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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  • Dorin Nicolaescu-Musteață - Thursday, December 9, 2010 - link

    What is not true, or rather not correct, is saying that having a wider gamut is a penalty and/or a drawback.

    Remember the days when computers had a Turbo switch? We used it to slow down the programs (mostly games perhaps; Pacman running too fast? :)) that were designed for slower machines, and that were running too fast on newer better computers. Is it correct to say that newer faster machines are worse or the extra MHz are a penalty? Or rather that was a programs' problem?

    Same here. Programs or systems that display oversaturated colors on a wide gamut display, are basically not functioning correctly.

    Also, regarding "even after calibration colors can feel oversaturated"... calibration, at least on Windows, is a two-step procedure: 1) profile and calibrate display; 2) use color-managed software. There's no point to calibrate the display without using color-managed software and no point to use color managed software without calibration. If you use both as you should, the colors will not "feel oversaturate". In this regard, the statement is false and misleading to those that do not have at least a basic understanding about color management.
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, December 11, 2010 - link

    The problem is that so many applications assume sRGB color space, so if we go by your suggestion that anything that's not color managed is not functioning properly, about the only apps that are "correct" are Adobe Photoshop (and presumably Premiere and a few others). Interestingly enough, Windows Photo Viewer appears to be managed -- i.e. the colors look correct after calibration -- but only if you're not in fullscreen mode. I took some photos in the Dell XPS 15 review a few weeks back comparing colors, and you can clearly see that fullscreen, the B+GR panel in the XPS looks oversaturated, and the older Studio XPS 16 RGB LED looks even more so!
  • a1trips - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    <Note that HP charges substantially more for a configure-to-order (CTO) system—$5792—but there's an 18% discount code (CTO8740W) to bring the price down to just under $4750, saving you $150. >

    not to put too fine a point on it, the math don't work here. so which is it? 18 per-cent

  • sheltem - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    If you speak directly with an HP rep, you can get a 28% discount, which is what I got back in June.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    The $150 savings is relative to the $4900 SmartBuy model with the same components. Sorry if that's not clear.
  • OneArmedScissorB - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    Yikes, 49w idle. That's pretty much small desktop + typical laptop TN LED monitor territory, but that's not quite what the hardware is, which raises questions.

    Any chance that you checked the power with the screen on and off while it was plugged in? I'm curious how much the screen is hurting it there, as every variation of desktop IPS monitors seems to use a bit more than their TN counterparts.
  • mczak - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    That's a really really hefty enterprise tax you pay there. It is using 4 4GB so-dimms. You can buy these easily for about 60 bucks each nowadays (or 240$ for 4 of them). That's worse than what apple overcharges...
    (Though I understand there's a premium for 8GB so-dimms, which are nowhere near mainstream, but again it's very ridiculous - more than 2k per dimm...)
  • mczak - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    Both the gtx 480m and the desktop gtx 465 have 352 cores (11 SM) enabled. The quadro fx 5000m only has 320 cores (10 SM) enabled. Unless you absolutely must have workstation graphics in your notebook, this is very obviously about the worst choice of chip you could order (price, power consumption, not even performance is anything to write home about).
  • nitrousoxide - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    Does it make any sense to test gaming performance on a card designated for mobile workstation? Or Anand doesn't have the test suite for pro cards?
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    Mostly for a point of reference. You'll note that other than running the tests, we didn't spend a lot of time in the intro or conclusion discussing the games. I have to admit that Dustin and I probably aren't the best people to talk to regarding workstation graphics. I had him run the standard SPECviewperf 11 to cover that aspect, but if you have any other tests you'd like to suggest, please let us know.

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