HP EliteBook 8540p Review

by Kevin O'Brien Reads (161,975)

Overview

  • Pros

    • Excellent build quality
    • Stylish design
    • Above average display
  • Cons

    Not offered in all-black


The EliteBook is HP’s business-rugged notebook family aimed squarely at the Lenovo ThinkPad and Dell Latitude. Offering an attractive brushed metal finish, excellent build quality, and high-end processor and graphics options, the EliteBook-series is targeted at business users who need the power of a desktop in a mobile package. We took an in-depth look at the HP EliteBook 8540p to see how it stacks up against the competition.

Our HP EliteBook 8540p Specifications:

  • Intel Core i5-520M (2.4GHz, 6MB L2 cache)
  • Microsoft Genuine Windows 7 Professional (32-bit)
  • 15.6-inch LED-backlit HD+ anti-glare (1600 x 900)
  • NVIDIA NVS 5100m graphics with 1GB GDDR3
  • 2GB DDR3 1333MHz RAM (16GB Max)
  • 320GB 7200RPM HDD
  • Intel Ultimate-N 6300 AGN WiFi, 1Gb Ethernet, Modem, and Bluetooth Connectivity
  • 8-Cell 73WHr Battery (14.4V)
  • Dimensions: 14.7” x 9.90” x 1.28”
  • Weight: 6lbs 7.9oz
  • Price as configured: $1,299 with 3-year onsite warranty


Build and Design
The HP EliteBooks have a very stylish brushed-metal exterior that adds a splash of sophistication to what is usually a dull or boring business notebook. The metal cladding gives the notebook a bright eye-catching design, helps to hide fingerprints, and really pulls together the look that the notebook could stand up to the rigors of daily abuse. HP even went as far as putting matching silver trim pieces around the screen hinges, showing no design element is too small. The brushed-metal finish really flows well with the black chassis and black inlays around the keyboard and touchpad. While I am usually partial to all-black business notebooks, the HP EliteBook-series really makes me want to jump to the other side.


The EliteBook feels as hard as a rock when you first pick it up. The alloy chassis and brushed metal body panels have very little give under a strong grip. The screen cover has some mild flex but nothing we haven’t seen in other business notebooks. Even with its small about of flex the screen cover does an excellent job of looking good and protecting the display housed within. The brushed metal finish resists scratching and fingerprints, keeping a pristine appearance long after most painted notebooks might be looking a bit worse for wear. Screen protection is excellent with no distortion of the LCD-panel even with strong pressure applied to the back of the cover.

When you open the notebook and start squeezing on the palmrest and surrounding panels the first thing you notice is how strong the entire chassis feels. The thin brushed-metal panels have excellent support underneath, with absolutely no flex at all under a strong grip. The keyboard has minimal flex if you squeeze it hard, showing maybe 1-2mm of movement before it stops dead like you were pressing it into a rock.

On most notebooks the strength of the lower chassis is usually overlooked, especially around the optical drive which is the widest open bay. Pressing on the edge of the opening it flexes slightly until it makes contact with the bezel of the DVD-recorder. As you move away from the edge it feels like you are trying to squeeze a wood board.


Screen and Speakers

The 15.6” HD+ panel on the 8540p EliteBook looks very nice compared to most of the business displays that have come through our doors. Colors saturation is excellent, contrast is above average, and black levels are great. This screen would be perfect for anything ranging from editing photos to watching the latest HD movies. Backlight brightness is more than adequate for viewing the screen in bright office conditions but still falls short when trying to use the notebook outdoors on a sunny day. Finding shade from a tree or getting a screen hood would probably do wonders though since the panel offers an anti-reflective coating to minimize glare. Viewing angles are above average but still fall short compared to some of the PVA or IPS panels we have seen in the past. Vertical viewing angles have a broad sweet spot of 15-20 degrees before colors start to significantly invert. Horizontal viewing angles are much better, staying true even while viewing from the far edge of the screen.

The onboard speakers fall short when compared to most consumer notebooks of the same size but when compared to other business notebooks they are par for the course. For listening to streaming music or an online video the speakers are more than adequate, but if you want to enjoy a movie while traveling a nice set of headphones is a good investment.


Keyboard and Touchpad
The HP EliteBook keyboard is designed to feel like a Chiclet-style keyboard but offer the look of a traditional keyboard. The key tops are flat with a sharp edge which drops off to reveal a surrounding border that acts as a spacer between all the keys on the keyboard. Coming from a traditional keyboard that has cupped keys the flat tops can feel off-putting at first, but it has the same learning curve as a Chiclet-style keyboard. After a few days you adapt and you produce fewer typing errors. The keyboard design is very good with a strong support-structure that resists any significant flex. Under strong pressure you can slightly bend the tray directly underneath the specific key you are pressing, but it stops once you compress it against the chassis.

Individual key action is smooth with mild pressure required to trigger each key. Noise is minimal at worst, making this keyboard great for typing in areas where people might not want to hear you clacking away on a term paper or report.

The EliteBook 8540p offers a moderately sized Synaptics touchpad that is easy to use and has no noticeable lag. The touchpad responds quickly to inputs and has a fast enough refresh rate where it never experiences any “cursor-trails” when quickly drawing or moving towards objects. The touchpad surface is a mildly-textured surface with a fine-matte finish that is easy to glide across even with a damp finger. The EliteBook also offers a pointing-stick interface if you chose to use that style of input. The pointing-stick interface was quick to respond to movement and didn’t have any problem with movement when not in use.

One cool feature that I love about the EliteBook 8540p is the addition of a middle mouse button for the touchpad and pointing-stick. Most notebooks only include a left and right mouse button, which can be annoying if you frequently use a tab-interface. The middle mouse button when properly set in the control panel can be used as a middle-click button that lets you open links as new tabs or quickly close opened tabs without activating a context menu.

Ports and Features
The HP EliteBook offers a wide range of ports, including a few we have not seen on any other notebooks in for review. The 8540p offers two USB 3.0 ports which are perfect for connecting high-speed storage devices without needing a second cable to connect to an eSATA or FireWire port. In addition to the USB 3.0 ports the notebook also offers three traditional USB ports, FireWire 400, eSATA, DisplayPort, VGA-out, and audio connections. This machine easily packs more ports into the design than we have seen on any other notebook in its category. Expansion and security features include a smart-card reader, an ExpressCard/54 slot, and a SDHC-card slot.


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