Introducing the HP EliteBook 8740w

Sometimes mainstream line-ups from notebook manufacturers just don't cut it. Thus far, Dell seems to be the only vendor interested in offering quality screens in their laptops, and you'll pay for the privilege. But there's another, admittedly more expensive market out there for those of us with the desire to do better, those of us who are willing to pay a little extra to get a little more than the consumer-grade hardware can offer.


Enterprise-class notebooks bring superior...well...everything. With the higher price comes higher build quality, better components, sometimes better specs, workstation-class graphics (beneficial to AutoCAD, Maya, and Premiere CS5 users among others) on the go, and oftentimes that unicorn that we chase around here all too often: a better screen.

HP's EliteBook 8740w offers just such a screen: a 1920x1200 (instead of 1080p) IPS panel based screen dubbed the "HP DreamColor." It's a pricey upgrade, ringing in at $550, but it may be one of the best screens we've ever tested. So what about the rest of the notebook?

HP EliteBook 8740w Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-820QM
(4x1.73GHz + HTT, 45nm, 8MB L3, Turbo to 3.06GHz, 45W)
Chipset Intel QM57
Memory 4x4GB DDR3-1333 (Max 4x8GB)
Graphics NVIDIA Quadro 5000M 2GB GDDR5
(320 Shaders, 405 MHz core clock, 810 MHz shader clock, 2400 MHz effective memory clock)
Display 17" LED Matte 16:10 1920x1200 IPS HP DreamColor
(LG LGD0270 Panel)
Hard Drive(s) 500GB 7200 RPM
(Western Digital Scorpio Black)
Optical Drive DVD+/-RW Drive with LightScribe
Networking Intel 82577LM Gigabit Networking
Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300
56K Modem
Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
Audio IDT 92HD75B3X5 HD Audio
Stereo speakers, headphone and microphone jacks
Battery 8-Cell, 14.4V, 73Wh battery
Front Side Speakers
Headphone jack
Microphone jack
4-in-1 Flash reader
Left Side Kensington lock
Exhaust vent
AC adapter
USB 2.0
4-pin FireWire
Right Side eSATA
2x USB 3.0
USB 2.0
Optical drive
Ethernet jack
Modem jack
Back Side Exhaust vent
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Dimensions 15.6" x 11.2" x 1.4" (WxDxH)
Weight 7.8 lbs
Extras 2MP Webcam
Backlit keyboard with dedicated 10-key
Flash reader (MMC, SD/Mini SD, MS/Duo/Pro/Pro Duo, xD)
Fingerprint reader
Ambient light sensor
Dual drive bays
WWAN capable
Smart card reader
Docking port
Warranty 1-year standard warranty
Pricing Starting at $1,999
Priced as configured: $6,527
With 18% CTO8740W Code: $5,352

Holy cow, check out that pricetag, and we haven't even maxed this baby out! Before getting into the nitty gritty, we'll get past the sticker shock: the three egregious offenders are the DreamColor display (a $550 upgrade), the NVIDIA Quadro 5000M (a staggering $1,425 upgrade), and the 16GB of memory, up from a stock 2GB (add another $1,100 on to the pricetag). HP wasn't screwing around when they sent us this notebook; it comes perilously close to being their best and brightest. But hey, if you need 32GB courtesy of four 8GB SO-DIMMs, HP has that as well... and it will more than double the above price! Also note that HP currently has an 18% discount code running on their CTO (Configure To Order) 8740w; such codes come and go on a regular basis, but like many OEMs HP frequently has such discounts.

For the rest, starting from the top we have one of our usual suspects, the Intel Core i7-820QM. The 820QM is a quad core, eight-thread processor that sports a nominal 1.73GHz clock speed capable of ramping up to 3.06GHz on a single core and 2.8GHz on two cores. Attached is Intel's cream-of-the-mobile-crop QM57 mobile chipset and a frankly gross 16GB of DDR3-1333. That mobile chipset is linked to two 2.5" drive bays able to support dual hard drives (or a single mechanical storage drive and an SSD). The lack of any SSDs is the only area where HP didn't go for broke with our test system, which of course will hurt in some of the HDD intensive benchmarks.

From there, we have the other big spender, the NVIDIA Quadro 5000M workstation-class GPU. The 5000M is NVIDIA's top of the line, but let's see if any of these specifications sound familiar: 320 shader processors (aka "CUDA cores") attached to a 256-bit memory interface connected to 2GB of GDDR5. Core clock speed of 405MHz and corresponding shader clock of 810MHz, with 2.4GHz effective on the memory. The kids playing along at home are going to note that this is an ever-so-slightly slower GeForce GTX 480M, using the same silicon with a paltry 15MHz deficit on the core (and corresponding 30MHz deficit on the shaders.) Of course, being a Quadro it does bring all of the secret sauce that NVIDIA packages with its workstation class cards, but the silicon remains essentially the same 100-watt GeForce GTX 465 crammed into a mobile chassis.

The rest of the notebook is pretty compelling. Ignoring the IPS-panel screen (which we'll examine in more detail later on), HP has opted to outfit the EliteBook 8740w with all the modern connectivity you could ask for. If there was one complaint I have here, it's the lack of a DVI or HDMI port, though a DisplayPort-to-DVI adapter could probably just as soon rectify that issue. On a notebook this modern, the VGA port almost seems out of place, though we understand enterprise customers are likely to have VGA-only projectors still hanging around.

Enterprise Class and the Death of Gloss
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  • darwinosx - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    Because the other all in ones suck.
  • Joos - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    Because a iMac is even more crap to drag around and has useless hardware for a workstation.
  • Joos - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    And a 15" chassis is to small to be able to handle the thermal output of all those high spec components.
  • Belard - Thursday, December 9, 2010 - link

    Not really.... ThinkPad and others make 15" notebooks with top-end i7 mobile CPUs. The 17" models typically have room for a 2nd drive and a 2nd video card and because of the bigger screen, a much larger battery.

    So in general, no... the extra 2" are not helping to keep it cool.
  • erple2 - Friday, December 10, 2010 - link

    The CPU isn't the primary heat generator in a high end laptop. Even the top end mobile i7 940XM puts out about half the heat than the GeForce 480M (or Quadro 5000m).

    And the Thinkpad 15" doesn't have a great GPU. The Quadro 880m is "ok", but it's just a slightly tweaked Geforce 330M.

    Fast CPU in a laptop without the corresponding fast GPU = unbalanced laptop that, in general, disappoints. Then again, I'm looking for a laptop that is reasonably speedy in games.
  • Candide08 - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    I have 1920 x 1200 resolution on my main workstation and really appreciate it, that is the main reason I chose this laptop... that and the 8GB RAM and i7 860 processor.

    You ask a very good question about laptop screens - and why nobody really has decent resolution on a smaller laptop.

    The point with this is that I can take it places. I have a rolling laptop case for longer trips. This is not a netbook or a carry-into-Starbucks laptop, it is a desktop replacement, running two or three Virtual-machines that I can take to meetings or other locations in my company - and work, REALLY work.

    There are many classes of "laptops" these days, from ultra-light netbook to, well, THIS.
  • seanleeforever - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    they do have 15 inch dream color notebook, just FYI.

    anand finally get their hands on a non-apple premium notebook. something i have been using for years, and wanted to see a objective review badly. the IPS screen is very very good and certainly not anything TN can be compared to, that include RGB LED TN that apple, lenovo, dell uses in their high end. the chart doesn't really do all the justice. if you actually view the screen from an angle, you will very, and i do mean VERY appreciate the benefit of IPS technology. in a realistic situation, you, or people who you want to share view, are never in a ideal 0 degree angle from screen, and that's when the IPS matter the most.

    however, i disagree with the track pointer. they are far far away from ones you find in the thinkpad. as matter of fact, if you don't use track pointer at all, you won't see the difference. However, for people who rely on track pointer, it is a big deal. or example. say you are scroll up or down a page, or zoom in and out in firefox (with help of holding ctrl) , the easiest way to do on lenovo system is, hold the middle mouse button on the track point pad, and move the point up or down. super, super easy, and allows you to move pages left/right/up/down with millimeter movement on your finger. now, on HP unit. first of all, track pointer button require a lot of force to be pressed, i would say it probably requires 3~4X more force than thinkpad, second, the track pointer is level below keys,so you have to dig in to operator the pointer. and the worse part is the middle button cannot be configered. let me give you an example below.

    say you are on reading news, and you want to scroll down. on a thinkpad, no matter where you cursor is, just hold middle button using your thumb, and move your figure on the pointer (similar to type "space" + "B"). on a HP, you can only do it OCCASIONALLY. meaning you have to move the cursor away from any hyper link before you can navigate. or else it will open a new tab, very very annoy. and there is no way to fix it either...

    and again, the touch screen audio bar, is there any one can operate it at all?
  • seapeople - Thursday, December 9, 2010 - link

    What is it with you people? I'm currently sitting on my couch with my 17" laptop on ... wait for this... wait for it... IT'S ON MY LAP! OMG! How dang small are you? Three feet tall? Do you ride around in hotwheels all day? Is Mini Me your physical superior? A 17" laptop is like 15-16 inches wide, most people are wider than that. Where do you like to put your laptop, on your nose? Hold it in the palm of your hand?

    You say even 15" laptops are a pain to carry around? Were you born on the moon? Are your bones brittle and weak? Stop being a wuss, maybe this is why heart disease is starting to rise in thin people even, because people are so weak and out of shape that they think carrying a 6-7 lb laptop is hard. I hope you enjoy sitting there squinting at your 10.3" 1000x600 laptop placed precariously on the armrest of your sofa just so you can feel unencumbered.
  • andy o - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    I got a little excited to see "32 nm" cause the first 32nm quad-cores should be Sandy Bridge!
  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    You're right. Fixed it!

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