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
USB 2.0
4-pin FireWire
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
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  • blyndy - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    My question is could HP/Dell put this level of build quality into a premium consumer without breaking $3500 (without hamstringing it with )?

    prerequisites for any notebook:
    - no glossy plastic
    - no glossy screen
    - no crappy keyboard
    - no downright ugliness

    And then the premium part:
    - core i5
    - 4gb ram
    - nv 460m / ati 5870m
    - IPS display
    - RGB backlight option
    - solid chassis
    - solid hinges

    The closest thing would be an alienware m15x or m17x, unfortunately, for all of the things that can be configured with alienware, removing the glossy plastic screen cover and IPS are not options.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    Considering you can get the 8540w with DreamColor 2 1080 for around $2150, and that includes a Quadro 880M GPU and an i5-520M, I'd say it would be trivial to make such a system with a 460M consumer GPU instead. Problem is, apparently they don't see a market for it. Heck, with the current sale you can get an i7-620M and DC2 plus a few other extras and still be around $2500.
  • Zebo - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    Jarred, could you link this deal?

    Also - is this the cheapest you can configure a Dream color? I don't need quad or anything else fancy. I'll stick a intel SSD in once i get it that's about it.
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    You can just go strait to HPs website and get it. The discount code CTO8540w is 24%, 18% for the 17" model.

    You're limited on your GPU with a 15" one though. 72nvidia or 400 ati SP's max.
  • sheltem - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    If you are smart with the choices, you can get this laptop for a decent price. I paid $1862 after tax with a 28% discount back in June. Aside from upgrading the screen to 1920x1200 /w camera, adding backlit keyboard and getting quad core (for the 4 dimm slots), I kept everything at it's bare minimum. I upgraded the memory, hd and added a SSD myself.

    HP's business support is fantastic. I purchased an open box docking station from ebay which broke after 2 weeks. HP sent a brand new one to me with overnight delivery. I didn't even have to send the old one back. Any complaints about HP's customer service, is most likely directed towards their consumer products.
  • Belard - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    First, for a "business" class notebook, 17" are TOO big. And with todays extra-wide-made-for-movies screens, 15.6" displays are just wide versions of 14" monitors.. might as well save a point and space for a quality 14" notebook nowadays.

    Price as Configured is $5400~6500 (depending on coupon)... for that much money, might as well get a ThinkPad W701DS! Yeah, its a bit older - until Lenovo upgrades the touchpad and keyboard... where is our W710?

    Here is a ThinkPad W701DS I priced out to almost the MAX at $5565!

    - Core i7-920XM (2.0Ghz) - save $550 to go with the same Q820.
    - Quadro FX 3800M (maybe on par with the FX5000)
    - 4x4GB RAM DDR3 (8GB total)
    - Camera, bluetooth, fingerprint reader, Centrino Advanced-N + WiMAX 6250
    - 160GB SSD boot drive
    - 500GB 7200 RPM HD
    - USB 3.0 / eSATA, DVD drive (of course)
    - Pantone Color Sensor + WACOM Digitizer w/ Stylus
    - Anti-spill channels for keyboard.

    Don't know if theres a 56k modem (people use those?)

    And this ThinkPad has dual screens. A 17" at 1920x1200 and the 2nd 10" screen does 768x1280.

    Oh, and the keyboard is real... not the cheezy and easier to break island keyboards... but the trackpad is out-dated compared to the newer ThinkPads. They have the a light that makes it easier to see the keyboard at night... but it would be nice to have back-lit keys while keeping the great feel of a ThinkPad.

    At 17 inches - these are work station, not office type computers... they are heavy and expensive.

    The W510 (15" screen with 1920x1200 rez) with similar stats above like the HP is about $2200 is better suited for business.
  • SandmanWN - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    yes, we know they are workstations. They are listed on the HP website as mobile workstations. It has workstation graphics and other parts. What are you going on about????? Get off the soap box.
  • Belard - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    For an "enterprise" $6000+ product, it comes with a cheezy keyboard found on their $500 toss-in-the-garbage models. Other than that, its a bit of a sexy notebook... which looks almost like an older 17" IdeaPad, down to the cheezy keyboard.

    Many of the aspects of this HP design are obviously that they are from ThinkPad. The heavy-duty hinges, Trackpoint in the center of the keyboard, 3-button "mouse" buttons below and above the trackpad. So yes, this is aimed at serious people who tend to get a ThinkPad.

    So, I'll stick to my phrase "Why bother", when you can get a ThinkPad with better specs in most areas for about $1000 less.

    I'll get off my Soap box, but I'm taking it with me!
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    One major reason: ThinkPad doesn't have an IPS LCD. They use the same RGB LED backlit panel as the Dell M6500 (pretty sure anyway). Also, style preferences are just that: preferences. I'm sure plenty of people will prefer the look and keyboard on the 8740w. Having used an 8440w in person, I can say that I have no complaints with that keyboard, and a larger chassis with 10-key shouldn't change the feel much.

    If you want a ThinkPad, sure, get a ThinkPad. If you want a Dell Precision, there's that option as well. If you want an IPS LCD, though, you're going to have to get an EliteBook.
  • Belard - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    Nods about the get what you want (Dell, ThinkPad, HP)

    Considering what Lenovo charges for their 1920x1200 screens, I would think it would be a different type of screen.

    I guess these new flat-keyboards are made for anyone under 30, eh? I'm in the camp that likes curved keys and a nice feeling keyboard - something that Lenovo hasn't messed with since they bought the ThinkPad line. And they redesigned the keyboard slight and its for the better.

    Personally, I think its odd for Lenovo to still sell the older-style chassis with their W7xx series.

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