Review: HP EliteBook 8540w

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HP EliteBook

The HP EliteBook 8540w is the highest-performing, industry-standard notebook the CRN Test Center has evaluated to date, combining the power of Intel's Core i7 with engineering that still maintains a nice, cool laptop with good battery life.

Even with a score on Primate Labs' Geekbench of 4865 -- the highest we've seen in a notebook -- there is still headroom in this class of HP systems for even better performance.

The unit we evaluated came to the CRN Test Center lab with a 32-bit version of Windows 7 and 4 GB of RAM. A 64-bit version could be expandable to 16 GB of RAM, meaning the Palo Alto, Calif.-based computer maker has put together a platform that appears to have a strong future. Its processor is an Intel Core i7 M620 at 2.67 GHz.

On the CRN Test Center scale, the EliteBook 8540w weighed in at six pounds, six ounces – about three times the weight of an ultra-light notebook that can be found on the market. While that’s heavier than many road warriors would find acceptable, it’s fine for a desktop replacement solution that also requires occasional transit inside a building or campus.

During our testing, the notebook never became noticeably warmer than the room temperature of our lab, and its noise never rose above the ambient noise of our lab.

Using the standard CRN Test Center battery test for notebooks – which includes turning off all power-saving options and running a video from the hard drive until the system shuts down – the EliteBook 8540w ran for slightly less than four hours. Again, while you’ll find better battery life in other mobile computing devices, for desktop replacement and occasional transit, that’s ample battery life for a notebook with such high performance.

The 15.6-inch, backlit, LED display is outstanding. It’s anti-glare and can be viewed easily indoor or out. The keyboard is spill-resistant; it’s also a full keyboard (with an overhead light next to the webcam on top of the display) and very comfortable. Dual, on-board speakers are placed in the very front of the notebook beneath the trackpad. We found the sound to be clear without any tinny quality.

The notebook is built with an eSata port, three USB ports and an SD card slot, as well as a VGA port.

The unit we evaluated came with an integrated, 2 MP webcam and a dual-array, on-board microphone. HP also provides its SkyRoom videoconferencing software. What we found were video that was better than adequate, HD audio that was clear and crisp, and a notebook capable of very good video conferencing.

Street pricing on this configuration of the EliteBook 8540w runs between $1,450 and $1,500 – meaning price-performance on this model is about the best we’ve ever seen. Additionally, given the performance headroom, the investment is likely to provide at least three, solid years of productivity (probably more) while supporting increasingly important applications like video conferencing, video rendering, audio and more during that time.

The bottom line: the HP EliteBook 8540w is a screamer, is absolutely great for desktop replacements and occasional mobility and is built to have staying power. It’s a notebook we can enthusiastically recommend.

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