Notebook's battery makes up for lesser features

HP Compaq's 2710p has excellent battery life

The HP Compaq 2710p is a highly configurable convertible notebook with some ultracool features. It doesn't have a very fast processor or an integrated optical drive, but its battery life is fabulous and its screen is responsive.

The 2710p is somewhat ruggedized, with a full magnesium alloy enclosure that gives the 3.7-pound unit a stylish industrial look. HP says that the glass top is chemically strengthened, as well, and that the drives are shock-protected to stabilize hard-drive components during a fall. The 12.1-inch, 1280-by-800, LED-backlit screen is very bright and viewable indoors or outdoors. White and other light colors on the screen look crisp and glare-free even in bright sunshine. Indoors, the screen doesn't have the same annoying sheen under office lights that some indoor/outdoor tablets do.

The 2710p also works great in the dark. A night-light illuminates the keyboard well enough for you to type in a pitch-black room if necessary. This night-light is brighter than Lenovo ThinkPad models' ThinkLight and has a cooler design, as a spring-loaded barrel pops out of the center of the upper screen frame at the press of a nearby button. To turn off the light, you gently push the barrel back in.

HP offers many different options for expanding the 2710p. Our $US2,328 (as of 9/12/07) test unit included not only the $1,850 base laptop but also the Ultra-Slim Expansion Base ($299) with an integrated DVD±RW drive and the Ultra-Slim Battery ($179). The battery slice attaches to the notebook first, and then the docking station attaches to the battery slice's pass-through connection. The base and the battery slice are each thin and light. The total weight of our notebook -- with AC adapter, standard battery, extra battery slice, and docking station -- was 7.3 pounds.

The 2710p has a well-laid-out keyboard with a pleasant, hard stroke and a nubby, concave eraserhead pointing device that's easier to master than it looks. A touch-sensitive, backlit panel at the top of the keyboard lets you easily launch a presentation or control volume with a tap of a finger. Another cool bit of gadgetry is the integrated 2-megapixel Webcam, which has a macro setting that lets you photograph business cards and store them as contacts using bundled software.

Converting the laptop to a tablet takes only a couple of seconds; the lid rotates smoothly on its hinge and locks down against the keyboard with a gentle press. Tablet input is effortless -- and such fast, smooth input is crucial because the 2710p has only two tablet shortcut buttons (both on the edges of the unit) and no auto rotation, so you'll be depending on the pen a lot to move around the screen.

Tablet design is good overall. Most of the features, such as the pen silo, the Wi-Fi switch, the fingerprint reader, one of the USB ports, and the attached optical drive, are located at the top. Pressing a side button pops out the WWAN antenna (like a blade in a Swiss army knife) for better reception.

Battery life is outstanding when the notebook is equipped with the additional six-cell slice attachment, lasting just 8 minutes shy of 7 hours in our tests. (We tested, and priced, with both the built-in battery and the slice.) Speed is merely adequate, though: Equipped with a 1.2-GHz Core 2 Duo U7600 processor and 2GB of RAM, our review unit received a WorldBench 6 Beta 2 score of 48, a few points below the average of 53 for currently tested ultraportables.

The 2710p is not for people who need a powerful portable, but it's inexpensive considering that its $2,328 price includes the notebook, the docking station, and the extra battery.

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Carla Thornton

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