At first glance, it would be easy to label the HP ProBook 5310m laptop a knockoff of a late 2007 MacBook. The all-black casing, made from aluminium and magnesium alloy, and the chiclet-style keyboard certainly support that judgement. But the ProBook is primarily aimed at business users, not consumers. The 5310m is available in a number of configurations. Here we review the high-end VQ470EA version, which is available for about £810.
The 5310m looks very stately. The brushed-aluminium lid is marked with a simple, silver HP logo with 'ProBook' barely visible below it. On the other side of the lid is a 13.3-inch, LED-backlit, widescreen display with a typical resolution for its size of 1,366x768 pixels. It's available with a matte anti-glare coating or HP's glassy HD BrightView finish. The screen is adequately bright for working outdoors, text and graphics are sharply rendered, and colours are very good. Viewing angles aren't the best, though.
The system weighs less than 1.8kg, and the power adaptor adds just less than 455g to the travel weight. This is borderline ultra-portable, but, unless you absolutely need the lightest machine possible, the 5310m is light enough for normal travel.
The brushed aluminium used on the lid continues inside, with a strip above the keyboard and for the palm rest. The wide, flat, matte-black keys are surrounded by glossy black plastic, which is used for the screen bezel and the touchpad as well. The touchpad has no texture to it, so fingers don't slide easily. That's a shame, since there's support for multi-finger gestures, a feature that's easily activated via the touchpad software.
The keyboard is extremely comfortable to use, with good response and no flex while typing. It's also spill-resistant. There are no multimedia controls -- it's a business laptop, after all -- but you do get a wireless on/off button and two quick-launch buttons for email and Web applications. The buttons work when the system is completely shut down by opening HP's QuickLook 3, for reading email and contact information from Outlook, and QuickWeb, for simple Web surfing. We're still not sure anyone uses these pre-boot environments -- especially with Windows 7 booting reasonably quickly -- but it's there if you want to give it a try. If you're not the type to carry a smart phone but want fast access to all your messages, appointments and contacts -- past and present -- it's a valuable addition.
Above the display is a 2-megapixel webcam, flanked by microphones on each side. The set-up worked well in our informal Skype tests, with good voice and video clarity. Down-firing speakers are positioned under the front edge of the laptop, and, although they don't get very loud, they sound good with both voices and music.
Because the 5310m is made for professional use and frequent travel, HP has loaded this ProBook up with security and shock-protection features. HP ProtectTools has options for complete data-shredding for files, folders and storage drives, drive encryption and setting up pre-boot security. Should you forget your password, its SpareKey feature lets you answer three personal questions to identify yourself. To protect against bumps and drops, the 3D DriveGuard uses a three-axis digital accelerometer that parks the hard drive to minimise damage to your data.