Introducing the HP EliteBook 8740w

Sometimes mainstream line-ups from notebook manufacturers just don't cut it. Thus far, Dell seems to be the only vendor interested in offering quality screens in their laptops, and you'll pay for the privilege. But there's another, admittedly more expensive market out there for those of us with the desire to do better, those of us who are willing to pay a little extra to get a little more than the consumer-grade hardware can offer.

 

Enterprise-class notebooks bring superior...well...everything. With the higher price comes higher build quality, better components, sometimes better specs, workstation-class graphics (beneficial to AutoCAD, Maya, and Premiere CS5 users among others) on the go, and oftentimes that unicorn that we chase around here all too often: a better screen.

HP's EliteBook 8740w offers just such a screen: a 1920x1200 (instead of 1080p) IPS panel based screen dubbed the "HP DreamColor." It's a pricey upgrade, ringing in at $550, but it may be one of the best screens we've ever tested. So what about the rest of the notebook?

HP EliteBook 8740w Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-820QM
(4x1.73GHz + HTT, 45nm, 8MB L3, Turbo to 3.06GHz, 45W)
Chipset Intel QM57
Memory 4x4GB DDR3-1333 (Max 4x8GB)
Graphics NVIDIA Quadro 5000M 2GB GDDR5
(320 Shaders, 405 MHz core clock, 810 MHz shader clock, 2400 MHz effective memory clock)
Display 17" LED Matte 16:10 1920x1200 IPS HP DreamColor
(LG LGD0270 Panel)
Hard Drive(s) 500GB 7200 RPM
(Western Digital Scorpio Black)
Optical Drive DVD+/-RW Drive with LightScribe
Networking Intel 82577LM Gigabit Networking
Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300
56K Modem
Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
Audio IDT 92HD75B3X5 HD Audio
Stereo speakers, headphone and microphone jacks
Battery 8-Cell, 14.4V, 73Wh battery
Front Side Speakers
Headphone jack
Microphone jack
4-in-1 Flash reader
Left Side Kensington lock
Exhaust vent
AC adapter
DisplayPort
D-SUB
USB 2.0
4-pin FireWire
ExpressCard/54
Right Side eSATA
2x USB 3.0
USB 2.0
Optical drive
Ethernet jack
Modem jack
Back Side Exhaust vent
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Dimensions 15.6" x 11.2" x 1.4" (WxDxH)
Weight 7.8 lbs
Extras 2MP Webcam
Backlit keyboard with dedicated 10-key
Flash reader (MMC, SD/Mini SD, MS/Duo/Pro/Pro Duo, xD)
Fingerprint reader
Ambient light sensor
Dual drive bays
WWAN capable
Smart card reader
Docking port
Warranty 1-year standard warranty
Pricing Starting at $1,999
Priced as configured: $6,527
With 18% CTO8740W Code: $5,352

Holy cow, check out that pricetag, and we haven't even maxed this baby out! Before getting into the nitty gritty, we'll get past the sticker shock: the three egregious offenders are the DreamColor display (a $550 upgrade), the NVIDIA Quadro 5000M (a staggering $1,425 upgrade), and the 16GB of memory, up from a stock 2GB (add another $1,100 on to the pricetag). HP wasn't screwing around when they sent us this notebook; it comes perilously close to being their best and brightest. But hey, if you need 32GB courtesy of four 8GB SO-DIMMs, HP has that as well... and it will more than double the above price! Also note that HP currently has an 18% discount code running on their CTO (Configure To Order) 8740w; such codes come and go on a regular basis, but like many OEMs HP frequently has such discounts.

For the rest, starting from the top we have one of our usual suspects, the Intel Core i7-820QM. The 820QM is a quad core, eight-thread processor that sports a nominal 1.73GHz clock speed capable of ramping up to 3.06GHz on a single core and 2.8GHz on two cores. Attached is Intel's cream-of-the-mobile-crop QM57 mobile chipset and a frankly gross 16GB of DDR3-1333. That mobile chipset is linked to two 2.5" drive bays able to support dual hard drives (or a single mechanical storage drive and an SSD). The lack of any SSDs is the only area where HP didn't go for broke with our test system, which of course will hurt in some of the HDD intensive benchmarks.

From there, we have the other big spender, the NVIDIA Quadro 5000M workstation-class GPU. The 5000M is NVIDIA's top of the line, but let's see if any of these specifications sound familiar: 320 shader processors (aka "CUDA cores") attached to a 256-bit memory interface connected to 2GB of GDDR5. Core clock speed of 405MHz and corresponding shader clock of 810MHz, with 2.4GHz effective on the memory. The kids playing along at home are going to note that this is an ever-so-slightly slower GeForce GTX 480M, using the same silicon with a paltry 15MHz deficit on the core (and corresponding 30MHz deficit on the shaders.) Of course, being a Quadro it does bring all of the secret sauce that NVIDIA packages with its workstation class cards, but the silicon remains essentially the same 100-watt GeForce GTX 465 crammed into a mobile chassis.

The rest of the notebook is pretty compelling. Ignoring the IPS-panel screen (which we'll examine in more detail later on), HP has opted to outfit the EliteBook 8740w with all the modern connectivity you could ask for. If there was one complaint I have here, it's the lack of a DVI or HDMI port, though a DisplayPort-to-DVI adapter could probably just as soon rectify that issue. On a notebook this modern, the VGA port almost seems out of place, though we understand enterprise customers are likely to have VGA-only projectors still hanging around.

Enterprise Class and the Death of Gloss
POST A COMMENT

63 Comments

View All Comments

  • slacr - Wednesday, December 08, 2010 - link

    "Of course, being a Quadro it does bring all of the secret sauce that NVIDIA packages with its workstation class cards"

    What does this secret sauce do these days, the only documents i've found are rather old and talk of anti-aliasing in CAD software. Other "CUDA capable" cards offer GPU-assistance in for example Adobe CS and CAD software is no longer particularly bound by cpu so the only benefit i've seen is the larger video RAM which can be found on normal cards anyway, so what does the price premium actually buy?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 08, 2010 - link

    I believe it's line anti-aliasing, better OpenGL drivers (with ISV certification for various applications), and some 64-bit FP performance enhancements. To my knowledge, all of this stuff is available in the standard NVIDIA GPUs, but they only enable it on the Quadro drivers. Reply
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, December 08, 2010 - link

    FP64 is the big one. ATI's high end GPUs are limited to FP64 performance that's 1/5th of FP32. Nvidia's high end consumer cards only have 1/.8th, while GT100/110 quadro's are 1/2 (the highest possible without throttling FP32). For scientific computing this is enough to justify paying several times as much as a consumer card so nVidia hobbles the GeForces to support sales of Tesla boxes. Reply
  • mczak - Wednesday, December 08, 2010 - link

    FP64 is really for tesla though. Maybe workstation cards still have the full performance FP64 enabled, but honestly noone would care. It's pretty much line aa still I think, plus geforce cards also have artificial limitation on (non-tesselated) geometric throughput. Reply
  • carsandcomps - Thursday, December 09, 2010 - link

    The secret sauce is overlay planes and 3D wireframe performance. Consumer cards are great for tesselated 3d with texture maps, but most are pretty horrible when there a hundreds of thousands of 3D wireframe edges in a view.

    You are correct about the drivers being better also. While a crazy "flareout" or glitch from a surface is no big deal in a game, it is a show stopper on a real 3D engineering model. Not that I am a Nvidia fanboy, but their workstation class drivers have always been better in my opinion.
    Reply
  • sheltem - Wednesday, December 08, 2010 - link

    I'm pretty sure the Quadro 5000M is the same exact card as the 480M. The main difference is the drivers. You can either hack the driver files to trick it into a 480M (or vice versa) or mod the bios.

    I actually have the Elitebook 8740w, but with an AMD FirePro 7820. I hacked the Catalyst Mobility drivers to work with my FirePro 7820M.
    Reply
  • Zan Lynx - Monday, December 13, 2010 - link

    You can hack it, but there's more to it than just the drivers.

    The Quadro and Tesla hardware goes through a much more careful test process.

    The gaming hardware will produce calculation errors fairly often.

    The Quadro and Tesla hardware: hardly ever.
    Reply
  • yakugo - Monday, March 21, 2011 - link

    How/what did you do to hack your 7820 drivers so catalyst control center would work? i have a dell m6500 with the m7820 card. Could you email me at mp3moeny@hotmail.com

    Thanks,

    -Aaron
    Reply
  • mschira - Wednesday, December 08, 2010 - link

    Well, I do appreciate a decent screen, and you know what I might even be ready to pay 550$ extra for it, but a 17" laptop?
    What's the point for that?
    They never fit onto anything else but a desk. Even 15" laptops are a pain to carry around.

    So why not get a decent all in one PC like an iMac ?
    And why, oh why is there no smaller laptop that offers a decent screen?
    M.
    Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Wednesday, December 08, 2010 - link

    Why an iMac instead of the other oem machines? Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now