by Jerry Jackson
The HP EliteBook 8530w is the latest 15.4" workstation featuring the latest Intel processors and Nvidia Quadro FX 770M wrapped inside an impressively durable shell. The EliteBook 8530w and 8530p (non-workstation version) replace the 8510w and 8510p, respectively. Is it time for an upgrade at your office? Take a look and see what we have to say about this powerful workhorse!
The 8530w starts out at $1,499 but more powerful configurations top out at $3,549.
Our pre-production review unit as configured:
The notebook that was provided to us is a pre-production unit, and this specific configuration for our notebook did not fit any of the preconfigured models available online, but a similar configuration with 2GB of 800MHz DDR2 RAM and a 250GB hard drive would cost $2,549 if ordered via the HP website.
Build and Design
The HP EliteBook 8530w is a business workstation notebook, and as such consumers and corporations expect the highest quality of materials and the best features and designs for their money. Does HP deliver? Oh yeah.
The main body of the laptop is covered in the new "HP DuraCase" and "HP DuraFinish" which is essentially a hard plastic and strong magnesium alloy inner shell much like its predecessor strengthened by a brushed aluminum outer shell that is so scratch resistant you can't even scratch it with steel wool. The base of the laptop feels very strong and would definitely survive many bumps and bruises that other laptops might not. There is no flex in the keyboard, except for a very minor amount of flex around the enter key directly above the optical drive. The underside of the notebook is also similarly rigid and strong with the exception of the area immediately underneath the notebook's optical drive. Although we don't recommend it, you can stand on this notebook and you'll barely notice any flex beneath your feet.
The outer shell of the screen casing is made of metal, but the inner screen bezel is plastic. You'll also find a convenient keyboard light located at the top of the screen bezel. Just push the button on the top of the screen and a small LED pops out shining a light on your keyboard. This is perfect for typing while traveling in a car or airplane without turning on an overhead light to bother people sitting next to you. The laptop screen housing is also extremely solid and can barely be twisted even when significant force is applied.
On that note, I accidentally discovered how durable the "DuraCase" and "DuraFinish" are during our testing. I was checking something on the bottom of the notebook with the screen open and when I flipped the EliteBook 8530w over it slipped out of my hands and the back of the screen hit my desk with a solid "WACK!" Just so you understand how hard this notebook hit the desk, the impact was loud enough to make all my coworkers stop what they were doing and look to see if I was okay. The back of the LCD lid hit the desk with enough force that if the lid had been made of cheap plastic it would have snapped in half like a dead twig.
The 8530w survived without a scratch and everything continued to work perfectly.
When HP says that this mobile workstation "has been tested and meets the military standard
MIL-STD 810F tests" they mean this notebook is built to last. The HP engineers responsible for the 8530w certainly impressed the team here at NotebookReview.com.
Additionally, the 8530w also features hard drive shock protection in the form of the new HP 3D DriveGuard which will help to protect your hard drive in the event the laptop gets dropped or violently bumped ... or smacks into a desk because an editor wasn't paying enough attention.
Of course, with all this rugged durability built into the deisgn you have to expect a trade off, and the trade off in this case is weight. If you didn't already notice, the EliteBook 8530w tips the scales at six and a half pounds! If you add the power adapter your travel weight then becomes a full eight pounds. While this isn't horrible for a desktop replacement, if you plan to travel with the 8530w you need to be prepared for how massive this mobile workstation really is. Start lifting weights at the gym after you order your EliteBook to prepare yourself.
Finally, in the same way that the gray and black exterior and smooth design suits a professional environment, so do the internals. The EliteBook 8530w uses two simple plastic covers on the bottom of the notebook (each held in place with two Phillips head screws) so that the user or your IT department can easily access the hard drive, wireless cards or RAM for fast upgrades. The rest of the notebook interior is protected by Torx screws which help deter unqualified employees from messing around inside their work-issued notebook. The bottom of the notebook also features a dedicated docking station port, external battery port, and a convenient place to store your business card.
Screen and Speakers
The 8530w comes equipped with a 15.4" anti-glare widescreen with the highest resolution possible for a screen of this size. At 1920 x 1200 pixels, this high-definition display is capable of displaying the finest details in workstation applications like Maya, CAD, 3dsMax, and more. Or course, you can also enjoy this extra resolution for 1080p movies when you use the BluRay optical drive.
When viewing the screen from straight ahead, colors are rich and the contrast is excellent. High-definition movies (compliments of the BluRay drive) are absolutely stunning. Horizontal viewing angles are almost as impressive, and the vertical viewing angle from above is likewise impressive. The only time the screen starts to disappoint is when you view it from below ... but the overwhelming majority of users will never view the screen in this way.
HP generally impresses our editorial staff with the quality of the speakers used in their notebooks, and the speakers in the 8530w were no exception. The built-in speakers are above average with a good range of highs. middles, and acceptable lows and do not sound tinny at all. The highest volume settings are more than loud enough to fill an office with sound for a presentation, but are still clear and not distorted. The only negative about the speakers is their location on the front edge of the notebook.
Since the speakers are located on the front edge of the notebook the sound isn't being directed up and toward the user when the EliteBook is used as a laptop. In fact, our staff usually refers to laptop speakers with this type of placement as "crotch speakers" because the speakers are directing sound to your waist rather than your ears. If you're using the 8530w on your desk this isn't a problem, but if you're a road warrior constantly working from your lap then you might be annoyed by the speaker placement. The headphone jack on the 8530w works well with the three different brands of earphones I used during the test. No static or other noise was noticed through the jack besides imperfections in the audio source itself.
Since the speakers are located on the front edge of the notebook the sound isn't being directed up and toward the user when the EliteBook is used as a laptop. In fact, our staff usually refers to laptop speakers with this type of placement as "crotch speakers" because the speakers are directing sound to your waist rather than your ears. If you're using the 8530w on your desk this isn't a problem, but if you're a road warrior constantly working from your lap then you might be annoyed by the speaker placement.
The headphone jack on the 8530w works well with the three different brands of earphones I used during the test. No static or other noise was noticed through the jack besides imperfections in the audio source itself.
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