Among the Best Looking Windows Notebooks Ever Built

Schizophrenic styling, begone! Glossy plastic, away with ye! Glossy screen, be no more! While business-class notebooks have traditionally been more staid and in many ways more attractive than their consumer-oriented cousins, HP's last generation had some real issues with conflicting aesthetics. We reviewed the 8740w and found it to be a bit uneven in terms of styling. There were touch-based media controls and a three-toned interior that felt as disconnected as it looked. But HP's designers returned to the drawing board and what they came back with is arguably the most attractive line of Windows notebooks I've ever seen.

First, they're down to a simple two-tone scheme and it's all black matte plastic and silver brushed aluminum. The EliteBook 8460p looks and feels incredibly sturdy, with the ports being laser-cut out of a band of aluminum that surrounds the notebook. The lid is aluminum, and the screen bezel is a black matte plastic that's designed specifically to cushion the screen while keeping it from ever making contact with the keyboard and accidentally scuffing it.

The inside surface has been completely redone. The entire area surrounding the keyboard is a single piece of aluminum, with the strip of touch-sensitive controls jettisoned in favor of just a power button and three dedicated, physical buttons backlit with white LEDs: a wireless toggle, a QuickWeb shortcut, and a mute button. Everything else is handled through Fn+function key shortcuts now. The interior of the notebook honestly looks every bit as fantastic as every other part of it.

If there's going to be a source of contention with the EliteBook's build, it's liable to be the chiclet-style keyboard. This is essentially the same keyboard as found in all of HP's modern consumer notebooks, and other than the double-high left and right arrow keys it's a good design if you don't mind these types of keys. The layout is intelligent, with a column of document navigation keys to the right of the standard keyboard, exactly where they should be, and at the center of the G, B, and H keys is the familiar trackpoint nub. In practice it doesn't feel as good as the nub on my ThinkPad; the ThinkPad's trackpoint is convex while the EliteBook's is concave, and it makes a difference. That said, it's not quite as horrible as I've heard HP notebook trackpoints can be.

The touchpad is also incredibly easy to use. It's not a clickpad as has become vogue (and is hopefully going out of style on PC notebooks), and HP uses a treated glass surface that's incredibly smooth without getting sticky or slippery due to moisture on your fingertips. This has to be among the most comfortable touchpads I've ever used. The dedicated mouse buttons below it have slightly rubbery surfaces with no audible click, but just the right amount of resistance.

When you move to the bottom of the notebook, you'll see two switches, both of which can be locked into place. The first is the ejection switch for the battery, while the second is for one of my favorite features. It's a quick-release for the entire bottom panel of the notebook, allowing easy access to all of the internals. No screws required, but the bottom panel remains very secure. HP has opted to put all the compliance and licensing labels on the inside of the notebook, beneath this panel, thus keeping the whole unit looking incredibly smooth and classy.

If I have one major complaint, it's the placement of the exhaust vent. Virtually everything else is where it should be, but the notebook exhausts to the right, directly on to the user's dominant hand (assuming the user isn't a southpaw). I actually did have some issues with this while I was testing the notebook; it wasn't ever horrible, but the exhaust vent really should've been either at the rear of the notebook or the rear left side. I don't have anything against the diabolical people who are left-hand dominant (nearly all of my best friends, oddly enough, are left-handed), but the majority of people are righties and they're going to get a little toasty using the 8460p under load with an external mouse.

Introducing the HP EliteBook 8460p Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • lefenzy - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    Looks like HP went with form instead of function with the chiclet keyboard, lack of useful function keys like volume adjustment, equally spaced apart F keys, and no middle button for the trackpoint. The notebook also looks pretty thick. Add to that list of flaws the exhaust on the right side. I'll stick with thinkpads.

    This laptop review needs more assessment of laptop build quality: fit and finish, flex, and so on. Benchmark performance merely reflects the intel processor on the inside.
    Reply
  • sinansakic - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    I own 6930p notebook and all changes hp made seem to go for worse.
    - I would always trade chickelt for regular notebok keyboard. I hate small up/down arrows and could not care less for trends Apple is pushing. Pray we do not get one button touchpad in next generation.
    - I am not crazy about touch buttons row above keyboard on my elitebook but it is better than no dedicated volume up/down,
    - Exaust on the righ hand side???
    - Mate display is one of the weak point of my notebook. It seems hp used even worse display on new one.
    - Notebook obviously performs better but it is not because of hp.
    Reply
  • darwinosx - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    These are about the only laptops other than MacBook Pros i can stand. Most of the rest are cheap and junky. Plus I have zero desire to run Windows. I have a W series laptop from work that I run Linux on as well as MBP. Still not the build quality of a MBP but close. Plus HP provides great business service and support. Their consumer support sucks tho. Reply
  • beginner99 - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 - link

    Well this one is off the table. non switchable graphics with something that's hardly better than intel igp? Makes no sense. BTW what's with the starcraft 2 Benchmark? Doesn't make any sense too HD 6470 being suddenly the fastes card by big margin...

    I recently saw a cheap HP notebook and the screen was really, really awful. Even problematic in a well lit room to use. And with well lit I do not mean direct sunlight...it's is really really bad. i would immediately return anything with such a screen.
    Reply
  • DanaG - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 - link

    There are at least two cool things you lose by not having switchable graphics:
    vPro hardware VNC server (with discrete, you'll be mousing and keyboarding blind), and Intel Wireless Display
    Reply
  • Penti - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    This looks like a great laptop, if bought with the 1600x900 screen, but is there any elitebook that has switchable graphics? I think vPro is a big feature in business laptops to begin with. I would love to see a decent 14" business notebook, Dell, Lenovo and Fujitsu seems to have a few decent too. But I would love to see notebooks with switchable graphics in 14" too that has the complete feature set of vPro/iAMT. I know there is 15" models that does that though. But shouldn't Dell and Lenovo handle that in their 14inch notebooks too? But is a NVS 4200M worth anything? Probably not. Reply
  • Pneumothorax - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 - link

    WTF is wrong with PC manufacturers and their inability to put a decent screen? A decent screen should be STANDARD, not drek that belongs on a 14" $100 TV's at Walmart! Reply
  • VJ - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 - link

    I guess I'll never find a worthy upgrade for my 700 euro (incl. sales tax) 6715b with its 1680x1050 screen which I bought back in 2008. I'd gladly go with an elitebook in order to keep on using my docking stations and 12-cell batteries.

    Not too long ago you could still get elitebooks with 1920x 1080 or 1200 screens, but now, there's not a single model which goes over 1600x900 (unless somebody can show me otherwise) and the Concorde has been retired as well.
    Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 - link

    Please mention the extended and super extended battery options that are available. Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 - link

    P.s. Would love a review of the 13.3" model Reply

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