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 laptop is quite lightweight for its size, 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.
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.
Don't be fooled by looks: this Ultrabook for business from HP packs plenty of speed and nice features into a retro design.