Review HP ProBook 6550b Notebook
Like the name suggests, the HP ProBooks belong to HP's line of professional business notebooks, though they don't represent the top echelon of the assortment. It's a range of affordable, robust notebooks which are forgiving even to those users who tend to have a harder gate or rougher handling. That's clear from the strengthened display hinges or the tub under the keyboard. Furthermore, depending on the needs and budgets, the notebooks can also be individually configured to specific demands. So the HP offers the ProBook 6550b models with a large array of Intel Core i3, i5, and i7 processor options. Also in terms of the graphics solution there is a choice between an integrated graphics card or potent dedicated graphics.
But the offering is not only large in terms of the hardware. The ProBooks shine with a large assortment of accessories. There are even three different battery types which are designed for different demands. The repertoire of batteries ranges from the standard 6-cell battery, over to a travel battery and up to an ultra-high-performance battery. There is of course a docking station offered on the ProBook 6550b, which further increases the notebook's range of functions and the diversity of connections.
The HP 6550b is also delivered with a large palette of software which should improve the workday's efficiency and above all make it more secure. Part of the software deals only with securing the actual data or alternatively is only activated in specific cases. If the "worst case" scenario does arise and the notebook is in fact stolen, there is relevant software to freeze or delete the data, or to allow the notebook to be restored.
For the design of the case, HP went with a combination of black and silver plastic. The display lid and the palm rests are made of silver plastic while the case's substructure is constructed of magnesium. The design and coloring of the notebook seem quite subdued. HP also did without a special form for the case. The ProBook 6550b is very angular and does without any scrolling. This style is consistently carried over inside. Like the display lid, the palm rests and a small bar above the keyboard are kept in silver while the keyboard is colored in black. There is no room for complaint in terms of its construction; the whole machine is well built and feels solid. Thankfully, HP built in matte surfaces throughout meaning that fingerprints don't get left behind on the notebook.
The base unit was totally impressive in our pressure tests: here there is hardly any spot which gives more than a couple of millimeters. Even the keyboard remains stable under pressure. The display lid is less convincing. Even under light pressure on the backside, the display lid buckles quite significantly. The quickly creaks and the bezel on the front f the display juts out a couple of millimeters. The display is also very susceptible to twisting; even with light force the display lid together with the lid twist quite significantly.
Apart form the display lid, the construction of the ProBook 6550b is otherwise entirely convincing. The display lid is by the way secured with a small bar which hooks in when closing the notebook.
The ProBook 6550b is impressive in terms of its connection options. It does after all carry an impressive number of different interfaces. In total, the notebook has four USB 2.0 connection. Care was taken with the arrangement of the connections so that often-used connection are housed on the two sides, while those connections used less often or needed for stationary use are relegated to the backside.
On the left side of the notebook there is the DisplayPort connection and three of the four USB 2.0 connections. The right USB 2.0 connection is a combination of a USB and e-SATA connection. Furthermore, there is a also an ExpressCard slot and both audio connections for a microphone and a headset.
Found on the right side are the optical driver, the card reader device, the fourth USB 2.0 connection, a four-pole FireWire connection and a serial connection, which is rarely built in these days The card reader works with SD. HC-SD, MMC, HS-MMC, Sony Memory Stick, Sony Memory Stick Pro and xD Picture card.
Aside from the large speakers, there are no connections or openings on the front. On the backside there is the power output, the VGA port, the RJ45 LAN connection, the RJ11 modem connection and a Kensington Lock.
Those needing more connections than offered by the ProBook 6550b, or for those who will use the notebook as a stationary device should think about getting a hold of a docking-station. This is available in various configurations for the ProBook 6550b. All of the available docking stations expanding the number of connection considerably and also include completely new connections. But a docking station is not exactly cheap at prices ranging from 140 to 220 Euros.
Being a true-blue business notebook, the ProBook 6550b offers all the communication technology one could wish for. In terms of cabled connection technology there is the Gigabit Ethernet interface of the 56 modem available.
In terms of wireless technology, the ProBook 6550b has WLAN and Bluetooth. The WLAN card works on the 802.11 b/g/n standard while for Bluetooth one can fall back on the 2.1 version with EDR.
With business notebooks, a great deal of emphasis is placed on security; there is after all often a great deal of important data for the company stored on them. While large companies usually have their own security solutions, small companies will be happy about the security features and software available with the notebook. The HP ProBook 6550b has quite a bit to offer here. In order to protect the ProBook 6550b from theft, there is a Kensington Lock on the backside by which one can chain down the notebook in order to prevent any unwarranted abstraction. Unauthorized access to the notebook's data cam be inhibited with the finger-print reader in the palm rest. With it one can speed up the input of the password protect about the third-party access to saved data.
HP also equipped the notebook with a wide range of software in order to secure the notebook. Thus it support Computrace LoJack Pro for the HP ProtectTools. The HP ProtectTools allow for example the notebook to be located or for enable data to be deleted via remote command. It is also also possible to get additional security subscriptions from HP which are geared toward tracking and restoring the notebook. These subscriptions are good for a period of up to three years.
The delivery contents of the HP ProBook 6550b are note particularly extensive. In addition to the notebook and power pack, the box also contains a range of booklets for documation. A stack of DVDs rounds of the package. In addition to a DVD driver there are also DVDs for downgrading to Windows XP Professional SP3 and DVDs for installing Windows 7 Professional.
The ProBook 6550b has a one-year guarantee including its own send-in service as standard. Additionally, there is a one year guarantee on the built-in battery. But there is also an HP Care packet which one can get additionally for the notebook. This means there is a small package covering a period of a year and a large package covering a period of up to 5 years. In addition to their duration, the packages also differ in terms of their comprehensiveness. There are for instance packages for accident protection, pick-up of the notebook on the next workday or an on-site service.
For the keyboard HP went with a mix of free-standing keys and a standard layout. The individual keys measure 18 millimeters in both height and width. However, the effective surface face is only 15 x 15 millimeters. This comes about as the keys run together at the top. Thus they give the impression that one is dealing with free-standing keys. In that way, the surfaces of the keys lie quite a ways apart from one another at 5 millimeter. This means the keyboard offers a lot of space, something that especially consumers with large fingers will be happy about. In general, the keyboard is very pleasant to work with.
The typing noise is pleasantly quiet and the pressure point and stroke of the keys were also chosen so that one could readily write longer texts. Signs of fatique hardly show up. Thankfully, HP also graced the ProBook 6550b with a numeric keypad which is still an important critereon for many users when chosing a notebook. To protect the hardware there is also a small tub under the keyboard to trap any possible spilled liquids and safetly channel them again to the underside of the notebook.
On the upper edge of the keybard is a small bar with capactive keys. One could at first glance guess that this is made up of only Status LED lights, but since these are found on the front, this is not an option. One activates the relevant functions by lightly touching the surface. For the keyboard it is an operation element to raise or lower the volume, or to mute the speakers altogether. Other than that there is a switch surface for an Email program, WLAN and Bluetooth as well as the Windows calculator. The capacitive keys functioned very well and reliably in practice.
The touchpad is not particularly large with a diagonal of 89 millimeters. But the touchpad does react quickly and precisely to finger inputs. In its as-delivered states, the touchpad doesn't respond to multitouch gestures. However, the gesture controls can be activated via the menu settings. Both of the mouse keys under the touchpad have a very soft pressure point and therefore come across as slightly floppy, although they do perform their duty reliably and cause no problem.
The display is a 15.6" display in the 16:9 format. HP decided on a display with a matte surface which makes working under difficult lighting conditions much easier and also fulfills the requirements for working on a VDA workstation. At 1600 x 900 pixels, the display has a quite high resolution for its size. This allows more to be displayed on the desktop and to work with multiple open windows as the same time.
The brightness is impressive with an average of 210.4 cd/m². The brightness profits from the LED background lighting. With 91 percent, this ensures that the display is evenly illuminated. Normally the black levels suffer as a result of the high brightness of the illumination, however here the display of the ProBook 6550b comes out astoundly well with a level of black of 0.43 cd/m². The resulting display contrast is thus at an outstanding 505:1, astoundingly high, especially for an office notebook.
For a business notebook, the display of the ProBook 6550b comes out astoundingly well in terms of the color rendering. Though it can't completely display the Adobe RGB color space, and while it also can't hold a candle to our RGB reference display, the display nonetheless covers a large (sRGB).
The ProBook 6550b has no problems being used out in the fresh air. The high display brightness together with the matte display surface make it an ideal companion on sunny days. Unfortunately, the current conditions in Germany aren't suited for testing its sun-capabilities and we therefore tried to reconstruct a similar effect with a lamp.
The display delivers acceptable values with a horizontal viewing angle of over 140 degrees and a vertical viewing angle from still 90 degree. Especially the good vertical viewing angles are an obvious benefit as the ProBook 6550b's display has an opening angle of almost 180 degrees. The horizontal stability is still enough to allow the content on the notebook to be presented to multiple people.
The Intel Core i5-450M is a very popular mid-range processor currently used in many notebooks. With its 2.4 GHz standard clocking and 2.66 GHz Turbo-Boost clocking, it offers enough performance for most applications. The i5-450M is a dual-core processor which thanks to HyperThreading is capable of handling four parallel threads. With its TDP (Thermal Design Power) of 35 watts, it matches the standard in the Intel portfolio whereby the processor can be cooled without too much trouble.
For the graphics card HP decided on a model from ATI. The ATI Mobility Radeon 540v is an entry-level graphics card which is typically put into small and light notebooks. Here it is more an issue of supporting the CPU than a hunt for the best spot in the benchmarks. Thus the graphics card makes sure that HD videos can also still be presented fluidly in higher resolutions. Older or newer games can also be played with the graphics card in lower resolutions. But those who want to frequently play a lot of games with the notebook should look for a different, more potent graphics solution.
The built-in 2 GB of memory are scrimped a bit tight. But because a 32 Bit version of Windows 7 Professional was at work in our tester, this limited amount again makes sense. Those needing more than 2 GB can expanded it up to 8 GB, though they should in turn also get a new operating system with 64 bit in order to have the capability of using the newly attained memory.
For the harddrive HP went with a model from Hitachi. This delivers a gross capacity of 320GB. A DVD Lightscribe burner delivers the necessary flexibility when it comes to quickly securing small data onto CD or DVD. On the rear of the notebook are three flaps at the top which allow the notebook to be upgraded. Under the first flap is the harddrive. Under the second flap is an empty RAM slot in which one can plug in an additional RAM bar as needed. Under the third flap is the WLAN card. Overall, the ProBook 6550b can be upgraded very effectively and easily, at least aside from the 32 Bit problem of the operating system.
With the 32 bit version of Windows 7 Professional we can only run the Cinebench R10 benchmarks as the R11.5 version only supports 64 bit. The ProBook 6550b comes out mid-pack in the R10 benchmarks and is even fast than for instance the Asus B53J-SO042x which is equipped with the same processor and a Mobility Radeon HD 5470.
|PCMark Vantage Result||5271 points|
But in the 3DMark 06 benchmark, the notebook had to take a back seat due to the Mobility Radeon HD 540v. Here it is only just under the mid-field and is overshadowed by models with graphics cards like the GeForce 320M and the Mobility Radeon HD 5470.
|3DMark 03 Standard||10104 points|
|3DMark 06 Standard||3494 points|
|3DMark Vantage P Result||1008 points|
The built-in harddrive is the Hitachi HTS725032A9A. This model delivers a gross capacity of 320GB and rotates the magnetic disc at 7,200 rpm. It is thus faster than most conventional market harddrives built into notebooks (5400rpm). That especially benefits the accesses rates. These are quite low at 16.6 milliseconds and even the average transfer rates are totally impressive at 77.3 MB/sec.
Games a certainly not the emphasis of the Mobility Radeon HD 540v. Using StarCraft 2 we tested a newer real-time strategy game on the notebook. With the lowest settings, StarCraft 2 can be played very well at over 100 pictures per second. All settings for improving the graphics cause the game to jutter quite significantly. Further information about the gaming capabilities of the HD 540v can be found in our list of games.
|StarCraft 2 (2010)||109||21||16||fps|
The HP ProBook 6550b keeps itself more or less muffled. Though the fan runs constantly, it remains inconspicuously in the background with a maximum volume of 31.8 dB(A) at idle. Also under load, the notebook doesn't get excessively loud. Though the volume level rises to 42.2 dB(A), this value is not very sustainable. Bothersome noises like high frequency whistling or the like did not show up in our test.
31.8 / 31.8 / 32.6 dB(A)
||35.4 / dB(A)|
||36.8 / 42.2 dB(A)|
min: , med: , max: Voltcraft sl-320 (15 cm distance)
The Probook 6550b doesn't present any surprises in terms of temperatures. At idle, the temperatures remain unproblematic on both the upper and back sides. The upper side remains pleasantly cool at a maximum of 24.9 degrees Celsius. Though the underside is somewhat warmer at a maximum of 30.5 degrees Celsius, it's still no problem to use notebook on one's lap for extended periods of time.
The backside of the keyboard heats up under load to a maximum of 31.4 degrees Celcius, but the temperature of the palm rest remains practically unchanged. The temperature on the underside rises to 41.2 degrees Celsius.
After over an hour of full load (GPU&CPU to 100%), the Intel Core i5-450M processor of the HP ProBook 6550b heats up to a maximum of 87 degree Celsius. Thus the processor's temperatures are still clearly in the harmless range of temperatures. Even the subsequent 3D Mark benchmark failed to show any breach in performance (throttling).
(+) The maximum temperature on the upper side is 31.4 °C / 89 F, compared to the average of 34 °C / 93 F, ranging from 21.2 to 62.5 °C for the class Office.
(±) The bottom heats up to a maximum of 41.2 °C / 106 F, compared to the average of 36.5 °C / 98 F
(+) In idle usage, the average temperature for the upper side is 23.1 °C / 74 F, compared to the device average of 29.4 °C / 85 F.
(+) The palmrests and touchpad are cooler than skin temperature with a maximum of 24.6 °C / 76.3 F and are therefore cool to the touch.
(+) The average temperature of the palmrest area of similar devices was 28 °C / 82.4 F (+3.4 °C / 6.1 F).
The notebook's speakers do a heck of a job. As is typical with office notebooks it is lacking in bass, however, the tone is otherwise delivered very clearly. The volume is also impressive and manages to fill a smaller room rather well.
With the standard battery (55Wh), the notebook delivers totally acceptable values. 4 hours in our BatteryEater Readers Test (maximum runtimes expected) and still 1 hour and 11 minutes in the Classic Test ("worst-case") are quite alright. Those who want to watch a DVD while underway should take note that the film saved is if possible no longer than 1 hour and 51 minutes.
For those needing more capacity than the standard battery can offer has the option of getting further batteries in HP's accessories shop. With the 9 cell battery, the travel battery and the ultra-high-performance battery, the buyer has the option of three additional batteries which could extend the runtimes significantly. The external battery solutions are docked via their own interface on the underside of the machine.
The notebook proves itself to be quite frugal in terms of current consumption. The ProBook 6550b uses 12.9 watts to 17.6 watts at idle of with very limited demands. The current consumption rises under load to 55.3 watts up to 67.8 watts.
|Off / Standby||0.2 / 0.1 Watt|
|Idle|| 12.9 / 16.7 / 17.6 Watt|
55.3 / 67.8 Watt|
Key: min: , med: , max: Voltcraft VC 940
Conceived for small to mid-sized businesses (SME), the HP ProBook 6550b offers some interesting features and impressive data for a comparably low price. Its just these SMEs who don't have their own IT-department dealing with security issues who will be pleased to find such numerous integrated and delivered security features.
But it's not only here that the ProBook 6550b does well - in general, the notebook has hardly any notable disadvantages. Though it doesn't set any new standards for speed, the performance on offer is still enough to tackle most duties in the average business day. Additionally there is the solid construction and workmanship, which hopefully bestow the notebook with a long long.
Those in search of a relatively inexpensive business notebook with comprehensive security features may hit paydirt with the ProBook 6550b. Numerous additional packages from HP (guarantee, service) which further ensure the notebook round off the package. The entry-level business machine can be had at around 799 Euro from various online-retailers.