Introducing the HP EliteBook 8760w

Just over ten months ago, we had a chance to take a look at a very big, reasonably impressive mobile workstation: HP's EliteBook 8740w. It sported HP's DreamColor IPS screen at a glorious 1920x1200 resolution and had fairly beefy hardware under the hood, including the at-the-time fastest mobile workstation GPU, the NVIDIA Quadro 5000M. But since HP unveiled the dramatic redesign of their enterprise notebooks earlier this year, we've been anxiously anticipating the 8740w's refresh. Today we have it, specced to kill with a shiny new DreamColor IPS screen, Sandy Bridge quad-core processor, and an even faster NVIDIA Quadro GPU.

I'll go ahead and get this out of the way right now before we even get into the nitty gritty: the chassis on the 8760w is a massive improvement on the 8740w's schizophrenic aesthetic, but there's a cost that some of you aren't going to be willing to pay, and I'm not talking a monetary one. You may have noticed that all of HP's new business-class notebooks feature 16:9-aspect panels instead of the old standby 16:10, and the 8760w hasn't been spared. I personally don't have a huge problem with it, but it's hard to deny something's been lost here. Where consumer notebooks have potentially benefitted from the move to 16:9 (1280x800 to 1366x768 is basically a wash, while 17" notebooks got a boost from 1440x900 to 1600x900), the change from a 1920x1200 panel to a 1920x1080 panel is a loss; end of conversation.

With all that said, hopefully the move to Sandy Bridge and access to the new GF110-based Quadro will make the transition a little less painful.

HP EliteBook 8760w Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-2820QM
(4x2.3GHz, 32nm, 8MB L3, Turbo to 3.4GHz, 45W)
Chipset Intel QM67
Memory 4x4GB Samsung DDR3-1333 (Max 4x8GB)
Graphics NVIDIA Quadro 5010M 4GB GDDR5
(384 CUDA cores, 450MHz/900MHz/2.6GHz core/shader/memory clocks, 256-bit memory bus)
Display 17.3" LED Matte IPS 16:9 1920x1080
(LGD02FC Panel)
Hard Drive(s) Micron C300 256GB SATA 3Gbps SSD
Optical Drive HP BD-ROM/DVD+-RW Combo Drive
Networking Intel 82579LM Gigabit Ethernet
Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth v3.0
Audio IDT 92HD81B1X HD Audio
Stereo speakers
Mic and headphone jacks
Battery 8-Cell, 14.3V, 83Wh battery
Front Side SD/MMC Reader
Left Side Kensington lock
Exhaust vent
eSATA/USB Combo port
2x USB 3.0
4-pin FireWire
Right Side Headphone and mic jacks
USB 2.0 (charging)
USB 2.0
Smart Card Reader
Optical drive
Back Side Modem
Exhaust vent
AC adaptor
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 16.4" x 10.7" x 1.47" (WxDxH)
Weight 7.8 lbs
Extras Webcam
DreamColor IPS display
Flash reader (MMC, SD/Mini SD, MS/Duo/Pro/Pro Duo)
USB charging
HP Performance Advisor
Backlit keyboard with 10-key
Warranty 3-year limited warranty
Pricing Starting at $1,899
Priced as configured: $6,497

Thus far we've only really seen the i7-2820QM in the Sandy Bridge review notebook we received way back when Sandy Bridge was first launched, so the EliteBook 8760w is at least going to be our first experience with it "in the field" so to speak. It's a pretty beefy CPU, too, with a 2.3GHz nominal clock speed that turbos up to 3.1GHz on all four cores or a very healthy 3.4GHz on just one. That actually puts it within spitting distance of desktop Sandy Bridge quads, and it's a testament to the power efficiency of Intel's architecture. HP has also seen fit to grant it access to four memory slots and our review unit is specced with 16GB of non-ECC DDR3-1333.

The NVIDIA Quadro 5010M is a much more incremental update to its predecessor than the GeForce GTX 485M was to the 480M, though I suspect NVIDIA opted to continue using GF1x0 for their top shelf mobile workstation GPU due to its superior HPC capabilities. With the move to GF110, the 5010M now benefits from 384 CUDA cores instead of the 320 found on the previous generation Quadro 5000M, as well as bumps in clock speed to 450MHz on the core, 900MHz on the shaders, and 2.6GHz on the GDDR5. Gamers will undoubtedly be disappointed at the low clocks across the board, but the 5010M isn't really for them. While GF1x4 is more friendly for high-end mobile gaming hardware, GF1x0 likely remains the better choice for workstation tasks.

Our review unit is also bolstered by Intel's QM67 chipset, allowing for RAID 0/1/5 support as the EliteBook 8760w can support two 2.5" drives natively and a third if the user chooses to swap out the optical drive for another drive bay. As befitting a workstation notebook of this caliber, there's also virtually every type of connectivity the end user could ask for: eSATA, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, FireWire, Bluetooth, and even ExpressCard/54 are all present.

If Only Your HP Pavilion Looked This Good
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  • Belard - Friday, August 26, 2011 - link

    Thought Apple sold the most expensive computers? A MacPro 17" notebook WITH 1920x1200, same quad CPU and 8GB RAM and 250GB SSD is $3500. It doesn't have internal Mobile Broadband options (why?)... but looks better and cheaper than HP... with the money saved, spend $1000 for the 27" 2550x1440 monitor.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Friday, August 26, 2011 - link

    Except the MacBook Pro doesn't have Quadro workstation graphics or the high gamut DreamColor monitor. If you have need of those (which is admittedly a large part of what this is for), a Mac isn't going to cut it.
  • jecs - Friday, August 26, 2011 - link

    I agree in part, Apple doesn't sell the most expensive or cheap computers. And to my understanding and direct experience Apple provides an intermediate professional grade driver support (when the app is available on OSX). Apple wont get you 4X full screen antialiasing but some aliasing however, they don't provide full support or some fancy features as 3D stereo, but absolutely professional work is way better on Apple computers with consumer hardware than in a consumer grade equivalent on a PC. Again, an intermediate and limited solution not an advance one. Lets remember GPU consumer hardware is very similar and even equivalent to pro GPUs. But today not the same.

    But for this review my conclusion is this $6500 HP with the Dreamcolor and Quadro 5000 is only justifiable for critical content creation. Not even for demanding CAD/CAM visualizations because those fields wont require such color accuracy and could get away with a decent and way cheaper LCD. For industrial design the fast CPU and powerful GPU never is enough. But why the Dreamcolor? if any IPS monitor with way less accuracy will do?

    And even for content creation not everybody needs a Dreamcolor as even most experienced users working in content creation does not require or even could distinguish critical color corrections.

    As a matter of fact very few professionals need such color accuracy. Only for final color correction on video, video games, animation, or final product visualization as in the car industry, but this could be also be considered video pre or post production.

    The Dreamcolor brand from HP was specifically created for Sony Pictures 3D animation (?) in 2008. Correct me if I am wrong.

    For final color correction in video post processing using Scratch I can see this machine as a way to present the client the final product, and even for some critical last minute color correction.

    Who else, please?
  • Death666Angel - Friday, August 26, 2011 - link

    Where did you get a 1920x1600 monitor? That's 12:10 / 6:5 ratio, never heard of that. :-)

    As for the 27" vs. 30" argument, I agree that desktop monitor density has to pick up, because it's really not moving that fast compared to normal desktop computing hardware or mobile display densities. But I do wonder where you get your numbers from comparing 30" to 27" 2560*1xxx. Here in Germany the cheap consumer 30" options (Dell, HP, LG) start at 1050€ and go to 1200€ (Apple Cinema HD is an outrageous 1799,-€), while the 27" models come in at 600€ and go to 700€ (Dell, Fujitsu, Samsung) and there is even a new entry who used to only ship within the UK who sells one 2560x1440 monitor for 500€ and one for 580€, though I don't know if the quality is comparable to the others. :-)

    So for you the 30" models are 20% more expensive than the 27" options (1200$ vs 1000$) while for me the 30" monitors are 75% more expensive than the 27" options (1050€ vs 600€). If that is the case, you guys are being ripped off!
  • DanNeely - Friday, August 26, 2011 - link

    Checking Dell's website the 3011 is $1499, the 2711 is $1099 at list prices. Dells older 30" models were several hundred cheaper and the 3011 goes on sale at 25% off once or twice a year. I'm not aware of the 2711 ever having done the same.

    I think the only way to get prices that close $1200 vs $1000 are to compare current vs last generation models or sale vs not sale prices.
  • kallogan - Friday, August 26, 2011 - link

    I don't see the point in buying a premium priced Core i7-2820QM. The rather cheap core i7 2630QM performs almost as well in most cases.
  • sjprg2 - Friday, August 26, 2011 - link

    The 8760W circle jerk was ordered directly from HP's SMB order desk. I ran into incomptence, buckpassing, and stonewalling at all levels I was able to contact. I have retained about 25 pages of documentation and emails pertaining to this order. Someday I might be able to reach someone in HP that has the cajones to solve the problem. I sure miss the days when Officers of HP were reachable.
  • dagamer34 - Friday, August 26, 2011 - link

    Why can trackpads be centered?!?!?
  • EdShift - Thursday, September 22, 2011 - link

    This is a great question.
    I guess the answer lies in the cost associated with having to produce left and right hand models. In the userspace this model targets there is likely to be higher than general population mean left handers given the creative nature of content creation and it's propensity to appeal to more right brain dominant thinkers.

    For most laptops though it would probably be a winner to move the trackpad to favour the majority.

    Interestingly if you look at the trackpad on 6740 it's central only to the qwerty keyboard and not the number pad. I guess it's to reduce the travel time between keys and trackpad.

    Clever ergonomics.
    I'm assuming English isn't your first language so if I've misunderstood your point I'm sorry.
  • sjprg2 - Friday, August 26, 2011 - link

    This portable workstation is a monster. I looked at Cleveos and decided the companies that supply them were too small and unknown to send them a $6000.00 wire transfer, and that HP would be safer, seeing as how HP also wanted the order prepaid. WRONG! My uses for this is usually in a small motel room at the end of a long day shooting landscapes with a high end DSLR and the raw images are initialy processed into TIFs with DXO and doing any finishing touches with Photoshop CS5.5. Battery life is unimportant in this case. 1 hour would be fine for me. Would I like a bigger screen? YES! but this one is liviable. I'm hoping that Ivy Bridge will be interchangable next year for an upgrade to the Ivy Bridge 2920 equivalente. I have to say I am happy with the unit so far other than the screwup on the SSDs. I only ordered 16 GB of memory as the 32 GB is extremely exorbinant. About the smallest prints I have made are 24X36 with most going to 36X48.

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