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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  • erple2 - Friday, December 10, 2010 - link

    That 1000 dollars more or less covers the upgrade from the FX3800M to the FX5000M. So I'd be willing to bet that's where the cost goes.
  • Dug - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    Many designers work at the office and at home. The 17" works well because its very hard to work on a 15" screen.
    The size isn't bad when you consider they are only transporting it from office to car and car to home.

    Now if you are traveling everywhere such as on a plane, then you wouldn't be looking at one of these anyway.

    I'm just glad Anantech is taking the time to review a wide variety of laptops and emphasizing screen quality. Hopefully product managers and marketing get off their high horse and realize that people don't want crap. A lot of us are willing to pay for quality. If laptop manufacturers would just look at what has been reviewed and look at all the plus and minuses, then make a notebook that is all pluses. It really isn't that hard. Apple really took charge on this (although not perfect), so I hope others follow.
  • kmmatney - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    I'm an Engineer/Scientist/Programmer who works at home, and use a 17" Dell with an upgraded 1920 x 1200 panel, bought in early 2007. I remember having to fight hard to justify the extra $300 in screen and cpu upgrades, but they were well worth it. Our normal upgrade laptop cycle is 3 years, but with a T7200 Merom and a 1920 x 1200 "true life" display, I can hang onto my system for a while yet. Along with a recent SSD upgrade, my system is about as fast as anything I can buy new at the moment (until SandyBridge, I think).

    What kills me sometimes is the weight - it can really hurt your shoulder after carrying it a while. My computer case has wheels, so I use those whenever possible.

    I fly a lot, so get free upgrades to economy plus on United. With the extra leg room, I can easily use my 17" laptop on the plane.
  • Belard - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    With one our ThinkPad users, he has a dock that allows him to connect two 23" 1920x1080 screens. So he gets the portability of a 14" notebook with the power to drive two big monitors. Not bad for a $250 dock with DVI & Display Port connectors, which also has USB, Ethernet and recharges the notebook's battery.
  • Burner.Tom - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    Are u sure about only 1-year standard warranty, because as I know, all EliteBooks have 3 yeat standard warranty.
  • SandmanWN - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    Should be 3 years. Even the models below this, ProBooks, have 3 years.
  • sheltem - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    It's 3 years - 8740w owner
  • Dorin Nicolaescu-Musteață - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    "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."

    Sorry guys, but that's just not true.

    One has to use color-managed applications to judge if color is good or not. In a non-color-managed environment, a wide gamut display will have incorrect (oversaturated) colors, just like a low-gamut display (undesaturated).

    Just curious, how do you judge whether the colors are oversaturated or not? What do you look at and with what software?
  • kmmatney - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    The eyes are a pretty good judge at oversaturation.

    In my line of work, I have to often align X-ray beams for scientific equipment. I can use a high-sensitive, high-precision detector, or just use my eyes and a fluorescent screen to maximize the X-ray beam intensity. Although I always double-check things using the detector, I've found that my eyes can detect tiny changes in the green glow from the fluorescent screen, and always get the sensitive alignments spot on. We are talking about very small changes - its pretty amazing what the eyes can detect.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    I'm curious... what exactly is "not true" about the above statement? (This is directed at Dorin.) Good for those that need it is another way of saying "good in color managed applications", which is why we go on to state that everyone working in sRGB isn't going to like it as much.

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