While $1,629 seems like a lot to spend on a notebook nowadays, it’s oddly comforting to know that you can get a decked-out computer with very few compromises for well shy of two grand.
Such is the case of HP’s EliteBook 2540p, a 12-inch rugged-but-portable notebook with a low-voltage Intel Core i7 processor, six-cell battery, Windows 7 Professional, and a weight of four pounds. Other features include a 250GB hard drive, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, Wi-Fi (a/b/g/n), Bluetooth, webcam, fingerprint reader, DVD burner, and a three year warranty.
The whole rugged angle isn’t just a gimmick, either. The 1.5-inch thick notebook is ensconced in a magnesium/aluminum enclosure and meets military-grade strength specifications, promising to be able to withstand 300 pounds of pressure on the lid. I tested this out as any 6′ 4″, 230-pound Scandinavian would by standing on top of the computer as though it were a scale. Nothing. No dents, no buckling, no creaking. Solid as a rock and the outer casing doesn’t attract scores of fingerprints, which is a nice bonus.
For less extreme endeavors, the EliteBook also features “a spill-resistant keyboard with drains” that’ll apparently protect things “in the event of a minor spill.” I didn’t have the heart to test this out, as I need to return this thing to HP and the idea of a “minor spill” is subject to interpretation.
The business-centric features of this notebook include both a standard trackpad and secondary pointing stick complete with two additional mouse buttons (apparently business people haven’t quite been able to let go of the nubbin mouse yet), a fingerprint sensor that can be used in lieu of entering passwords, and software that allows the webcam to convert snapshots of business cards into digitized contact information.
From a performance standpoint, the 4GB of RAM along with the low-voltage Core i7 processor made just about everything I threw at the machine run smoothly. I was more impressed by being able to top out at just over seven hours before needing to recharge–HP claims 8.5 hours is possible, though I did very little to actively conserve power while testing the machine.
The EliteBook runs cool for the most part, although I did notice the lower-right underside got uncomfortably hot a couple hours into SimCity 3000. That game features non-stop animation and movement, though, so everything appeared to be barreling ahead at a full clip. Standard work-related tasks like surfing the web and checking e-mail barely seemed to engage the fan.
The 12.1-inch screen is a relatively straightforward 1280×800 LED-backlit panel. Colors were bright and text was easy to read, though the graphics are powered by a standard Intel chipset so anything beyond light gaming would call for a less business-like computer with a high-end, discrete graphics system. High definition videos played back just fine, both streaming from the web and as downloaded clips.
There are a couple of other cool features such as a little LED light located next to the webcam that pops out to illuminate the keyboard if you’re in a dark room and a thin touch-sensitive strip between the screen and keyboard that houses HP’s “QuickLook” and “QuickWeb” buttons for launching software quickly, along with controls and status indicators for volume, network, and external display functions.
All in all, the EliteBook 2540p is a good choice for frequent travelers who are looking for a nice balance of performance, ruggedness, and battery life. The price may be a little on the expensive side and, at an inch and a half thick, it’s got a bit more girth than most 12-inchers availble. But other than those minor quibbles, you’re not compromising too much in any given area and the computer is still plenty portable at four pounds. If you’re looking for something more affordable, HP also sells a model starting at $1,099 with half the RAM, a standard voltage Core i5 processor, and no optical drive.
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