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  1. #1
    DietGreenTeaFiend
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    Default HP EliteBook 8540p Review

    The EliteBook is HP’s business-rugged notebook family aimed squarely at the Lenovo ThinkPad and Dell Latitude. Offering an attractive brushed metal finish, excellent build quality, and high-end processor and graphics options, the EliteBook-series is targeted at business users who need the power of a desktop in a mobile package. We took an in-depth look at the HP EliteBook 8540p to see how it stacks up against the competition.

    Our HP EliteBook 8540p Specifications:

    • Intel Core i5-520M (2.4GHz, 6MB L2 cache)
    • Microsoft Genuine Windows 7 Professional (32-bit)
    • 15.6-inch LED-backlit HD+ anti-glare (1600 x 900)
    • NVIDIA NVS 5100m graphics with 1GB GDDR3
    • 2GB DDR3 1333MHz RAM (16GB Max)
    • 320GB 7200RPM HDD
    • Intel Ultimate-N 6300 AGN WiFi, 1Gb Ethernet, Modem, and Bluetooth Connectivity
    • 8-Cell 73WHr Battery (14.4V)
    • Dimensions: 14.7” x 9.90” x 1.28”
    • Weight: 6lbs 7.9oz
    • Price as configured: $1,299 with 3-year onsite warranty

    Build and Design
    The HP EliteBooks have a very stylish brushed-metal exterior that adds a splash of sophistication to what is usually a dull or boring business notebook. The metal cladding gives the notebook a bright eye-catching design, helps to hide fingerprints, and really pulls together the look that the notebook could stand up to the rigors of daily abuse. HP even went as far as putting matching silver trim pieces around the screen hinges, showing no design element is too small. The brushed-metal finish really flows well with the black chassis and black inlays around the keyboard and touchpad. While I am usually partial to all-black business notebooks, the HP EliteBook-series really makes me want to jump to the other side.


    The EliteBook feels as hard as a rock when you first pick it up. The alloy chassis and brushed metal body panels have very little give under a strong grip. The screen cover has some mild flex but nothing we haven’t seen in other business notebooks. Even with its small about of flex the screen cover does an excellent job of looking good and protecting the display housed within. The brushed metal finish resists scratching and fingerprints, keeping a pristine appearance long after most painted notebooks might be looking a bit worse for wear. Screen protection is excellent with no distortion of the LCD-panel even with strong pressure applied to the back of the cover.


    When you open the notebook and start squeezing on the palmrest and surrounding panels the first thing you notice is how strong the entire chassis feels. The thin brushed-metal panels have excellent support underneath, with absolutely no flex at all under a strong grip. The keyboard has minimal flex if you squeeze it hard, showing maybe 1-2mm of movement before it stops dead like you were pressing it into a rock.

    On most notebooks the strength of the lower chassis is usually overlooked, especially around the optical drive which is the widest open bay. Pressing on the edge of the opening it flexes slightly until it makes contact with the bezel of the DVD-recorder. As you move away from the edge it feels like you are trying to squeeze a wood board.


    Screen and Speakers

    The 15.6” HD+ panel on the 8540p EliteBook looks very nice compared to most of the business displays that have come through our doors. Colors saturation is excellent, contrast is above average, and black levels are great. This screen would be perfect for anything ranging from editing photos to watching the latest HD movies. Backlight brightness is more than adequate for viewing the screen in bright office conditions but still falls short when trying to use the notebook outdoors on a sunny day. Finding shade from a tree or getting a screen hood would probably do wonders though since the panel offers an anti-reflective coating to minimize glare. Viewing angles are above average but still fall short compared to some of the PVA or IPS panels we have seen in the past. Vertical viewing angles have a broad sweet spot of 15-20 degrees before colors start to significantly invert. Horizontal viewing angles are much better, staying true even while viewing from the far edge of the screen.

    The onboard speakers fall short when compared to most consumer notebooks of the same size but when compared to other business notebooks they are par for the course. For listening to streaming music or an online video the speakers are more than adequate, but if you want to enjoy a movie while traveling a nice set of headphones is a good investment.

    Keyboard and Touchpad
    The HP EliteBook keyboard is designed to feel like a Chiclet-style keyboard but offer the look of a traditional keyboard. The key tops are flat with a sharp edge which drops off to reveal a surrounding border that acts as a spacer between all the keys on the keyboard. Coming from a traditional keyboard that has cupped keys the flat tops can feel off-putting at first, but it has the same learning curve as a Chiclet-style keyboard. After a few days you adapt and you produce fewer typing errors. The keyboard design is very good with a strong support-structure that resists any significant flex. Under strong pressure you can slightly bend the tray directly underneath the specific key you are pressing, but it stops once you compress it against the chassis.


    Individual key action is smooth with mild pressure required to trigger each key. Noise is minimal at worst, making this keyboard great for typing in areas where people might not want to hear you clacking away on a term paper or report.

    The EliteBook 8540p offers a moderately sized Synaptics touchpad that is easy to use and has no noticeable lag. The touchpad responds quickly to inputs and has a fast enough refresh rate where it never experiences any “cursor-trails” when quickly drawing or moving towards objects. The touchpad surface is a mildly-textured surface with a fine-matte finish that is easy to glide across even with a damp finger. The EliteBook also offers a pointing-stick interface if you chose to use that style of input. The pointing-stick interface was quick to respond to movement and didn’t have any problem with movement when not in use.


    One cool feature that I love about the EliteBook 8540p is the addition of a middle mouse button for the touchpad and pointing-stick. Most notebooks only include a left and right mouse button, which can be annoying if you frequently use a tab-interface. The middle mouse button when properly set in the control panel can be used as a middle-click button that lets you open links as new tabs or quickly close opened tabs without activating a context menu.

    Ports and Features
    The HP EliteBook offers a wide range of ports, including a few we have not seen on any other notebooks in for review. The 8540p offers two USB 3.0 ports which are perfect for connecting high-speed storage devices without needing a second cable to connect to an eSATA or FireWire port. In addition to the USB 3.0 ports the notebook also offers three traditional USB ports, FireWire 400, eSATA, DisplayPort, VGA-out, and audio connections. This machine easily packs more ports into the design than we have seen on any other notebook in its category. Expansion and security features include a smart-card reader, an ExpressCard/54 slot, and a SDHC-card slot.

    Performance and Benchmarks
    System performance was excellent with its dual-core Intel Core i5 mobile processor and NVIDIA NVS 5100m dedicated graphics with 1GB of DDR3 memory. Users looking for even more power can upgrade to the 1.66GHz Core i7-720QM processor depending on how much mobile processing power they need. In our tests we found the dual-core2.4GHz i5-520M processor to be more than enough for the average daily tasks of browsing the web, decoding multiple 1080P videos at the same time, or just playing some of the latest video games. Our configuration included a 7200RPM hard drive to keep program access times and load times to a minimum. For even greater performance and durability two SSD options are offered with capacities including 160GB and 256GB.

    wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):

    PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):

    3DMark06 measures overall graphics performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):

    HDTune storage drive performance test:

    Heat and Noise
    The HP EliteBook 8540p does a good job of handling the thermal output of its fast processor and graphics card, but compared to other notebooks we have reviewed it does run a bit loud. At a distance of 6-inches from the exhaust vent we measured the fan noise at upwards of 50dB during our stress test. Under normal daily activities fan noise isn’t as loud, roughly the same noise output as a whisper. Heat through the chassis is minimal even under stress thanks to the high fan output. This is very important since the metal cladding can sometimes act as a heatsink on some notebooks and transmit more heat into your legs or wrists.

    Battery Life
    With the 2.4GHz Intel Core i5 processor and NVIDIA NVS 5100M graphics the EliteBook 8540p wasn’t exactly the best case scenario for extended battery life. In our battery tests with the screen brightness set to 70%, wireless active, and Windows 7 set to the Balanced profile the system stayed on for 5 hours and 5 minutes. This is still plenty of time to get a movie or two in while traveling with a conservative backlight level, but if you are looking for impressive battery life figures you need to look towards notebooks with smaller screens and more conservative graphics options.

    Software
    HP includes two new applications worth mentioning on the new EliteBook. One is a video conferencing package called SkyRoom and the other is the new power management suite called HP Power Assistant. SkyRoom gives users a way to communicate with video and audio to other SkyRoom users as well as share desktops to collaborate on projects even if you are across the country. Testing it out in the office we ran into a few problems if you were behind a network address translation (NAT), since SkyRoom really wanted each user to have a directly accessible external IP address. If you are behind your company’s firewall this could be a problem, but for most users on a 3G connection or at home there are ways to work around this.


    HP Power Assistant helps users realize the impact of the notebook running in various power configurations. Not only do you get the standard power profiles, time remaining figures, and power usage in watts, but you can also have it graph out what that works out to in cost per day, week, and year. You input your local cost per kWh and it estimates the costs based on current power usage. Another cool feature is you can work out how much that translates into CO2 output to estimate your carbon footprint. This looks like a fantastic tool for IT managers who need to provide total system costs to company accountants ... or for bosses who need to explain why it's important for employees to shut down their computers at the end of the day.


    Conclusion

    The HP EliteBook 8540p really gives the competitors a run for the money. The design leans heavily towards the trendy side with a strong emphasis on excellent build quality. While I still have strong feelings for the ThinkPad brand I have to say the brushed metal finish is really something else. Gripping the notebook in your hands it feels like a solid block, having very little flex anywhere. Performance was great with a wide range of configuration options, including the Intel Core i5 and i7 processors with NVIDIA NVS 5100M dedicated graphics as well as optional SSDs. For the business professional always on the go the battery life is just over five hours which should give enough time for most tasks away from a power outlet, but if you expect to break 9-10 hours look for a smaller system. Overall you really have to look hard to find anything wrong with this notebook. The only area that I could see being improved is the price but that is wishful thinking especially when it comes to business notebooks.

    Pros:

    • Excellent build quality
    • Stylish design
    • Above average display

    Cons:

    • Not offered in all-black
    Related Articles:

  2. #2
    Zero Cool
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    Default Re: HP EliteBook 8540p Review

    Awesome minus the chiklet like keys. Can't wait for the 8540w review!
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  3. #3
    ORLY???
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    Default Re: HP EliteBook 8540p Review

    excellent review! Any chance that you will also review w model?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: HP EliteBook 8540p Review

    20 degrees vertical, is that not a little too small?

    At what resolution was the 3DMark06 test done?
    I find that the touchpad is extremely wide and small...sorry, but the 8530p was better looking IMHO (I dont like the numpads in general...)

    Forgot to ask, very important, is the Intel IGP working? What is the chipset used?
    Last edited by Serg; 22nd January 2010 at 02:03 PM.
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  5. #5
    theenemysgateisdown
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    Default Re: HP EliteBook 8540p Review

    Thanks for the review, I am also hoping for a review on the w model.

    A few questions:

    1) It appears the color of the 8540p is lighter than the "gun metal" color of the 8440w. Is this true? (internet pics always make this hard to see). Also, if the color is different, do you know which color the 8540w will be?

    2) You measured the noise level (thanks, you guys rarely do that, or at least you tend not to report the number). Can you specify your measurement conditions?
    -were you measuring dBA-weighted, C-weighted or un-weighted
    -was this measured in a quiet room (do you measure background noise first)
    -is your meter able to measure 1/1 or 1/3 octave bands

    3) Can this actually be upgraded to 16 GB RAM as reported? The HP literature I've seen specified that 16 GB RAM is only available with quad-core CPU's.
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: HP EliteBook 8540p Review

    What actually is this NVS 5100m?

  7. #7
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    Default Re: HP EliteBook 8540p Review

    I noticed the graphic benchmarks scored better than the dell studio 1747, are you sure that nvidia card is better than the ati hd4650? Or did I mis something...
    It would be very nice though if the gpu was in fact better than the ati hd4650, which is good enough for my needs, especially considering the sturdy design.
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  8. #8
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    Default Re: HP EliteBook 8540p Review

    Quote Originally Posted by njsss View Post
    What actually is this NVS 5100m?
    NVIDIA Quadro NVS GPUs are professional, made for multiple monitors in theory and 2D enhancements. Little is known yet, as they are new: http://www.notebookcheck.net/NVIDIA-...0.24946.0.html
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  9. #9
    Zero Cool
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    Default Re: HP EliteBook 8540p Review

    I love how they have the numpad used instead of wasted space.
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  10. #10
    DietGreenTeaFiend
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    Default Re: HP EliteBook 8540p Review

    Quote Originally Posted by Serg View Post
    20 degrees vertical, is that not a little too small?

    At what resolution was the 3DMark06 test done?
    I find that the touchpad is extremely wide and small...sorry, but the 8530p was better looking IMHO (I dont like the numpads in general...)
    You can't get much better than that without moving up to a higher quality PVA or IPS panel.

    3DMark06 was at 1280x800

    Quote Originally Posted by knight427 View Post
    Thanks for the review, I am also hoping for a review on the w model.

    A few questions:

    1) It appears the color of the 8540p is lighter than the "gun metal" color of the 8440w. Is this true? (internet pics always make this hard to see). Also, if the color is different, do you know which color the 8540w will be?

    2) You measured the noise level (thanks, you guys rarely do that, or at least you tend not to report the number). Can you specify your measurement conditions?
    -were you measuring dBA-weighted, C-weighted or un-weighted
    -was this measured in a quiet room (do you measure background noise first)
    -is your meter able to measure 1/1 or 1/3 octave bands

    3) Can this actually be upgraded to 16 GB RAM as reported? The HP literature I've seen specified that 16 GB RAM is only available with quad-core CPU's.
    1) The 8440w was gunmetal grey, the 8540p is silver, much lighter in color.

    To give a car example, this is the grey



    This is the silver



    I only bring up the VW's since my 2007 GTI was the lighter silver and my 2009 Rabbit is the darker grey. The colors are very similar to the notebooks

    2) This was the sound meter being used. On the lowend it reads at 40dB, with a A+C weighting. http://www.extech.com/instruments/pr...=18&prodid=233

    We normally don't use it in reviews since most notebooks in the past 2 or so years are well into the 30db range where it mixes in with background noise or can't be picked up unless practically touching the notebook. In the case with this notebook the reading was taken in a quiet basement office that was dead silent at the time. You could have heard crickets

    3)Good question! The 8540p supports 16GB of memory in some configurations. In our review model it only offered 2 memory slots, but had surface connections for another set to be soldered in place for a total of 4 slots. I am guessing the higher configurations include the 4 slots to support a total of 16GB of memory.
    Happy to answer any and all questions. Need advice on a notebook? Shoot me a PM or hit me up on AIM.

 

 
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