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Of course, screen performance is not as important on a business machine as on a multimedia one, but nonetheless prospective owners will be glad to hear that the 2230s' 12.1in 1,280 x 800 screen (with the inevitable webcam above it) will handle the occasional film well. Some dithering leads to the occasional bit of 'noise' over certain shades and contrast shift has a noticeable impact on greyscale performance when deviating from the 'ideal' viewing angle. But aside from slightly uneven backlighting, there is little else to complain about, with razor-sharp text production proving to be the highlight.
Audio is not as pleasing, however. The 2230s' speakers put out more volume than most business notebooks, but everything comes across very muddled, lacking the crispness and tonal distinction that even most notebook speakers manage to produce on the treble end of things.
It's the battery life, though, that's the single biggest disappointment. A four-cell (37 Watt-hour) battery does help to keep the notebook's weight down to a very reasonable 1.8kg, but to put things in perspective that is the kind of battery capacity one expects to find on a cheap netbook! This is reflected in the 2230s' very poor two hours and 20 minutes Reader test result; less than half of the five hours and 22 minutes managed by the 12.1in Samsung Q210. Though a higher-capacity eight-cell battery is available from HP, this will set you back another £93 (£81 ex. VAT).
This brings us nicely to the value assessment. Though quite expensive direct from HP direct, the configuration we've reviewed is generally available around the £560 (including VAT) mark, with some stores charging even less. If you don't need longer battery life than the HP Compaq 2230s provides, that's reasonable value for money.
Comparing it with the Samsung P210 (the business version of the Q210), which costs around the same, you get a better six-cell battery but also miss out on many of the 2230s' business-specific features like a fingerprint scanner, HP's 3D DriveGuard and the company's specialized software such as Security Manager and Drive Encrypt.
What HP seems to have done is taken a consumer notebook, given it a matte lid and 3D DriveGuard and rebranded it as a business machine. And for such an affordable option, there's little wrong with this approach. In fact, it wouldn't make too bad a personal notebook for those looking for some extra security. It's only really let down by its poor battery life, though that can be remedied by purchasing a separate eight-cell battery.