My week with the HP EliteBook 820 G1

Back in October, HP released the EliteBook 800 series of laptops, pitching hard at professionals. According to the company, all these new portables were conceived "for mobility, durability and security, while pleasing the eye with a radically thinner profile wrapped in a performance-inspired design."

The HP EliteBook 820 G1 is the baby of the bunch, with a miniature screen of 12.5in. It also comes in at 35 per cent thinner than the previous generation, according to HP, and 18 per cent lighter, at 1.33 kg.

This miniature notebook prices in at £843. I got my hands on the 820 and decided to take it for a week's spin.

A smooth feel

The 820 has one thing in common with the rest of the models in the 800 range – and that's a very polished and professional feel. From the smooth black matte screen casing, to the wonderfully creamy feel of the keys as you type, it has the character of a quality sports car. You know that sound an expensive car's doors make when you close them? That's the feel you get with the EliteBook. The effect is enhanced by the backlit keyboard, which should help when working on red-eye flights.

However, it's a pity that the sports car feel of the hardware isn't entirely reflected by what's under the bonnet.

Powered by a Haswell processor (i3, i5 and i7 options are available), 3.65GB or 7.65GB of working memory, as well as an SSD or HDD of your choice, the EliteBook 820 is quite a crisp operator, but it's let down significantly by a lack of battery power.

I ran the machine for about four hours with intermittent Internet use and the screen at its brightest, before low battery warnings started to pop up. With power-saving settings applied, the 820 could probably push itself to five or six hours. For a user who's never far from a plug socket, this won't be a problem – but for a professional who travels and needs to know that their laptop battery won't die on them, this simply isn't good enough.

HP does offer the ST09 Extended Life Notebook Battery to mitigate this problem, and even claims that this can increase its autonomy to no less than 33 hours, but the £106 price tag starts to offset the fairly modest price of the 820.

Connectivity galore

Luckily for professionals, the pint-sized 820 has more connectivity ports than you can shake a stick at, including Intel's Wireless-AC 7260 adapter and built-in 3G/4G. You also get three USB 3.0 ports thrown into the package, one of which can charge devices, and there's Gigabit Ethernet, DisplayPort and VGA too. No problems there, but make sure the little thing's plugged in, or it won't be powering your devices for long.

With all that connectivity going on, I did wonder why there wasn't room for a HDMI port, but then this laptop really screams "business professional" and little else.

Solid as a rock

The 820 is also delightfully light, barely weighing more than a large hardback book.

Part of the robust feel of the 820 is down to its small and sturdy speaker grille, but this often leaves media sounding tinny. As a professional laptop, it's certainly not designed for playing music, but even interviews or news reports can sometimes suffer from poor sound quality, which is a pity for such an otherwise polished machine.

Another feature that didn't particularly excite me was the "pointer stick" one-button mouse in the centre of the keyboard. Beloved to some, hated by many, these little buttons can sometimes be an enormous headache. Luckily, HP has made sure that the 820's pointer stick isn't too sensitive, and in my time using it I don't think I once clicked it erroneously. Still, it's an annoying presence for those who will never use it.

The removable backplate allows the 820 battery and hard drive to be replaced, along with space for an additional SSD and flash cache. The internal battery means that the 820 is more robust than other laptops, such as certain Samsung models, which have an exterior slot-in battery that can fall out irritatingly.

Loaded up with the slick Windows 7 Professional, this pint-sized business laptop is a solid bet for anyone to whom mobility is a must. It's a pity that HP didn't take that logic and apply it to the battery strength, meaning that an expensive extender is the only option for those to whom five hours of modest use is a daily requirement on the move.

Otherwise, the 820 is a joy to use, and is a very respectable entry into the pantheon of mobile business notebooks.