- Review Date: 09/06/2012
- Bottom line: The HP EliteBook 8470p is a solid business-class laptop armed with enough firepower to justify adding "multimedia powerhouse" and "gaming rig" to its resume. For those who don't need a ruggedly designed system, though, comparable laptops with cheaper price tags will get the job done.
- Pros: Solid performer. Sturdy chassis. Two USB 3.0 ports. eSATA port. 3-year standard parts and labor warranty.
- Cons: Dismal battery life. Bulky.
Strictly speaking, the HP EliteBook 8470p ($1,499 direct) is a business-class laptop. But that classification doesn't cover all of its capabilities. The EliteBook 8470p is a versatile all-around performer armed with enough firepower to double as a multimedia powerhouse and, to a lesser extent, gaming rig. For the most part, these attributes make up for its bulky chassis and less-than-stellar battery life, making it a good system for anyone looking to work during the day and play by night.
In a word, the EliteBook 8470p can be described as solid. Designed to withstand the rigors of business travel, its rugged design can handle its fair share of bumps and bruises, so you can stick it in a crammed suitcase without any worries. Just make sure it's a large suitcase, as the EliteBook 8470's magnesium alloy chassis measures 1.25 by 13.31 by 9.11 inches (HWD) and weighs 5.35 pounds. Not to say that it's an eyesore—far from it. The platinum finish on the chassis adds a touch of class to what could have otherwise been a drab, purely business affair. The same cannot be said of the underside, which is fashioned in a utilitarian, black plastic finish, and features a socket that can readily be attached to a docking station.
Although it's not as sharp as the dazzling 1,920-by-1,080 true 1080p HD screen seen in the comparably sized Editors' Choice Lenovo IdeaPad Y580, the EliteBook 8470p's 14-inch 1,600-by-900 resolution is nonetheless better than that of most other 14-inch displays on the market, many of which have 1,366-by-768 resolution. Thanks to its higher resolution, texts and images look crisp and sharp on the matte-finished screen. Movies also look terrific on the 720p display, a feature that can easily be put to good use since the EliteBook 8470p comes equipped with a built-in optical drive. The speakers won't necessarily disturb your next-door neighbors at two in the morning, but they can nonetheless fill a medium-sized room.
The EliteBook 8470p's raised tiled keyboard sports black matte-finish keys. The keyboard is well constructed, feeling appropriately sturdy without surrendering to excessive rigidity. All this makes for a pleasantly comfortable typing experience. The only fly in the ointment is the fact that the keyboard isn't backlit. Although a white LED light above the display can be switched on to shine down onto the keyboard, the light is rather dim and doesn't provide nearly enough illumination in dark quarters. The trackpad, meanwhile, is among the best we've ever used, with a smooth finish that allows your fingers to glide effortlessly as they scroll and pinch-zoom about. Two sets of right- and left-click buttons abut the top and bottom edges of the trackpad, with the top pair designed to be used in conjunction with the pointing stick lodged in the middle of the keyboard.
There is a judicious selection of ports. In addition to headphone and microphone jacks and a DisplayPort input, the right side also features two USB 2.0 ports; one of these conveniently doubles as an eSATA port while the other has sleep and charge for powering other devices like smartphones or tablets. The left side, meanwhile, has a 4-pin FireWire 400 port, a card reader that supports SD an Memory Stick formats (SD/SDHC/SDXC/MMC/MMC+), and two USB 3.0 ports, but neither sport the blue marking that typically distinguishes USB 3.0 ports from their slower USB 2.0 counterparts. The rear of the system houses VGA and Ethernet ports, as well as an old-school dial-up modem port. As is often the case with business-class systems, the EliteBook 8470p does not feature an HDMI port. This isn't necessarily a fatal flaw, though, since DisplayPort to HDMI adapters are fairly commonplace and ultimately yield the same results as an HDMI cable by itself would.
Given its robust 2.9 GHz Intel Core i7-3520M processor and 4GB DDR3 RAM combination, we were hardly confounded by the fact that the EliteBook 8470p was a solid all-around performer on our benchmark tests. Though its PCMark 7 score of 2,395 points was bested by all in its class save for its predecessor, the HP EliteBook 8460p (2,235), it fared better in our multimedia tests. It completed our Handbrake video-encoding test in 1 minute 28 seconds, was better than all but the Lenovo Y580 (1:17). On the other hand, while the EliteBook 8470p's Cinebench R11.5 score of 3.40 points edged past the HP 8460p (2.44), it still fell short of the other systems by varying degrees, from narrowly—the Asus Prime scored 3.58 points—to significantly—the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Mid 2012) scored 5.04. Meanwhile, the EliteBook 8470p completed our Photoshop CS5 test in 3 minutes 49 seconds; only the Lenovo Y580 (3:25) was faster.
The EliteBook 8470p's discrete 1GB AMD Radeon HD 7570M GPU yielded overall good results, though they trickled toward the bottom of the pack. Its 3DMark 06 scores (7,255 points at medium detail settings and 1,024-by-768 resolution; 5,488 points at native resolution with 4x anti-aliasing) outshined the HP 8460p (5,463 and 3,845, respectively) fell significantly behind the Lenovo Y580 (15,486 and 12,720, respectively). Even though the EliteBook 8470p isn't designed to be a gaming rig, its GPU nonetheless handled our gaming benchmark tests admirably, managing to breach the 30 frames per second (fps) playability barrier at medium settings. In Crysis, its performance (62fps in medium quality at 1,024-by-768 resolution; 18fps in high quality at native resolution) eclipsed the Asus Zenbook Prime UX32VD-DB71 (52fps and 6fps, respectively) though, like all systems, was left in the dust behind the Lenovo Y580 (97 fps and 13 fps, respectively). The EliteBook 8470p displayed a similar amount of finesse in Lost Planet 2 (50fps in medium quality at 1,024-by-768 resolution; 31fps in high quality at native resolution), pulling ahead of both the HP 8460p (31 fps and 15 fps, respectively) and the Zenbook Prime (34 fps and 10 fps, respectively), while once again falling short of both the Lenovo Y580 (71 fps and 28 fps, respectively).
The EliteBook 8470p's removable 62WHr battery is arguably its most glaring shortcoming, lasting a paltry 3 hours 58 minutes on our MobileMark 2007 battery rundown test. This battery performance fell far behind its peers by wide margins. Both the Lenovo Y580 (4:41) and Zenbook Prime (5:26) breezed by. For a system designed to be taken along on business trips, the EliteBook 8470p's battery life is prohibitive; sure you can use it on an airplane, but if you don't have access to a power outlet, you'd better make sure it's a domestic flight.
The HP EliteBook 8470p is an overall good performer, so much so that it seems somewhat reductive to pigeonhole it as simply a business-class laptop. It's armed with enough oomph to double as a multimedia powerhouse and, to a lesser extent, gaming rig. Aside from its impressively engineered chassis, however, it doesn't offer much in terms of performance to distinguish it from lighter and less expensive systems, like the Lenovo IdeaPad Y580. Ultimately, it's a good choice for anyone looking for a rugged road companion. For everyone else, though, the Editors' Choice Lenovo Y580 is still the system to checking out.
This review is in partnership with PCMag.com.