HP PROBOOK 455 G2
£300 inc VAT • hp.com/uk
If you’re not a Windows fan but can’t afford the extra expense of an Apple MacBook and its OS X operating system, you’ll be glad to hear that there is a third way – a laptop with Linux preinstalled. The ProBook 455 G2 is one of three HP laptops sold by eBuyer running Ubuntu Linux instead of Windows. Here we review the highest spec model, which comes with a 1.9GHz quad-core AMD processor, 1TB hard disk and 8GB of memory.
Build and design
From the budget end of HP’s business range, the ProBook is a simple 15in laptop, which comes with the kind of components you would find on a sub-£500 machine, including a low-grade TN display, plastic casework buffed up with gunmetal paint and simple connectivity.
A slot-load DVD RW drive pops out the right side beyond two USB 2.0 ports. The left side trumps these with a pair of high-speed USB 3.0, alongside HDMI, VGA and gigabit ethernet ports.
Like most business laptops there’s decent access from the underside to essential upgrade areas: two doors, one to access hard disk and memory, the other for Wi-Fi card. A small 31Wh battery can also be detached easily.
Screen quality is the usual weak spot on budget laptops, and you won’t be surprised to hear that we had an issue with the 15.6in (100ppi) TN panel. The screen’s contrast and colours leave images looking simultaneously dull and washed out.
Real buttons below the multi-touch trackpad have smooth operation, while pointer precision is average for the price. Typists may feel at home with its serviceable keyboard and numberpad.
Build Features Performance
The real story here is that HP has opted for Ubuntu – a certified option that should be free of incompatibilities between hard and software. Ubuntu is often seen as an alternative to OS X and Windows, an OS that in interface terms should be easy enough to get around. Finding the applications you need can be challenging, though. Office programs such as Word and Excel can be substituted by Libre or OpenOffice, and web browsing and email are easy with familiar cross-platform utilities. Games and entertainment come up short; look around and you will find titles such as Half Life for Linux.
Ubuntu has some issues here – switchable graphics and TPM security module are not supported. The installed version is dated too, an odd choice from 2012, despite this laptop’s build after the release of up-to-date 14.04 LTS. You can, of course, upgrade yourself.
We couldn’t benchmark with the usual Windows programs, but the 28nm AMD chip is roughly comparable to a four-year-old Intel Core i5. Our usual battery benchmark also proved problematic as the Wi-Fi performance was so terrible, causing constant crashes. One driver update later, the laptop could run with wireless but slowly, less than 10Mb/s, stuttering the video playback.
AMD-powered laptops don’t fare well in power efficiency, but this Ubuntu laptop proved even shorter lived than usual. Streaming over Wi-Fi our usual test video played for just one hour 24 minutes. Repeated without wireless, it lasted three hours 13 minutes. VERDICT: It may be cheap but out of the box, the ProBook won’t suit many users. A newer Ubuntu or Windows operating system may help, but it’s not one for the typical untutored budget PC buyer.