HP’s EliteBook brand sits above the Compaq range, offering similar quality and usability, but adding premium materials, power and features to the list. The EliteBook 6930p is a compact and well-made choice, but has its work cut out tempting corporate users away from their high-end Sony VAIO’s and Apple MacBooks.
The 14.1-inch screen is a great compromise between size and mobility, helping to keep the overall weight down to a semi-portable 2.1kg, without making a negative affect on usability.
With a matt - rather than Super-TFT - finish, colours are still reproduced accurately, although there is a slightly hazy quality to the panel. It’s a trade-off that’s worth paying when out and about though, where reflections are impressively well suppressed.
Our review machine featured an integrated Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics card, but those needing enhanced 3D capabilities will also be able to select an ATi Mobility Radeon HD 3450 GPU. With only a moderate performance increase offered by the ATi chip, we’d recommend sticking to the integrated solution, as it’s more than capable of carrying out everyday tasks.
A major benefit of the integrated chip is the lower power consumption, and it helps the 6930p to last a massive 8 hours from a single charge - considerably more if you opt for HP’s 12-cell ultra capacity battery (£144 inc. VAT) that clips onto the bottom of the chassis.
From the outside, at arm’s length at least, the EliteBook looks all but identical to regular Compaq machines. Same square design, same thick but sturdy-looking screen surround, same black lower half to the chassis.
Look a bit closer and you’ll find a few differences, however, most notably quality. The lid of this machine is finished in brushed aluminium, and it gives a premium feel lacking in more mundane ranges. It’s also a lot tougher than its Compaq siblings - meeting MIL-STD 810F military standards which include vibration, heat and humidity tests. It’s a standard you’re more likely to find on a fully-rugged laptop such as Panasonic’s ToughBook series, and is sure to be a welcome addition for more clumsy business users.
Open it up and you’ll find it’s a theme that runs throughout the entire chassis - familiar styling but again aluminium clad. The overall effect is rather good; it’s sturdy, cool to the touch and looks quite cool in a minimalist sort of way. Classy features include a pop-out keyboard and light in the screen surround, so you’ll be able to type in dark conditions.
The keyboard is everything we’ve come to expect from HP - it lacks the form of a Sony VAIO or Apple MacBook, but we have no criticisms with the ergonomics. The keys move quietly and there’s enough space for comfortable touch-typing. The separated directional and end keys are also a nice touch, making it easy to use them without having to look where they are.
Being a corporate machine, you’ll find the usual choice between touchpad and pointing stick, with a small rubber nipple located between the G and H keys, and two sets of mouse buttons. The touchpad itself features quite a deep indent, making it impossible to brush accidentally as you type.
You’ll find a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor at the heart of this machine. It’s backed by 2048MB of memory, which sounds slightly miserly at this price point, but during our test the 6930p proved stunningly quick, outperforming most of the laptops we’ve seen recently. Some of this can be attributed to the 7200rpm hard drive, which offers 160GB of storage space.
3G/HSDPA connectivity is built-in, with easy access to the SIM card offered on the right-hand side of the chassis. Once in the office, or indeed home, you’ll be better served by the 802.11n Wi-Fi adapter and Gigabit Ethernet. Connectivity is let down by the provision of a single, analogue-only VGA port. It’s fine for connecting older monitors or projectors, but you may not be able to connect the latest equipment without an adapter.
There is a fairly comprehensive features list, which includes Bluetooth and a multi-format DVD rewriter with LightScribe, letting you burn labels directly onto the surface of compatible discs. A fingerprint scanner lets you log into your account quickly and easily, and a webcam in the screen surround supports video conferencing.
The EliteBook does very little wrong - indeed the slightly hazy screen and the similarity in styling to Compaq models are the only criticisms we can aim at it. Despite this, we found it a difficult machine to justify, with Compaq laptops offering similar performance, features and usability at a cheaper price.
However, if you’re taken by the styling, and fancy something a little more up-market, it’s a useful business tool, with impressive connectivity and an all-day battery life that lets you keep in touch with the office wherever you go.