HP’s EliteBook 8740W Mobile Workstation: First Impressions

HP’s EliteBook 8740W Mobile Workstation: First Impressions

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Update 7/2/10 – You can read my Final Summary Review here.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from HP asking if I’d be interested in testing out one of their newest laptops, the HP EliteBook Mobile Workstation (Model 8740w) – RRP$4,899. I hardly ever do reviews on this blog, but when I got this offer, I just had to give in. So yeah, now I’ve now got two HP Elite Mobile Workstations sitting here, one for myself and another one to give away to one lucky reader of this blog! Details soon.

Anyway, over the next few weeks I will be sharing my unbiased experiences of using this beast, via Twitter & this blog. Though before doing that, due to US federal law, I need to inform you that HP sent me this laptop to keep; which is called material compensation, but this won’t keep me from speaking the truth.

What’s Inside

Anyway enough with the legal, here is what is inside. Thanks to Brian Ambrozy for the spec write up.

  • Intel Core i7-740QM (1.73ghz, 6mb L3 Cache)
  • 8gb DDR3-1333
  • 17″ WUXGA (1920×1200) LED-backlight DREAMCOLOR display
  • NVIDIA Quadro 5000m with dedicated 2gb DDR5 workstation-class GPU
  • 500gb 7200RPM HD
  • Full-sized backlit keyboard
  • 230w external power adapter

It also has some cool extra perks too, like a fingerprint scanner, ambient light sensor, dual microphones, a three button trackpad mouse as well as a three button point stick mouse, touch-sensitive media keys, a 2.0mp integrated webcam, and a LightScribe DVD +- RW burner. It’s also got a Bluetooth module and an Intel Centrino Ultimate N wireless adapter and much more.

So yeah, you get the drift… it’s one hell of a machine. It’s HP’s top of the line.

My first impressions

When the two laptops were first delivered, they came in a huge box about the size of a plasma TV, which to be honest got me pretty excited. Inside this massive box, there were two smaller boxes with the laptops packaged up inside. I unpacked one of these boxes and after Windows 7 auto-installed, the machine was pretty much good to go. No problems so far and no dead pixels!

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Size & Aesthetics

My first impressions was that it was quite a large laptop, especially compared to the 17″ Macbook Pro I currently use, though it was surprising light for it’s bulky size (3.57kg). The frame is notably large, rugged & sturdy and to be honest, I am not sure if this is because of all the gear inside, or if it’s there for it’s protection – maybe both. Size aside, I like the brushed steel look on the outside, but I still think the Macbook wins on aesthetics… that said, you do pay for looks when you buy Apple.

The Display

This was the second ‘wow’ moment I got on this machine. The Elitebook’s display is the best I have ever seen, hands down. Even against the Macbook’s display, you can easily see the difference, and even more so when compared to my modest Asus 24″ monitor I use at home, which looks like mud in comparison. Big win for HP’s LED-backlight Dreamcolor Display here, but it does comes with a hefty price tag, but totally worth it in my opinion. I wish all my displays were like this.

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With a fully charged battery, the EliteBook lasted about 1.5 hours doing the basics (emails, browsing, music) which isn’t that great, however, with all the gear inside this is understandable… “you’re not going to run a Ferrari on a bunch of lantern batteries and solar panels”.

Keeping in mind, my 11 month old Macbook only lasts about 2.5 hours doing the same tasks, I think the payoff for the awesome ‘Dreamcolor Display’ screen is worth it in regards to power usage.

Other perks:

A few days after receiving the laptops, HP gave me a call so they could tell me more about the machine. I soon found out there were many other hidden perks that came with the Elitebook, including a 3 year warranty that is standard on all HP workstations. Quite a perk, especially when compared to Apple’s optional (but essential) AppleCare.

HP told me about the other bells and whistles, but I’ll have to hold out on these until the next post, after I get a chance to use them all. So yeah, these were my initial reactions but you’ll be hearing more soon.

If you want a more technical review, be sure to check out Brian’s Ambrozy’s review series.

Do you have any questions or requests for the next post? Let me know as I have a direct line with HP.

Win A HP EliteBook 8740W Mobile Workstation

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If you were wanting to win one of these beasts, be sure to follow this blog, as well as these peeps on Twitter (and their respective sites) as they will be having their own unique giveaways; @Primesuspect; @Fuelcreativity; @SolidSmack; @designshard and @mayhemstudios. Be sure to follow @HP_PC and the hashtag #HP too. G’luck!

37 thoughts on “HP’s EliteBook 8740W Mobile Workstation: First Impressions”

  1. These HP Mobile workstations are indeed great machines. I have 2 Mobile EliteBooks (8730W, the previous model) myself and so far these baby’s have never let me down. I’m sure you will have a blast working/playing with your new HP toy Jacob.

  2. Hi Jacob
    I would love to know how these high spec laptops perform with many applications open at once. Usually I have 2-3 adobe applications open (usually Photoshop, illustrator and dreamweaver) plus iTunes and offcourse a ton of tabs in firefox! My laptop gets seriously slow with these all open with all the processing power and ram used at any one time. I wonder if a one of high payment of a laptop similar to this is worth it with it being fairly future proof also.
    Looking forward to your next review!

  3. I am usually mac all the way but have been looking for a good windows laptop as it makes it a bit easier development wise. Nice review over all.

    One last thing you know that a leveno laptop ad is coming up when you read this post via google reader?

  4. Paul,
    I guess this can happen with any hardware, but based on the sidebar of YouTube it’s not just one customer. Thanks for the heads up, I’ll have to repost in a year.

    If only it were that easy!

    Good to hear the positive feedback, I look forward to testing them out more.

    Maybe in looks and OS but I think these specs give all Macbook Pros a good run. Apple fans seem too snobby to think otherwise, even though I use a Macbook myself. Ah, the good ol Mac vs PC debate.

    I will definitely be letting you know how it goes with all my design programs, music, tabs, etc running at once.

    Yeah and that’s after the discount has been applied. The full price is around the $6000 mark.

    That’s competition for ya, auto generated ads. Stay tuned for more posts.

  5. I am interested in seeing this review later. I am both a Mac and PC user. But for nearly 6000 for a laptop, this thing better make me some eggs too.
    For my purposes of design, I would prefer a soopt up Mac, especially for 5000 – 6000. Thats a hefty price.
    I saw the specs and features on HP, I am actually wondering why this didn’t use the touch screen technology or even make use of using as a tablet to draw on like a Wacom or something similar. That would push me over the edge of actually going out and getting one. And putting Apple and Lenova on their toes to create a nice touch screen/tablet laptop with tons of power.

    Don’t get me wrong, HP’s are very nice, quality computers, but for some of the specs, 5000 is not quite worth it. I may be wrong, but some more bells and whistles could go into this.

  6. Pretty surprised how expensive it is. I’m not a hardware junkie by any means, my Macbook is plenty fast for what I use it for, mainly Photoshop and internet. I can understand if you’re running some serious programs it would come in handy though. I wouldn’t mind getting free one though, just for shits and giggles 🙂

  7. Paul,
    The notebook in the Youtube video is from HP’s Retail range…the Business range that includes the 8740w, from my experience, is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT ANIMAL. Most manufacturers’ Retail models are made to a price, which means SOMETHING(specs, oddball chipsets/components, quality, reliability, warranty etc) usually has to give, as those of my associates who have disregarded my advice and bought a cheaper, prettier Retail version(instead of the recommended Business version) have found out.

    I have had 17″ HP Business/Workstation versions from nx9420, nw9440 to my current 8710w(2.4Ghz, 8Gb, Win7 64bit), which has been carted from pillar to post over the last 2-3 years…I am still trying to convince myself that I NEED a 8730w/8740w.
    For those who WANT one(but can’t justify the cost), wait 12-18months’ish and pick a HP Refurbished one up for 1/2 price on eBay…like I did with the 8710w.

    I have also recommended HP Business notebooks over the last 4-5 years to many business associates and friends, as well as refurbished a good number of older(2-5 years) HP Business notebooks for kids, wives etc.
    They may not be the prettiest or most feature rich notebooks, but they work and keep working. When they go wrong, it is USUALLY badly and I find USUALLY indicative of some sort of abuse ie drop, dust, crush, spill etc.

    I have found the HP Business Onsite warranty to be usually responsive and excellent…in Australia anyway.
    These are fast, stable, reliable, comfortable notebooks to work on.

    REALLY, my only ‘criticism’ would have to be the beautiful high resolution WUXGA, SMALL(big for a notebook) screen, which, while it has huge amounts of room for IDEs, design etc, it is all too easy to design ‘too big’, usually for web, to compensate as everything is so small. To compensate, I am just more aware of this and use an external 19″ HP Business monitor to double check my sizing is correct and go from there.
    Another might be that the nVidia Quadro workstation graphics, while extremely stable and grunty(greate for modelling, rendering, CAD, mapping, engineering applications etc), could be quicker(more useful for design)…a nVidia GT330m(or similar) in the same notebook platform would be a fantastic design platform…and shave(slash?) a significant amount off the cost.

    As a graphic/web designer/programmer, I use ADOBE CS4 Indesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Fireworks, Encore(transcoding a DVD full of video can cause it to dramtically heat up, so I do a few at a time and let it calm down before the next batch) and Premiere usually 2-3 Adobe applications at any one time as well as Firefox(lots…too many tabs) and usually have an IDE(Netbeans) as well as Outlook and Excel 2010, XAMPP(LAMP server), Filezilla etc open at any one time. I find any deficiency is usually in the OS or application ie some Adobe apps can be downright cantankerous and Firefox tends to get very slow and memory hungry very quickly.

    Like any Windows system, the more crap/crud you install, the slower it gets…keep it clean and quick.

    As one who loves the look of a 17″ MacBook Pro, but can’t quite get their head around the OS interface, I am stuck with Win7, definitely a MAJOR step up from XP(significantly faster and more stable)/Vista(need I say more…), but I would dearly love to see the Adobe suite ported to Linux…a truly quick, reliable and stable OS that I suspect many would consider a real alternative to WIN/MAC…dreaming on! I used Ubuntu+Virtual Box for a year doing the above and found it also to be extremely usuable(a clean XP runs significantly faster in the VM…no ‘crap’ to bog it down), until some of my projects got bigger and screen refresh in the Adobe apps became an issue.

    BTW, I am not from HP or a HP fanboi, just someone(ex business sales who has moved into graphic/web deign) who picks their tools for the job at hand, stability and reliability.

  8. I haven’t seen the Youtube video Paul talks about, but I am writing this on an HP G60 243CL laptop. I bought it in March. I have to replace it, because it’s dying. It’s my 4th HP/Compaq in the last 10 years, and the last of my life.

    The last one the hinges melted because of a poor quality case and the fan blew the hot air across the memory boards and out into a spot that weakened the case causing it to break. and now the screen just flops around like a dead fish. This one has something wrong with the processor, I think. I put in 4gb RAM two weeks ago, and it’s still running laggy, and bogs down if I open Photoshop, Illustrator and Bridge at the same time.

    I baby my toys. It has not been dropped, or abused. I built my own computer in Jan 2001 that is still working perfectly. Since buying it, two HPs have landed in the trash, and one sold on eBay because the case was mint and could be used for a rebuild. One of those that ended in the trash was an HP desktop, by the way – certainly not dropped or mishandled in travel.

    As for the customer service, just as bad as Paul said. It starts at the top. On the HP website, there’s a form for contacting the CEO, which I did, to complain about the service. I filled it all out, and then got an automated response that basically said “I am too busy to read your emails, but thanks anyways”.

    There is an ongoing issue that’s on HP’s own service forums, that about the G60 laptop – and others. HP started installing drivers in the machines so that there is no internal sound mixer. Ostensibly so that thieves could not steal music by recording off online music sources, but for people that work in multimedia, this is a handcuffing disabled feature. If you need to be able to record from sources other than the microphone, you can’t.

    People have been trying to get HP to fix this since Feb of last year, and have gotten nothing but grief about it. One service tech lied to me and told me they would patch it withing 48 hours, just to get me off the phone. That was in June. Still not fixed.

    It makes me want to cry for the suckers out there that buy a $4k HP laptop. If you’re going to devote that much to an HP machine, buy one for $1,000 – and save the other $3k for aspirin.

    You’re gonna need it.

    (p.s. I’m still jealous that you got one for free – it looks soooooooooooo fun)

  9. haha

    just another paid post.is it jacob?
    anyway thanks for letting me know about that crap workstation of HP.
    MacBookPro rocks 🙂
    HP sucks 🙂

  10. I love my MacBook Pro but would also love to read about how this machine holds up in terms of having multiple design programs open at once..
    Ever since i purchased my MacBook Pro (and have been working part time in an apple store) i havn’t really been exposed to new windows os laptops like this.. I keep forgetting that companies such as HP are making machines like the EliteBook which have some pretty impressive and competitive specs..
    Looking forward to your follow up!

  11. Wow, How cool it is to be asked to do a equipment review and then get to keep it afterwards. I have an HP laptop and have really liked it but it is nothing compared to that beast. I look forward to hearing more about it.

  12. Carlos. Kiren,
    I just got contacted by HP letting me know of the pricing of their laptops, stemmed from your comments. They wanted to point out the fact that the starting price is $1,999 for the HP EliteBook 8740w and a 17-inch MacBook Pro starts at $2,299.

    The model I have showcased here is a very high end configuration with a $2,500 NVIDIA card, a $500 DreamColor display and $500 8GB RAM which obviously adds on to the price tag.

    Let me know if you have any other questions!

    Thanks for pointing out the differences between each of the HP models, retail vs business. Also, thanks for insight to your other HP experiences, I am sure it will help others on the search!

    Interesting point about ‘designing big’, I’ll have to keep this in mind when I start designing on this machine.

    Thanks for all the comments & insight.

    Sorry to hear about the bad history, I hope your next choice works out! Thanks for sharing your story, it’s good to hear about the good and the bad unbiased experiences of HP users.

    I’m not paid for this post, nor any of the posts on this site, nor will any be in the future. That said, HP did send me a free laptop which is called material compensation.

    Sonny, Rich,
    Will let you know how it goes in the next post.

  13. Good luck with the HP Jacob. You might need it! I had a “top of the line” model myself last year and had nothing but problems. The HP tech support is useless as well. After having the motherboard replaced a total of 6 times in the 9 mths that I had it, I’d finally had enough and complained until they agreed to replace the whole machine with a new one. Once I received the replacement I promptly sold it and bought another brand that actually works. Once upon a time HP equipment used to be known for their reliability. Unfortunately, they’ve really gone downhill the last few years. I’d be less forgiving it it was a “once off” thing, but it’s not the only HP equipment that I’ve had problems with while it was still fairly new. Anyway, ya can’t complain about getting a freebie! Well done! 🙂

  14. One thing I’d like to address is the people talking about the high cost versus similarly configured competitors.

    One of the key components of this particular model is the NVIDIA Quadro 5000m. This is a very high-end workstation GPU, and what makes this configuration special is that the EliteBook 8740W is the first laptop to offer this GPU.

    The Quadro 5000M is NVIDIA’s first mobile workstation GPU that supports DirectX 11.

    In addition, this mobile workstation GPU supports CUDA, and thus is Mercury Playback Engine-enabled for Adobe CS5 apps that support it. This is, to my knowledge, the ONLY mobile configuration at this time that supports MPE


    MPE is a serious game-changer in CS5 performance (particularly in Premiere Pro, Photoshop, and After Effects) and therefore, the fact that this is a laptop that can handle those tasks is the killer app of this particular machine.

    -Brian “primesuspect” Ambrozy

  15. Looks like a real impressive computer! Wished the battery lasted a little longer but you’re not buying this for it’s battery life. Can’t wait to hear more about this!

  16. Thanks for a thorough review. I am subscribed to the post, following you via email, google, facebook and twitter.

  17. Do HP computers still come with loads of crapware? How about recovery media? or do you need to burn your own DVD disk? Is is possible to install a clean copy of Windows without HP’s software? If you are going to invest nearly $5000 in a computer, a SSD is a must. These are the first questions I would ask before switching out a hard drive.

  18. I don’t know of any other manufacturer whose PC’s regularly fail.
    My friend went through about 3 HP Laptop’s in one year, why did his mother continue to buy another ‘hp’ brand laptop who knows.
    Also I have family that regularly asks me to hel them with PC issue’s which have all been HP’s that either the screen went bad or the system failed.
    HP may be the most bough and known but it definitely is NOT the best, I have never had a problem with any other manufacturer except HP.

  19. I have decided that I must win this, it will save you time, and make me happy as my laptop died and I am relegated to a very big, old clunky desktop in the bowels of my home. (and you could substitute the word bowels for a totally different word, but I won’t say it here!)

  20. My daughter is graduating next week in the world of media editing and Im looking at this laptop as a good platform for her to run Avids. True a lot of people have told me/her to go MAC but another scholl say to stick with what you know and she is definately PC. The price is high but I have had HP for years and in my opinion they are solid. There will always be a horror story from someone, thats true in anything but on the whole I think HP build good units. I just wish the price point was a little lower.

  21. Curious to see how it handles under pressure. Like an army of people who were unhappy about it, my last laptop was an HP and the motherboard died. Until then, I loved it! It got a little bogged down, but then I was running a lot of heavy duty programs at once on an laptop that was a few years old and had no upgrades.

    We have a desktop HP that is still running great after half a decade and never upgraded beyond XP.

    Be sure to give this machine a thorough workout with some memory sucking programs and see tell us how it performs. I would love to know how fast it renders in 3-D!!

  22. I just got a 15″ MacBook Pro, an upgrade from a MacMini and I love it. ALthough, the HP Elitebook boasts some impressive high-end hardware, the biggest problem still remains….WINDOWS!

  23. Hi!
    I am going to purchase this laptop myself – mostly because of the LCD panel (Dreamcolor). I work in video and arts and the Dreamcolor is WITHOUT DOUBT the best LCD out there. I have tried Mac, Dell, Asus etc, and there is not a laptop to touch this one. The Dreamcolor screen at billions of colours (not interpolated) will have you begging for proper 10 bit video and photo software. I have used the Dreamcolor 24 inch monitor on my workstation for over a year and it’s still the best monitor out there for under $5K.
    PS I haved worked with computers for over 40 years.

  24. Jacob, when will you hold your contest. I have just enrolled in a graphic design class at IADT and I would love to have a laptop. I refer to your site a lot for help in some of my classes. I think your site is very imformative.

  25. I’m a current owner of an EliteBook 8540w and long timer owner of several HP laptops such as NX8220 and Pavillion zd7376EA.
    My personal experience is mixed since my zd7376 is replaced by HP and nx8220 is now RIPed in my garage.
    Let me explain:
    I’m a professional software developer and I use my laptops for application development, testing and production.

    I bought zd7376ea at December 2004, and I keep it for less than a year since the on board modem was broken, I send it to service, service fail to replace the motherboard, and finally HP return me back the money.

    After that I bought nx8200 which works greatly for about 4 years. After that, I began to have problems with the motherboard again. With some workarounds I use it for another one year.

    After that, I search for alternative models or brands but HP still provides the best options.

  26. HP Mobile workstations are great machines.
    I have 1 Mobile EliteBooks 8730W (previous model) with 8GB RAM. Only the problem with my WS is RAM its DDR2 quite slow. but rest of the hardware spec. its Amazing and super fast response. I’m sure you will have a blast working/playing with your new HP.


  27. Also I am Owner of 2 HP Z600 Workstations with max 24GB DDR3 RAM and Quadro 1GB Cards. I was big fan of Apple some times ago but Now I love HP products

    Currently I am using all HP Pro and Workstation line. Included: (2 HP Z600 – 1x Hp 8730W – 1x Hp Compaq 6910P – 1x HP Compaq 2510P.

    HP is the best in Pro series and ultimate in Workstations.

  28. HP workstation seems very powerful. But I thinks Macbook is powerful too. I like Apple products. Maybe from the price view, it may not be the best. But it fits me well.

  29. Curious to see how it handles under pressure. Like an army of people who were unhappy about it, my last laptop was an HP and the motherboard died. Until then, I loved it! It got a little bogged down, but then I was running a lot of heavy duty programs at once on an laptop that was a few years old and had no upgrades.

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