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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  • Dustin Sklavos - Sunday, December 02, 2012 - link

    Brazos netbooks go for a minimum of $400-$450. Brazos should be hitting the same market Atom did, but it's not, and it's encroaching on space occupied by systems with faster Intel chips. Reply
  • Penti - Monday, December 03, 2012 - link

    I agree that they can't compete against the price point of Ivy Bridge or Sandy Bridge based Intel chips. Remember those are sub 100 USD chips already. Or barely above 100 USD for low-end Ivy.

    Hondo, Jaguar core based Kabini or Samara will probably find it's way into some tablets and hybrid tablets, as it's not hard to compete against the price point of those devices though.

    AMD's problem is largely that there just isn't any good AMD builds from the OEM's too. For the business segment like this product is geared to there just isn't anything to compete with Intel's full blown vPro/iAMT management solution.

    On AMD there isn't even anything to compete with the Core i5 based Acer Aspire V5-171-6422 for 520 USD when it comes to 11.6" notebook. The 17W Trinity is also pretty weak overall. For the same money as they have appeared to be in the market you get Core i5, Ivy based stuff. Even if an AMD solution could hit the 450 mark Core i3's or Pentium/Celeron Intel stuff will be down to about 400.

    You end up having something like Samsung NP535U3C compete against a Intel based NP530U3C and the price point between them aren't just gonna matter.

    The 300 USD netbook market will just not exist. Except for 300 USD specially rebated notebooks.

    AMD needs to get new chips out to compete in this space, as is they also is beaten by last gen Intel chips in price/performance. They obviously need to design a chip that performs well in notebooks and not designed for 4P servers with almost 20MB cache per chip. You can add performance enhancing stuff with L3 cache or whatever but the base performance with minimal amount of cache needs to be good first, it's a general computing processor after all.
    Reply
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  • john12345p - Monday, October 14, 2013 - link

    You also reviewed HP folio 9470m. Among these two HP 2170p and HP Folio 9470m, which one is ultimately the better one? These are the only two that the IT at work is offering, so need to choose one among the two. Which among these two is better? Which one is ultimately more preferable? Which one ultimately sucks less? :-) Reply

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