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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  • stanwood - Thursday, December 9, 2010 - link

    Seems like the main reason to get an IPS screen is color fidelity. So I'd be interested to learn if this machine (or others) is effective for photo editing. Or more generally, what CPU/GPU combinations are best for that application. And what features of the CPU/GPU do Aperture, Photoshop, and Lightroom use for hardware accelleration (if any).
  • AnnonymousCoward - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    Is the comparison to the M6500 fair? The chart numbers might be misleading, if they apply during perfect perpendicular measurements, while real laptop use involves viewing the screen non-perpendicular and with a different angle on the top versus bottom.

    This point is dramatized when you consider a 25-28" TN, which has a huge color shift from top-to-bottom with normal viewing, but the chart numbers might look fine.
  • anactoraaron - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    ...'borrow' one of Anand's SF SSD's and throw it in this and retest :)
  • qwertymac93 - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    "4x4GB DDR3-1333 (Max 4x8GB)"
    Does this thing really have 16gigs of ram?! that's a lot...
  • TheAdAgency - Thursday, December 9, 2010 - link

    No, they only state that several times throughout the article for shock value.
  • ijozic - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    I wondered this ever since I got the M6400 which actually had a Q43 chipset which comes with an integrated GPU - all they had to do is use it and add a hardware switch and you would have a 1-2 hour longer battery life (it was around 2 hours of low intensity usage at best).

    It's even more obvious with this HP model which offers up to an hour and a half of light usage. There are certainly situations where you could use that extra time and given the price tag on these laptops, hybrid graphics should be there. It would be also cool if the CPUs would offer disabling some cores in these low intensity usage situations.

    I like the improvements in the looks department of the HP compared to my old 8710w (brushed aluminum vs plastic and a backlighted keyboard (finally!!)), but I'd still vote for the M6500 looks and keyboard.
  • ijozic - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    BTW, the mobile GPUs are rather disappointing in the gaming department by looking at the 3dMark 2006 numbers which are still only a little above the FX3700M. And there was the FX3800M and now the FX5000M. The names change, but little else does :)

    For gaming (however silly it may sound to buy one of these workstations for moderate gaming, but I really hate the childish design of the gaming laptops plus their added weight and dimensions), the best buy would be the ATI cards (the M7740 or M7820) which offer similar performance levels with a lower TDP and a much lower price tag. Too bad the M7740 wasn't around when I was getting my Dell. Anybody wants to trade? :)
  • Akv - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    However I am part of the population having large desktops and screens for office and home work, so I have no need for desktop replacement laptops.

    I need a low power low heat low noise laptop for traveling, waiting at the airport and communications from the hotel room.

    A less great screen, but matte for editing a few photos, 15 inches, no need for more on a laptop. For me at least.
  • ijozic - Thursday, December 9, 2010 - link

    I understand where you're coming from because it's rather tiring to carry these 17" beasts around. M6400 is like 3.8 kilos plus that beast of a charger is an extra kilo and more plus the bag and extra equipment. I have the small low heat low noise laptop which I usually carry together with this one for longer trips so it gets even heavier :)
  • ahmed25 - Thursday, December 9, 2010 - link

    Could u pls do a review of the t510...

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