HP EliteBook 2170p review: Ultrabook turns old-school

HP's business-grade notebook packs plenty of speed and nice features into a retro design

Fans of the supersleek form factors that have become the mainstay of Ultrabooks might wrinkle their noses at the sight of the HP EliteBook 2170p. With its boxy, squared-off edges and its inch-plus thickness, it seems like a throwback to the notebook designs of a decade ago. But looks can be deceiving. The 2170p is quite lightweight for its size (2.89 pounds), it sports a peppy Core i5 processor, and it has plenty of business-centric options.

Look past the old-school design of the 2170p and you'll see a business-grade machine outfitted with plenty of features to match its use case. Aside from the smart-card slot and optional fingerprint reader (with TPM hardware to match in either case), you'll find Ethernet, DisplayPort, and VGA connectors built right into the unit, along with two USB ports.

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The 2170p integrates with several of HP's docking stations, which add everything from multiple video ports to an SATA upgrade bay for hard drives or optical drives. No optical drive is included with the 2170p, but that's no longer a fatal omission, even for a business-class machine. Various operating systems (32-bit and 64-bit variants of Windows 7) and storage options are available for the 2170p, including mobile broadband packages.

The 11.6-inch, 1,366-by-768 display isn't touch-enabled, but you can choose either a touchpad or a pointing stick as a substitute. Two sets of mouse buttons, both above and below the touchpad, let you use it two-handed style (one finger to point, another to click).

I've been happy with the keyboards on most every HP notebook I've used of late, and the keyboard for the 2170p is no exception. It's comfortable to type on, with a spacebar that's uniformly responsive all the way across. It also boasts spill-resistance and even includes an underside drain, although I leave the actual testing to stouter hearts. Another welcome inclusion is a drive activity light, which seems to have gone missing on many late-model notebooks both from HP and others. My Netflix rundown test showed battery life with the six-cell (48Wh) battery to be a respectable if unspectacular 3 hours, 10 minutes.

Among the included HP-branded application is the HP ProtectTools suite, which sets up drive encryption, password management, biometrics controls (both fingerprint and face recognition), and smart-card functions. Also included is the Computrace theft-recovery system, although a separate subscription is required to activate it. Less impressive is the HP SoftPaq Manager for installing HP-specific updates to the system. Its bewildering interface -- vintage Windows 2000 -- left me wondering whether or not I had installed certain updates. With any luck, in a managed fleet, the end-user won't ever have to touch it.

HP EliteBook at a glance

 
PriceStarts at $999 MSRP
ProcessorIntel Core i3 or i5 with Intel HD Graphics 4000
Memory4GB or 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3
Storage320GB, 500GB, or 750GB HDD; 128GB, 180GB, or 256GB SSD; self-encrypting drive options available
Weight2.89 pounds
Dimensions11.5 by 7.56 by 1.04 inches
Display11.6 inches @ 1,366-by-768 LED display
Netflix rundown battery test3 hours, 10 minutes
Ports1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 3.0 powered, 1 DisplayPort 1.1a, 1 RJ-45 Ethernet, 1 VGA, 1 audio
Radios802.11a/b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0, HSPA+ mobile broadband options available
Touch-enabled displayNo
Management featuresFingerprint reader, smart-card reader, TPM
Sandra 2013 score4.69kPt

This article, "HP EliteBook 2170p review: Ultrabook turns old-school," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in computer hardware and mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Usability (30.0%)
Value (10.0%)
Build quality (20.0%)
Performance (20.0%)
Security and management (20.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
HP EliteBook 2170p 8.0 8.0 8.0 8.0 9.0 8.2
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