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Review: HP’s EliteBook 8740w workstation laptop

When they said the 8740w is a mobile workstation, they didn't mean on the road

Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) markets its new EliteBook 8740w as a mobile workstation and, in a sense, it is. It’s easier to move this 17” notebook from one desk to another than, say, their z800 workstation. Good luck using this nearly 8 lb. monster on your next flight though.

The 8740w isn’t meant to be a road warrior though. As the laptop option in HP’s workstation family, the 8740w is meant to be easily taken between home and the office, or perhaps to a worksite. While I did take it on a few trips, it’s not exactly lap, or back, friendly. And the power pack adds a few more pounds too.

It did do quite well what I needed it to do though: edit video. And it certainly has the power to do it. A wide variety of configurations are available, at escalating price-points, but my review model featured Intel’s new Core i7 1.60 GHz processor, powered by 4GB of RAM and a 300GB hard drive. A number of Core i5 and i7 processors are available, the RAM can be expanded up to 16 GB, and up to 500GB SATA or 250GB solid state hard drives are supported. It’s a 64-bit system that comes with Microsoft’s Windows 7 and downgrade rights to Windows XP. On the video side, you can choose between Nvidia’s Quadro FX 2800M and 3800M models, or ATI’s FirePro M7820.

My model came with a DVD+/-RW SuperMulti drive, and a Blu-ray option is also available. And while I had the 17.0″ diagonal LED-backlit WXGA+ display, there’s the option for a 17.0″ diagonal LED-backlit WUXGA WVA display. You can also get HP’s DreamColor option, which ensures the colour you see on the screen is the same you’ll get when you print.

On the ports side, everything is located on the sides with the exception of the microphone and headphone jacks and a media card reader, which are on the front. On the sides you’ll find a nice collection of ports, including two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0, as well as a VGA port.

My primary use for the workstation during the review period was to edit and post video reports from two recent conferences, including HP’s partner conference. My old laptop just can’t handle the high definition video my Flip camera shoots. The 8740w had no troubles though, quickly rendering video for me in Adobe Premiere Elements. The large screen also helped as well.

When you’re not multi-tasking or doing processor intensive computing, this is still a quality laptop, although probably more powerful than necessary. Don’t count on getting too much time off AC power with it though. Even with the contrast turned down, when taking notes and tweeting on keynotes I got two hours of life tops from the 8-cell battery – HP advertises up to three-and-a-half.

I liked the Chiclet keyboard (backlit optional) and the trackpad and trackball are nice touches. Across the top are a series of touch-pad buttons for volume, WiFi on/on, and short-cut keys. HP also takes advantage of the size of the 8740w to include a full numeric keypad. I also have to say that, of all the (optional) fingerprint scanners I’ve used, this one was the most painless.

If you have a need to combine memory and processing-intensive computing, such as video editing or CAD, with a degree of portability, then the 8740w is a good option. If you’re not a pro though, get something cheaper (and smaller). Configurations start at just under $2000, and using HP’s online configurator I was able to create a tricked-out model (the fastest Core i7, Solid State Drive, oodles of RAM, GPS, mobile broadband and a Blu-ray burner) that cost over $6000.

You can get a good, and portable, notebook that will do light video for well under $1000, so be sure you really do need the 8740w’s power before you decide to buy.

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.