HP Compaq 8710p Review

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HP Compaq 8710p Notebook Review

by Greg Ross

Introduction

The HP Compaq 8710p is HP’s premier business class notebook offering.  Featuring a massive 17” screen, the Santa Rosa platform, and a top notch DX10 graphics card, there is no doubt this laptop is a beast.  I’m sure you have questions about the power and portability of this machine, so come on in and read our full review!

Reasons for Buying

Well, I didn’t buy it…but I had a reason to acquire it!  My previous HP Compaq notebook, the 15.4” HP nc8430, underwent so many repairs that it started to break on a bi-weekly basis.  HP and I agreed that the notebook was a lemon, and within a week we had decided that my new 8710p would be an appropriate replacement.

Price & Model Specifications

The 8710p starts out at a relatively low $1499, but the price can quickly ramp up by choosing more powerful technology such as a faster processor or a BluRay drive.  The most powerful versions of this laptop top out at about $3000!

My review unit though, was configured as follows:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 Processor (Santa Rosa, 2.0GHz, 4MB L2 Cache, 800MHz FSB)
  • Microsoft Genuine Windows Vista Business
  • 17.0” WSXGA+ Display (1680 x 1050)
  • 512MB (256MB Dedicated) nVidia Quadro NVS 320M GPU
  • 2GB DDR2 667MHz RAM (1x2GB Configuration and quickly upgraded to 4GB)
  • 160GB 5400RPM Fujitsu 2.5” HDD
  • DVD+/-RW Optical Drive
  • 802.11a/b/g WiFi, Ethernet, Modem, and Bluetooth Connectivity
  • 8-Cell 73Whr Battery
  • 3 Year On-site Warranty
  • Dimensions: 15.5” x 10.8” x 1.3” (at front)
  • Weight: 7.7 lbs (Actual Measurement)

The exact model number of my HP 8710p (RM253UA) costs $2129 at HP.com, though at various sites one might find it for as low as $1999.

Build and Design

The HP Compaq 8710p is a business notebook.  That implies it should have high quality construction and a flawless build.  Does it deliver?


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The notebook shell is built mostly from hard plastic, but within that shell resides a magnesium alloy support structure that is common to almost all the HP Compaq business notebooks.  As a result, the laptop feels very strong in most areas and there is no doubt as to the durability of such a notebook if one chooses to take it around.  There is little to no flex in the base of the unit and I cannot twist it at all, and the screen does not flex nearly as much as I would have expected from such a large display.  One of my complaints about my previous notebook (the nc8430) was that the screen was damaged several times as the LCD protection just was not as good as my initial impressions back then.  Fortunately, the 8710p screen housing is much thicker compared to my old notebook and it seems HP has addressed my concerns.  Only time will tell if the strength of the housing will protect this LCD.   I would still caution users to not put this notebook in an overstuffed backpack.  And make sure you get a protective case for it, just in case!


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Additionally, some of you may remember my nc8430 and 8510w reviews in which I bashed the construction of the bezel as I could pull it away and push it in a little bit.  I did not like that at all!  But the 8710p does not have this issue either, so it does seem to me that HP is making some steps in the right direction regarding the revisions of their notebooks.

However, the 8710p does not go without flaws.  The number pad of the keyboard has some flex to it, as underneath there is about 1-2mm of open space between the keyboard base and the optical drive underneath.  Also, the top of the palm rests have just a little flex to it…but you do not notice it unless you push really hard on the case.

Also, the notebook shipped with the screen just ever so slightly mis-aligned with the notebook chassis.  This meant that I could not easily open and shut the notebook, and it was a pain to get the latches to clasp together correctly.  Upon examining it, the screen was positioned wrong on the notebook by about 1mm.  After opening up the case myself I was able to fix the issue and tighten up the hinges too.  I’m disappointed that I had to do those corrections myself right out of the box, but at least the work was not difficult to perform.

Post hot-fix, the screen definitely does not wobble much at all.  This is how a high quality business notebook should be, and the hinges on an 8710p should be very strong if aligned correctly and will satisfy any user.

The DVD drive is also problematic in that it is a very noisy drive during heavy use (like installing software), but is fine during normal use like playing CDs/DVDs or popping in a game CD to play.  I might contact HP for a replacement drive soon, it is that annoying.  In defense of HP however, I have seen this problem on quite a few notebooks and it should be fixable provided you get a replacement DVD drive.

On a positive note, the laptop also ships with HP 3D DriveGuard technology.  That is just a fancy term for hard disk shock protection.  But that protection does work well, and during my testing of the notebook that protection always kicked in when I started swinging my laptop around.  It even triggers when I walk with the notebook, which is a definite plus as I will not have to worry about shutting it down if I have to quickly move.

After using the notebook for almost a month now, there is one thing I felt obligated to add into my review…how does this notebook feel compared to my previous 15.4” machine?  For starters, I do feel the additional weight compared to my previous notebook when it is in my backpack.  The 8710p is about 1.7lbs heavier than the nc8430, and that weight difference is typical of any machine.  Even so, I can still carry around two binders and a book (maybe even two) in the backpack before it gets too heavy.  Without any books, I can carry as many binders as my backpack can hold.  Yes, the backpack is bulky and heavy…but it is not impossible to carry all that around.  I do not enjoy carrying around this beast under those circumstances, but when I have to it is possible to do.  If placed alone in a backpack or messenger bag the laptop is perfectly fine though.

Additionally, the size of the laptop is a little well…prohibitive.  I find it difficult to use on student desks when on campus, but it is perfectly fine when you get to use a larger desk or a table.  I have found some situations in which I can use the notebook within a class, but I tend to prefer a paper and pen over the computer during most classes.  In between classes, when I connect with the outside world (from a workbench or table) the laptop is a joy to use.  The screen is huge, yet portable, and the full sized keyboard with number pad is a big plus.


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The four pictures above are provided to just give you some idea of how much larger this notebook is compared to 15.4” notebooks.  The 17” notebook’s overall size is actually below average for 17” notebooks (especially with this much power).  In each picture, the 8710p is the larger of the two notebooks and the nc8430 is the smaller of the two.


nc8430 left, 8710p right…(view large image)

Last but not least, how does the 8710p look?  It is impressive.  It looks good in both public and business environments, and I’ve already received quite a few compliments from passerby’s and friends.  The notebook appearance consists of mostly shades of gray and black, sharp lines, and it certainly looks like it means business.  The two-tone appearance of the notebook is seen on both the exterior and interior of the notebook, and it looks great.

Screen and Speakers

This particular model of the 8710p comes equipped with a 17.1” BrightView WSXGA+ display.  Yes, you read that correctly: some models of the 8710p including this one ship with a glossy display instead of the matte screens business users are accustomed to.

At the slight expense of visibility in specific lighting conditions, the glossy screen on the 8710p looks great.  At a resolution of 1680×1050, words and graphics are clear and crisp.  They are not too small, nor too large.  Colors and contrasts are excellent on this display as well, and I cannot complain much about the screen at all.

The brightness settings on the 8710p are staggeringly impressive as well.  In part because of the glossy screen, the display is exceptionally bright.  It is not too bright though!  Typically, the HP business notebook screens are on the dimmer side of the scale…but this notebook is an exception.  At the dimmest of settings the screen is just a hair too dark for standard office use, but is perfect for low light conditions where you do not want to strain your eyes or you are presenting and do not want to emit too much distracting light.  At 50% brightness the screen is just about right for most indoor settings, and is my preferred setting when running on battery power.  At the brightest settings one can easily see the screen and all the details in most lighting conditions.  The only time I had a difficult time viewing the screen contents were when the sun light was shining from directly behind me and reflecting off of the screen, which is typical for glossy displays.

The screen itself claims to have a maximum brightness of 200 nits, which most of the time is too low.  But the glossy screen definitely makes all the difference.


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The screen at the highest and lowest settings…

As mentioned, when viewing the screen up front and center I have no complaints.  Pictures are crisp, graphics are clear.  The screen on my 8710p was manufactured by LG Electronics, and their displays continue to receive my highest praises as this notebook screen is a winner.


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One thing that is definitely impressive about this LG screen is the incredible viewing angles.  When trying to find the point from which the notebook screen is unreadable, I found that most of the screen reached the unreadable state not because of any distortion or discoloration.  The screen became unreadable because I was viewing so off center I was basically looking at the side bezel with the screen only taking up a sliver of my eye’s view.

As you can see, the horizontal viewing angles are just plain impressive.  The screen is readable all the way out to almost 90 degrees off center even if there is a little color distortion!


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Vertical viewing angles are not as extreme, but they are better than most laptops I have seen.  Discoloration only starts to occur around 45 degrees off center (where most matte displays start having issues after 10-30 degrees), but even then it is readable.  The screen only becomes unreadable at angles greater than about 60-70 degrees above center.  When viewing from below, even with discoloration the screen is definitely legible.


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The two pictures to on the left are the screen at typical vertical viewing angles.  Notice there is very little discoloration, and everything is readable.  The two pictures on the right are the same views, but taken at extreme angles (80 degrees or more)…and the text/graphics are still viewable!

The only complaint I have about this screen is that it had one dead pixel on arrival.  It is in the lower left corner so I almost never notice it…but still!

The speakers are located at the front of the notebook, and they sound good.  Normally, I would expect notebook speakers to sound tinny but tolerable.  But, HP again is on the right track with their design choices as these speakers as they sound good at any volume level and all but the deepest of frequencies.  The highest volumes were definitely loud enough to be used in presentations in auditoriums, but the medium and low volume settings are perfect for personal use.

Processor and Performance

Before any benchmarks were ran, a fresh copy of XP was loaded onto the machine (I consider it an upgrade from Vista), drivers updated, and the graphics drivers were modified to make the card appear to be a GeForce GPU rather than a Quadro GPU.  This was done to provide maximum compatibility with all DirectX gaming applications and to also provide a better gaming experience overall.  Finally, the notebook was also upgraded to a total of 4GB of RAM…of which XP can only see 3GB.

My 8710p comes equipped with the Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 processor.  It features a 2.0GHz core clock speed with a 800MHz Front Side Bus.  The Santa Rosa platform also includes support for up to 667MHz DDR2 RAM which this notebook has.  The platform also has support for 802.11a/b/g/n Intel WiFi cards and Intel Turbocache memory.  My notebook comes with support for only 802.11a/b/g but it is upgradeable, and no 8710p will be found with Turbocache memory.  The lack of TurboCache does not bother me as its performance benefits are, at this time, marginal at best.


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Clearly, with a PCMark05 score of 5088, this processor can perform.  My 2.16GHz T7400 in the nc8430 was not capable of scoring this high, so we are definitely seeing some performance improvement from more RAM and also a faster FSB coupled with the processor.

On a secondary note, the processor intensive SuperPI benchmark was run to give us a small indication of how powerful each core in the processor is.  It is not the latest or greatest application, but it does give some indication of how a relatively small application would perform on this PC or others.  It forces a single core to calculate 2M digits of PI, a feat that is accomplished in 1 minute flat.


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The hard drive that was included with the 8710p was a Fujitsu 160GB 5400RPM Hard Drive.  The performance for this drive is about par with what is expected from 5400RPM drives at this capacity.


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Nothing against Fujitsu, but I prefer to use Seagate and Hitachi hard drives.  I try to avoid using other drives as my main drives, thus I swapped in a Hitachi 160GB 5400RPM drive.  Its performance benchmark can be seen here, but what is very interesting to note is that I can only view HDD temperature data on the Seagate drive.  Temperature information was not available on the Fujitsu drive.


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So far, the 8710p has proved to be superior to my previous notebook.

Gaming

The 8710p features one of nVidia’s latest GPUs.  The Quadro NVS 320M comes equipped with 256MB of dedicated GDDR3 memory on a 128bit dual-rank bus, with another 256MB of shared memory available from system RAM.  The GPU runs on a 575MHz Core clock, with a 700MHz Memory clock as measured via the nVidia Control Panel.  It is very clear that this card is a copy-cat of the 8700GT, and our benchmarks prove it!

3dMark05 and 3dMark06 are the latest in graphics benchmarking programs that stress the GPU to the max.  This card basically laughs at both programs, and benches some very nice performance numbers.  3dMark05 was running at 1024×768, and 3dMark06 at 1280×1024.  For all gaming tests, the laptop was set to the ‘Always ON’ power profile with no overclocking and it was also plugged into the AC adapter.

Additionally, the graphics drivers installed were the nVidia 162.50 drivers from LaptopVideo2Go.  The modified INF file was further modified to make the GPU appear not as an NVS 320M, but rather an 8700GT in order to install the ‘normal’ drivers that provide maximum compatibility for content rendering (games, 3dMark benches, etc).  Workstation drivers provide the best compatibility for content creation programs (CAD, Maya, 3DS-Max, etc).  In all likelihood, either driver suite should prove suitable so use whichever performs best for your individual needs.


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Wow!

Under Windows Vista with the Quadro drivers, my 3dMark05 score was about 8600.  After installing the GeForce drivers in Vista, my score increased to about 8900.  After taking it a step further and installing XP over Vista, my score jumped to 9334 3dMark05 points regardless of if I was using GeForce or Quadro drivers!

Gaming

Oblivion

Resolution: 1680×1050

Settings: 0xAA, 8xAF, Large Texture Size, Tree & Action & Item & Object Fade at 100%, Grass Distance 100%, View Distance 100%, Distant Land & Trees ON, Interior and Exterior Shadows at 50%, Self Shadows and Shadows on Grass OFF, Tree Canopy Shadows ON, High Shadow Filtering, 50% Specular Distance, HDR ON, High Water Detail with Reflections and Ripples ON, Window Reflections ON, High Blood Detail.

One important note:

Grass really kills performance in this game.  Each blade has about 20 polygons, which is ridiculous and it slows the system down to the point you cannot play at more than 15-18FPS outdoors in heavy grass areas on this card.  Thus, before running these benchmarks I installed a LowPolyGrass modification that reduces the number of polygons from 20 to about 8 per blade of grass.  The performance difference was astounding from such a small mod.

Average Indoor FPS: 48

Average Outdoor (City) FPS: 45

Average Outdoor FPS: 31

Need For Speed: Most Wanted

Resolution: 1280×1024

Settings: AA at 50%, Texture Filtering & World Detail & Road Reflection & Shadow Detail: 100%, Car Geometry & Reflections: High, Car Reflection Update Rate: 100%, Rain Effects and HDR: ON, Visual Treatment: High

Average FPS: 24

This might seem a little low, but almost all the settings for NFS were completely max’ed out.  Shadow detail really steals a lot of FPS, as does AA and the reflection update rate.  Basically this card can handle anything this game asks for, and 24 FPS averages are definitely playable!  If you want higher FPS, turn down the AA and Shadow Detail.

Lost Planet DX9 Demo

Resolution: 1280×800

Settings: No AA, Medium HDR, 4xAF Texture Filter, Medium Texture Resolution, High Model Quality, Medium Shadow Quality, Medium Shadow Resolution, Medium Motion Blur Quality, High Effect Resolution, High Effect Volume, Medium Lighting Quality.

Average (Snow) FPS: 21

Average (Cave) FPS: 31

Most of the time, Lost Planet was definitely playable but not at the highest resolutions I would have preferred.  But, Lost Planet is a poorly coded console port so any PC is going to have problems at this point.

 

Star Wars: Battlefield II

Resolution: 1680×1050

Settings: All settings max, including 8xAA.

Extra Info: Maximum (64) number of units were on the battlefield to stress the CPU during gaming.

Level: Death Star (Indoors) – Average FPS: 29

Level: Yavin (Space Outdoors) – Average FPS: 38

This game was always smooth playing at even the most demanding of graphics settings.  Yes, the game is a little older but it gives users a good idea of what to expect from anything that isn’t exactly brand new.

 

F.E.A.R. Combat Multiplayer

Resolution: 1400×1050

Settings: All CPU and GPU Settings to Maximum

Average FPS: 46

I do believe it goes without saying…this graphics card is going to be able to handle anything F.E.A.R. asks of it.  No exceptions.

 

What is the deal with these Quadro/GeForce cards?

Many of you are probably crying foul right now, because I used GeForce drivers and made the GPU look like a 8700GT before running these tests.  Guess what: the NVS 320M is the 8700GT!  Those cards just use different drivers, and ONE hardware ID (aka two bytes in the GPU BIOS) is different.  That is just about it as far as consumers are concerned.

While the gaming benchmarks were performed with GeForce drivers, as evidenced by the nearly identical Quadro and GeForce 3dMark05 scores under XP the laptop will perform almost equally in all gaming scenarios.

For the complete reference guide on the differences between Quadro and GeForce cards, please visit this thread.

Heat and Noise

Despite the fact that this laptop has only a single fan to cool the entire computer, the laptop stays incredibly cool during regular operation.  During gaming, one does feel the somewhat-warm exhaust, but it is by no means unbearable!

HP really stepped up to correct the design flaws of the previous generation of HP Compaq business notebooks here.  The two hottest components of the laptop, the GPU and CPU, are completely separated, and each has its own dedicated heat-sink.  Each heat-sink leads to its own exhaust vent, and only the fan is shared.  The fan is certainly capable of pushing a lot of air, but most of the time it does not need to push out much.  Only when gaming!  Even then, there are two exhaust vents at the side and back of the notebook, as well as an additional vent on the bottom of the notebook.


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Additionally, it is very clear that the GPU is of the modular breed.  I do not know if this is MXM technology in the notebook, but the potential possibilities for upgrading the GPU are definitely interesting.

Overall, these design changes definitely help the thermals of the notebook as you can see in the chart below.  CPU, HDD, and GPU temperatures were obtained via Everest.  Unless gaming, the GPU was always at minimum clocks.

 

[PICTURE = Heat and Noise]

 

The palm rests and keyboard only get somewhat hot when playing games, and during normal usage the temperatures are relatively cool.  However, when using the laptop on a lap it does get a little warm even in the most power conservative settings after twenty or thirty minutes.  If the notebook is resting directly on the skin of your legs, you will feel the heat.  If the notebook has some fabric (like a pair of pants or longer shorts) between in and you, the laptop-on-the-lap experience will be fine.

On a final note, I will say that I have seen cooler hard drives in the past.  This specific drive ran several degrees cooler in my nc8430.  However, these temperatures are safe for a hard drive…they are just a little higher than I am used to.

Keyboard and Touchpad

Compared to the preceding nx9420 (of which I have no personal experience), the keyboard layout appears unchanged.  The travel distance for the keyboard is less than I prefer, but the keys on the keyboard are not as noisy as my previous nc8430’s keyboard.  The clickety-clicks of this keyboard are very quiet, but low pitched so the sound carries just a little bit.  The keys are flatter and seem to be slightly wider than the nc8430 keyboard, but my typing experience continues to improve as I get used to this keyboard.


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Above the keyboard also rests a series of media and functionality buttons that many people want one-touch access to.  There is an Info, WiFi Toggle, Presentation Mode, and Mute touch buttons on this glossy strip.  Additionally, next to the Mute button is a volume control slider that enables the user to raise and lower the volume by sliding their finger across that area.  In the end, I prefer real buttons only because I would frequently fumble in the dark trying to control the touch-strip controls, but in normal (lighted) usage the touch-strip is definitely a nice feature to have.  The only other negative about the touch strip is that it is a fingerprint magnet.


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The touchpad has not changed since the last refresh of this series and I assume that all HP Compaq share this part, and remains to be its snappy and smooth self.  It is very responsive to my touch, and the three rubber mouse buttons are quiet and about the right size.  There is also a secondary set of mouse buttons above the touchpad to work with the touch stick that comes with all 8710p’s and 8710w’s.  But in the end, I just cannot and will not ever like the touch-stick for this keyboard.  No amount of sensitivity changes can make this work for me, which is a disappointment.

Input and Output Ports, Wireless, and Battery

The 8710p features a decent battery of ports available, so here’s the tour…

 
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On the left we see the AC adapter port (strange place to put it too) next to the side cooling vent, the HDMI port, VGA out, 2x USB 2.0 ports, IEEE 1394a (Firewire), PCMCIA Slot, and SmartCard slots.  A major disappointment is the lack of a ExpressCard slot.  A few 15.4” machines have both an EC and PCMCIA slot, so why can a 17” not have both?  One EC slot is available via the HP Advanced Docking Station (not reviewed) which costs an additional $229 USD, but this slot should really be included with the notebook and not require a separate purchase.  Seriously, get with the times HP!


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The front of the notebook features only the 5-in-1 media card reader that is capable of reading the SD, MS, MS-Pro, MMC, and XD card formats.  Also, to each side you can see the notebook’s speakers.


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Here, we see the audio-in jack, headphone jack, 4x USB 2.0 ports (!), DVD+/-RW drive, Modem phone port, and 10/100/1000 (GigE) network Ethernet port.


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The back features only the lonely rear cooling vent and battery.


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On the bottom are mostly access panels to the HDD, BT Card, and one RAM slot (the other being accessible by removing the keyboard).  But here are also the docking connector and secondary battery bay port.


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Additionally, the 8710p also features an integrated microphone that is held within the LCD bezel.  It is in a very good location, and the microphone has ‘holes’ on BOTH sides of the bezel to maximize the recording ability.  Testing indicated that this microphone would be useful for recording small business meetings and as a microphone for IP communications, but probably isn’t very effective for larger meeting rooms (20-30 people) nor for lecture halls.

The 8710p features the Intel 4965 WiFi card that supports a/b/g networks; it does not support draft-n networking, but upgrade options should be available.  I recommend waiting until the final 802.11n spec is ratified.  During my usage of several WiFi networks, there were no issues with the WiFi card and it worked as expected.  The notebook is also equipped with Bluetooth, but I have no devices to test it with so I’ll have to assume it is working fine.

The battery life on the 8710p was definitely surprising.  During my stress test of the battery life the notebook was set to the ‘Always ON’ power profile (with maximum CPU clock) and the LCD brightness at maximum.  While running my battery test the notebook was constantly playing music, ripping an ISO of my Oblivion game CD (just to keep the drive active mind you), and downloading the F.E.A.R. Combat installer (1.77GB!).  What is more is that once the battery life reached 40% remaining, I turned off PowerMizer so that the GPU was running at maximum Core and Memory clocks.

The notebook lasted a total time of 2 hours and 15 minutes, with all this going on.  All-in-all, after testing the battery several times under a few scenarios one should expect the roughly the following battery lives under an average workload:

  • Always ON, WiFi/BT ON, Max Brightness, Lowest GPU Clocks: 2 hours 45 minutes
  • Always ON, WiFi/BT ON, Max Brightness, Highest GPU Clocks: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Maximum Battery, WiFi/BT Mostly OFF, Min Brightness, Lowest GPU Clocks:  4 hours 15 minutes

Options for secondary batteries are available as well at HP.com, so in theory the battery life could be doubled or more with the right batteries!  My initial testing with the secondary 8-cell travel battery indicated the laptop should easily be able to attain about 6 hours and 30 minutes when using the standard and travel batteries at the same time.

Operating System and Software

The 8710p comes equipped with Vista Business as the OS of choice, but there are options for XP Pro on various models of the laptop.

There was little to no bloatware, but the system does come with a few preinstalled applications.  As far as junkware goes the notebook had Norton 2007, the HP ProtectTools Suite, and a few Google applications preinstalled on the system.  Some useful applications included were PDFComplete, WinDVD, and the basic Sonic MyDVD v9.0 program.  Some of these applications are installed by default, while others can be installed by finding the executable from within the C:/SwSetup directory.  HP used to ship their computers with the full version Sonic MyDVD program, so shame on them.


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When a new 8710p boots up for the first time, the HP software setup utility asks you if you want to install either the 32bit or 64bit version of Vista Business.  Choices are very good, and having the option to choose your bit-ness without having to pay for another Vista license is definitely appreciated.  For the record, I choose Vista Business x64…but I will not be using Vista until it is a stable OS with little to no problems (read below).

Personally, I do not like Vista.  I am one of the users that encountered so many problems with the OS that I avoid it no matter what for the time being.  So I installed a fresh copy of XP Pro on the system and installed Norton 2008 (much better than 2007), Foxit Reader Pro, WinDVD, and the full version of MyDVD v7.0 on the system.

The notebook also comes equipped with an HP Backup and Recovery Utility that allows you to create your own backup discs and do regular backups of the OS and data.  Personally, I prefer Acronis but it is nice that something came shipped with the system.

Customer Support

During my time with my previous notebook, HP Customer Service and Technical Support were almost always professional and pleasant to deal with.  Parts were always sent out quickly to fix my ailing nc8430, but in my experience the technicians HP send are of mixed quality.  Many technicians are great, but others actually make the problem worse.  I’m not kidding: the 2nd to last technician was only instructed to replace my LCD but somehow managed to break the motherboard of my nc8430 and leave several screws lying out on the table after the notebook was assembled.

Lesson learned: if you are not comfortable with a particular technician, tell that person (politely) that you do not want them working on your laptop and that you will contact HP to reschedule.  It may sound rude, but it is your laptop and not theirs.  I also encourage users to purchase a warranty that has ‘at-home’ or ‘on-site’ support so that you can personally supervise any repairs to ensure your satisfaction.

The refurbished replacement motherboard that was sent out for the nc8430 did not have functional Bluetooth and the keyboard/touchstick did not work properly either.  Several USB ports did not work either.  Given that the motherboard also had old thermal paste still on it and it was not cleaned at all, I was not happy.  However, all but one of my replacement screens and all but two of my replacement optical drives were of excellent quality.  Refurb replacement parts are hit-and-miss with HP, so do not be afraid to ask for another replacement part if you are unhappy with what you received.

Anyway, I will have to say that at least HP backs their lemon policy in their warranty.  After so many repairs on the nc8430, they were very willing to just replace the laptop.  It only took about 14 days to have a replacement in my hands after my replacement request was made.  So even if you get a bad technician, or a bad replacement part, you can count on HP’s replacement policy if they really screw up.  Overall, I think I just had bad luck with my old unit.

I must stress however that dealing with HP employees on the phone and chat lines have almost ALWAYS been a pleasurable experience.  Regardless of if it is a question or a problem, they always seem to be able to help me solve the issue.  They were quick to respond, parts shipped out quickly, and they were always willing to listen to any complaints or suggestions that I had regarding the care of my notebooks.

Conclusion

At 7.7lbs the 8710p is amongst the lightest of all 17” machines.  It is portable, it is powerful, and it is built to impress.  There is a huge amount of power in this case, yet most of the time the laptop keeps itself fairly cool and quiet.  Given that only SLI DX10 notebooks will be more powerful than the NVS 320M/8700GT, the notebook packs quite a gaming punch as well.  Definitely a nice notebook and I would say it is a steal at the price point this is listed for.

Despite the problems with my old notebook, I still stick by HP and their ability to deliver some excellent products and to stand behind their products if severe problems crop up.  This notebook is no exception.

Pros

  • Strong, business class frame.
  • Latest CPUs available, strongest DX10 card currently available.  Overall great gaming performance.
  • LCD frame stronger than previous generation.
  • Hard drive shock protection.
  • Incredible screen, way above average horizontal and vertical viewing angles, excellent brightness and control.
  • Above average speakers, better keyboard that I thought it would have been.
  • Improved cooling design.
  • Large array of ports available, including 6 USB ports!
  • Surprisingly long battery life.

Cons

  • LCD screen was slightly mis-aligned, easily fixed though.
  • Hard drive sometimes runs just a little warm.
  • Fan is occasionally loud, only during intensive applications.
  • 4 USB ports are bunched together right in front of the DVD drive.


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