Enterprise Class and the Death of Gloss

If there's one thing we can be thankful for when dealing with an enterprise class notebook, it's that not an ounce of glossy plastic can be found anywhere on the chassis. Workstations tend to be a bit more austere, though the HP EliteBook 8740w at least seems to add a little more style than most.

What you'll notice first is the brushed aluminum used on the lid and the inside of the body, framing the plastic keyboard. The screen bezel is thankfully matte black, with the webcam in its usual position above the screen and an ambient light sensor below. If there's one complaint I have, it's the use of a touch-based control/shortcut bar just above the keyboard. I've never been a fan of touch-control and don't understand why it's become so popular when tactile feedback just feels better.

As for the keyboard itself, the layout is comfortable and logical, but it's another case of a possibly inappropriate style creeping into an enterprise notebook. The raised key surfaces aren't uncomfortable, but these are the same keys that HP uses on consumer desktop keyboards, and they seem out of place here compared to the function-before-form keyboard layouts of competing Lenovo or Dell notebooks. There's even light flex in the center of the keyboard, although the backlighting is very welcome. In the grand scheme the keyboard is a minor complaint not likely to aggravate too many users, but it does seem out of place.

HP also includes both a trackpoint and touchpad, and both of these function well and are comfortable to use. I've heard people complain that HP's trackpoint is a distant second to Lenovo's, but the one in the 8740w doesn't seem appreciably better or worse than the one I've been using in my own ThinkPad. A particularly nice feature is the integration of a middle mouse button for both; it may not be the most attractive thing in the world, but it's useful and doesn't really detract at all.

From there the rest of the notebook seems to be built like a tank, just as one would hope. During a conference call with HP they were quick to point out that the notebook had been reliability tested to the 810G military standard, subjecting it to a three foot drop along with dust and humidity. I can believe it's that reliable. Screen flex is minimal, and apart from the keyboard the rest of the unit feels like it could be used as a murder weapon. The lid even has a mechanical latch to hold the notebook closed.

Overall, though, we can appreciate HP's willingness to try and inject style into a notebook market that tends to be staggeringly spartan. The gunmetal coloring is attractive without making the 8740w appear gaudy, and though the surfaces of the keys of the keyboard seem a little inappropriate, they're not deal-breakers. At least HP is trying.

Before we get into the performance metrics, it does bear mentioning that the 8740w brings a lot of workstation-class support to the table. HP's Power Assistant software offers fine-grained control over the system and can even estimate power consumption and savings depending on which power mode you're running. Also included is HP QuickWeb, the usual instant-on feature that lets you browse the internet without booting into Windows, but most interesting is HP Quicklook 3. Quicklook 3 is integrated into Outlook, and lets you access your mail and information in Outlook without ever booting into Windows. We can see this as being a fairly useful feature, although probably more useful in a notebook that doesn't weigh eight pounds.

Introducing the HP EliteBook 8740w Application and Workstation Performance
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  • slacr - Wednesday, December 08, 2010 - link

    "Of course, being a Quadro it does bring all of the secret sauce that NVIDIA packages with its workstation class cards"

    What does this secret sauce do these days, the only documents i've found are rather old and talk of anti-aliasing in CAD software. Other "CUDA capable" cards offer GPU-assistance in for example Adobe CS and CAD software is no longer particularly bound by cpu so the only benefit i've seen is the larger video RAM which can be found on normal cards anyway, so what does the price premium actually buy?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 08, 2010 - link

    I believe it's line anti-aliasing, better OpenGL drivers (with ISV certification for various applications), and some 64-bit FP performance enhancements. To my knowledge, all of this stuff is available in the standard NVIDIA GPUs, but they only enable it on the Quadro drivers. Reply
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, December 08, 2010 - link

    FP64 is the big one. ATI's high end GPUs are limited to FP64 performance that's 1/5th of FP32. Nvidia's high end consumer cards only have 1/.8th, while GT100/110 quadro's are 1/2 (the highest possible without throttling FP32). For scientific computing this is enough to justify paying several times as much as a consumer card so nVidia hobbles the GeForces to support sales of Tesla boxes. Reply
  • mczak - Wednesday, December 08, 2010 - link

    FP64 is really for tesla though. Maybe workstation cards still have the full performance FP64 enabled, but honestly noone would care. It's pretty much line aa still I think, plus geforce cards also have artificial limitation on (non-tesselated) geometric throughput. Reply
  • carsandcomps - Thursday, December 09, 2010 - link

    The secret sauce is overlay planes and 3D wireframe performance. Consumer cards are great for tesselated 3d with texture maps, but most are pretty horrible when there a hundreds of thousands of 3D wireframe edges in a view.

    You are correct about the drivers being better also. While a crazy "flareout" or glitch from a surface is no big deal in a game, it is a show stopper on a real 3D engineering model. Not that I am a Nvidia fanboy, but their workstation class drivers have always been better in my opinion.
    Reply
  • sheltem - Wednesday, December 08, 2010 - link

    I'm pretty sure the Quadro 5000M is the same exact card as the 480M. The main difference is the drivers. You can either hack the driver files to trick it into a 480M (or vice versa) or mod the bios.

    I actually have the Elitebook 8740w, but with an AMD FirePro 7820. I hacked the Catalyst Mobility drivers to work with my FirePro 7820M.
    Reply
  • Zan Lynx - Monday, December 13, 2010 - link

    You can hack it, but there's more to it than just the drivers.

    The Quadro and Tesla hardware goes through a much more careful test process.

    The gaming hardware will produce calculation errors fairly often.

    The Quadro and Tesla hardware: hardly ever.
    Reply
  • yakugo - Monday, March 21, 2011 - link

    How/what did you do to hack your 7820 drivers so catalyst control center would work? i have a dell m6500 with the m7820 card. Could you email me at mp3moeny@hotmail.com

    Thanks,

    -Aaron
    Reply
  • mschira - Wednesday, December 08, 2010 - link

    Well, I do appreciate a decent screen, and you know what I might even be ready to pay 550$ extra for it, but a 17" laptop?
    What's the point for that?
    They never fit onto anything else but a desk. Even 15" laptops are a pain to carry around.

    So why not get a decent all in one PC like an iMac ?
    And why, oh why is there no smaller laptop that offers a decent screen?
    M.
    Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Wednesday, December 08, 2010 - link

    Why an iMac instead of the other oem machines? Reply

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