HP EliteBook 8440w: On-the-Go Workstationby Vivek Gowri on August 13, 2010 10:10 PM EST
In and Around the HP EliteBook 8440w
In a word, build quality is phenomenal. There is zero flex on any single surface—not the palm rests, not the LCD lid, not the keyboard, not the base...nothing. It honestly feels as though it is made of a single piece of granite. If you're into car analogies, how about this: the EliteBook's build quality is on the same level as the vault-like solidity of the W140-series Mercedes S-class. There's no loose play in the hinges, in the buttons, in the latching mechanisms, etc. Business notebooks tend to be built to a higher level of quality than most consumer machines, but even by those standards, the 8440w is pretty exemplary. The Dell Latitude E6400 has nothing on this, and the ThinkPad Edge isn't even in the same zip code. The ThinkPad T410 is pretty sturdy, but even that doesn't feel as rugged and solid as the EliteBook.
The 8440w won't be winning any industrial design awards anytime soon (or ever), but it sticks faithfully to the design philosopy of "function over form". It's a business-class notebook, and it definitely looks that way. Very angular design, lots of seams, very prominent (and sturdy-feeling) hinges, a casing done in various shades of gray and black—it couldn't be any more dull if it was Seattle weather in mid-February. Even so, the 8440w's design has its moments; the gunmetal-colored brushed aluminum panels on the lid, palmrest, and above the keyboard look and feel great while keeping the brightwork to a minimum, and the soft green notification lights are a welcome change from the glaring blue LEDs that are so popular these days. And in the age where ThinkPads come in red and Latitudes can be had in basically any color of the rainbow, it's refreshing to see a manufacturer say “silver for business class, gunmetal for workstation class, black trim and aluminum panels all around.”
Business notebooks tend to have the highest quality input devices, and the EliteBook is no exception. The keyboard is great, with no flex to speak. There's an ample amount of travel, and the spacing and layout are good. I think I would still take the ThinkPad T-series keyboard over this, but not by much and only because the keys used by Lenovo are less grainy and smoother feeling than the HP's. And truth be told, the 8440w has a far more standard (read: better) layout than any Lenovo keyboard, so there's not really an adjustment period. The only slight niggle I have with the keyboard—other than the slightly scratchy feeling keys—is that the spacebar, when pressed on the edge as I do in normal typing, sometimes doesn't register keypresses. So if I'm not paying attention, I start losing spaces between words andthingsturnoutlikethis. But that doesn't happen all that often, so I'm willing to forgive it. The other sweet touch is the retractable light above the screen that shines onto the keyboard, basically the same thing as the ThinkLight. I prefer backlit keyboards, but the keyboard light works just as well.
The other input device that I really love is the trackpoint. Call me old school, but boy, do I love my trackpoints. I'm also a sucker for the soft-feel rubber mouse buttons that HP uses on their business class notebooks. Great, great stuff. I lament the death of the trackpoint as much as the next business notebook fan, but I'm realistic about it—touchpads have been here to stay for about 10 years, and the HP has a good one that is comfortably sized and has multitouch gesture support. But for me, it takes a backseat to the trackpoint. The only minor detail that I think would be nice is a center mouse button for the trackpoint, ThinkPad-style. Overall, count me a fan.
The list of ports is pretty nice too, with three USBs, an eSATA/USB combo port, DisplayPort, VGA, ExpressCard, Gigabit Ethernet—basically, every port that you could or would ever want on a business-class notebook. One thing I don't really understand is why business notebooks have started using DisplayPort instead of the more common HDMI standard (even though both have the same digital video/audio output). I know that DisplayPort is royalty free, but the minimal royalty on HDMI ports hasn't stopped a majority of consumer notebooks from having it, so I'm not sure about the motives. However, having the option of both analogue and digital video out is good. The speakers are better than expected for a business notebook, with loud and clear sound compared to some other business notebooks that famously ship with awful speakers. (ThinkPad X and T series, I'm looking at you.) The webcam and mic are pretty solid for audio and video conferencing, an increasingly useful tool in the enterprise world.
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ExodusC - Friday, August 13, 2010 - linkHas AnandTech been able to get their hands on an Envy 14 to review it? I'm typing from mine now, and I absolutely love it. I'd like to see what AnandTech thinks about it, compared to the plethora of other laptops you guys get to review...
JarredWalton - Saturday, August 14, 2010 - linkNot yet, but hopefully real soon (finally!)
CurseTheSky - Saturday, August 14, 2010 - linkI'll second the Envy 14 review recommendation. In a world where the Macbook Pro seems like the only option if you want a good, solid, "consumer-level" notebook, the Envy 14 is a breath of fresh air.
Essentially it comes down to a trade-off between the two. OSX vs. Windows 7, and better battery life (MBP 13) vs. better processor / graphics card / screen (Envy 14).
zoxo - Sunday, August 15, 2010 - linkI have 2 problems with the envy14. Although it supposedly has a great screen, it does not (yet) come in matte. The second problem is, that it's only really available in the us. Europe is out of luck there. (as usual with notebooks I might add)
ExodusC - Sunday, August 15, 2010 - linkI agree the glossy screen can be annoying, but if it gets to where the reflections annoy me, I just crank up the brightness-- and HP didn't lie, this thing gets really bright. I have considered a matte screen protector that would help alleviate it, but as of now I'm okay with the glossy panel.
I agree that the availability in Europe seems poor-- I've read around and it seems hard to find there, aside from maybe Germany.
djjazzyjeff1965 - Monday, August 16, 2010 - linkEnvy 14 would be a lot more attractive if it had a matte screen, a non-underclocked GPU and ditched the gratuitous branding ("Beats" audio, the name "Envy") designed to appeal to 13 year-olds with small penises.
djjazzyjeff1965 - Monday, August 16, 2010 - linkOh, and if they didn't hand off the design to somebody's daughter who thought that flowers would be pretty.
Envy 14 - so close, yet so far.
jasperjones - Friday, August 13, 2010 - linkI was hoping for this review :) aorn, the one other business-class notebook I'd like to see reviewed is the E6410.
Two minor things:
"The other sweet touch is the retractable light above the screen that shines onto the keyboard, basically the same thing as the ThinkLight. I prefer backlit keyboards, but the keyboard light works just as well."
I don't understand why people consider backlit keyboard/retractable light a useful feature. If you're serious about keyboard quality, you're probably touch typing anyway, right?
"I don't really understand is why business notebooks have started using DisplayPort instead of the more common HDMI standard."
So that you can attach a 2560x1600 resolution external display? I know that HDMI 1.3a and higher specifies (optional, afaik) support for resolutions greater than 1920x1200, but I've yet to see that higher-resolution support in a notebook.
mino - Saturday, August 14, 2010 - link"I don't understand why people consider backlit keyboard/retractable light a useful feature. If you're serious about keyboard quality, you're probably touch typing anyway, right?"
ThinkLight (and copies) is VERY useful thing for 2 reasons:
- it allows for built- in ability to operate without ANY external light, anywhere, anytime
- notebook keyboard are very much "non-standard", so typing by memory is hard and special/custom key operation downright impossible without seeing the keyboard.
jconan - Sunday, August 15, 2010 - linktyping by memory is typically for hunt and seek typist. For people who have been typing without even looking at the keys, this not useful unless using non-standardized keys. I rarely look at the keys unless there are nuances like the mac keyboards because of the command key inclusion and missing keys ie prntscrn, scrnlock, pause and inclusion of more function keys,