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I have been in the market for a laptop for a couple of months now to replace my ageing Samsung one. I had read reviews of the HP Probook 4530s and it seemed to be getting great reviews for being a decent all-round laptop, and the arrival of HP's trade-in and cashback promotions meant I was able to get one for around £500 with the promise of receiving £250 of that back in return for my old laptop and a cashback submission.
The laptop comes with Intel's latest generation of Core i5 processors running at 2.5Ghz - it utilises Intel's Turbo Boost technology to automatically overclock the processor to 3Ghz as it is put under pressure.
Out of the factory it ships with 4GB of DDR3 memory, there are two slots and the supplied memory module occupies on of them allowing for easy upgrading to the supported 8GB or beyond (the machine has been seen to run 16GB with no problems, but 8GB matched pairs are not cheap at the moment)
The display is a matt 15 inch panel which is bright and returns good image and colour quality. It is limited to 1366x768 so is by no means a HD panel, but for a mid-range laptop it does the job. The display is driven by a dual graphics option. As part of the processor chipset is Intel's 3000 HD graphics processor for low-power usage, and the option to switch to ATI's 6450M when you need a bit more grunt.
The UK spec machine is shipped with a 640GB 5200RPM hard disk (both Hitachi and Samsung are reportedly used - mine is the former). Despite the slower spin-speed, the drive is by no means a slouch.
And the rest... B/G/N wireless, gigabit ethernet, 3xUSB2, 1xUSB3, HDMI, VGA and CD/DVD multi-writer, HD webcam, multi-touch touchpad, SRS integrated sound.
I bought my machine with the specific intention of installing Apple's OSX operating system on it. Those in the know will be familiar with the pains of installing OSX on non-Apple hardware. The draw of the 4530s is that it is compatible with OSX out of the box (providing you get the Atheros and not the Ralink wireless chipset). With the greatest of ease you can install OSX on this machine and have a fully functional "Hackbook" for less than 250 notes.
Running along side OSX I have Windows 7 64bit (Home Premium is suppled by default but is full of bloatware so I fully recommend a clean install - HP will post you the driver and restore DVD if you ask, otherwise download the drivers from HP's website).
My third and final operating system is Ubuntu Desktop 11.10 x64.
Boot times are in the region of;
OSX - 60 seconds
Windows 7 - 50 seconds
Ubuntu - 30 seconds
All three OS's run like a dream, all feeling snappy and responsive whilst the laptop maintains a cool running temperature.
I haven't played any games on the machine as yet so can't comment on graphics performance but general opinion is that you should be able to run most of the latest titles at a decent quality setting using the ATI graphics chipset.
The keyboard layout will be familiar to Apple users, as it draws upon Apple's use of the "Scabble tile" keys which make typing a breeze. It is full size QWERTY keyboard with number keypad - the only annoyance is that the arrow keys are very close together which often leads to hitting the wrong key when touch-typing.
The touchpad is slightly offset to the left which I read is a good design technique, but it means I hit the touchpad and end up typing at the top of a paragraph if I'm not careful. The pad is multi-touch for those operating systems that support it (OSX and Ubuntu do).
The integrated SRS sound system provides a decent level and quality of sound for a laptop, easily loud enough to fill a small room although I wouldn't use it as my primary means of listening to music or watching a film - it's just not loud enough.
Battery life is about average - I get around 3 hours of use in Windows 7, slightly less in OSX and slightly more in Ubuntu - this is with a typical session of browsing, listening to music and such like. The battery charges very quickly so if you do need to dive for the charger it won't be plugged in too long.
For the money, it is a lovely looking machine. The brushed-aluminium chassis give it the appearance of a machine costing twice as much.
The ability to run OSX without the painful exercise of installing OS hacks is a dream come true for Hackintosh wannabe's - it is as easy as writing the OSX Lion installer to a USB key, running the installer and then running a driver pack which are all provided by the tonymacx86.com forum guys - it is really easy.
The HP is incredibly easy to upgrade due to the tool-less access to the bottom bay. Simply remove the battery and slide the battery release switches towards each other and the base of the laptop comes away. From here you can easily add another memory module, change the hard disk (or add a Solid State Disk) and for those unlucky enough to get the Ralink wireless module, this can be changed here too (be warned you MUST purchase the official HP Atheros card or the BIOS will not detect the wireless card).
As a mid-range machine, this would be "OK" but with the added draw of HP's trade-in and cashback promotions, it's a superb machine which will cost you £250 in the end (providing you have an old machine to trade in and follow the promotion terms and conditions). I'm thrilled with mine and considering I was looking at buying a MacBook, I'm glad I didn't as this does everything a MacBook can at a fraction of the price.