HP 650 Business Laptop – review
Since the screen failed on my wife’s Lenovo s10e netbook (and I turned it into a TV attached media player) she’s been using my old s10e, but that’s been on its last legs for a while too. The time had come for something new, with a full sized keyboard and screen.
I’ve been looking around for value laptops recently for my father in law, so I already had an idea on what would fit the bill, so I ordered an Asus X401A (in Pink) from Argos, which seemed a bargain at £259.99.
Before it could be delivered to the local store I came across what looked like a better offer. ServersPlus emailed me to say that HP was offering £100 cashback on their 650 Business Laptop – in a deal similar to their MicroServer (so it would work out at £268.28). The laptop on offer was a Core i3 processor, could take 8GB of RAM and Windows 8 Pro (the Asus was only a Pentium B970, max 4GB and Windows 7 Home Premium).
Sadly the next day delivery turned into most of a week to wait – a combination of the long Easter weekend, and DPD deciding not to bother delivering even though it arrived at the depot on time, and they had a van driving past my house that day :(
I had a Samsung 830 128GB SSD that had found its way to the s10e, so I planned on dropping that straight into the 650 and installing a fresh build of Windows 8 Pro. That plan did not work.
I’d had no trouble at all putting a clean SSD into my Lenovo X230, but the HP 650 threw a few spanners into the works. When I put the SSD into the 650 it threw up a warning screen about SMART errors (it was fine in the last PC), worse it wouldn’t boot off my Windows 8 install USB.
I checked that the UEFI stuff was in the right place – all looked well.
I disabled secure boot – it didn’t help.
I tried to copy the HDD it came with using Partition Manager – it wouldn’t do GPT partitons. I copied it with another partition tool that did do GPT, and got boot errors.
In the end I proceeded with the original HDD, made a recovery USB and then swapped in the SSD and went through recovery. It was worth the trouble – subjective performance with the spinning disk was pretty miserable (no doubt not helped by Norton AV crapware). Subjective performance with the SSD is great, and worth every penny of the £72.99 I paid for it. It’s such a shame that SSD is still sold at such a premium for original machines.
The good bits
As I already mentioned, performance is very decent – particularly for a machine at this price point. For everyday productivity tasks it doesn’t seem much different from my X230 (which has a WEI of 5.8).
The not so good bits
Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the excellent screen and keyboard on my X230, but both of these aspects seem weak(er) on the HP. The 15.6″ screen seems like it should have a higher resolution (than 1366×768) given its size, and colours seem washed out. The HP keyboard is a good size, but somehow doesn’t seem very precise and accurate.
Windows 8 – at least it’s the Pro version, so the option is there for Hyper-V (though I’m preferring VirtualBox for its versatility). I’ve put Start8 on for a proper desktop experience, which is well worth the $4.99 (though it still stuns me that Microsoft have chosen to inflict Metro on their customers – this ‘feature’ could be free).
At 2.5kg it’s not throw in the bag light (though HP do throw in a nice enough laptop bag).
This is a lot of laptop for the money. There are certainly aspects that reflect the budget price, but it seems built to last, and the performance is great. Maybe not quite as much of an amazing bargain as the MicroServer was, but still another great deal from HP.
 There’s a new MicroServer out – the N54L with a 2.2GHz processor. HP are doing cashback again, but it’s only £50 this time.
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Tags: 650, business, EFI, HP, laptop, review, ssd, Start8, UEFI, WEI