In and Around the HP EliteBook 2170p

If you've seen the other current and last generation HP ProBooks and EliteBooks (and we've reviewed a couple), the EliteBook 2170p's shell design isn't going to be new to you. The aesthetic is a beautiful one, with a silver aluminum lid and interior, then matte plastic used for the bezel and the bottom panel. This is a solid, well thought out design, complete with a sturdy hinge and strong backing for the display. The problem with the 2170p, though, is the complication that arises from shrinking HP's enterprise motif down to this form factor.

HP employs the same chiclet keyboard style they use across their business and consumer lines, and as far as chiclet keyboards go, the feel and travel continues to be excellent. There's a bit of flex from the backplate that's unwelcome, but the white LED backlighting is attractive and as a whole this is a very usable keyboard. I'd go so far as to argue that this is why ultrabooks may not be for everybody; thicker ultraportables like this one offer superior key depth and consequently may offer a better typing experience as a whole.

Which is why I'm mystified as to who at HP thought it would be a good idea to change the key layout from their own established conventions. "Fn+Up" and "Fn+Down" still result in "Page Up" and "Page Down," but "Fn+Left" is now "Scroll Lock" and "Fn+Right" is now "Pause." "Home" and "End" get their own keys at the top to the left of "Insert" (destroyer of worlds) and "Delete," but it's almost more confusing to split up the document navigation keys this way. These seem like minor changes, but watch how quickly they blow muscle memory and intuition out of the water. In time you can adjust, but it's still bizarre that HP would do this in the first place.

The touchpad, unfortunately, takes a major hit from the form factor shrink. HP includes a trackpoint and buttons under it, but then the touchpad and another pair of mouse buttons under that. That would be fine if HP tried to grab whatever real estate they could the way Lenovo did with the ThinkPad X100e/X120e, but realistically they probably should've let the trackpoint go and been done with it. As a result, even my spidery fingers wound up having trouble getting any mileage out of the touchpad. Maybe it's Stockholm Syndrome finally setting in, but I almost feel like just switching to a clickpad would've been the best way to maximize the space.

Finally, while the EliteBook 2170p is light, it's also very thick for an ultraportable, at just over an inch, and I'm not convinced HP's internal design is the most efficient. When you're dealing with something like the Acer Aspire V5-171, which is basically a budget ultraportable, you're willing to accept a lot of sacrifices because of the price point. With something pricier and higher quality like the EliteBook 2170p, though, the pressure is on to get things right, and HP's design feels strangely archaic.

It looks like HP sacrificed a lot to get that docking connector in place, including z-height, but it would've been nice to see an mSATA port somewhere in this chassis, or alternatively, for the mini-PCIe slot reserved for the WWAN card to be able to pull double duty for those of us who don't need it. The cooling design is efficient (you'll see later), but as a whole the 2170p just feels like a holdover.

It's strange; the HP EliteBook 2170p and the Acer Aspire V5-171 came in for review at right around the same time. I was optimistic about the EliteBook and skeptical about the Acer, but the more time I spent with each of these notebooks, the more positive I felt about the Acer and the less positive I felt about the 2170p. In terms of feel, the 2170p is by no means a bad design and I may be being needlessly harsh, but it just feels too thick. The awkwardly altered keyboard layout was an unwelcome surprise, and the internals don't seem like the most efficient use of the space available. Though the 2170p is light and sturdy, it nonetheless feels bulky in the hand, and not as portable as I'd like.

Introducing the HP EliteBook 2170p Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • DiscoWade - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    It does have one thing going for it: no Windows 8. (Before you start: My hatred for Windows 8 comes from actually using Windows 8.) Reply
  • sigmatau - Saturday, December 01, 2012 - link

    So you don't know how to use Windows 8? Got it. Reply
  • greenbackz - Sunday, December 02, 2012 - link

    lol.

    I hated a little bit on win8 when I didn't know how to do much. but not that I've learnt a few tricks here n there.. I'm liking it a lot more than previous windows OS' and definitely much better than OSX.
    Reply
  • tayb - Monday, December 03, 2012 - link

    You meant to say that your hatred for Windows 8 comes from your inability to learn how to use Windows 8. Reply
  • ShieTar - Monday, December 03, 2012 - link

    Generally speaking, any OS that still needs to be learned is a horrible failure these days. Time spent using the OS instead of your software is already wasted time, but time spent learning how to even use the OS is just inacceptable. GUIs were kind of invented to reduce the need for OS manuals, not as a pretty way of hiding functionality away. Reply
  • afkrotch - Tuesday, December 04, 2012 - link

    The problem is when you start adding in more and more functionality. There is no need to constantly display these things in front of your face. So they created a search function. Then they made the search function faster and faster. Win 8, takes no time to search. Reply
  • ajp_anton - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    I was so hoping this would be the resolution, despite the odd numbers, or even a small typo of the resolution...

    Also I doubt this computer is 265mm thick =).
    Reply
  • SodaAnt - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    Here's the thing about business laptops. I can accept that some of them are thicker, I have a dell precision m4600, and I accept that its think because it has very good internals, cooling, battery, and upgradability. However, this laptop seems to have none of those things, except maybe good cooling, which isn't really that needed with a ULV chip.

    Finally, I don't get why they put the i7 in there. To me, it would make much more sense to even put a 512GB SSD in there, which would lead to a much faster laptop overall.
    Reply
  • Voldenuit - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    What's preventing the use of a mSATA SSD in the WWAN slot? Is it just that the mounting screw is for half-length cards, or is the slot incompatible with SSDs? Reply
  • arthur449 - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    HP normally employs a whitelist on their UEFI/BIOS for mSATA/mPCIe slots, which means that even if you found an mSATA SSD that fit in the tiny space, it wouldn't work because the UEFI BIOS wasn't explicitly told to allow that particular device.

    There are ways around that, but it's a stressful process potentially ending in either a bricked laptop, one with curious intermittent problems, or one that works exactly like it should've in the first place.
    Reply

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