- Review Date: 02/09/11
- Bottom line:
From quad-core processing and WorkStation graphics to ISV certification and a billion-color screen, the HP EliteBook 8740w is HP's top-of-the-line offering for serious professional needs.
Quad-core processing power and workstation graphics. Brilliant RGB display. Rugged construction inside and out. ISV certification. Spill-resistant keyboard. A slew of programs and features to help you get the most out of your machine.
Short battery life.
Fields that rely upon strong processors, accurate color displays, and precise visual rendering, have often turned to WorkStation desktop PCs, which pack powerful processors and top-of-the-line graphics. The HP EliteBook 8740w Mobile Workstation ($1,999 direct) packs these same-grade components into a well-built laptop.
Business machines are often sedate in their design, with little attention paid to aesthetics. In contrast, the HP EliteBook 8740w features a design HP has dubbed "business rugged," which offers a blend of style and durability. The chassis and hinges are a light, but sturdy, magnesium alloy. The gunmetal gray chassis sports a scratch-resistant finish.
The rugged design is more than skin deep, as the EliteBook 8740w has been built to meet military toughness standards. Whether it be dust, temperature, humidity, vibration, or altitude, the EliteBook 8740w is built to survive it and keep performing. Internally, the 320GB 7,200rpm hard drive is cushioned with shock-dampening material and wrapped in a magnesium drive cage with hardened steel pins holding everything together. A three-axis accelerometer detects motion and activates additional hard drive protection against drops and shocks.
The spill-resistant full-size keyboard sports chiclet-style keys, with a pointing stick in the middle of it, and a full-sized numeric pad on the right. The keyboard is comfortably spaced, but the keys are a bit mushy for my liking. The three-button touchpad supports multitouch controls such as two-finger scrolling and zoom.
Though HP's multitouch solutions have been hit or miss in the past year, the EliteBook 8740w appears to have multitouch done right. It registers second-finger input, but isn't so sensitive that gets tripped up by stray brushes with the touchpad, and the surface of the touchpad feels smooth under the fingertips. The three buttons below the touchpad are matched by another three above it, just below the spacebar, for use with the pointer stick.
Topping it off is a gorgeous RGB screen similar to the ones found on the Editors' Choice Dell XPS 15 ($1,115 direct, 4.5 stars) and Sony VAIO VGN-AW190. The 30-bit color, LED-backlit display has a range of more than 1 billion colors. When seen side-by-side with other 1080p displays, like the HP Envy 17 3D, the EliteBook 8740w still wowed with its vibrant colors. HP's bundled DreamColor calibration software allows the user to select from a handful of preset color profiles, or tweak the display to meet your specific needs. The display also boasts a viewing angle of 178 degrees, allowing group viewing around the screen without having to worry about color distortion for people on the outside. Though sharper screens can be found, like the 1,920-by-1,200 resolution of the Editors' Choice Lenovo ThinkPad W700 (4.5 Stars), the EliteBook 8740w has one of the best displays on the market.
As a mobile WorkStation, the HP EliteBook is filled to the brim with equipment and features that optimize performance for the professional user. Connectivity options abound, with two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, an ExpressCard slot, 7-in-1 memory card reader, and audio input and output. Additional security is added thanks to a fingerprint scanner and SmartCard reader. It also supports Computrace LoJack Pro, so your computer can be tracked and retrieved if lost or stolen.
When connected to a docking station with multiple display support, like the HP 230W Advanced Docking Station ($212 Street), the EliteBook 8740w can connect to as many as 4 external monitors. On its own, it can connect to an external display via the DisplayPort or VGA port on the side of the unit.
The EliteBook 8740w also includes QuickLook 3, which offers instant access to your cached Outlook data, even from a powered-off state. Where older iterations of QuickLook could only show you what was already in your Outlook cache, such as e-mails, contacts, calendar events and task lists, the newest version allows you to edit and update this data on the fly, with updates synching automatically upon power up.
Another utility that allows instant accessibility outside of Windows is HP QuickWeb. This utility lets you access the Internet in a full browser that is independent from the Windows operating system. Not only does this let you skip long boot times to hop online, it also allows access even if Windows has crashed, keeping you connected even during a Windows melt-down.
For those who want to reduce their carbon footprint—or just reduce the company power bill—HP also offers Power Assistant, which offers several tools for managing power use. Whether you want to maximize battery life, reduce power consumption while connected to a wall outlet, or calculate your computer related electricity use and savings, HP Power Assistant puts the control in your hands.
An Intel Core i7 820QM gives you quad-core computing power in the EliteBook 8749w, and several dual-core and quad-core processors are available. With the quad-core systems, 4 SO-DIMM slots allow up to 32GB of memory. Our review unit was equipped with an ATI FirePro M7820 graphics card, but ATI and Nvidia graphics processors are both available, and all offer Independent Software Vendor (ISV) certified performance. Graphics-intensive, professional grade software, such as those used in mechanical computer-aided design and engineering, digital content creation, scientific research, and software development, are all supported and certified compatible with the EliteBook 8740w.
Though geared to support high-powered, graphics heavy programs such as AutoCAD and Adobe Premiere, the laptop wasn't configured to support our consumer-oriented tests because the ATI FirePro M7820 wasn't supported. As a result, several of our regular benchmark tests wouldn't run including PCMark Vantage, 3DMark 06, and our gaming tests.
In our video and photo tests, however, the EliteBook 8740w performed quite well. It plowed through our HandBrake video encoding test in 2 minutes 52 seconds, placing it within seconds of high scoring desktop replacements like the Dell XPS 15 (2:45) and HP Pavilion dv7-4183cl ($999.99 list, 4 stars) (2:49). It also zipped through our Photoshop test in 4:27, placing it ahead of several top-of-the-line notebooks, such as the Dell XPS 15 (5:03) and HP dv7-4183cl (5:39).
The weakest point of the EliteBook 8740w is battery life. As a rule, Workstation laptops chew through batteries quickly, and the EliteBook 8740w is no exception. In our MobileMark 2007 battery test the 8-cell, 73Wh battery lasted only 50 minutes. Forget getting through your workday, this battery won't get you through a working lunch. While other business laptops may give you more battery life, like the Lenovo ThinkPad W700 which lasted 2:31, those with high-end processing and graphics are similarly short lived, such as the AVADirect Clevo X7200 ($4,957.64 direct, 3.5) that only lasted 38 minutes. It should be noted, however, that this test was done without using the battery extending HP's Power Assistant.
Though not without flaws, the HP EliteBook 8740w is a solid laptop, and a powerful tool for any professional who needs WorkStation computing on the go. If your needs don't include high-powered visual performance, then perhaps another mobile workstation, like the Editors' Choice Lenovo ThinkPad T410 ($1,484 direct, 4 Stars), is a better fit.
BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS:
Check out the test scores for the HP EliteBook 8740w.