HP ProBook 455 G2 Ubuntu budget laptop review

One way to get a dirt-cheap laptop is to buy one not with Windows but Ubuntu preinstalled. That's the case with the £300 HP ProBook 455 G2 Ubuntu edition, but would you be better looking elsewhere? We find out in our HP ProBook budget laptop review. Also see: Best budget laptops 2015.

Microsoft’s strategy to stem PC competition from Google gave us Windows 8.1 with Bing, a free operating system available to laptop manufacturers. That’s shown us useful savings in the final retail price, but there’s another way to evade the Windows tax – find a laptop with Linux pre-installed.

The ProBook 455 G2 is one of three HP laptops sold by eBuyer running Ubuntu Linux instead of Windows, leading to a price of £300 for even the highest spec model here with 1.9 GHz quad-core AMD processor, 1 TB hard disk and 8 GB of memory.

HP ProBook 455 G2 Ubuntu review

HP ProBook 455 G2 Ubuntu review: Build and design

From the budget end of HP’s business range, the HP ProBook 455 G2 Ubuntu is a simple 15in laptop sporting the kind of components you find on a sub-£500 machine, such as low-grade TN display, plastic casework buffed up with gunmetal paint and simple connectivity. See all budget laptop reviews.

A slot-load DVD+/-RW drive pops out the right side beyond two USB 2.0 ports. The HP ProBook 455 G2 Ubuntu's left side trumps these with a pair of high-speed USB 3.0, alongside HDMI, VGA and gigabit ethernet ports.

Like most business laptops there’s decent access from the underside to essential upgrade areas: two doors, one to access hard disk and memory, the other for Wi-Fi card. A small 31 Wh battery can also be detached easily.

Screen quality is the usual weak spot, a 100 ppi 15.6in TN panel with contrast and colour issue that leave the image looking simulatenously dull and washed out.

Real buttons below the HP ProBook 455 G2 Ubuntu's multi-touch trackpad have smooth operation while pointer precision is only average for the budget price. Typists may feel at home with its serviceable keyboard and numberpad.

HP ProBook 455 G2 Ubuntu review

HP ProBook 455 G2 Ubuntu review: Software

The real story here is Ubuntu preinstalled instead of the prevailing Windows, a certified option from HP which should be free of incompatibilities between hard- and software. Also see: 20 best laptops 2015.

Ubuntu is often seen as the third way after OS X and Windows, an operating sytem that in interface terms should be simple enough to get around. Finding the applications you need may be challenging though. Office programs like Word and Excel can be substituted by Libre or OpenOffice, and web browsing and email are easy with familiar cross-platform utilities like Firefox and Thunderbird. Games and entertainment come up short; look around and you will find titles like Civilization and Half Life for Linux.

The OS has some issues here, with switchable graphics and TPM security module not supported. The Ubuntu version installed is dated, an odd long-term support (LTS) choice from 2012, despite this laptop’s build after the release of up-to-date 14.04 LTS. You can upgrade yourself, or even install Windows on the HP ProBook 455 G2 Ubuntu if desired.

HP ProBook 455 G2 Ubuntu review

HP ProBook 455 G2 Ubuntu review: Performance

We couldn’t benchmark the HP ProBook 455 G2 Ubuntu with the usual Windows programs, but the 28 nm AMD chip is roughly comparable to a four-year old Intel Core i5. Our usual battery benchmark also proved problematic as the Wi-Fi performance was so terrible, causing constant crashes. One driver update later, the laptop could run with wireless but slowly, less than 10 Mb/s, stuttering the video playback.

AMD-powered laptops don’t fare well in power efficiency, but the HP ProBook 455 G2 Ubuntu proved even shorter lived than usual. Streaming over Wi-Fi our usual test video played for just 1 hr 24 min. Repeated without wireless, it lasted 3 hr 13 min.

HP ProBook 455 G2 Ubuntu: Specs

  • Ubuntu Linux 12.04.5 LTS
  • 15.6in (1366x768, 100ppi) TN matt anti-glare screen
  • 1.9GHz AMD A10 7300 (3.2GHz Turbo)
  • AMD Radeon R6 graphics
  • 8GB 1600MHz DDR3L RAM
  • 1TB 5400rpm HDD
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • DVD+/-RW DL drive
  • 2x USB 3.0
  • 2x USB 2.0
  • HDMI
  • VGA
  • D-Sub
  • Kensington lock slot
  • SDXC slot
  • stereo speakers
  • 0.9Mp webcam
  • single mic
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • UK tiled keyboard with numberpad (spill-resistant)
  • two-button (103x54mm) multitouch trackpad
  • 31Wh removable lithium-ion battery
  • 45W mains charger
  • 375x263x26.7mm
  • 2250g
  • battery life: 1 hr 24 mins
  • Ubuntu Linux 12.04.5 LTS
  • 15.6in (1366x768, 100ppi) TN matt anti-glare screen
  • 1.9GHz AMD A10 7300 (3.2GHz Turbo)
  • AMD Radeon R6 graphics
  • 8GB 1600MHz DDR3L RAM
  • 1TB 5400rpm HDD
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • DVD+/-RW DL drive
  • 2x USB 3.0
  • 2x USB 2.0
  • HDMI
  • VGA
  • D-Sub
  • Kensington lock slot
  • SDXC slot
  • stereo speakers
  • 0.9Mp webcam
  • single mic
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • UK tiled keyboard with numberpad (spill-resistant)
  • two-button (103x54mm) multitouch trackpad
  • 31Wh removable lithium-ion battery
  • 45W mains charger
  • 375x263x26.7mm
  • 2250g
  • battery life: 1 hr 24 mins

OUR VERDICT

It may be cheap but out of the box, but the HP ProBook 455 G2 Ubuntu won’t suit many users. A newer Ubuntu or Windows OS may help, but it’s not one for the typical untutored budget PC buyer.

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