HP EliteBook 8440w Review

by Jerry Jackson Reads (74,708)

Overview

  • Pros

    • Extreme durability
    • Great keyboard
    • First 16:9 14-inch mobile workstation!
  • Cons

    • Small Touchpad
    • Hinged Touchpad Buttons = Bad

The HP EliteBook 8440w represents the HP’s first 14-inch mobile workstation. For those who aren’t already familiar with mobile workstations, these high-performance business laptops are different from typical notebooks because anything labeled as a “workstation” must meet specific hardware and software requirements in order to meet the industry standards for PCs designed for technical or scientific applications. In short, while there are many 14-inch business notebooks on the market this is the first 14-inch laptop that packs enough bells and whistles to be considered a “workstation.”

Our review unit of the HP EliteBook 8440w features the following configuration:

  • Intel Core i7 620M Processor 2.66GHz (turbo mode up to 3.33GHz, 4MB L3 cache)
  • Microsoft Genuine Windows 7 Professional (64-bit)
  • 14-inch LED-backlit HD+ display (1600 x 900)
  • NVIDIA Quadro FX 380M (512MB)
  • 4GB DDR3 1333MHz RAM
  • 320GB 7200RPM HDD
  • Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n), Ethernet, Modem, and Bluetooth Connectivity
  • 9-Cell Battery (10.8V)
  • Dimensions: 13.2 x 9.2 x 1.5 inches (including feet)
  • Weight: 5.89lbs
  • Price as configured: $1,649 (starting at $1,499)


Build and Design
The HP EliteBook line of business notebooks and mobile workstations has enjoyed much success over the last two years. These business rugged laptops meet or exceed the needs of most business professionals and have quickly found a place next to popular business notebooks like the Dell Latitude series and the Lenovo ThinkPad line.

A huge part of the success of the EliteBooks has been the “HP DuraCase” and “HP DuraFinish” which is essentially a strong magnesium alloy inner shell strengthened by a brushed aluminum outer shell that is so scratch resistant you can’t even scratch it with steel wool. The EliteBook 8440w maintains the HP DuraCase heritage but adds a new gunmetal anodized-aluminum finish, metal hinges with steel pin axles and reinforced display latch with four-point lockdown. 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, not even directly above the optical drive where most keyboards tend to flex. The underside of the notebook is also similarly rigid and strong with the exception of a little flex 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 Elitebook is rated to support up to 136kg (300 pounds) of weight, so it makes sense that we didn’t detect any flex during our standard lab tests.

For those who are interested, the 8440w meets or exceeds the durability tests under military standards (MIL-STD 810G), measuring levels of environmental reliability (dust, water, heat, and cold). The keyboard is also spill resistant with drains located at the bottom of the chassis to protect your notebook in the event of a spill.

The outer shell of the screen casing, as previously mentioned, is made of aluminum. Once you open the lid you’ll 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.

The 8440w also features the now standard hard drive shock protection in the form of HP 3D DriveGuard which will help to protect your hard drive in the event the laptop gets dropped or violently bumped. HP also includes HP ProtectTools with drive encryption, Device Access Manager, HP Spare Key (a program that helps employees access their computer in case they forget their password), HP Disk Sanitizer, File Sanitizer, and HP ProtectTools with Computrace LoJack so that you can remotely delete data in the event that your laptop is stolen and use the LoJack theft recovery services to assist law enforcement with the recovery of your notebook.

One of the main things that business notebooks need to have that consumer notebooks don’t is extremely easy access to internal components. IT managers have to be able to open up a notebook to customize systems as needed or make repairs. HP engineers made it quite easy to access the RAM, hard drive, and wireless cards inside the 8440w. Four screws are all that you need to remove in order to access those internals, and it’s just as easy to put everything back.

One final thing that’s worth mentioning in the build and design section is that the EliteBook 8440w is completely BFR/PVC free (not including the optional 3G Gobi Module or the power adapter) as part of HP’s new commitment to environmental responsibility. While not every business buyer is concerned about this, it’s nice to know that HP is a focused on being green.

Screen and Speakers
The EliteBook 8440w comes equipped with a 14″ anti-glare display with a 16:9 widescreen ratio. At 1600 x 900 pixels, this 720p high-definition display is perfectly usable and features good color and contrast. The LED-backlit panel offers excellent brightness and we typically left the brightness set to between 50% and 70% when using the notebook indoors. We know many people are concerned about the transition from 16:10 to 16:9 ratio screens (because this means less vertical resolution) but this 1600 x 900 panel offers a higher resolution than most 1280 x 800 panels used in 14-inch business notebooks.

Horizontal viewing angles are pretty good and you only start to notice some color shift after you get more than 75 degrees off center. Vertical viewing angles are only average as the screen begins to wash out from above and colors begin to invert from below after about 45 degrees in either direction.

 

While we’re on the topic of the nice screen, it’s worth mentioning that the 8440w is one of the first HP notebooks that will come pre-loaded with HP SkyRoom, a new high-definition videoconferencing software that really impressed our editors. We will have a more in-depth look at SkyRoom in our upcoming review of the HP EliteBook 8540p, but I couldn’t resist mentioning this awesome video conferencing technology.

The lap-firing stereo speakers used in the EliteBook 8440w have a fantastic volume range and offer excellent highs and midtones with a hint of bass. Unfortunately, since these are lap-firing speakers the audio is directed down rather than up and toward the user. If you use the 8440w like a “laptop” then the sound will be muffled in your legs. The speakers in the 8440w more than good enough for watching a webcast or hearing system sounds, and the highest volume settings are loud enough to fill an office with sound for a presentation with just a hint of distortion at peak volume.

The single  headphone jack on the 8440w works well with the two 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.


Keyboard and Touchpad
The full-size keyboard on the 8440w is a nice update to the keyboard seen on the last generation of EliteBooks. The new keyboard uses flat, semi-chiclet style keys and provides excellent spacing between keys for typing. Each key features the “HP DuraKey” finish which is a highly durable textured finish applied to each key to give the keyboard a nice matte appearance and prevents the “shine” that appears on old keyboards after the buildup of dirt and oils from your fingertips. As previously mentioned, the Magnesium alloy keyboard tray features drain holes to help direct accidental spills away from the delicate electronics inside your laptop.

The individual key presses are quiet without loud clicking sounds as you type. The depth of each key press is excellent, though some people may dislike the flat, chiclet-style keys. Overall the keyboard layout is extremely nice for a 14-inch business laptop.

The Synaptics touchpad is very responsive to my touch with a scroll zone on the right side that works exactly as it should. Granted, the touchpad is a little small for a modern notebook, but it’s not too bad overall. The matte touchpad texture is okay, but doesn’t deliver the same high-quality feel as the rest of the notebook. The rubberized touchpad buttons are about the right size and feel quite nice when pressed. The only problem I have with the touchpad buttons is the fact that they are hinged rather than simple press-down buttons. The buttons work by “swinging” down from a hinge located at the top edge of the button. This means that if you press the top edge of the buttons nothing happens. You have to press the middle or bottom of the buttons so that the buttons can swing down from the hinge. I don’t have any idea why HP did that.

On a brighter note, the trackpoint/touchpoint is easily one of the best we’ve seen this side of a ThinkPad. If you’re someone who like using the touchpoint then you’re in luck with this machine.

Ports and Features
The 8440w features a great number of ports on all sides so let’s take a brief tour …


Left side: Here we see the heat vent, three USB 2.0 ports, FireWire 400, audio jacks and the ExpressCard slot.


Right side: Optical drive, smartcard reader, combo USB/eSATA port, Ethernet and modem.


Rear side: The security lock slot, battery, hinges, power jack, DisplayPort, and VGA out.


Front side: Speakers, memory card slot and screen latch release.


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