Like a fresh job candidate in a sharp suit, HP's new EliteBook gives a good first impression. With a shiny a magnesium alloy finish on the outside, its metallic sheen is faintly reminiscent of Apple's MacBook line, but not quite as flashy. The use of metal on both the top cover and side the laptop also shows a strong build quality.
This impression continues once you open the laptop. The keyboard is comfortable and the keys are slightly rough, giving the impression that this is a rugged laptop. There is both a 'nipple' mouse and a trackpad, which features horizontal and vertical scrolling.
The 6930p features a 14.1-inch 1280x800, matte display. Matte displays are always a plus, as they are not reflective and therefore much easier to see in bright light. Unfortunately, the display brightness on the 6930 darkens significantly, almost to the point of being unreadable, when the device is unplugged.
There seems to be no way to adjust this setting in Windows XP, so you will need to turn the screen brightness back up using the keyboard shortcut. At the base of the display there is an ambient light sensor, which is a great feature for power saving. But if you like your display bright, you can also disable it via a keyboard shortcut.
Below the display is a set of touch controls that allow you to disable Wi-Fi, mute or change the sounds volume, change presentation setting and access HP's software "Info Centre". Below the mouse pad on the right is a fingerprint reader, which we see as still one of the best security features available on a laptop. Unfortunately, we tended to brush the fingerprint reader while typing, which brings up the HP Security Manager. This can can get really annoying really fast.
At 2.1kgs the EliteBook 6930p is a mid-weight laptop, you won't find it difficult to haul it around.
Features and Performance
The 6930p runs on Intel's new Centrino 2 platform, which means amongst other things better performance, battery life, and wireless speeds (with a/b/g/n Wi-Fi all available).
Our 6930p came with an Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 (2.4GHz) with 2GB of RAM. HP weren't generous with the HDD, our system came with a 160GB 5400 RMP SATA II drive. There are two models of the 6930p, ours was the FW086PA, which comes with a slighter slower processor and HDD.
Graphics on our system was provided by the integrated new Intel GMA 4500 chipset (codenamed Cantiga), which forms part of the Centrino 2 platform. In the space of integrated graphics, the Cantiga chipsets are good performers, but this is no design or gaming machine. Our tests gave a 3DMark06 score of 709. Those looking for better graphics performance can upgrade to an ATI Radeon 3450 (256MB).
These specs are solid but not generous for a business laptop. Our system gave a PCMark05 score of 4155, suggesting no issues for office apps. The good news is that the 6930p is available with 64-bit Windows and up to 8GB or RAM, so businesses can significantly improve performance on these systems if desired. We would recommend 64-bit Windows Vista Business for future proofing purposes. Despite being resource hungry and expensive, this is a rock solid OS. Our system came with a Vista Business license and Windows XP pre-installed.
There is a trend with more recent notebooks to offer more granular power management, and HP have gone out of their way to maximise the battery life on the EliteBooks. In this respect HP have done well. We conducted our standard taxing battery test by setting the screen brightness to 50 per cent, and then playing a DVD. This produced an impressive 3 hours and 10 minutes of battery life, well above average. The battery on the 6930p has a 55 Whr capacity.
The 6930p contains all the basic ports, but nothing exciting. There is a 1394 FireWire port, but no DVI or HDMI. There are three USB ports, but there is no charging over USB when the laptop is switched off. There is no eSATA. There is a dial-up modem, although we are not sure if anyone uses them anymore. There is also a MMC card reader slot on the front of the laptop.
Pre-installed software on the 6930p is fairly light; there are no anti-virus software trials or DVD burning software (or the Google Desktop, we're looking at you Dell), but there is the obligatory 60-day trail of Office 2007. You also get two different toolbars in IE, AOL and bizarrely, "Delio", which we haven't seen before. It appears to do nothing.
Our model of the Elitebook was the most basic 6930p which comes in at an RRP of AU$2000. This is reasonable, but not fantastic value of money. Lenovo's Centrino 2 equivalent, the SL500, comes in cheaper and includes a discrete graphics card, and a higher resolution display. However the battery life isn't as good.
Dell's Latitude E (we reviewed the E6500) series remains the most fully featured business laptop we have seen, and the base model is available at AU$2000. However adding additional specs on this laptop will rapidly increase the price — and the battery life on the 6930p is much better than that offered by the Latitude E6500.
The standard warranty on the 6930p is three years, which is generous, but the warranty on the battery is only one year.
Businesses looking to deploy the EliteBook 6930p won't be disappointed. This is a solid business offering on par with the competition. The availability of 64-bit Windows is a plus, as is the excellent battery life.