1.10.2011

Roadtesting an HP Probook 6550b


I've been using an HP Probook 6550b for the last two weeks or so now and, while it is a nicely put together machine, I am reminded from moment to moment just how much I dislike the over-convoluted mess that is the Windows OS. In this case, it is running Windows 7 Professional which looks nice and seems quick enough.

It looks decent enough but has the same annoying quirks and fickleness that plagues every Windows operating system. To get anything done on this thing, you've gotta be willing and able to dig into the underpinnings. Even for something as stupid simple as plugging in a set of headphones and making them "just work" without having to fiddle with the damned dials all the time.

Yes, in this case I was using my iPhone 4 headphones that happen to have a built-in microphone and that probably threw the poor laptop into a tizzy which made it forget what headphones are primarily for. The poor laptop never had a chance against such a calculated foe.
Update: Tried just a regular pair of headphones and no luck again. Either the laptop has a broken headphone port or the controls for it are too buried in the OS to be of any use.

And then there's the total waste of space and knocking the whole thing out of symmetry number pad. Notice the trackpad definitely shading to the left of center, maybe this is supposed to appeal to liberals. And the number pad, I don't get it, do other people regularly make use of number pads? Sure, its the favorite input device of bean counters everywhere but, last I checked, I'm not a bean counter nor is a large percentage of the population a bean counter.

Even more stupid and annoying? The number pad doesn't even work until, until you press the Num Lock button. What is the point of this needlessly stupid thinking? Yes, this is standard Windows operation but that doesn't make it smart or right.

The trackpad is barely adequate. From the often too sensitive tap to click (which just as often seems to forget that you clicked it) to the tiny strip of scrolling-ness on the right of the wee little finger rink and even further to the mushy feeling real buttons below.

The keyboard isn't backlit but if you watch a movie then have something to cover up the ridiculously overbright "I'm ON!" blue light of the Wifi antenna and the not as bright teal-ish "Laptop is ON!" on the left front bezel (you know, just about the worst place to have a bright light if you're laying in bed and trying to watch a movie).

It isn't that I hate HP products. I tend to like how they put things together most of the time, they're stodgy and boring, sure, but they do a nice job of labeling access panels to make repair work easier (and they do need repair work). But, like I said, I don't hate HP usually.

But this laptop's a stinker really. And I'm literally dying every day that I have to wait until I get my MacBook Pro back. Yes, I love, love, love the Mac OS. Why? Because it works. It. Just. works.

I don't have to mess with shit each and every time I use the computer. I don't have to upload Java or Adobe or some critical security thing or worry about the last brain sucking zombie virus from China or Nigeria. Sorry PC users, your operating system of choice (was it really your choice or was that choice made for you?), sucks Steve Ballmer's saggy, depleted but still defiantly over-confident nuts.

Are there other operating systems out there that compare to the Mac OS? Sure. I've messed around with some flavors of Linux that are quite usable without being irritating (Hey, wanna take a tour of Windows XP? Are you sure? Are you really, really sure? Okay, I'll ask you again in five minutes just to make double extra super sure).

Anyway, let's get back to the Probook.
Pros: Looks nice, runs reasonably quickly, decent battery life (easy 3+ hours of use), good sized screen.

Cons: Win 7 is still Win something and Win something sucks, lights on the front bezel are blindingly bright, number key pad ruins aesthetics/ergonomics for no reason, the trackpad is tiny, the trackpad buttons are mushy, is my virus protection more than five minutes out of date?, screen is kind of meh quality-wise, headphone jack appears to be non-functional, it is a tank and barely qualifies as portable.

Recommendation: Pass on this machine unless you get a really superb deal. Or just pass on Windows machines altogether and go invest in a Mac. You'll use it more, you'll use it long after this HP Fauxbook is thrown out and it won't frustrate you anywhere near as much.

Rating: ** out of ***** stars.
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