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


View All Comments

  • jonjonjonj - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    "Insert" (destroyer of worlds)

    i pop the insert key off of every keyboard i have ever owned and stick some folded up paper under it and pop it back on. no more word destroying for me! i also love how you slap the word business class on something and charge more for it. no wonder companies love serving enterprises.
  • arthur449 - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    Thanks for the laugh.

    There's nothing like typing a few sentences while glancing at documentation to the side and realizing that Insert has been happily gobbling up your words.

    This seems like a lot to pay for a laptop with good cooling.
  • kenyee - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    An HP Elite used to mean a nice high-res IPS screen, 4 memory slots, and a fast graphics chip :-P

    This is like a jewelry laptop...pretty to look at (not even that pretty w/o a hires screen) but not useful for regular work :-)
  • policeman0077 - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    fit a 1600*900 panel in it.... Reply
  • Penti - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    Maybe it's not that bad, it's an ultraportable with two damn SO-DIMM's! In a small formfactor, that's pretty sweet in of it self. I don't like the trend with like one soldered channel plus one DIMM. Ultrabooks aren't very good here.

    Costs a lot customized though. Good to see business/corporate geared things though. You can even have it (with Core i5-3427U at least) vPro enabled, and it has DisplayPort, docking ports etc. I guess you could always buy if using it as a personal computer for yourself at about 1000 USD and put in another RAM-stick and change out the HDD to an SSD and get a decent machine. How would this with 8GB SO-DIMM, 250GB SSD for 1300 compete against the ultrbooks?
  • XnoX - Saturday, December 01, 2012 - link

    Also, what the review can't tell you is the actual price an enterprise would pay for these (usually around 60% of listed price). Reply
  • Penti - Saturday, December 01, 2012 - link

    Of course and it's about 1000 USD preconfigured with a 48Wh battery where this review model is only using a 30Wh battery (i.e. smaller than a Surface RT). Custom config for an large enterprise would obviously come down too. Simply because they want to win as a supplier. You already have a 25% rebate at HP to begin with with customized machines, so for an large corp the price isn't ridiculous and is less than 2000 with SSD, 8GB RAM and i7 cpu. A Dell or some other brand might be a better fit for many though. Reply
  • PR0927 - Saturday, December 01, 2012 - link

    I'm confused why this article doesn't say what's so obvious - that this laptop is an utter PoS and isn't worth the cost, by any means.

    Frankly the conclusion is WAY too kind.

    There is literally not a single good thing about this laptop compared to its competition. Price, screen, form factor, specs, battery life - you name it, it sucks. Hard.
  • ACSK - Saturday, December 01, 2012 - link

    I deal with 100-1000s of notebooks on a monthly basis, and by far and away HP has the highest fail rate (has been that way since maybe 06 or 07?). I wouldn't buy this if it was netbook priced. Dell's notebook reliability is actually really good (do seem to have some power / battery issues on current models), and Lenovo's is also fairly good. But for ultra-compact notebooks, I'd recommend people look at Panasonic's J10. Fujitsu's T580 or Q702 are also pretty decent - I haven't had personal experience with them, but I've never seen high fail-rates with Fujitsu's in the past or currently. Reply
  • Beenthere - Sunday, December 02, 2012 - link

    In the opening this line makes no sense at all:

    "...The essential gap that's materialized has been between the fast decaying netbook market (its death spurred on by Intel's Atom coupled with the high price of Brazos), ..."

    When did Brazos become expensive? They are dirt cheap and sell by the MILLIONS as a result.

    Secondly why would ANYONE buy this review PC when they could have a Trinity 17w CPU powered 11" that would embarrass this Intel powered mini and it would cost hundreds less? The only people who would buy these types of over-priced, under performing laptops are people too lazy to educate themselves.

    There certainly is a market niche for 11" minis but they will be AMD powered if people do anything with them other than word processing.

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