If Only Your HP Pavilion Looked This Good

Honestly, the more I play with enterprise hardware the more I wonder why we have to keep putting up with unattractive, kitschy designs in the consumer field, and the HP EliteBook 8760w really hammers it home. The 8760w isn't just a massive improvement on its predecessor (whose three-tone design wound up being a mess of clashing styles), it's a massive improvement on notebooks in general. Understanding the materials used in the construction of something like the 8760w are much more costly than the cheap plastic used for bargain basement notebooks, it's still tough to argue that it doesn't look better than the lion's share of Windows-based notebooks available.

If you read our review of the HP EliteBook 8460p or any of our continuing coverage of the 2011 HP refresh, nothing in the design of the 8760w is going to seem new to you. As a 17" notebook, it's sizable without being needlessly bulky; many of the gaming notebooks we've tested are both heavier and broader.

The gunmetal gray finish with silver accents is a constant throughout the entire design except for the bottom, though the lid enjoys a spiral brushed aluminum pattern and an HP logo that glows when the system is on. When you open it, you'll find a matte screen (much more on this later) with a clean black matte trim and fairly minimal flex owing to the reinforced frame.

Inside surfaces are largely the same gunmetal gray, of slightly varying shades, with the touch-based shortcut bar on the 8740w completely removed in place of four physical silver buttons: a wireless toggle, a mute button, HP's QuickWeb shortcut, and a calculator shortcut. Each of the buttons are lit with white LEDs, and the keyboard itself is backlit white with white LED toggles on the Caps Lock and Num Lock keys. Flex on the keyboard is minimal, and the touchpad surface is a joy to use, but undoubtedly some users will be bothered by the switch to the chiclet keyboard that's become the de facto standard across all of HP's notebooks, consumer or business. Personally I'm fine with it, but the arrow keys remain a sore spot for me: while the double-sized left and right keys aesthetically fill out the design, from a practical sense they feel strange compared to a garden variety directional key set.

Everything else about the feel of the 8760w is absolutely stellar, though. The keyboard is easy and pleasant to use, the touchpad has exactly the right amount of traction, and the three mouse buttons (take that, Apple!) have just the right amount of travel and resistance while making virtually no noise.

When you flip the 8760w over, you find the same fantastic single service panel that HP has deployed across their entire business line, making the notebook incredibly easy to service or upgrade. Honestly this is a development I wouldn't mind seeing carried over to consumer notebooks, although the difference there is that while a business notebook is designed to be serviced by an IT department, I can just see some hapless end user mangling their shiny new $500 laptop by popping off the bottom and messing with the insides. Maybe it's for the best that this stays in the market it's in.

As a whole, the HP EliteBook 8760w's design is much more minimalist and functional than its predecessor, owing at least lip service to the Jonathan Ive school of form and function intertwined. HP's mentality with their 2011 business notebooks is that "business" doesn't have to mean "stodgy," and they've hit a near perfect compromise with their new EliteBooks.

Introducing the HP EliteBook 8760w Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • damianrobertjones - Thursday, August 25, 2011 - link

    In the future could you actually make a point of informing users about the fan (A bit more info)? Does it stay on all the time? Does it switch off as this is one of the more important aspects.

    For instance I've had a chance to use the following new models: (Fitted SSD, clean install, tweaked)

    HP 5330m - core i3, fan off most of the time
    HP 6460b - core i5, fan always on and annoying
    HP 8460p - core i5, fan always on and annoying
    Dell Vostro v131, celeron, fan ALWAYS off!

    Also here are the extended battery options that you missed off:
    HP VH08XL
    HP ST09 - Extended life battery (Fits under the laptop)
    HP BB09 - Ultra extended life battery (Massive slice, fits under the laptop)

    The BB09 along with the standard battery on a 6460b will play full screen media non-stop for 14+ hours (Wireless off, lowest brightness, audio via headphones).

    Thanks
    Reply
  • nirolf - Thursday, August 25, 2011 - link

    +1, more info on the noise would be nice. Reply
  • B3an - Thursday, August 25, 2011 - link

    Same. More fan info please. Reply
  • wawawiwa - Thursday, August 25, 2011 - link

    In my experience, the fan starts spinning on high usage like rendering or hd editing. It spins sometimes in photoshop but for short periods while in illustrator it stays off all the time (cs5.5). It also spins up but on lower rpm when i'm using both external and laptop display and it stays on all the time. If I'm using "projector" only or the laptop display only, it stays off.

    Standard temperature (CPU) is around 45°C, the maximum I got it to go is up to 80°C but still the keyboard and the part around the power button never gets hot, just warm.

    It is a beast.
    Reply
  • heymrdj - Thursday, August 25, 2011 - link

    These are high end workstation systems. Like any user, one must make a tradeoff between power and cooling. You can't run dual 6990's without fan noise, be it a watercooling radiator setup or fans, you *have* to pay the price for power in fan noise and/or size. The only way to get fan noise lowered is to thicken the fan and thicken the unit itself. Using workstation systems myself fan noise is a non issue, I know it will be loud according to the chips I outfit it with. A high end I7 and an always on quadro GPU is going to be producing a good deal of heat even idling, no way around it, just as my 5.4L V8 in my Expedition costs more to idle in fuel and heat than the 2.3L I4 in my fiance's Ranger. Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Thursday, August 25, 2011 - link

    I'm aware of this. The entire new Elitebook and Probook range are thicker than nearly any laptop I've used in the last 5 years YET the fan is always on even after updating the bios which enabled the 'fan' option. That said same option no longer even does what we think it does.

    I'd expect the 8760w to have fans the size of a small room :) but it would be nice to know if it EVER switches off
    Reply
  • Barfo - Thursday, August 25, 2011 - link

    yes Reply
  • velis - Thursday, August 25, 2011 - link

    I too bought an 8740w just for the x1200 dreamcolor. Had it been 1080p I wouldn't have bothered. I sure hope this notebook lasts me until monitors finally start picking up resolution. This convergence to 1080p and nothing higher gives me the creeps. Thanks for pointing out that fact in this review.
    Oh what I wouldn't give for a nice 24" 2560x1600 standalone - which would be the exact monitor obtained from this same dreamcolor 17" glass (the 1200p one of course)...
    I saw that HP offers a dreamcolor standalone, but its resolution is a useless 1920 and the price is stupenduously prohibitive. Why can the upgrade on a notebook cost $500 ($600 now), but a standalone costs >$2500???
    Reply
  • Rick83 - Thursday, August 25, 2011 - link

    Well, mostly because the upgrade also includes the price of the base display (probably around 150-200$) and because you get much better back-lighting for desktop screens.
    Additionally, size does matter, there's a bunch more material costs, more/better control circuits, a power supply, a foot, and finally dream color is just a brand - so the panel is probably utterly dissimilar from that used in the desktop.

    Also, the desktop screen market is a much more competitive market, as you can plug any screen into any computer - with the laptop you're limited to the options your producer gives you.
    If you compare the dream color offering to NEC and eizo offerings, you will see that it is priced for a certain market.

    It would be interesting to see direct performance comparisons between high end IPS laptop panels and mid-end PVA/IPS desktop screens, to see just how good/bad these high-end laptop screens are, and whether they're worth the extra 600$, if you mostly use the machine at a desk, or if the same money buys a vastly superior dedicated screen.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, August 25, 2011 - link

    I have to be honest, I think the screen quality (at least subjectively) is at LEAST on par with my desktop HP ZR24w and LP2465, if not outright better. Reply

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