Enterprise Class and the Death of Gloss

If there's one thing we can be thankful for when dealing with an enterprise class notebook, it's that not an ounce of glossy plastic can be found anywhere on the chassis. Workstations tend to be a bit more austere, though the HP EliteBook 8740w at least seems to add a little more style than most.

What you'll notice first is the brushed aluminum used on the lid and the inside of the body, framing the plastic keyboard. The screen bezel is thankfully matte black, with the webcam in its usual position above the screen and an ambient light sensor below. If there's one complaint I have, it's the use of a touch-based control/shortcut bar just above the keyboard. I've never been a fan of touch-control and don't understand why it's become so popular when tactile feedback just feels better.

As for the keyboard itself, the layout is comfortable and logical, but it's another case of a possibly inappropriate style creeping into an enterprise notebook. The raised key surfaces aren't uncomfortable, but these are the same keys that HP uses on consumer desktop keyboards, and they seem out of place here compared to the function-before-form keyboard layouts of competing Lenovo or Dell notebooks. There's even light flex in the center of the keyboard, although the backlighting is very welcome. In the grand scheme the keyboard is a minor complaint not likely to aggravate too many users, but it does seem out of place.

HP also includes both a trackpoint and touchpad, and both of these function well and are comfortable to use. I've heard people complain that HP's trackpoint is a distant second to Lenovo's, but the one in the 8740w doesn't seem appreciably better or worse than the one I've been using in my own ThinkPad. A particularly nice feature is the integration of a middle mouse button for both; it may not be the most attractive thing in the world, but it's useful and doesn't really detract at all.

From there the rest of the notebook seems to be built like a tank, just as one would hope. During a conference call with HP they were quick to point out that the notebook had been reliability tested to the 810G military standard, subjecting it to a three foot drop along with dust and humidity. I can believe it's that reliable. Screen flex is minimal, and apart from the keyboard the rest of the unit feels like it could be used as a murder weapon. The lid even has a mechanical latch to hold the notebook closed.

Overall, though, we can appreciate HP's willingness to try and inject style into a notebook market that tends to be staggeringly spartan. The gunmetal coloring is attractive without making the 8740w appear gaudy, and though the surfaces of the keys of the keyboard seem a little inappropriate, they're not deal-breakers. At least HP is trying.

Before we get into the performance metrics, it does bear mentioning that the 8740w brings a lot of workstation-class support to the table. HP's Power Assistant software offers fine-grained control over the system and can even estimate power consumption and savings depending on which power mode you're running. Also included is HP QuickWeb, the usual instant-on feature that lets you browse the internet without booting into Windows, but most interesting is HP Quicklook 3. Quicklook 3 is integrated into Outlook, and lets you access your mail and information in Outlook without ever booting into Windows. We can see this as being a fairly useful feature, although probably more useful in a notebook that doesn't weigh eight pounds.

Introducing the HP EliteBook 8740w Application and Workstation Performance
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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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