The HP Probook 5310m is an exceptionally sleek and thin ultraportable laptop. It's got both a fantastic battery life and real processing muscle, which is a pleasantly mystifying surprise to find in a laptop of such diminutive size.
It's a matte black, lightweight tank of a thing that feels very solidly constructed. There is only minimal flex in the high viewing angle screen, and no chassis foibles that a full fortnight's worth of use uncovered. The keyboard is mostly good: the only issue we had was that the spacebar did not register a hit when the outer edges were pressed. This means you have to think about typing a little more until you get used to it — until then you'll find your words mashed together into odd blocks, missing the space you swear you typed between them.
Sacrifices invariably have to be made in the name of ultraportable computing. There is no optical drive in the unit; however, you can connect one through one of the three USB connectors. A 3.5mm audio output, gigabit Ethernet port and a DisplayPort connector round out all the physical connectors on offer. Wireless N networking, Bluetooth and a webcam are installed by default, as are 2GB RAM and a P9300 — Intel's low power, dual-core 2.26GHz processor with 6MB (!) of cache.
The 1366x768 screen was thankfully non-gloss, and proved to be more than bright enough to work outside at midday. Connecting external monitors or projectors for presentations (or movies, or anything else) is taken care of by the full size DisplayPort connector, which is a mixed blessing. Although it provides data in addition to video and audio, it isn't yet found on most of the other devices you'd want to connect to. As a result, you'll need a DisplayPort to VGA, DVI or HDMI cable to connect to most current devices, which you'll have to source yourself.
The hard drive is a meaty 320GB model with 2GB partitioned off for HP tools. We were a little disappointed that there were no combination USB/eSATA ports on the machine, but USB alternatives will suffice for most situations.
The battery results were spectacular. This is a powerful machine with a tiny sliver of a battery, and yet at full brightness it was able to decode SD video for two hours, 54 minutes. Our HD video battery life test returned equally excellent results, with one hour 52 minutes before the battery gave out.
This is not a gaming laptop, as evidenced by its abysmal 3DMark 06 score of 904. We fired up a selection of 3D games to see what was playable, and concluded that most games from pre-2005 will play, albeit at low resolutions and with occasional low frame rate drops. But gaming isn't what this laptop was built for.
The more respectable PC Mark 05 score of 4293 reveals its true strength: the ability to not slow you down while getting actual work done. It's something the processor's enormous 6MB of cache helps in spades; the machine even remained snappy and responsive during rounds of heavy duty audio editing, coding and Photoshop work.
When you ignore graphics performance and focus on the tasks that this machine will see in day-to-day use, you're left with a beautiful laptop that performs very well for a relatively small amount of money.