Usage, Battery Life and Closing Thoughts
The ProBook's 13.3" display has good color reproduction and a sharp picture thanks to the 1366x768 resolution. Horizontal viewing angles were very good as were the vertical angles. It's not along the lines of an IPS display that only a handful of laptops have anyway, but it's the next best thing. Those who don't like glossy screens will appreciate the matte finish on this panel.
HP also nailed the keyboard and more importantly, the touchpad. As a fan of chiclet-style keys and non-integrated touchpad buttons, the ProBook 6360b was refreshing to use -- though I would've liked backlit keys. There's no apparent flex in the keyboard and the overall quality feels just a tad lower than some similarly styled Lenovo chiclet boards.
The Sandy Bridge-based Intel i5-2410M is a solid performer at this price point. Our informal YouTube 1080p full screen video test taxed the CPU around 15-20%. The 4k resolution video test pushed the CPU as high as 97% at times and resulted in a little bit of lag. A faster processor like the 2520M found in Lenovo's X1 resulted in around 80% CPU usage and no lag on the same test.
The ProBook's speakers are a little louder than most and I think this mostly stems from positioning. Bottom-mounted speakers fire straight down toward whatever surface you have the computer on. With the ProBook, the speakers fire at a 45-degree angle towards the user since they are mounted on the beveled edge of the front bezel. As a result, straight downward firing speakers are a little quieter yet have more of a "surround" feeling whereas the ProBook's speakers are channeled directly at the user.
At idle and during basic usage, the system is very quiet and barely gets warm. Both of these factors increase a bit when the system is fully stressed, but no more than a similarly-specced notebook. The CPU exhaust fans vent out of the back right side of the notebook, so naturally that area gets the warmest during heavy use.
Connectivity options on the ProBook 6360b are pretty good for a business device. There are no HDMI-out or USB 3.0 ports, but there is a VGA-out, a 54mm ExpressCard slot, docking station and an optical drive. These options would likely fall on deaf ears with most consumers but working professionals will appreciate the changes.
I conducted our standard notebook battery tests on the ProBook. Our video playback test consists of looping a 720p rip of one of my favorite movies (Inception) in Windows Media Player at full screen with max brightness and Wi-Fi disabled. This is a taxing test that resulted in 4 hours and 57 minutes of usage; a pretty good result.
Our endurance test is run with five Firefox windows open with the "Reload Every" add-on refreshing each page every five minutes to simulate real-world browsing. Max screen brightness is used and Wi-Fi is enabled. This test resulted in 5 hours and 44 minutes of life. The ProBook also has the option of an external "slice" style battery. With 9-cell models available, we have no doubt you can more than double your uptime if needed, though that comes at the cost of weight and thickness on an already bulky little notebook.
When we reviewed the ThinkPad X1, Lenovo said we could recharge the battery up to 80% in just 30 minutes (they call it "RapidCharge"). In the single test we performed, we had a completely dead system in hibernation when we started, then unplugged at 30 minutes and booted up to find 85% battery life. This was spot on with the company's claim and although HP doesn't offer a similar feature, I thought it would be interesting to run the same test nevertheless just to see how much of a recharge you can get in half an hour. The ProBook recharged to 37% battery life after 30 minutes passed, although based on our battery life tests above, 37% battery life on the ProBook could potentially last much longer than 37% on the X1.
One final feature that I really enjoyed is the tool-less access panel on the bottom of the system. This simple feature lets you upgrade your system much quicker and you don't run the risk of stripping one the zillion screws that other notebooks require you to remove in order to access the same expansion bays.
Notebook reviews are always interesting because each manufacturer has such a different outlook on the market and their products reflect this. Despite the additional girth and dated look when compared to other 13" notebooks, I really like HP's new ProBook 6360b. Costing only $750, our evaluation machine is quite a bit cheaper than some other business systems we've examined recently. Build quality is good and the added HP security tools and docking station could make for an easy transition into the office.
You do sacrifice a few features compared to more expensive Sandy Bridge models in the 13-inch category such as a slightly faster processor, lack of USB 3.0 ports, a backlit keyboard and added thickness, but some would argue that the tradeoff is justified as you get an optical drive, 54mm ExpressCard slot, VGA-out and a better trackpad/buttons -- not to mention the ProBook's superior autonomy. As always, it simply boils down to your individual needs. If you want a capable business class notebook and don't care about how chic it is, the $750 ProBook is worth considering. Should you require a bit more processing power or desire a thinner, lighter and more modern looking machine, the rotund ProBook won't make your short list of potential buys.