We haven't had the opportunity to review many HP notebooks this year -- even as Hewlett-Packard's competitors have been aggressively bringing new and innovative systems to market almost monthly. So when we received an HP Compaq 6730b to take a look at and review, we sat right up and took a good look.
After all, HP didn't get to be a notebook market share leader for nothing. It has remained a reliable provider and has managed to avoid some of the same nasty publicity on issues like overheating that have plagued some of its rivals. Still, HP has been more low-key than most Tier 1 laptop vendors this year and, in unboxing the 6730b, we were hoping that might change.
Well, it did and it didn't. While the 6730b doesn't provide the breakthroughs we've seen others provide this year in form factor, or performance, or features, HP has taken the nice, reliable notebooks that gave it its market share lead, improved greatly on stuff that already worked, and has done a fantastic job improving the user experience. From audio to battery life, we found the improvements over early generation notebooks to be noteworthy and top-notch.
The system arrived built with an Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 at 2.26 GHz and 2 GB of RAM, the Intel 4 Series Express Chipset and pre-loaded with Windows Vista Business.
Using Primate Labs' Geekbench benchmarking software, the notebook delivered a score of 2497, on par with other notebooks in its class and with those specifications.
Using the Test Center's standard battery life exam, we disabled all power-saving options on the notebook and ran a video off the hard drive, continuously, until the system shut down. With this method, the battery lasted about 3 hours and 30 minutes -- much longer than most notebooks we've looked at this year.
Plugged in, the 6730b never drew more than 42 watts of power -- making it nice for desktop use. It did throw 93 degrees of heat from its vent after a few hours of running, but the rest of the system managed thermals well and it never felt warm to the touch.
As far as acoustics: The speakers are located on the front of the notebook below the keyboard and music and sounds were sharp with just enough bass. The notebook's 15.4-inch display is built with anti-glare technology and it was bright and could be viewed easily enough indoors our outdoors. The LCD panel has integrated web cam and dual microphones, so we decided to put them to use.
Making a phone call using Skype, while the system was connected to a wireless network, the person on the other end reported hearing everything perfectly (which is often not the case with Skype even on wired desktops and a jacked-in, third party microphone.)
The integrated Webcam relayed a bright, sharp and smooth video image as well.
HP has a starting list price of $1,045 for the notebook, putting it in the mid-to-upper-mid-range of notebook pricing in the U.S. The system is targeted at the SMB space -- where, after our review, it appears like it will play very well.
The bottom line: The HP Compaq 6730b is not a flashy notebook, or the highest performing, or the cheapest. But it does everything better than many HP notebooks have done in the past and is a solid choice for solution providers working with SMB customers.