Review : HP 13" ProBook 5330m notebook

HP ProBook brings style to business notebooks

MacNN Rating:


Product Manufacturer: HP

Price: $899 as tested, $799 entry

The Good

  • Attractive housing
  • Metal construction
  • Intel vPro for business
  • Robust software suite

The Bad

  • Mediocre battery life
  • Heavy
  • Lackluster display
HP recently released the ProBook 5330m, a business-oriented notebook with a stylish appearance that easily could be mistaken for a consumer model. The redesign is not accidental, as the company is attempting to woo customers who desire a business machine without the lackluster aesthetics of typical enterprise buys. In our full review, we take a look at the new ProBook's balance between form and function.


To differentiate itself from black notebooks, the 5330m adopts a multi-tone finish dominated by silver metal. The lid and keyboard deck both pair a matte aluminum edge with a brushed metal panel, while the hinges feature a chrome finish and the bottom panel and display bezel are both matte black. The whole package is less than an inch thick, though a bit hefty with a weight just shy of four pounds.

We commend HP for transitioning to metal features--even the black bottom is actually a textured coating over a magnesium frame. We feel the company may have gone a bit overboard, however, with the combination of finishes. Although the silver pieces are real metal, the combination almost makes it look like it could be painted plastic. We would have preferred if the keyboard deck and lid were made of a single piece of either matte aluminum or brushed metal, but the 5330m still looks more refined than most business notebooks.

The 5330m integrates a backlit keyboard that closely resembles a MacBook. We like the new keyboard, which was easy to type on without requiring any time to become acquainted. We found the trackpad to be a bit cramped, however, despite a sizable gap between the buttons and the bottom edge of the deck.

As a compact notebook, the ProBook is not littered with ports and connectors. Users can take advantage of VGA and HDMI video outputs, an eSATA connector, an SD card slot, two USB 2.0 ports and an obligatory Ethernet connection. We would have liked to see a USB 3.0 option, but eSATA may be a better option for connecting the device to older storage systems used by businesses.

Some of the 5330m configurations ship with an integrated 3G modem, which can be configured to work on several different carriers such as AT&T, Sprint and Verizon. We like the built-in option, which eliminates the need to attach a cumbersome USB dongle when away from Wi-Fi networks.

Display and audio

Opening the lid exposes a 13.3-inch LCD with 1366x768 resolution and an antiglare finish. We found the screen to perform fairly well in bright conditions, though the brightness and viewing angles are not spectacular compared to other midrange notebooks on the market.

Color representation and vibrance seemed decent, but the notebook lends itself to text-based work rather than video/photo editing and graphic design. We were nonetheless able to achieve basic photo editing and a range of other tasks in a variety of conditions, ranging from outdoors to dim rooms.

The device integrates a 720p webcam, which is a nice feature for business users who are frequently involved in video conferencing.

The 5330m offers Beats Audio, a 'premium' audio certification that is related to Dr. Dre's headphone brand. We had a difficult time figuring out what exactly is different with the 5330m compared to HP's non-Beats Audio notebooks, especially considering the 13-inch notebook tucks away its small speakers beneath the chassis.

Sound from the integrated speakers was not spectacular, though it was robust enough to clearly hear movies. As expected from any small notebook, listening to music from the tiny drivers was not a pleasurable experience.

When we plugged in our headphones, we realized the Beats Audio designation may have more to do with the headphone amplifier and sound processing hardware/software rather than the notebook speakers. The 5330m did a surprisingly good job at driving a pair of Etymotics ER-4P earphones, which easily highlight the power or quality deficiencies in many devices. We found the headphone experience with high-quality cans to be noticeably better than most notebooks, as audio quality through the 3.5mm jack falls to the bottom of the priority list for most computer manufacturers.

Performance and software

HP sent us a system based on Intel's Core i5-2520M processor, with 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive and Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. The notebook lacks a discrete graphics card, but we found the Core i5 chipset to be capable of handling most tasks without needing extra help. For the price, the hardware configuration is competitive against most other midrange notebooks.

Without a certain number of specific hardware and software features, "business" hardly means anything in the computer arena. Keeping a business focus, the 5330m supports Intel's vPro technology for remote management and security. Users can also take advantage of a fingerprint scanner for additional protection.

HP's ProtectTools applications provide a wide range of tools for securing data. Users can easily configure the fingerprint scanner and facial recognition, wipe files so they cannot be recovered, and encrypt hard drives. The suite also enables users to enhance login security by requiring a specific Bluetooth handset to be within pairing range when the password is entered, while a Sparekey feature works like web-based logins by asking personal questions to proceed if a password is forgotten.

The company also integrates a companion OS, known as QuickWeb, that boots much faster than Windows. When the computer is shut down, users can press a small globe button and jump to the QuickWeb interface within 16 seconds. The alternative OS provides a web browser, Skype client, e-mail utility, calculator, notes app, stock ticker, weather widget, and other basic features.

Battery life

We tested the ProBook through normal web-browsing via Wi-Fi with the screen at half brightness, which exhausted the battery in approximately 4.5 hours. The number is unimpressive compared to many other 13-inch notebooks running Core i5 processors without discrete graphics. Running a separate test with nonstop video slashed the time to below four hours, which was better than we expected considering the web browsing trials.

Although the runtime is not stellar, the battery can be easily removed and swapped for a charged pack. Unfortunately, HP does not yet offer an extended pack to eliminate the need to physically swap the batteries.

Final thoughts

Despite its shortcomings, the ProBook 5330m is well suited for the niche that HP has targeted. It is one of the most attractive and solid notebooks with a budget price tag and a full suite of business-oriented software and security capabilities. The device may not find its way into every enterprise, but it serves as a suitable option for many small- to medium-size businesses.

The Core i5 configuration with 4GB of RAM, a 500GB 7200RPM hard drive and the integrated 3G modem currently costs $899, a considerable savings compared to the company's higher-end EliteBook offerings. Stepping down to the Core i3 processor and omitting the 3G modem slashes another $100 off the price tag.