After using different Thinkpads, Latitudes and Precisions in the past, I decided to go with a HP Elitebook this year because I got a great deal for a 8540w.
If you plan to do a clean install with your use the HP Support Assistent to install all the drivers, it's much more compfortable than using the SoftPaq INstaller or even install all by hand: Support Assistent Download
The magnesium case of the Elitebook is realy great. Hard as a rock, nothing is flexing and the cool feeling of the brushed aluminium is very exclusive. A Thinkpad T510, which by itself feels pretty solid (despite some keyboard- and palmrest-flexing), feels like cheap plastic compared to the Elitebook.
The display is completly covered by a magnesium case covered with a brushed aluminium surface and has the same great touch as the palmrest. The hinges keep the display tight in place, no bouncing at all, but you can open it by using only one hand. The Thinkpad needs two hands, because the base unit gets lifted too if you don't push it down.
I have a 8540w equiped with a i7-720, 8GB DDR3 (4x 2GB) and a Quadro FX 1800m. For the system I use a aftermarket Intel X25 with 80GB. I moved the originial Seagate 500GB 7200rpm HDD to the ultrabay using a newmodeus adapter (with this code you get 5% off: FB072808 ) 8540w 2nd HDD Caddy
The DVD-burner went into an external USB chassis from Ebay, so I can use it from time to time without replacing the 2nd hdd.
One reason I choose business models for years is the possibility to use a dockingstation. It's simply great to come home and place the notebook into the dockingstation without a need to plug in all devices, connect the external monitor, get under the table to plug in the power adapter...
But even without a dockingstation you get any connection you'll need:
• 5 USB-ports (2x USB 3.0, 3x USB 2.0)
• Card-Reader (SD, MMC, MemoryStick), Smart-Card-Reader, ExpressCard54-Schacht
• DisplayPort (--> HDMI and DVI via adapter), VGA
• RJ-11 modem, gigabit LAN
• eSATA, FireWire (i-Link)
• Ultrabay with a DVD-DL-burner (which I moved to a external case, due I use a second HDD in the ultrabay)
• Battery port to attach a second longlife battery to the Elitebook
The EliteBook's keys sit tight and have a very solid stroke. The quality itself is very high and the keys have a distinct pressure point and a quiet large stroke length. The clearly separated arrow keys make a good impression. HP has omitted a number pad in favor of key size. Due to the number pad the keyboard is not centered. This feels a bit odd in first use, but you can easily get used to it after a couple of hours. But I can understand Lenovo and Dells decision to not implement a numberpad. I always used a external bluetooth numbad so I had best of both.
Touchpad and Trackpoint
The mouse replacement is made of two parts; a conventional touchpad and a trackpoint. HP calls it Pointstick. All mouse keys are rubberized and have a very distinct stroke. The noiselessness and the long pressure point make its use very pleasant. The keys make a somewhat clattery impression but the operating speed is great. The Trackpoint itself work very good. It improves a lot more when you use a Thinkpad dome instead of the HP rubber knob. With a Thinkpad dome it works as smooth as a Thinkpad Trackpoint which is amazing! This is the first time I like a Trackpoint which isn't a Thinkpad Trackpoint! Unfortunately the three mousebuttons aren't as great as on Thinkpads, but scrolling via middle mouseclick works as well.
The touchpad is small (80mm diagonal), but it's sensitive to the edges and very smooth. The Synaptics V7.2 is actually a multi-touch pad. Practically, these functions are completely disabled (pinch zoom, multi-finger gestures) by the newest driver from HP (126.96.36.199). I deinstalled the driver and installed a newer one from laptopvideo2go.com (188.8.131.52) which enabled multitouch and momentum (this feature makes the touchpad work like a scrollball so the small area of the touchpad isn't a problem).
I choose the HD+ panel. HD offers small real estate and FHD is too small for me. (WUXGA on 17" or WSXGA+ on 15,4" was my limit --> 130DPI, FHD is even higher on 15,6" --> 141DPI, 120DPI with HD+ on 15,6" is perfekt, that's what the MacBook Pros come standard with). Yes you can adjust DPI in Win 7, but lots of programms still have problems with scaling and I always use an external monitor when I'm plugged and I don't want to change the scaling anytime I dock on or off.
I got a AUO panel built in which first was a bit washed out. My T510 has a HD+ panel by LG which is a bit brighter and has more colors uncalibrated. After tweaking both displays they are both great. The AUO loses the slightly washed out look and offers great colors. Both displays aren't the brightest, but brightness is sufficient.
My NVidia-Settings for the AUO are:
All colors: gamma 0,9
Red: Brightness 45%
Green: Brightness 40%
Blue: Brightness 30%
The main reason the buy the Elitebook was the power of a core i7 quad combinded with 2 harddrives. Opposite to the Precision M4500 you can get a Quadro FX 1800m with GDDR5 instead of GDDR3. First looks on the Precision showed that Dell improved the cooling system a lot. They can even offer the extrem Edition i7-920XM which HP doesn't. But the HP uses a MXM board for the graficcard, Dell solders the card to the mainboard.
Unfortunately I couldn't choose a i7-820m in my offer, but quadcore was a must have for me because of two reasons:
1) you can inexpensivly upgrade to 8GB ram due to the 4 so-dimm-slots, the dual-core-models only offers 2 slots.
2) I use virtual machines parallel so more cores are more important than higher clocks (i7-620).
For the gamers of us, here some 3DMark benchmarks:
3dMark06 @ 1280x1024
3dMark06 @ 1280x800
During idling the fan is off or pretty silent (a 5400rpm 2,5" hdd is twice as loud). During extreme loads the fan is loud but not to penetrating.
Before Bios F.08 the fan was running almost maxed out after you resumed the Elitebook from standby, this issue has been fixed with Bios F.08. Be shure to upgrade the Bios via Softpaqinstaller, or you can download the update here (I uploaded the Softpaq-Version to rapidshare for those who don't use the Softpaq Installer): Bios F.08 Update
Temperature (idle/max. load)
CPU 49-52°C / 90°C
GPU 50°C / 86°C
Sounds clear and loud, but bass is lacking, as always ins business notebooks. The Elitebook supports sound over the displayport, which is very handy when you connect it to your home cinema.
Webbrowsing with display on half brightness I get 3,5 hours. When watching a movie on full brightness you need to plug in after 75 minutes.
Best business notebook I got so far. If you get a good deal I'd always choose the 8540w over the T/W510 or the M4500. On the other hand you can't go wrong with those two either. For me the 8540w is just a bit better because of the great case (full metal no plastics), better connections (5x USB, Audio in and out, dockingstation, ultrabay and 2nd battery plug) and performance (FX 1800m with GDDR5 and now even a ATI FirePro M5800).
(You see the FHD panel on the right and the HD+ panel on the left)
Last edited by Intoxicate; 1st June 2010 at 07:10 PM.
Yes, the one I bought is also for 12mm high hdds (like the new 1TB hdds), the other one is just for regular 9,5mm hdds. Anyway I installed a 9,5mm hdd but for 2$ more I have the flexibility to upgrade to a larger harddisk.
Great review intoxicate, really surprised at the very low openGL score in cinebench though, different drivers?, can you try specviewperf if you have some free time.
Sounds great, this notebook is 1k cheaper than dell in my part of the world, only problem is being able to get one with a spec I want as they are all preconfigured with i7's and 1080 combined with the FX1800m
3dMark06 @ 1280x1024
and performance (FX 1800m with GDDR5 and now even a ATI FirePro M5800).
This is for M4500 with FX1800m and I think 920xm as posted in the M4500 owners lounge.
SM Score 2: 3065
SM Score 3: 2901
CPU Score: 3455
What are the frequencies on the GDDR5 memory in the 8540w?, from what we're seeing so far the GDDR5 isn't making much in the way of difference, which is extremely surprising given what ATI's 128bit GDDR5 GPU's manage.
I find the temps being posted by some people a concern with the 8540w, have you reapplied TIM? and also don't know if I can live with an offset keyboard being largely a lap user....I do agree with your comments elsewhere about junk collecting speaker grills though