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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  • Dorin Nicolaescu-Musteață - Thursday, December 9, 2010 - link

    What is not true, or rather not correct, is saying that having a wider gamut is a penalty and/or a drawback.

    Remember the days when computers had a Turbo switch? We used it to slow down the programs (mostly games perhaps; Pacman running too fast? :)) that were designed for slower machines, and that were running too fast on newer better computers. Is it correct to say that newer faster machines are worse or the extra MHz are a penalty? Or rather that was a programs' problem?

    Same here. Programs or systems that display oversaturated colors on a wide gamut display, are basically not functioning correctly.

    Also, regarding "even after calibration colors can feel oversaturated"... calibration, at least on Windows, is a two-step procedure: 1) profile and calibrate display; 2) use color-managed software. There's no point to calibrate the display without using color-managed software and no point to use color managed software without calibration. If you use both as you should, the colors will not "feel oversaturate". In this regard, the statement is false and misleading to those that do not have at least a basic understanding about color management.
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, December 11, 2010 - link

    The problem is that so many applications assume sRGB color space, so if we go by your suggestion that anything that's not color managed is not functioning properly, about the only apps that are "correct" are Adobe Photoshop (and presumably Premiere and a few others). Interestingly enough, Windows Photo Viewer appears to be managed -- i.e. the colors look correct after calibration -- but only if you're not in fullscreen mode. I took some photos in the Dell XPS 15 review a few weeks back comparing colors, and you can clearly see that fullscreen, the B+GR panel in the XPS looks oversaturated, and the older Studio XPS 16 RGB LED looks even more so!
  • a1trips - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    <Note that HP charges substantially more for a configure-to-order (CTO) system—$5792—but there's an 18% discount code (CTO8740W) to bring the price down to just under $4750, saving you $150. >

    not to put too fine a point on it, the math don't work here. so which is it? 18 per-cent

  • sheltem - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    If you speak directly with an HP rep, you can get a 28% discount, which is what I got back in June.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    The $150 savings is relative to the $4900 SmartBuy model with the same components. Sorry if that's not clear.
  • OneArmedScissorB - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    Yikes, 49w idle. That's pretty much small desktop + typical laptop TN LED monitor territory, but that's not quite what the hardware is, which raises questions.

    Any chance that you checked the power with the screen on and off while it was plugged in? I'm curious how much the screen is hurting it there, as every variation of desktop IPS monitors seems to use a bit more than their TN counterparts.
  • mczak - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    That's a really really hefty enterprise tax you pay there. It is using 4 4GB so-dimms. You can buy these easily for about 60 bucks each nowadays (or 240$ for 4 of them). That's worse than what apple overcharges...
    (Though I understand there's a premium for 8GB so-dimms, which are nowhere near mainstream, but again it's very ridiculous - more than 2k per dimm...)
  • mczak - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    Both the gtx 480m and the desktop gtx 465 have 352 cores (11 SM) enabled. The quadro fx 5000m only has 320 cores (10 SM) enabled. Unless you absolutely must have workstation graphics in your notebook, this is very obviously about the worst choice of chip you could order (price, power consumption, not even performance is anything to write home about).
  • nitrousoxide - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    Does it make any sense to test gaming performance on a card designated for mobile workstation? Or Anand doesn't have the test suite for pro cards?
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    Mostly for a point of reference. You'll note that other than running the tests, we didn't spend a lot of time in the intro or conclusion discussing the games. I have to admit that Dustin and I probably aren't the best people to talk to regarding workstation graphics. I had him run the standard SPECviewperf 11 to cover that aspect, but if you have any other tests you'd like to suggest, please let us know.

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