When we first reviewed this laptop late last year it cost around £100 more than it does now. Back then we said it was sturdy and versatile. We hold to that, though we should note that the build isn’t what you might first expect. See also: Group test: what's the best laptop?
It looks like a solid metal laptop thank to the silver sheen on the lid and around the keyboard. In fact, it's made from plastic, and there's a bit of give in the lid. It’s as rugged as we’d expect from a laptop at its price, which means you will need to protect it in transit. See also: Laptop Advisor.
As befits a laptop suitable for the office there’s a matt finish to the screen. This could really help if you need to travel a lot with your laptop and find yourself working in the glare of sunlight through windows. In general we prefer matt screens, though gaming and video fans might prefer gloss. See also Group test: what's the best budget laptop?
The keyboard has isolated keys and is mostly efficient, though the up and down cursor keys are tiny and are fiddly and the keyboard isn’t quite as comfy under the fingers as many. We really like that you can disable the touchpad with a simple double tap on its upper left corner. Do this and a tiny orange light illuminates. Another double tap enables it again.
HP’s ProBook 4530s runs Windows 7 Professional and thus could suffice as a low-cost work laptop. The presence of an ExpressCard slot potentially gives it a further plus in the office, though in reality these are becoming less frequently used. There’s also a fingerprint reader for the security conscious.
A full gigabyte of memory supports the AMD graphics card and ensures good graphics performance for the price: not too many business laptops can boast about running our Fear test at 42 frames per second. General Windows performance is helped by 4GB of RAM supporting the Core i5 processor. Battery life isn't bad, but other laptops lasted well over five hours - the 4530S ground to a halt well before that milestone.
There are a couple of disappointments in specifications. There are four USB ports but none are USB 3.0, and the hard drive, at 640GB, isn't the largest.
Review by Ben Camm-Jones on 23/11/2011
The HP ProBook 4350s is a laptop aimed at business users who travel a lot but need a reliable working companion. However, the build quality and impressive set of specifications recommends the ProBook to anyone looking for a solid laptop for home use and entertainment as well.
The HP ProBook 4530s's screen is a 15.6in backlit LED with a resolution of 1366 x 768. The colours are a touch on the dull side but what we really like about the screen is its anti-glare matt finish, bucking the contemporary trend of screens shinier than a Bearskin Guard's boot.
As a work-focused laptop, the HP ProBook 4530s's keyboard is suitably usable, with decent sized keys, well spaced out, and with a numeric keypad to the right. It's also designed to be spill-proof, which is a definite plus, as anyone who has ever tipped a cup of coffee over a laptop before will tell you.
If we have one complaint about the HP ProBook 4530s's keyboard, though, it's the Up and Down arrow keys, which are squashed together, making them difficult to use without taking your eyes off the screen. The touchpad is a good size though it's difficult to avoid unintentionally hitting it with your thumbs as you type.
There's a fingerprint reader for additional security but the security measures don't end there. Several software programs bundled by HP offer extra protection, and the HP ProtectTools Security Manager requires that you set a Windows password. Though we all know perfectly well that we should use a password for Windows, many of us still don't, so to be given no choice in the matter is a helpful push in the right direction.
See all: Mid-range laptop reviews
In terms of connectivity, there's the standard 802.11b/g/n compatibility, Bluetooth 3.0 and an array of ports for connecting peripherals. While external monitors and displays are covered by the VGA and HDMI ports, there are four USB ports, of which one supports the USB 3.0 standard.
There’s also an option to have a mobile broadband modem built-in to the ProBook as well, although this wasn't included in the model we tested.
There's a decent amount of storage space on the 640GB hard drive, along with a DVD rewriter. The ProBook comes with 4GB of RAM as standard, with room to upgrade to 8GB should you wish.
Performance-wise, the HP had a handy turn of speed, the 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M processor propelling it to a score of 115 in WorldBench 6. Though this isn't exactly mind-blowing, it's far from disappointing.
Note that our review sample does not seem to be available with the exact specs we tested in the UK. While our sample had AMD Radeon HD 6490M graphics with 1GB video RAM, and a 640GB hard drive, the nearest we’ve seen on sale sports an HD 6470M with 512MB, and 320GB of storage.
With the better graphics card inside, the ProBook 4530s scored a framerate of 39fps in FEAR at maximum detail settings.
If you're on the move a lot, the 2.3kg chassis isn't going to weigh you down too much, though it is significantly heavier than, say, a MacBook Air.
Battery life tests provided average results, with the HP lasting a little under five hours (286 mins) in MobileMark 2007 Productivity, so you might not want to stray too far from AC power outlets.
What really impressed us about the ProBook - other than the screen - was the solidity of the build. The brushed metal finish inspires confidence and the HP looks like it would easily withstand life on the road and all the bashes, scrapes and drops that entails.
On the downside, though, is the sheer volume of software the ProBook comes preloaded with. Though some applications are useful, such as those that boost security, there are others that are more likely to cause an irritation than do anything you'll find remotely useful.
Even with a powerful Intel Core processor and 4GB of RAM the ProBook struggled with slow start-up times until we removed the unnecessary programs that were hogging resources.
Verdict: The HP ProBook is a sturdy, versatile laptop that will suit anyone who needs something portable and powerful. Its slight build belies the fact that the ProBook is as rugged as they come and can withstand a bit of rough treatment. If you plan on using this laptop a lot and are prone to the odd attack of the clumsies then the HP ProBook 4530s will be right up your street.