HP's business-centric EliteBooks have been around since 2008 in name, but in reality, EliteBook is just a new name for the old HP Compaq business notebook line. With HP releasing a flood of popular entry level and mainstream consumer notebooks with both HP and Compaq labels, this understandably created a marketing issue for the costlier and higher end business and workstation class machines. Since the HP Compaq brand didn't have the name cachet of the iconic IBM/Lenovo ThinkPads or even Dell's Latitude business notebooks, HP's marketing team decided to scrap the confusing "HP Compaq" tag entirely and rebrand their business notebooks as EliteBooks.

We have one of the newest EliteBooks here today, the EliteBook 8440w mobile workstation. For a 14" notebook, it's quite the powerhouse, with a Core i7-620M processor and Nvidia's Quadro FX 380M discrete graphics chip to go along with 4GB of memory, a 320GB SATA hard drive, integrated DVD burner, and a high resolution 14" 1600x900 screen—it's even got a matte finish! But for the $1649 pricetag, the 8440w could have used a bit more power on either the CPU or GPU side, with a quad-core Core i7 (which is an optional extra) or faster Quadro graphics card at the top of our wishlist.

HP EliteBook 8440w Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-620M
(2.66GHz, 32nm, 4MB L3, 35W)
Chipset Intel QM57 Express
Memory 2x2048MB DDR3-1333
Max 2x4GB DDR3-1333
Graphics NVIDIA Quadro FX 380M (512MB GDDR3 VRAM)
Display 14.0" LED Backlit Matte WXGA+ (1600x900)
Hard Drive 2.5" 320GB 7200RPM SATA (Seagate ST9320423AS)
Networking Intel 82577LM PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet
Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 (3x3) 802.11a/b/g/n
Audio Realtek AL269 2-Channel HD Audio
(2.0 Speakers with headphone/microphone jacks)
Battery 9-cell Li-Ion, 100 Wh
Front Side SD/MMC card reader
Left Side 3 x USB 2.0
1 x Firewire 1394a
Right Side RJ-11
Gigabit Ethernet
eSATA/USB combination
Back Side VGA
AC Power Connection
Kensington Lock
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Dimensions 13.21" x 9.30" x 1.23" (WxDxH)
Weight Starting at 4.9 lbs (with 6-cell battery)
Extras Bluetooth 2.0
2.0MP Webcam
Integrated TrackPoint
Multitouch Touchpad
SD/MMC/MS Pro Flash reader
Warranty 3-year warranty, onsite repairs
1-year battery warranty
Pricing 8440w-FN093UT for $1649 from HP Business

But even without a quad-core or a high end GPU, the 8440w is a pretty formidable beast, boasting enough computing horsepower to acquit itself well for mobile CAD work and most reasonable tasks. Obviously, it won't replace the power of a workstation-class desktop or anything like that, but is it good enough for on-the-go design work? Let's find out.

HP EliteBook 8440w - In and Around
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  • sheltem - Saturday, August 14, 2010 - link

    Displayport also enables the usage of more than 2 monitors driven by a single card because a native it's digital signal does not require a ramdac.
  • mrphones - Saturday, August 14, 2010 - link

    I have been using the Elitebook line of laptops at my company now for 2 years. The 6930P and now the 8440P. The only thing I was disappointed with HP about was they changed the docking station. All my previous models, NC6400, 6910P and 6930P models could use the same docking stations. Why HP did this, I don't know, but I have 12 of these 8440P models and they are nice.
  • KorruptioN - Sunday, August 15, 2010 - link

    Apparently this is because the current docking station connection cannot accommodate the DisplayPort traffic. I'm not too happy about it either, but oh well...
  • DanaG - Monday, August 16, 2010 - link

    The reason they changed it is for the DisplayPort availability, after all. If you get the 15" or 17" EliteBook with ATI, you can use up to 5 of the following ports at once, thanks to Eyefinity:

    On the laptop: LVDS (internal panel), VGA, DisplayPort.
    On the fanciest dock: 2 DVI, 2 DisplayPort.

    Regarding high-DPI, that's one reason I can't use desktops: all desktop displays have utter crap DPI. I wish I could buy even a laptop display (DreamColor 2* would be best) in a desktop enclosure!

    * 15" or 17", 1920x1080 or 1920x1200 (respectively), IPS, 30-bit color.
  • kasakka - Saturday, August 14, 2010 - link

    Seems like it still has that crappy touchstrip for volume controls and whatnot. It just works poorly in my experience.

    Also it's strange that they went with the full size Displayport instead of the Mini-Displayport. I guess they figured that since they're keeping that bulky VGA might have the full size DP too.

    To be honest I don't find the Elitebook line-up particularly impessive at all. A bit too bulky, mediocre keyboard and trackpad.
  • dlineate - Saturday, August 14, 2010 - link

    I propose adding the Sony Vaio Z to the list.

    13.1" 1600x900, i5-540M/i6-620M, 1-2 64-256GB SSDs,
    BlueRay R, etc.. etc.
    All in ~3lbs! (starting @ ~$1900)
    Best of all, 1920x1080 display avail for only an extra $100.
    I know that's a crazy resolution, but bump your font size and you can still get more in your text editor because it'll be so crisp.

    Anyways, for portable workstations, I rate them proportional to $screen_res/$weight, with a constraint on weight to ~5lbs. This thing is by far the best by that metric imho.
    I mostly code, not compile or game, so I don't care about the CPU or GPU.

    Of course, the cost does approach infinity as weight approaches 0. =)

    Apparently in Europe you can get a kit that swaps the optical drive for standard hard drive, which I'd use to compliment a 64G SSD (which are not standard sizes).

    Other reviews say it's pretty sturdy. I'd love to see Anand review this.
    Or better, give one away.

    My only gripe is that it's a Sony, so getting *nix/bsd support likely a pita. I used to use a Picturebook, but they implement hardware in so many non-standard ways (glued together w/ windows "drivers") that I swore never again. Will probably change my mind though if no one else ever manufactures a small high res display ever again.

    PS What happened to the more reasonably priced Thinkpad X201s w/ 12" 1400x900?
  • strikeback03 - Saturday, August 14, 2010 - link

    Obviously what you call a workstation depends on what work you do with it, but I imagine they require professional level GPUs to call something a workstation. And the ThinkPad T series are not included in their list, so there must be more options they are considering.

    This HP keyboard has the FN key in the wrong spot and still has the stupid strip of buttons to the right of Backspace/Enter/shift, so I still very much prefer the Thinkpad keyboard.
  • seanleeforever - Monday, August 16, 2010 - link

    complete agree with strikeback03

    i have a elitebook for over half a year now and i could not stop complaining the stupid volume stripe (Vivek, did you even try to play that volume control at all? it is utterly useless and the single most stupid thing anyone can put on a laptop, let alone a BUSINESS laptop), i challenge you to precisely control volume to 20% 50% and 75%, then go back to 20%.. guess what, you cannot do it without overshoot and undershoot.

    the keyboard is great... really? you got to use some better keyboards because you standard is really too low. HP keyboard is alright. their texture and curvature and feedback response is lacking (but i suppose this is personal preference, many like Sony and apple's no feedback keyboard and i just hate them absolutely).

    now.. like strikeback03 said. the FN key is in the wrong place (as well as all other non-thinkpad keyboards). case in point, measure the distance of the 'ctrl' and 'z' 'x' 'c' of your favorite desktop keyboard, and measure that on thinkpad/hp notebook keyboard, you will find the thinkpad keyboard provides better travel distance when you perform copy/paste/undo.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, August 17, 2010 - link

    On the keyboard layout, I couldn't disagree more! But then, it's totally a personal preference. Anand likes the Fn key in the bottom-left with the CTRL in what position. I can't stand that arrangement and invariably hit "Fn+C" and "Fn+V" (and various other combinations) when I want the CTRL key. You may be correct in saying that the CTRL key is closer to the CVXZ on ThinkPad, but then on virtually any destkop keyboard there's so much more space between the keys that I can't say I prefer the "close" arrangement.

    I also played with the 8440w and found it to be a decent system overall, but just too expensive. I could easily type without any major complaints, and the system feels very sturdy. Get a Quadro FX 880M in there (48 cores) and this would have been a much better mobile workstation.
  • Kishkumen - Saturday, August 14, 2010 - link

    Great review! I've been pondering upon the merits of the elitebook line for some time. I especially appreciate all the attention to detail you gave the LCD (as well as mentioning other good Matte display options though limited they may be). I hate how much LCD quality is glossed over in reviews (pun intended). Your review was everything I needed. Looking forward to your future work.

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