HP ProBook 5310m: A Slender Laptop for Business Usersby Jarred Walton on April 26, 2010 4:52 PM EST
HP ProBook 5310m Design and Build
One of the first things you notice with the 5310m is that it feels very solid—almost like a ThinkPad, though obviously it looks completely different. The magnesium alloy main body provides a firm foundation to build upon, and the LCD and cover are sturdy as well showing very little twist or flex. The keyboard is likewise free of flex and provides a comfortable typing surface. All told, build quality is definitely a highlight of the ProBook.
The appearance is attractive with a nice blend of aluminum surfaces and glossy plastic highlights around the LCD bezel and under the keyboard keys; the touchpad is also shiny. Initial impressions are fine, but the glossy surfaces as usual do a great job of showing fingerprints and smudges after even a short amount of use, and the black anodized aluminum surfaces show smudges as well. The problem with the appearance in my book is that it seems designed to take nice photographs but it doesn't stay clean during use. The touchpad in particular ends up smeared with fingerprints, and I would have preferred a different finish as slick/glossy doesn't have the tactile feedback I like (though opinions on touchpad surfaces vary).
Keyboards are something highly personal, and what one person loves another may hate. My favorite laptop keyboard to date is the standard Lenovo ThinkPad T-series layout, with beveled and contoured keys. Chiclet keyboards are common these days, and they run the gamut from horrible designs where the keys are packed so tightly that it's difficult to feel (i.e. without looking) where your fingers are, to designs where the keys have more spacing and are quite comfortable. The 5310m keyboard falls in the latter category, and while the corners of the keys aren't rounded the overall feel is very much like a MacBook to my hands. Key travel is also good, and with a gap of just over 1/8" between keys it's easy to know where your hands are positioned. The LCD is also slightly recessed into the top cover, so you don't have to worry about your keyboard leaving marks on the screen.
The touchpad and palm rest are both a good size for a 13.3" chassis, and the touchpad provides support for gestures and multi-touch. It's worth noting that the 5310m ships with multi-touch and gesture support disabled (apparently so business users who aren't familiar with the features don't get confused), but you can easily enable the desired features in the touchpad drivers. The keyboard and laptop as a whole remain cool to the touch during use, even under heavy loads. In a 21C testing environment, the majority of the laptop topped out with surface temperatures of just 27C after looping 3DMark05 for over an hour. The hottest spot is in the bottom-center section right under the SO-DIMM, which hit 37C.
Noise levels are good as well; the 5310m is virtually silent at idle and under light loads, but under certain situations it can become quite a bit louder. The idle noise is at the limits of our equipment and environment (~31dB), typical load noise at two feet is 33-34dB, but on occasion (i.e. when resuming from hibernation) the fan will kick up to full speed for a bit. At such times, the 5310m can reach 39dB, but it usually doesn't last long and the only repeatable method we found of reaching that noise level was the initial boot phase or when you resume from hibernation.
The underside of the 5310m has a rubberized paint coating, with a single panel offering access to the RAM, hard disk, wireless card, and a (empty in our setup) mini-PCI slot. As with all BGA956 processors, the CPU is soldered onto the motherboard. The battery is a very thin, flat rectangle that takes up the majority of the rear section of the laptop. The default 4-cell battery we received for testing is specced at 41Wh and is flush with the bottom of the laptop, while an optional 6-cell upgrade rates 62Wh and juts out slightly.
The stereo speakers are located at the front of the chassis, with small grilles in front of them. Audio quality from the small speakers is actually quite good compared to similar sized laptops. It's not enough to fill a large room with sound, but we didn't have any issues with distortion or crackling at maximum volume. The hinge opens about 135 degrees for those of you who might be interested in such information.
Expansion options are quite limited, especially for a business laptop. You get three USB 2.0 ports… and that's about it. Internally, there's an empty mini-PCI slot… presumably populated in some configurations with the Gobi GPS. ExpressCard, FireWire, USB3, and eSATA support are all MIA, so you get exactly what you see with little way of changing it up down the road. We're also a little perplexed with the single combo headphone/microphone jack; was it really too hard to fit a second jack on the side? Anyway, a USB audio pod will solve that problem if you need a full headset, but whichever way you slice it there's not a lot of extras with the 5310m. The primary claim to fame is a very thin and attractive design, and compromises were made in order to get that.