HP Compaq 8710p User Review

by Reads (99,702)

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.


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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.

Keyboard and Touchpad

Compared to the preceding HP 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.

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.

 

See HP Compaq 8710p Review Page 2 >> (Gaming performance, Heat and Noise, Software, Customer Support, Conclusion)

 


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