the volume, as well as switch off the wireless network. However, an on-screen display appears when the volume is manipulated by using the touch panel, and if you're in a full-screen program when you do so it will restore its window and you'll have to set it to full-screen again manually. We do like the fact that HP has included a touchpad and a Trackpoint-like pointing device for navigation, and there is a shortcut to disable the touchpad if you prefer to use the Trackpoint device.
All up, there's plenty to like about this notebook, and it is a joy to use. Its size makes it both comfortable to use and easy to transport; users who require a lot of running time away from an outlet will appreciate the option for a larger second battery. We don't particularly like its latch system or the prolonged set up time, and we wish HP would also implement 'Sleep-and-Charge'-like USB 2.0 ports.
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