Introducing the HP EliteBook 2170p

We recently reviewed Acer's Aspire V5-171, a notebook that proves that there's a life (and a market) after netbooks but before ultrabooks. The essential gap that's materialized has been between the fast decaying netbook market (its death spurred on by Intel's Atom coupled with the high price of Brazos), and the expensive ultrabook market. More than that, though the 11.6" form factor is basically as small as a notebook can get while still featuring a full-sized keyboard, it's a gap that's essentially been going underserved for roughly a year now.

Acer wasn't the only one to spy this gap and try to fill it. ASUS has a notebook in stores right now that sports either an Ivy Bridge i3 or a Sandy Bridge i3 and touchscreen for Windows 8, and HP has an offering in their enterprise line that we have on hand for review today: the EliteBook 2170p. These notebooks have all been released with very little fanfare, and that's a shame, because there's definitely a niche for them. But while the Acer offering turned out to be a remarkably good deal for cost-conscious consumers, did HP misstep with their unusually pricey EliteBook 2170p?

It's tough to really get out of the gate without mentioning what HP is charging for the EliteBook 2170p. Enterprise-class notebooks almost always have a premium attached to them (though HP serves budget businesses with ProBooks and Dell with Vostros), the cheapest the 2170p goes for is $999, and that's for an Ivy Bridge i3. This is business class, but the price tag is still squarely in ultrabook territory. It's entirely possible for HP to make up the gap with a top shelf design, so let's see what we have to work with.

HP EliteBook 2170p Notebook
Processor Intel Core i7-3667U
(2x2GHz + HTT, 3.2GHz Turbo, 22nm, 4MB L3, 17W)
Chipset Intel QM77
Memory 1x4GB Elpida DDR3-1600 (expandable to 2x8GB)
Graphics Intel HD 4000 Graphics
(350-1150MHz, 16 EUs)
Display 11.6" LED Matte 16:9 1366x768
Hard Drive(s) Toshiba MK-5061GSYN 500GB 7200-RPM SATA 3Gbps HDD
Optical Drive -
Networking Intel 82579LM Gigabit Ethernet
Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 802.11a/b/g/n 2x2
Audio Realtek ALC269 HD Audio
Stereo speakers
Combo mic/headphone jack
Battery 4-Cell, 30Wh
Front Side Speakers
Indicator lights
Right Side SD/MMC reader
Power switch
USB 3.0
Left Side Kensington lock
AC adapter
USB 3.0
Exhaust vent
Combo headphone/mic jack
Back Side Battery
Operating System Windows 7 Professional SP1 64-bit
Dimensions 11.5" x 7.56" x 1.04"
292mm x 192mm x 26.5mm
Weight 2.89 lbs (1.31 kg)
Extras 720p HD webcam
Flash reader (SD/Mini SD, MS/Duo/Pro/Pro Duo)
USB 3.0
Optional WWAN
Fingerprint reader
Backlit keyboard
Warranty 3-year parts and labor
Pricing Starts at $999
As configured: $2,101

The price tag for our review unit is brutal, but if you're willing to drop down to a Core i5-3317U (and there's very little reason not to), you can shave about a grand off. HP also at least presently is offering a coupon code that chops a respectable 25% off of the purchase price, and from there you can get the EliteBook 2170p in the neighborhood of $700-$800, which is much more reasonable for a business class machine. As with the Acer Aspire V5 I reviewed recently, the ULV Intel Core i7 simply isn't worth it (the dual-core i7s in general frankly haven't been in some time anyhow).

As seems to have become traditional with HP's business-focused notebooks, the 2170p includes only one DIMM, running 4GB in a single slot. Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge both have pretty stellar memory controllers in the first place, so the CPU halves of the chips are seldom starved by single-channel operation, but the HD 4000 IGP does get hit a bit harder (which you'll see later on.)

It's not unusual to see a mechanical hard disk standard in an enterprise-class notebook where known reliable technologies are more important, though the lack of any kind of SSD caching does hurt, and the chassis does have at least the real estate for an mSATA SSD (though no port to house it).

Finally, connectivity is pretty stellar, with even SmartCard port on hand for business users, but the battery is a major sore spot. HP offers only a 4-cell, 30Wh battery or 6-cell, 48Wh battery as options. The 4-cell sits flush with the body; unfortunately we didn't have a 6-cell on hand to test with.

In and Around the HP EliteBook 2170p
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  • ACSK - Saturday, December 1, 2012 - link

    Yup - same thing for wireless cards.
  • Penti - Saturday, December 1, 2012 - link

    mSATA uses SATA so it should accept everything it does accept on any other SATA-port shouldn't it?
  • Penti - Saturday, December 1, 2012 - link

    I.e. whats really preventing any one is that the WWAN slot isn't an mSATA slot and has no SATA-connection at all. You have to get by using a 2.5" SSD.
  • SunLord - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    Whats the black circle thing in between the g, h, and b keys?
  • Voldenuit - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    That's the nub mouse (also known as a Trackpoint, although that term is technicalluy trademarked by IBM/lenovo).

    When done well (like on thinkpads), it's one of the best pointing devices on a laptop. When done poorly (dell latitudes, hp, some toshibas, a few vaios), it can be horribly infuriating.
  • bji - Monday, December 3, 2012 - link

    Even on thinkpads they are annoying. It's a legacy pointing device sitting in the middle of the keyboard looking ugly and tripping your fingers. The world has moved on to multi-touch pads, and they are much, much, MUCH better than the nubs of yesterday.
  • Tchamber - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    That should be a mouse joy stick, we don't see this much at all these days, but once you get used to it it's very efficient.
  • Subyman - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    Wow, $2000+ for no SSD and 4GB of ram? I've heard of the Apple tax, but never the HP tax.
  • Voldenuit - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    This is known as the Autonomy Accounting writeoff tax.

    Olympus wrote off $2Bn for accounting fraud, and has been charging customers up to $100 for lens hoods, so maybe hp needs to inflate their margins too?
  • r3loaded - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    My steps for reaching the comments were as follows:

    1) Click on article in Google Reader because it had "EliteBook" in the title.
    2) Jump to the Display section of the review, scan the first paragraph and glance at the graphs.
    3) Go straight to the comments to describe the facepalm I'm currently doing while typing this comment out.

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