The HP 4430s is endowed with above-average looks, but in other respects it is the epitome of a basic, all-purpose business laptop. It's good at nearly everything, though not so good that you're likely to think "This is it!" It offers biometric security, but lacks USB 3.0 or eSATA for quick local backup.
If the brushed-aluminum-and-black, 4.5-pound 4430s were a bit thinner, it might turn even more heads. But going with the stocky profile enabled HP to include a DVD-RW drive. The rest of our $579 test unit's components were capable, though unspectacular: an Intel Core i3-2310M, 4GB of system memory, and a 7200-rpm, 320GB hard drive. The display is a 1366-by-768-resolution, 14-inch widescreen with exceptionally even backlighting.
The 4430s is also available with a faster Core i5 2410M and a larger 500GB hard drive for $749. In that configuration, the laptop runs Windows 7 Professional, which plays better with network domains. Our lesser configuration comes with Windows 7 Home Premium installed, but you can upgrade the OS to Professional for $70 more.
A score of 99 on WorldBench 6 is nothing to shout about--in either anguish or joy. It’s sufficent to get the job done but not much more--though subjectively the 4430s feels lively enough. Still, it's not for gamers: Frame rates in our tests reached the high 20s in frames per second--teasingly close to playable, but not really there. Video playback at any resolution is smooth. The sound is loud and clear, but it emphasizes the midrange when played through the laptop's speakers. We measured the battery life at 4 hours, 46 minutes, which isn't the best we've seen, but does beat several comparable units such as the Toshiba Satellite L755-S5258.
The 4430s's Chiclet-style keyboard is a pleasant surprise. It offers an uncommonly solid feel for a laptop keyboard. The keys are sculpted ever so slightly for a secure feel and I noticed very little key wiggle. The touchpad and buttons offer good response, and are positioned nicely for thumb access as you type. A particularly welcome feature is the ability to turn the touchpad off by double-tapping in the upper left corner. If you've ever put your cursor in the wrong place by inadvertently dragging your thumb across the touchpad while typing, you'll appreciate this option.
One feature missing from the 4430s is a high-speed peripheral port. All four USB ports are USB 2.0, and there's no eSATA or USB 3.0 to support fast local backup. Happily, the ethernet port is gigabit, so if you have a fast NAS box or network, you can back up quickly that way. Other ports include an SD/MMC card slot, audio-in and -out, and VGA. There's no HDMI but HP does offer 802.11b/g/n wireless and Bluetooth 3.0 on board.
HP includes its HP ProtectTools suite, which works with the integrated biometric fingerprint reader on the front of the keyboard deck and provides drive encryption and password management. You also get ArcSoft's TotalMedia for video and DVD playback, and the usual Office 2010 and Norton trials.
The 4430s is a solid, affordable business laptop that looks good in the meeting room and will get the job done. The absence of a high-speed local bus, however, is a definite drawback.