The metallic matte grey cover of the 6540b with the silver HP logo looks all nice and stylish from a distance, but on closer inspection is made out of plastic. This may sadden some, but you can rest assure that the plastic cover will be strong enough to withstand the odd bump while travelling.
While the cover of the laptop is made out of plastic, the lid hinges are metal and sturdy enough to not be of concern. Another little detail is HP's use of a screen latch to secure the 15.6-inch, 1366x768 screen to the body of the laptop when not in use.
The shortcut buttons, which allow quick access to functions such as Wi-Fi, volume, email and the calculator, are situated on a thin strip in their usual spot above the keyboard. In a touch of ingenuity, these buttons have been designed in such a way that they could easily be mistaken as plain status lights, but are in fact touch sensitive.
The ProBook 6540b is yet another addition to the keyboard-with-number-pad crowd. HP's take on this popular trend is to decrease the size of the cursor keys to tiny proportions. So much so that the size of the keys may be an issue for those with larger fingers that rely on the arrow keys a lot. That being said, the keyboard was solid and felt as if it could survive quite a bashing. The recessed trackpad and mouse buttons were both sensitive to the touch, with the mouse buttons raised in the middle to make clicking that much easier.
Our unit came equipped with Intel's mid-range i5 520 dual-core processor running at 2.4GHz, along with 4GB of DDR3 RAM, Intel's integrated graphics and a 7200rpm 250GB hard disk drive.
If, for some reason, you find that you're lacking in storage, included are four USB ports, of which one is combined with eSATA, as well as an SD card reader. There's even an ExpressCard/54 slot if it happens to tickle your fancy.
HP has decided to stick with the good old VGA port, but also expand to DisplayPort for high-definition connectivity. If you find yourself in need of HDMI connectivity, DisplayPort to HDMI adapters are readily available on the market.
One port that did strike us as odd was the inclusion of a mini-FireWire port. Considering it was never really popular in its heyday, we're still curious as to the motivations behind HP still sticking with it after all this time.
Since the 6540b comes pre-installed with 32-bit version of Windows 7 you'll find that you'll be left with 3GB of RAM to play with, which is still enough to tackle most daily business tasks.
Unfortunately, the six-cell, 55Whr battery on the 6540b is a let down, as we only managed to squeeze two hours and 23 minutes from it on maximum performance settings. Although it may look bad, this kind of battery life is expected for laptops equipped with i5 processors.
Knowing full well that the 6540b is not a multimedia powerhouse and won't have the performance to show for it, we figured we'd still benchmark it so that rough comparisons can be made to other, similarly configured laptops. Considering its specifications, it didn't do too badly and scored 2094 in 3DMark06 and 6198 in PCMark05.
At AU$1599, the HP 6540b is a great value business laptop that offers a plethora of connectivity options while providing the latest hardware to help improve your productivity. It won't win any style or performance awards, but it does its job well.