The HP EliteBook 8560p is the latest generation of 15-inch premium business notebooks from Hewlett-Packard. This aluminum-clad workhorse is designed to serve as a mobile desktop replacement for business professionals who need cutting-edge technology wrapped inside a durable shell. Keep reading to find out if the new EliteBook is as "elite" as it looks.
HP EliteBook 8560p Specifications:
Build and Design
In recent years the HP EliteBooks have distinguished themselves in the business world thanks to an exterior design featuring brushed-metal cladding and an interior chassis made of durable magnesium alloy. In short, the EliteBooks look cool and are built tough. The latest generation of HP EliteBooks takes that heritage a few steps further with what HP calls its "FORGE" design philosophy. FORGE is actually an acronym for the words, "Form, Optimization, Richness, Green and Enduring." If you want to overlook that marketing fluff for a moment, what HP is trying to say is that these notebooks are stylish, offer excellent performance, deliver a premium feel, provide efficient power management for long battery life, and are very well built to survive the rigors of business use.
Those might sound like bold claims but, based on what we've seen from the previous generation of EliteBooks, those marketing claims have a very real basis in fact.
Six pounds might sound heavy for a 15-inch notebook when there are many 17-inch consumer laptops that tip the scales at about the same weight. That said, I challenge anyone to build a metal-encased business notebook with high-end CPU, a discrete graphics card, and a built-in optical drive that weighs less than five pounds. The extra pound or so of weight comes from all that metal armor covering the notebook.
The EliteBook p-series is available with second-generation (Sandy Bridge) Intel Core i7 quad-core processors and Core i7, i5 and i3 dual-core processors, with your choice of integrated graphics or AMD Radeon HD 6470M discrete graphics. The notebook also feature USB 3.0 ports and a USB 2.0 charging port, in addition to a variety of wireless options and either hard disk drive or solid-state disk drives for storage.
Ports and Features
While we're on the topic of ports, the team at HP packed the EliteBook 8560p with two "Super Speed" USB 3.0 ports, one standard USB 2.0 port, and a "charging" USB 2.0 port (which lets you change a device like a smartphone or an iPod even when the notebook is just on battery power). If that's not enough, you also get a standard VGA port, DisplayPort connector, FireWire, separate microphone in and headphone out audio jacks, Ethernet, modem, serial port (yes, I said "serial port") as well as an ExpressCard/54 slot, a Smart Card reader and a SDHC/SD/MMC card reader.
The bottom line is that the 8560p has an amazing number of built-in ports ... and if that isn't enough you can alway use the optional docking station to add additional DisplayPort, DVI or USB ports.
The new HP EliteBook keyboard makes the full transition to a Chiclet-style keyboard with additional space between each key to help reduce typos. The individual key surfaces are mostly flat with a slight "cup" similar to traditional keyboard keys. The typing experience is generally quite enjoyable with excellent key throw and depth to each key press as well as a firm keyboard support frame to prevent keyboard flex under heavy typing pressure.
One feature that I loved about the old EliteBook 8540p was 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. Unfortunately, the new 8560p only includes standard left and right mouse buttons.
Screen and Speakers
The 15.6-inch HD+ (1600 x 900) panel on the 8560p EliteBook looks nice compared to most 15-inch laptop screens that still use the lower-resolution 1366 x 768 screens. The 1600 x 900 display is an optional upgrade but I would have liked to see HP make this panel the "standard" screen and offer a full 1920 x 1080 screen as the optional upgrade. We're starting to see several 15-inch multimedia consumer notebooks offer 1080p screens and the ThinkPad W520 currently offer a 1080p screen as well so the premium EliteBooks probably need to start offering these "full HD" screens as soon as possible.
Color saturation is excellent and the contrast rating came it at 621:1. This screen should be fine for basic photo or video editing as long as you're viewing it from the "sweet spot" directly in front of the screen. Like most TN panels, the screen on this EliteBook starts to look washed out when viewed from above and colors start to invert as you tilt the screen back. The matte or "anti-glare" screen surface also helps make the display much more visible outdoors under direct sunlight.
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.
Performance and Benchmarks
System performance is simply fantastic thanks to the combination of Intel Core i7-2620M processor with 2.70GHz clock speed and AMD Radeon HD 6470M discrete graphics card with 1GB of dedicated DDR3 video memory. Our standard suite of synthetic performance benchmarks shows this configuration of the EliteBook 8560p has great computational power and generally impressive graphics but if the 3DMark scores are to be believed then the raw graphics/rendering power of the new EliteBook isn't as good as what we saw from the older EliteBook 8540p.
That might be a deal breaker for customers who already have older EliteBooks with dedicated graphics, but if you're stepping up to a discrete graphics card for the first time then the new 8560p still offers better graphics performance than the latest generation of Intel integrated graphics. Normally I wouldn't complain about a 3DMark06 score of 5045, but when the price of the notebook is $1,500 then I expect to see more powerful graphics.
In terms of storage, our review unit came equipped with a standard 500GB 7200rpm hard drive. That's plenty of storage for most situations and the drive is probably fast enough for most business customers, but it's worth mentioning that HP offers faster solid state drives (SSDs) for customers who want the fastest possible start-up times in Windows and don't like to wait for files to be saved when shutting down their notebooks.
wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):
PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
PCMark Vantage measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark06 measures overall graphics performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark Vantage measures overall graphics performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):
CrystalDiskMark storage drive performance test:
Heat and Noise
The HP EliteBook 8560p does a fine job of handling the thermal output of its fast processor and dedicated graphics card. Likewise, the cooling fan is generally very quiet as long as you aren't stressing the notebook with complex video encoding or gaming. Under normal daily activities fan noise can barely be heard over the white noise you typically find in an office environment. Heat through the chassis is minimal even under stress thanks to some well-thought-out interior thermal design by HP. The bottom of the notebook gets a little warm after hours of serious use, but exterior temperatures remain mostly "lap friendly." All temperatures shown below are listed in degrees Fahrenheit.
With the Intel Core i7-2620M processor and AMD Radeon HD 6470M graphics our EliteBook delivered reasonably good battery life from the 6-cell (62 WHr) Li-Ion battery but it wasn't as impressive as we expected. In our battery tests with the screen brightness set to 70%, wireless active, and Windows 7 set to the Balanced profile the system stayed on for 5 hours and 28 minutes. This is still plenty of time to watch a movie or two in while traveling with the screen set to a conservative backlight level, but if you are looking for jaw-dropping battery life figures you need to consider the optional 9-cell (100 WHr) Li-Ion battery from HP.
Battery life test results (higher scores mean better battery life):
The HP EliteBook 8560p is a solid update to the EliteBook line of business laptops. The combination of powerful Intel Sandy Bridge processors, a stylish-yet-durable design, and decent battery life make for a very well-balanced business notebook.
My biggest complaints may or may not be a concern for most potential EliteBook buyers. The optional AMD Radeon 6470M graphics is good, but not particularly remarkable when you consider the $1,499 price tag. Given that this is an EliteBook it's reasonable for customers to assume this notebook offers extremely high-end graphics/video performance and we're just not seeing it here. Likewise, the lack of a 1080p screen option is a bit disappointing when competitors are offing full HD screens on their 15-inch notebooks. I was also sad that HP didn't give the 8560p a backlit keyboard or a three-button touchpad.
Again, if none of those quibbles stand out as major problems to you then the new EliteBook 8560p might be the best business notebook for your needs.