A sturdy, high-end mobile workstation with a professional-grade display
It’s difficult to pick just one standout feature of the HP EliteBook 8740w mobile workstation. Certainly a bright, 17-inch, 10-bit LCD panel that’s capable of displaying more than 1 billion colors and remains visible at up to about a 170-degree offset without any color degradation is worth noting. But so is the notebook’s durable design, with its spill-resistant keyboard, magnesium-alloy chassis, and magnesium-aluminum display enclosure. Then there’s also the 8740w’s impressive performance that runs circles around our zero-point configuration.
It’s not indestructible, but it would take a lot of force to damage this notebook.
With features squarely aimed at businesses that require a color-accurate display, such as graphic-arts production and medical imaging—as well as less-than-forgiving work environments, such as a factory floor—there is little doubt why the 8740w is considered a mobile workstation. This also goes a long way toward explaining a price tag that starts at $3,000. Powered by a 2GHz Intel Core i7-920XM processor, with 8GB of 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM, a 320GB 7,200rpm hard drive, and an Nvidia Quadro 5000M GPU with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, our eval unit cost a hefty $5,290.
Speaking of hefty, our unit weighed a not-inconsequential 8 pounds, 6.4 ounces—add to that another 2 pounds, 2 ounces for the chunky power brick. Much of the weight can be attributed to the notebook’s sturdy build, which reportedly meets mil-spec standards.
While you probably won’t be using the 8740w inside an M1 Abrams tank, you can be assured that the 8740w’s performance is equivalent to the M1 Abrams’s firepower. Take for instance the 8740w’s showing in our multithreaded content-creation tests: The 8740w was 69 percent speedier than the zero-point iBuypower M865TU in Adobe Premiere Pro CS3, and 80 percent faster in ProShow Producer. Before you declare mission accomplished, however, we should point out that the hexa-core 3.33GHz Core i7-980X–based Eurocom D900F we reviewed in June 2010 lands an uncontested coup against the 8740w—including a 225 percent trouncing of the 8740w in our Premiere Pro test.
When you’re not busy designing Bradley Fighting Vehicles and instead want to use one to blow things up—virtually, of course—the 8740w provides decent gaming chops. A frame rate of 49.6fps in Far Cry 2 is noticeably swifter than the 34.8fps we saw with the D900F, although the 8740w’s 71.5fps in Call of Duty 4 is just a hair ahead of the D900F’s 73.2fps.
Of course, the Nvidia Quadro 5000M—a high-end Fermi GPU with 320 CUDA cores and a memory bandwidth of 76.8GB/s—does much more than just play games. To test the 8740w’s capabilities as a graphics workstation, we ran the SpecViewperf11 OpenGL-based workstation benchmark on the notebook. While the 8740w made an impressive showing on SpecViewperf11’s individual tests, its overall performance didn’t quite measure up to what you could expect from even a relatively less-expensive desktop workstation.
The 8740w would be an awfully expensive notebook to bring to a LAN party—but you could and you’d be glad you did. Where it’ll be more at home, however, is in the hands of a professional designer, architect, or technician who needs the high level of color accuracy of its display. Just make sure the purchase doesn’t overdraw your checking account and be sure to eat your Wheaties before you pick it up and start carting it around.
HP EliteBook 8740w
Professional-caliber display; sturdy build; great performance.
Very expensive; heavy; poor battery life; middling SpecViewperf11.
2.0GHz Core i7-920XM
320GB WDC Western Digital WD3200BEKT-60KA9T0 (7,200rpm)
HP CDDVDW TS-L633N
Nvidia Quadro 5000M
VGA, DisplayPort, Ethernet, 56K V.90 modem, two USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, eSATA, FireWire, ExpressCard/54 slot, smart-card reader, mic in, 6-in-1 media reader, Bluetooth, 802.11a/b/g/n, fingerprint sensor
8 lbs, 6.4 oz / 10 lbs, 8.4 oz
HP EliteBook 8740w
Premiere Pro CS3 (sec)
Photoshop CS3 (sec)
Proshow Producer (sec)
Far Cry (fps)
Call of Duty 4 (fps)
Battery Life (min)
Our zero-point notebook is an iBuypower M865TU with a 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo T9900, 4GB DDR3/1066, a 500GB Seagate hard drive, a GeForce GTX 260M, and 64-bit Windows 7 Professional. Far Cry 2 tested at 1680x1050 with 4x AA; Call of Duty tested at 1680x1050 with 4x AA and 4x anisotropic filtering.