Notebook Review: HP EliteBook 6930p

For mobile pros, skimping on a laptop purchase could certainly prove penny wise and pound-foolish. Budget notebook PCs are fine if you only occasionally tote the machine in a padded bag, but they lack the durable construction and security features offered by a higher-end model aimed at road warriors. That could spell disaster if your machine takes a hit—or takes a walk—when you’re traveling.

So if you spend most of the time out of the office, you need a notebook like the HP EliteBook 6930p. This business-rugged machine has features to keep its components safe from knocks, as well as hardware and software security measures to keep your data secure.

HP EliteBook 6930p
The impressive HP EliteBook 6930p begs to be on a road warrior’s short list.

Sleek, Handsome Design

The first thing you’ll notice about the EliteBook 6930p is its anodized aluminum skin. The brushed metal looks tasteful, gives the 4.7-pound machine a solid feel, and it conveys a professional, polished air to clients. Vanity aside, the aluminum cladding also protects the notebook’s 14.1-inch screen better than the typical plastic lid. The aqua LEDs used sparingly around the unit add to the machine’s modern feel.

For added strength, HP employs lightweight magnesium alloy for the chassis, which makes the notebook less prone to bending and thus better protects interior components. The hard drive’s accelerometer senses if the machine falls or bounces (as during turbulence on a flight) and parks the hard drive heads. This keeps the heads from impacting the drive surface, avoiding potential data loss.

Add in a spill-resistant keyboard that can help the machine withstand a few ounces of errant liquid, and you have a machine that is as tough as it is handsome. In fact, HP notes that the EliteBook 6930p meets Military Standard 810F for drops from 30 inches, vibration, dust, high and low temperature and humidity.

Peace of Mind

The EliteBook 6930p also has the latest security features to keep your data safe. You can set the machine so that it requires a password, a swipe of your fingerprint, or both before it will boot or resume to Windows. You can also use the included Privacy Manager utility to automatically encrypt e-mail and instant messages.

HP has also included its File Sanitizer applet to let you be sure that deleted files are truly and completely deleted. When you delete a file In Windows, its name is removed from the hard drive directory and its space is made available for new files. But until a new file is actually written in that space—and with today’s large hard drives, that could be a while—the deleted file continues to reside on the hard drive and can be recovered. File Sanitizer overwrites a deleted file up to seven times with random data, permanently expunging the file.

Helpful Software

Beyond the security utilities, HP has included other thoughtful software that makes your life a little easier, especially if you don’t have a dedicated IT department. Press the “i” icon above the keyboard to launch the HP Info Center. Here you’ll find links to a host of useful applets, including the

  • HP Connection Manager and HP Wireless Assistant for easily setting up network connections
  • HP ProtectTools Security Manager to help you set backup and recovery options, fingerprint authentication, data encryption, passwords and more
  • Presto BizCard electronic Rolodex

Another button above the keyboard launches the Presentation Settings utility to help you quickly set the machine for use with a projector or other external display. In addition to the components that come with the computer’s Windows Vista Business operating system (you can also opt for Windows XP), HP includes

  • Roxio Creator Business for creating CDs and DVDs
  • InterVideo WinDVD for plying DVDs
  • PDF Complete for creating documents in that format

A Pleasure to Use

In our hands-on evaluation, the EliteBook 6930p proved a pleasure to use. Its full-size keyboard has a crisp feel ideal for long bouts of typing, and HP has included both a pointing stick nestled in the keyboard and a touchpad below. Because of the two sets of mouse buttons, the touchpad is a tad smaller than usual on a machine this size, but it’s still usable. Above the keyboard you’ll find a touch-sensitive strip for controlling the volume for the notebook’s stereo speakers.

HP EliteBook 6930p
The brushed-aluminum skin on the HP EliteBook 6930p feels great, looks even better and adds a layer of strength.

The EliteBook 6930p uses a 14.1-inch widescreen LCD, and the high-resolution (1440×900 pixels) panel is bright and exceedingly crisp. You can even read tiny on-screen text, although the high resolution means default text sizes on some Web sites and in Windows’ menus (like the All Programs list) can be pretty small. The LCD delivered vibrant colors in Windows apps, as well as good motion reproduction for video.

Above the screen you’ll find an integrated Webcam, ideal for video chat, video e-mail and videoconferencing applications. HP’s easy-to-use utility lets you set the camera’s resolution to eight different levels ranging from 160×120 (good for grabbing a tiny snapshot of yourself to append to your e-mail signature line) all the way up to 1600×1200 (for taking a photo as good as a 2-megapixel camera might). At the default 640×480 resolution, the camera showed good color accuracy, though lots of motion resulted in lots of blur. Icons at the bottom of the utility let you take a still picture, capture video or capture audio only.

Choose Your Hardware

The EliteBook 6930p has all the requisite ports and connectors, including three USB ports, a memory card reader, a FireWire connector, LAN and modem jacks and an ExpressCard/54 slot. It includes 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, and the platform supports the addition of an integrated wireless broadband module to let you connect to the leading high-speed 3G cellular data networks.

Starting at $1,199, the base configuration includes an Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 processor (running at 2.26-GHz), 2GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive, Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics chip and a multi-format DVD burner. Those components have more than enough power to run even demanding business applications without breaking a sweat. If you need even more speed, the top EliteBook 6930p configuration comes with a 2.4GHz processor and dedicated ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3450 graphics.

HP backs the EliteBook 6930p with a generous three-year warranty on parts and labor and toll-free 24/7 tech support. That alone goes a long way to making the few hundred extra dollars you’ll spend on an EliteBook worth it compared to a budget laptop. Figure in the powerful components, extra security and durability features plus the great looks, and the machine begs to be on your short list.

Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology writer and editor with nearly 14 years of experience covering the latest hardware, software and Internet products and services.

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