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HP ProBook 4720s
Stunning examples like the Dell Latitude E4200 aside, not too many manufacturers make business laptops that ooze a sense of class. HP is one of those few, however, and laptops in its ProBook range generally look and feel like premium products. Case in point is the Probook 4720s we're looking at today, which sports an attractive mix of brown brushed metal and glossy black plastic that ensures not just suit-wearing types need apply.
This 17.3in machine sports a combination seen all too rarely with laptops, as it's both solid and has obviously had quite a bit of thought put into its looks. It's available in a broad range of configurations, with a selection of Intel Core i processors, two to four gigabytes of RAM, ATI Radeon Mobility 4000-series graphics and various hard drive sizes.
Our model is pretty much the top end of the range. At its heart is a dual-core Intel Core i5 M430 running at 2.26GHz, which supports HyperThreading so it can act as a virtual quad-core in some scenarios. It's backed by 4GB of RAM, though since the machine ships with a 32-bit version of Windows 7 Professional it won't be able to use all of it. However, unlike with the average consumer laptop there's good reason to stick with a 32-bit OS on a business laptop: backwards compatibility. Older drivers and applications will often refuse to run on a 64-bit system, so HP has made the logical choice here.
HP's use of a discrete Radeon HD 4330 graphics card, on the other hand, is not what you would necessarily expect on a business system, especially since it has adequate power to allow for a bit of light 3D gaming. However, a more practical use is in application acceleration – at least, that's the justification you can use in between bouts of TrackMania. There are no switchable integrated graphics on board though, so we'll see what impact this has on battery life.
For permanent storage you get a generous 500GB hard drive, which not only offers a good capacity but also spins at a speedy 7,200rpm, and is divided into four partitions (System, OS, HP Tools and HP Recovery). According to the 4720s' HP software suite, the HDD is protected by HP's 3D DriveGuard system, which we last came across on the HP ProBook 4510s. This combines shock-dampening material, a magnesium drive cage and an accelerometer that locks the drive heads when sudden, sharp motion is detected, to ensure excellent protection for a moving-parts component. Oddly enough, HP's marketing and specification pages make no mention of this feature for the 4720s.
When it comes to connectivity this ProBook doesn't leave you wanting for much. Gigabit Ethernet and four USB 2.0 ports (one of which doubles as eSATA) provide plenty of data connectivity. Video is handled by analogue VGA and HDMI, while 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks reside at the laptop's front. A sealed modem port hints at HP's optional 56K modem module, for those few unlucky enough to still need it. Then there's the usual memory card reader and an ExpressCard slot, which can be used to add features like USB 3.0. Optical duties are taken care of by a LightScribe DVD Rewriter (though it's swappable for a Blu-ray drive as an optional extra), and wireless is handled by 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1.