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 newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Acer Predator Triton 300 SE review: Affordable GeForce RTX performance in a slim package
- 2 Jackery Explorer 1000 Portable Power Station review: Good for venturing off the grid
- 3 Razer Naga Trinity review: The last best MMO gaming mouse
- 4 Dynabook Portégé X30W-J – a very good all-rounder
- 5 Google Pixel 5 Review: Soft Reboot
- What to expect from Microsoft's Surface event
- Hotspot Shield review: Still the undisputed speed champ in VPNs
- RAVPower Portable Power Station 252.7Wh Power House review: Perfect for a weekend camping trip
- Top 10 best Android and Apple smartphones for around $700
- Ultrawide vs. dual monitors: Which should you choose?
PCW Evaluation Team
Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.
This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.
It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.
As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.
The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.
This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.
- Razer just made gamer thimbles
- How to download proof of Covid-19 vaccination to your smartphone in Australia
- HTC Vive Pro 2 Full Kit is now available for pre-order in Australia
- 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