HP ProBook 5310m: Thin is In

HP is one of the biggest players in the computer industry, and as such they cater to every type of user from your typical home consumer through business executives and data centers. With such a large range of offerings, quality and features can vary quite a bit. The ProBook line is part of HP's business laptop segment, which means build quality is at the higher end of the spectrum compared to consumer laptops. Like Lenovo's famed ThinkPad line, the ProBook 5310m starts with a magnesium alloy chassis for improved durability. And like most other business laptops, users get an anti-glare (i.e. matte) display. The competition consists of Lenovo ThinkPad, Dell Latitude, and Sony VAIO, to name just a few alternatives.

At its core, the HP 5310m is similar to many CULV laptops that we've looked at. The catch is that you either get the lowest of the low Celeron SU2300 (1.2GHz, 1MB cache, 800FSB) or you take a big step up from CULV territory and get an SP9300 (2.26GHz, 6MB cache, 1066FSB). While Core i3/i5 are getting headlines these days—and rightfully so—Core 2 products will continue to sell for a while, particularly in the thin and light form factors. The HP 5310m has been out for a few months now, and in some ways it was already a little long in the tooth at launch, but IT departments are rarely looking for the latest and greatest hardware. Instead, they want a stable platform that they'll be able to purchase for a year or more without worrying about upgrades and changes, and the 5310m provides exactly that. Here are the specs and configuration options for the 5310m, with bold items indicating the components in our test unit.

HP ProBook 5310m Specifications
Processor Intel Celeron SU2300 (45nm, 2x1.20GHz, 1MB, 800FSB, 10W) Intel Core 2 Duo SP9300 (45nm, 2x2.26GHz, 6MB, 1066FSB, 25W)
Intel Core 2 Duo SP9400 (45nm, 2x2.40GHz, 6MB, 1066FSB, 25W)
Chipset Intel GS45 + ICH9M
Memory 1x2GB DDR3-1066
1x4GB DDR3-1066
Graphics Intel GMA 4500MHD
Display 13.3" LED Backlit Anti-Glare WXGA (1366x768)
13.3" LED Backlit BrightView WXGA (1366x768)
Hard Drive(s) 160GB 7200RPM
250GB 7200RPM
320GB 7200RPM
Optical Drive N/A
Networking Realtek Gigabit Ethernet
Broadcom 4312BG 802.11bg Broadcom 4322AGN 802.11agn
Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5100 802.11agn
Bluetooth 2.1
Mobile Broadband (Optional)
Gobi with GPS (Optional)
Audio HD Audio (2 speakers with combo headphone/mic jack)
Battery 4-cell 37Wh
6-cell 62Wh
Front Side Speaker grilles
Left Side Gigabit Ethernet
1 x USB 2.0
Cooling Exhaust
AC Power Connection
Right Side Flash reader (SD/MMC)
Headphone/Microphone Combo jack
2 x USB 2.0
Kensington Lock
Back Side None
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 32-bit
Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit Windows XP Professional Downgrade
Dimensions 12.9" x 8.7" x 0.93" (WxDxH)
Weight 3.79 lbs (with 4-cell battery)
Extras 2MP Webcam
86-Key Keyboard
Multitouch Touchpad
SD/MMC Flash reader
Warranty 1-year standard warranty
Extended warranties available
Pricing SU2300 starting at $618
SP9300 Test System: $758

Outside of the SP9300/SP9400 CPU options and the matte LCD, the specs of the 5310m are standard fare. However, we can also see that HP made some compromises in service of the very thin chassis. At less than 1" thick and with a flat design (i.e. unlike laptops where the front is .8" thick while the back can bulge to 1.5"), the 5310m is definitely thin, but it lacks an optical drive and only comes equipped with one SO-DIMM slot. Our concern with the RAM limitation isn't so much of a performance problem, but rather available memory and cost. All of the standard models come with a single 2GB SO-DIMM; custom builds with 4GB are available through HP, but they cost more and the upgrade to a 4GB SO-DIMM comes at an exorbitant $300. Newegg's prices for the same 4GB SO-DIMM range from $165 to $220, depending on brand and speed, so if you want 4GB you'll find it cheaper to upgrade on your own.

Coupled to the single SO-DIMM option is a lack of pre-configured 64-bit OS support. The laptop is fully capable of running Windows 7 64-bit, but HP chooses not to offer such a build from their factory. Given the business target audience, it's not a huge surprise: most IT departments are still running XP and will probably just ghost the corporate image onto the 5310m, but for consumers looking to buy a higher quality business laptop it's regrettable.

While we're on the subject of omissions, note that the single audio jack functions as either a headphone or a microphone port. If you want to use a traditional headset, you'll need a USB adapter. The audio output from the speakers, as you might expect, isn't very loud. On the bright side, the speakers don't distort horrendously, which is more than we can say for some of the Acer laptops we've tested.

On the positive end of the spectrum, even with the puny 4-cell battery, battery life is respectable. HP claims up to 6.5 hours (7 hours for the SU2300 CULV model), though we measured just shy of six hours in our idle battery life test. (HP uses MobileMark 2007, which tends to put a close-to-idle load on laptops; at a lower LCD brightness you can almost certainly get 6.5 hours, but we calibrated for 100nits.) All of the 5310m models come with higher performance 7200RPM drives, or you can even opt for a 128GB SSD if you're so inclined.

The most likely competition for the 5310m would be something like the ThinkPad Edge, except with an SP9300 CPU the 5310m will clearly hold the performance advantage over a CULV laptop. If you're okay with "consumer" laptops, ASUS' new U30Jc with Optimus G310M graphics and an i3-350m CPU only costs a bit more; it also has aluminum covers, though without handling it yet we can't comment on build quality. We'll have a review of that in the coming weeks, but it obviously has the performance advantage. The question is whether it has a stylistic advantage… and of course most businesses are likely to go with HP, Dell, or Lenovo over ASUS. Plus, the magnesium alloy frame and well-designed keyboard are very good features.

How does this business-oriented laptop stack up to the competition? As you might expect, the CPU ends up beating CULV configurations quite handily, at least in application performance. The lack of a discrete GPU means gaming and graphics tasks aren't something you'll want to do on the 5310m. Battery life is decent, particularly when you consider the small 4-cell battery, making the 5310m a reasonable system for those who travel a lot. The size and weight are also good for portability enthusiasts, and build quality as mentioned is top notch, so let's delve a little deeper.

HP ProBook 5310m Design and Build
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  • cbutters - Monday, April 26, 2010 - link

    This is a sweet laptop, I have had mine for about 2 months. It is light and comparable to a macbook air.
    I have one of these up on ebay right now, complete with a vertex 60GB SSD if anyone is interested, item no 180499381266
  • whatthehey - Monday, April 26, 2010 - link

    If it's so nice... why are you selling it on eBay? LOL
  • afkrotch - Monday, April 26, 2010 - link

    Hookers and blow. Isn't that always the reason?
  • blyndy - Monday, April 26, 2010 - link

    If only they put this design and build quality in with optimus graphics I would call it my next notebook.
  • secretanchitman - Monday, April 26, 2010 - link

    a better gpu, a few extra ports, and a much better display would make this a great notebook.
  • feelingshorter - Monday, April 26, 2010 - link

    Comparing it to the Asus U30J is not a good idea IMO since the U30J comes with a dvd drive and the HP ProBook doesn't. If your looking for thin and slender, its the UL30JT, which is the successor to the UL30VT. Either of which would of been a good comparison to this HP. The UL30JT hasn't come out yet but it is 3.75 pounds with 8 cell 5600mah batter, less than an inch think, but with asus Turbo Boost, intel's UM series CPU for the same ridiculously 10.5 + hour battery life seen on the other VT series, and 4500MHD/310M.

    Plus, this laptop is already outdated because you can only push the Intel GS45 + ICH9M so far, with all next gen laptops harnessing the HM55. The HM55 platform now has the 4500MHD on die, and with the UM series cpu, has an overall system TDP lower than that of the GS45 + 4500MHD. Not to mention the HM55's 4500MHD has a similar Turbo Boost as the CPU does, so its actually faster than the previous gen 4500MHD. The UL30JT is basically UL30VT but faster CPU and better battery life.

    Given an Asus SU7300 + Turbo Boost, it really narrows the CPU lead that this HP ProBook has on the UL30VT, which is comparable since the UL30JT isn't available yet. Regardless, you hit hit the nail on the head when you said the HP ProBook is just aesthetics (although the silver Asus UL30VT-A1 thats available now looks better IMO.
  • YpoCaramel - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    X201i would be another consideration - Core i3-330M, business oriented but only a 12" screen.
  • KaarlisK - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    As a result, 3dmark06 isn't the best way to compare the 4500MHD in this laptop with the 4500MHD in the other laptops that have dual-channel memory. A game might actually show the laptop with a slower cpu but double the memory bandwidth to have higher Intel IGP performance.
    And it can play Starcraft 2, you know ;)
  • davepermen - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    Why should anyone care?

    And for those who would (artists, power users), for those the Elitebook line exists.

    This is for the typical business user: office, windows, sap, web.
  • obiuquido144 - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    When I was buying a laptop 2 months ago I loved this super-good-looking 5310m when I first saw it.
    But in the end I went with the heavier 14" Probook 6440b with a 1600x900 matte LCD, optical drive, both audio connectors, 8GB RAM possibility (4GB standard) and i5 for the same price. For $10 bucks I added an eSATA expresscard from dealextreme and for another $10 a Displayport->DVI cable.

    I also called to HP support enquiring about how I can burn/get system installation disks when I want to format the whole HD, and they said they'd ship them to me for free through their service partner.
    When I was providing the service company with photos of my license labels etc., I asked if it was possible to get 64bit disks while we're at it - and they said sure, no problem, you just won't be able switch back.
    Of course I went with that! I live in Europe, not sure if this is possible in the US, or if I just had plain luck. But the license sticker doesn't specify the bit-version of the OS.

    The 5310m looks awesome though, I have to admit. The sexiest laptop I've ever seen!

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