The $550 DreamColor IPS Upgrade

And here we get to the tough part. HP touts the DreamColor matte IPS panel option in their EliteBook 8740w with good reason: it's an IPS panel in a market where anything other than a TN is exceedingly rare. The problem is that it does command a premium, and a massive one: $550 ($570 with the webcam). Dell doesn't charge anywhere near as much for their screen upgrades, so we really want to know if we're going to get what we pay for with the DreamColor.

You asked for an IPS panel, and you got one. The DreamColor produces incredibly accurate color that basically covers the AdobeRGB 1998 color space. Contrast is excellent and of course you get fantastic viewing angles as well. Black and white levels are both quite nice. Overall it's a great-looking panel.

That said, it still has trouble surpassing the Dell notebooks, particularly the Precision M6500, which boasts both superior color gamut and color accuracy by our measure. It gets worse, too: that upgrade to the M6500 is about $200 cheaper...but then it's not IPS. Realistically, few people will need the higher Dell Gamut, but you're still looking at almost twice the upgrade cost to get IPS in place of TN, and we'd say the M6500 RGB LED panel is already priced quite high. $600 can get you a pretty awesome 24" desktop LCD, but a 17" laptop panel with similar characteristics still costs more.

Subjectively it must be said that while the DreamColor panel on the EliteBook 8740w is very attractive and miles away from what we're used to seeing, even after calibration colors can feel oversaturated. 100% Adobe RGB gamut is good for those that need it, but for everyone else working in sRGB color space, that's the penalty. Yes, we're used to seeing dismal, washed out color when testing notebooks, but the 8740w's colors are still too bright at times—and it must be said, the 120% gamut of the M6500 is even worse in this respect. Though our measurements don't totally bear this out, there's definitely some black crush going on as well. I use a calibrated Dell 2709WFP on my desktop, a screen most agree has some issues with oversaturation, and it seems positively mild compared to how bright the colors on the 8740w's DreamColor can be.

Make no mistake, this is a fantastic panel; however, it may not be the game-changer we were looking for, especially not when the Precision M6500 is hanging around. $300 will go from standard LCD to high color gamut WUXGA, but you're still stuck with TN panels; the additional $250 will add the viewing angles that IPS provides. As mentioned in our recent look at an old ThinkPad T42, a good laptop display can be nigh on impossible to find, and HP provides one. It just so happens that the display costs as much as (or more than) a larger 24" LCD that could sit on your office desk.

Battery, Noise, and Heat Conclusion: Nice, But Oh! That Pricetag


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  • blyndy - Wednesday, December 08, 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 08, 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. Reply
  • Zebo - Wednesday, December 08, 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 08, 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 08, 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 08, 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 08, 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. Reply
  • Belard - Wednesday, December 08, 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 08, 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 08, 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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