- Review Date: 08/22/11
- Bottom line:
The HP Elitebook 2560p is one of the most complete business ultraportables, as it's packed with essential features and plenty of horsepower.
Sleek silver design. DVD burner built-in. Dual pointing devices. Very good battery life. eSATA equipped. Extensive security and wireless feature set. Powerful Intel Core i5 processor.
Pointing stick is stiff. Lacks USB 3.0 technology.
A business ultraportable, one small enough to be tucked under your arm or into a small tote, is invaluable to a road warrior. It's even more desirable when it performs like a desktop replacement. The HP Elitebook 2560p ($1,299.99 direct) is incredibly fast and full-featured for a pint-sized business laptop. It boasts a speedy Core i5 processor and multiple battery options that can yield up to 9 hours on the road. Add to that a modern look, thanks to a new aluminum design, and you can safely say that this business ultraportable is worth looking into.
The Elitebook 2560p is redesigned from the ground up, taking a few design cuesfrom the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (Thunderbolt) ($1,499 direct, 3.5 stars) in terms of color selection and its aluminum exterior. The clean lines, minimal indicator lights, and silver tone are very similar to that of a MacBook Pro, though the large battery that sticks out from its back seemed like a hurried after-thought. Young professionals will find it more aesthetically appealing than the black-clad Lenovo ThinkPad X220 ($1299 direct, 4 stars). The 2560p is also military-grade sturdy, having undergone vigorous testing based on the MIL-SPEC 810G spec, which entails testing in damp, dusty, shaky, and extremely hot and cold environments. These are the same modified tests that the Lenovo X220 and Dell Latitude E6420 were subjected to. At 4.3 pounds, the 2560p is the lightest business ultraportable with a built-in DVD burner. The 4-pound Lenovo X220 and 2.5-pound Sony VAIO VPC-Z214GX ($2,499.99 list, 3 stars) are lighter, but lack this legacy drive IT managers often look for.
The 12.5-inch widescreen is consistent in size with that of the X220. This particular screen size is actually rare these days, as most business ultraportables are opting for a 13-inch display. Its 1,366-by-768 resolution is boilerplate for a 12-inch ultraportable compared with the 1,600-by-900 one found in the 13-inch Sony Z214GX and Sony VAIO VPC-SA2FGX/BI ($1,199.99 list, 3.5 stars). You can't find a higher resolution than this on a 12-inch ultraportable. The interior of the laptop is overhauled as well. Instead of a traditional keyboard, the flat-top keys are more in line with the Envys and Pavilions—HP's consumer line. They lack backlights, though, a feature that comes standard with the Sony Z214GX and Sony SA2FGX/BI. The 2560p has a very stiff pointing stick, undersized touchpad, and four large mouse buttons; the navigating experience, with the similar pointing devices, is noticeably better on the Lenovo X220.
The 2560p's feature set is arguably the most complete in a business ultraportable. It has a built-in DVD burner, a feature that the Sony Z214GX and Lenovo X220 lack. There are three USB 2.0 ports, one of which is actually a combo USB/eSATA port, which, with a compatible peripheral, can expand storage beyond the included 320GB drive, without sacrificing speeds. Despite its compact chassis, HP also made room for VGA, an ExpressCard slot, RJ11 modem jack, and Ethernet. Security features such as a SmartCard and fingerprint reader are also present. A DisplayPort on the right side of the laptop can stream both audio and video to an external flat panel. It has an impressive array of wireless connections, including 3G, 802.11n, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but the Lenovo X220 integrates them as well, along with optional WiMAX.
The 2560p ships with a 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-2520M—a dual-core processor capable of taking on any app or task. It's the same CPU found in the Lenovo X220, which explains why their Photoshop CS5 and Cinebench R11.5 scores were similar. It powered ferociously through an overall gauge like PCMark 7 (2,640), though it fell short of the Sony Z214GX (3,328) because the latter ran a more powerful Core i7 processor. Its graphics chip is an integrated one from Intel, which isn't as powerful as the discrete AMD graphics chip found in the Sony SA2FGX/BI. Still, its 3DMark 06 (5,141) and Crysis (14.4 fps) scores indicate that it can handle some gaming, as long as you refrain from dialing up the quality settings.
If there's one thing a business ultraportable is known for, it's that battery options usually come in flavors of two—big and really big. The 2560p ships with a standard 62WH battery, which lasted 7 hours 40 minutes in MobileMark 2007 tests. With a similar battery (63WH), the Lenovo X220 (8:40) trumped the 2560p by an hour. You can swap the 2560p's standard 62WH battery for a bigger 90WH battery ($139.99). In contrast, the Lenovo X220 and Sony Z214GX have extended battery slices that work in tandem with their standard batteries. Thus, it's no surprise that while the 2560p's optional 90WH battery lasted 9:09, the combined batteries of the Sony Z214GX (15:23) and Lenovo X220 (12:45) lasted significantly longer.
There's a lot to be said about an ultraportable that crams in the gamut of essential business features, while performing at a very high level. The HP Elitebook 2560p is the only 12-inch ultraportable left that comes with a built-in optical drive and loads a powerful Core i5 processor. Its battery scores and typing experience didn't quite measure up to the Lenovo ThinkPad X220, but it's a solid business ultraportable nonetheless and worth its weight (or what little there is) on the road.