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As I work in IT I get to handle plenty of laptops and my current position means that I'm responsible for identifying a standardised laptop for our entire company to use. This process usually takes a few days and involves lots of comparison charts, part numbers and phone calls. Last year I had the job of proposing a mid-specification laptop that was suitable for a wide range of tasks and also sturdy enough to be used in some quite hostile environments. My proposed laptop was the HP ProBook 6550b (model WD0704ET), and here is why...
First of all I predominantly favour HP laptops as over the years I have found them to be reliable, relatively well built (especially comparing them to similar priced Dell's) and have a great business support service (I can't say the same for their home user support though).
Looks and feel
This is one of the better looking laptops I have owned. It is a combination of black and silver in colour with nice aqua green lights. It looks and feels sleek and has nicely rounded corners and edges which I find makes using it all that more comfortable. At just under 3kg in weight it's light enough to handle easily, especially when grabbing it from the opposite side of the couch - which might sound a silly point but my 17" Dell weighs a ton and I've often strained myself whilst being lazy. Probably a lesson there somewhere....
Specification and Configuration
Right, down to the meat and guts of the machine:
Model: HP ProBook 6560b Notebook PC
Processor: 2nd Generation Intel Core i5-2410M Processor @ 2.30GHz
Chipset: Mobile Intel HM65 Express
Memory: 4GB 1333 MHz DDR3 SDRAM in dual channel (8GB Max)
Graphics: Integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000
Display: 15.6-inch diagonal LED-backlit HD anti-glare (1366 x 768)
Storage: Hitachi 320GB 7200 rpm 2.5-inch hard drive
Optical: Lightscribe DVD+/-RW SuperMulti DL Drive
Battery: 6-cell 55 Wh Li-Ion Battery
Wireless: Intel Centrino Advanced N 6205 a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1
Webcam: 720p HD Webcam
Dimensions: 1.35 in x 14.72 in x 9.86 in
Weight: 5.76 lbs.
OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
As you can see from the specs the laptop is relatively powerful and will happily cope with your normal day to day tasks, easily support general media usage and is fine for social networking. It comes with 4GB of RAM as standard but it's nice to know that you can upgrade to 8GB if required. With current laptops I'd always go for the i5 processor because I think for the extra money it costs you get a sense of security knowing that it will be suitable for increasingly demanding software and media for a least a few years . On a side note, because most people only have a general knowledge about computers you'll notice that TV adverts and sales staff will focus a lot on hard drive size and RAM amounts which most people understand. Once you start talking about amount of cores, speed in GHz and cache sizes most people go blank - which is understandable! Be careful you don't get palmed off with an inferior processor because the laptop has a big hard drive - remember the processor is the brain of the computer!
The screen is clear and is anti-glare and combined with the Intel HD3000 graphics card gives a nice, crisp picture. The 720p HD camera also gives a clean image and would be perfect for anyone who uses video chat such as Skype.
As well as the Windows 7 64bit software that comes pre-installed there is also a bundle of HP tools and services included. The one that I find the most useful is the HP Support Assistant as it gives an easy interface to maintain and troubleshoot the laptop and also runs automated updates and tune-ups.
Battery life is good (I get about 3 hours) but obviously depends on your power options setup. Like any laptop, make sure you drain your battery completely and then charge it fully regularly to keep it at optimum health.
I'll make an important point here - HP are not the most reliable laptops, but as I mentioned at the start they have a really good business warranty support service. Depending on your budget and your requirement will depend on the warranty you'll go for, I have the 3 year Next Day Onsite which means if I need an engineer to repair the laptop I'll get one (with the part) at my place the next day. Their phone support is normally good and you can normally get replacement parts sent out quickly without too much hassle. Again, I can't vouch for the home user support but you'll normally find that it's not as good as the business support.
Overall I like this laptop a lot, for what it costs you get a fair bit of performance packed nicely into a sleek, tidy and pretty cool looking case. HP Business support is good so if something does fail then I know that I'll be able to get it fixed next day.