If you're in the market for an affordable portable work system, the HP Compaq 6530b might deserve a place on your short list.
The HP Compaq 6530b is a solid, standard-issue all-purpose laptop that houses a thoughtfully arranged software bundle that will quickly help you get down to business.
What does your money buy you, performance-wise? For starters, it buys Intel's Core2 Duo 2.26GHz T8400 CPU and 2GB of RAM. Indeed the HP Compaq 6530b has more than enough power to carry you through the workday and yield reasonable scores in our WorldBench 6 tests.
The HP Compaq 6530b earned a mark of 81 - not too shabby, and close to the Lenovo ThinkPad SL400's score of 84. In battery life, too, the HP Compaq 6530b is no slouch, lasting for about 4 hours, 22 minutes in our tests. And it's a light laptop, at just 2.4kg.
What's not to like? The HP Compaq 6530b's screen. The 14.1in panel is a little on the dull side. The matte coating makes it more amenable to broad-daylight computing, but the colours seem a bit faded on the 1280-by-800-pixel-resolution screen - even with the brightness cranked up all the way.
Withe the HP Compaq 6530b will you be able to view your pictures and watch the occasional DVD on your next flight? Yes, but the video won't pop as much as it might on a glossy panel. That's the trade-off you make with any matte screen: the colours are less vivid, but the screen is viewable in any lighting condition. This particular panel, however, is a touch dim even when compared with similar matte screens.
The hard-plastic casing feels rigid enough that the HP Compaq 6530b should be able to withstand some punishment. We dare say that the 6530b even feels as if it could be slightly ruggedised, although HP isn't using that label.
The HP Compaq 6530b's keyboard has a great feel. It doesn't match a ThinkPad's buttery tactile response, but with its ample key spacing and good key travel, we didn't break a sweat typing this review on it. Another thing that caught our attention: the backlit touch-sensitive buttons running along the top of the keyboard. At first glance they look like activity lights, but in reality they are subtle but effective shortcuts and toggles.
The Wi-Fi toggle sits in the middle, volume controls are on the right, and handy business-friendly application shortcuts reside on the left. (One launches the presentation program of your choice, optimises video output, and manages power settings.)
The touchpad is small and responsive, and the raised rubber mouse buttons feel substantial. One thing that feels a little odd - but good - is the wrist rest. Though it's just a hard plastic piece, it has tiny textured grooves that are comfortable to lean on for extended periods.
A quick survey around the HP Compaq 6530b shows that while it isn't quite a multimedia machine, it is perfectly suited for taking your presentations on the road. It has VGA and S-Video outputs on the back, and sports other staples such as four USB 2.0 ports, a four-pin FireWire port, an SD Card reader, and a PC Card slot. Connectivity is covered with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, modem, and ethernet jacks. We'd like to see a DVI or HDMI output, too, but that omission is not surprising since this laptop relies on wimpy Intel integrated graphics.
The HP Compaq 6530b's front-firing speakers are adequate for listening to audio notes you've recorded, but everything else, from music to movies, sounds horribly tinny and flat. Plug in some headphones, and you should be fine. But if you were eyeing the HP Compaq 6530b to display multimedia-rich presentations, consider looking elsewhere.