If geeks love it, we’re on it

HP EliteBook 8740W Mobile Workstation review conclusion

HP EliteBook 8740W Mobile Workstation review conclusion

This is the final part of our in-depth look at the HP EliteBook 8740W. The story begins here.

Back in November, I got my hands on the HP EliteBook 8740W mobile workstation. I’ve been using it every single day, almost all day, since then. I’ve used it for work, for play, taken it with me to coffee shops, offices, restaurants, and used it in the car. I’ve pushed it hard, used it under a variety of scenarios, and gotten very comfortable with it.

I’ve come to completely rely on it.

If HP hadn’t given me this exquisite machine, I’d personally never consider purchasing a high-end mobile workstation like this. Now that I have it, I realize how lucky I am to be able to carry this much power around in a mobile form factor.

I’ve always found some deficiency in every laptop I’ve used over the years—most always in the performance department. I use a lot of Adobe software, for example, and I’ve always had trouble either in the areas of raw performance or display inadequacy. The screen is too washed out. The screen is too small. The hard drive is too slow. There’s not enough RAM.

This laptop blows all of those concerns out of the water. It has replaced my big desktop. I seriously unhooked my monitor from my primary desktop computer and bought a Displayport cable so I could do a dual monitor setup, because I just don’t need my desktop anymore.

I’ve thought about it a lot, and I think the dealmaker here is the display. Yes, the EliteBook has a lot going for it, but the 30-bit DreamColor display driven by the NVIDIA Quadro 5000M is the killer app. I’ve said it a million times, but this is without a doubt the most beautiful display I’ve ever seen. It’s the icing on an already stellar cake. In many ways, it has completely ruined all other displays for me. My giant 24″ 1920×1200 Samsung display that’s sitting here on my desktop now looks sad and washed out. I see other people’s laptops and I think, “How can they work on that thing?”

There is a fundamental question that must be asked, however: Is this laptop worth buying?

The answer to that is complex, for it depends a great deal on who you are and what you need it for.

Who it is, and isn’t, for

NVIDIA Quadro 5000M

One of the key bits that sets the 8740W apart from the rest—the NVIDIA Quadro 5000M

Let’s get one thing clear right off the bat: The HP EliteBook 8740W is not for most people. If the average computer user/enthusiast/gamer simply doesn’t need to spend nearly $5,000 on a laptop. This is one of those situations which goes like this: If you need it, you know you need it.

When professionals search for gear in this range, however, they still have to be very discerning. A machine like this is an investment in a business or an education; this is the kind of thing you earn with. Therefore, it has to be nearly perfect. The devil is in the details, and that’s where the EliteBook 8740W truly stands out.

I have to make one thing clear: according to everything I’ve seen and read, this is currently the only laptop in the world that has official Adobe Mercury Playback Engine support. I’m not going to say it is the only laptop in the world that can run MPE, because there are DIY laptops and hacks that allow other video cards to run MPE, but it stands to say again: If you want official MPE support, this is your baby. Adobe currently lists the 5000M as the only mobile video card to support it, and NVIDIA lists the HP EliteBook 8740W as your only choice on their product page for the 5000M.

MPE is a game-changer. It is a vast leap forward in Adobe Premiere Pro performance, and if you want to take Adobe Premiere Pro on the road with you, I will confidently say that this is the absolute best machine in the world for that situation right now.

But that’s really not the whole story. We are talking about a mobile workstation with an NVIDIA Quadro 5000M inside. That’s quite a technology feat, especially considering that just a year ago we were going gaga over the Fermi architecture and the heat and power issues associated with it. They’ve chained the beast, so to speak, and have crammed it nicely into a quiet, tight little package that just hums along merrily while a nuclear blast furnace is raging inside, mere inches away from my fingers. Let’s not forget, we’re talking of a slightly less powerful version of the workstation monster that earned our coveted Golden Fedora (the only GPU to ever do so on Icrontic,) the Quadro 6000, which Bobby Miller called “the fastest workstation card alive“. My benchmarks in CAD/CAM performance are telling, and our friends over at SolidSmack also pushed the 8740W through some very specific GPU- and CPU-crushing tests.

So, if you’re a CAD/CAM professional, a 3D modeler, or a content creation professional, this is also a very compelling machine for you.

Going back to DreamColor. HP bundles some very high-end color calibration  tools and they take the DreamColor system very seriously. You can select various pro color spaces on the fly, such as Adobe RGB, sRGB, SMPTE (Rec. 601) for video work, DCI-P3 Emulation, etc. These are all profiles that are standards in their respective industries, and are a pain in the ass to achieve with non-pro gear. The HP Mobile Display Assistant that is bundled with the 8740W is an HP-badged version of DisplayTune by Portrait Displays.

HP Mobile Display Assistant

The main interface of the display tuning software

The Icrontic Golden FedoraSo, if you are a photographer or print graphic designer that relies on accurate color reproduction with a calibrated display, and you want to go mobile, this is the computer for you.

Everything else is just sort of a bonus… the fingerprint scanner (which has thoroughly spoiled me now that I have it configured for a variety of websites, and get annoyed when I have to actually type passwords,) the amazing keyboard (which I am desperately in love with,) the surprisingly high-quality dual microphones, the 2.0mp integrated webcam, the beautiful magnesium chassis, the tight hinges and other fit-and-finish details, and the fact that I can play every game I own on high settings all add up to one final conclusion: This is the best computer I’ve ever owned.

Icrontic is proud to grant the HP EliteBook 8740W our coveted Golden Fedora, an award reserved for products that are exceptional in every way. I cannot really name a downside to this fine machine. For professionals who want to go mobile, this is the laptop you’ve been waiting for.

We do have an affiliate program with HP; if this review helped you make a purchase decision, we’d appreciate it if you made your purchase through our link. Click on the HP logo to get there:

Review compensation disclosure: We were compensated with an HP EliteBook 8740W to keep for the purposes of this review. See our full disclosure statement here.


  1. QCH
    QCH Well... SOMEONE has a Laptop-Crush. :D

    It sure sounds like HP has hit this one out of the ballpark. :thumbsup:
  2. fatcat
    fatcat my only issue with this laptop is they put a $65 hard drive in a $5000 laptop. For that price I expect some OCZ Vertex 2's Raid_0 with a 1TB mechanical for backup/files

    and that you could buy a motorcycle for $5k :)
  3. deepsea
    deepsea I can't justify the price - my little mechanical design sideline doesn't generate that kind of revenue - but it's one of those things that would make it much more enjoyable. Maybe I'd even learn how to do some photo renders and create a real portfolio...ah, probably not. I don't think I really want more work right now...

    Still, an awesome setup, great review.
  4. QCH
    deepsea wrote:
    I can't justify the price - my little mechanical design sideline doesn't generate that kind of revenue.
    Well, I've quoted out several workstations at well over $10,000. I've never found a laptop that met my drafting users needs so they just accept that laptops are for meetings and maybe removing into their workstations. THIS laptop is different. They can get, maybe 90%, of their workstation but be portable. Now, my users REALLY need a really high end system. I think 90% of drafting/CAD users would be just happy with this laptop. So.. I think I MAY request one of these to see if my users like it. Wonder if it is EPEAT compliant?
  5. tmh88
    tmh88 I was looking at other models of the 8740W and I noticed there is one version that is nearly identical aside from having a 3800M instead of the 5000M. They're also anywhere from $1200-1600 cheaper.
  6. primesuspect
    primesuspect TMH brings up a good point: The 8740w is available in a variety of configurations, including SSD as a primary drive, a less expensive display setup, etc.
  7. photodude
    photodude If I was going to get a laptop today this would be at the top of my list of options.
  8. Rhonda Wow!! You're giving me all the reasons I need for wanting to buy this great piece of art. More and more I'm becoming involved with the workings, ins & outs of our company's online store. This is just what I need to be able to show them that I can stay on top of needed changes and maybe even show them ideas I may have for changes or modifications that will help grow the business.

    Thanks for sharing your review!
  9. primesuspect
  10. Alan languirand Have you compared this to a current mbp? All the things you love about this, minus the latest gpu, is what I've loved about my Mac book pro since I bought it in 2007.
  11. primesuspect
    primesuspect Show me a macbook pro that has a Quadro 5000 in it. A fingerprint scanner. A 30-bit IPS 1920x1200 display.

    Sorry, the display alone puts any Macbook to shame. Yes, I've seen the latest macbook pros. The displays don't hold a candle to this.
  12. Thrax
    Thrax A Macbook Pro? Seriously? Back away from the koolaid.
  13. UPSLynx
    UPSLynx But guys, it's a MacBook Pro. It BLEEDS professional applications!!!!1
  14. jedihobbit
    jedihobbit Hummmmm.......after dropping all the money in trying to wc two systems, this comes closest to what the wife means when she says "Why can't you be like everybody an have just one computer like a laptop"! ;D

    :rockon: Nice review, almost makes me want to see what I've missed as I haven't used a real CADD program in 15 years! Also could possiblly convert me to the dark side! :shakehead
  15. litenku
    litenku So is the killer app for this the display, or the display plus Fermi-sourced GPU? I know you can get the Dreamcolor display on a far cheaper GPU.
  16. primesuspect
    primesuspect It depends on what you're using it for; but overall I'd say the killer app is the Quadro 5000M. It's the only laptop out there that's using it, and that makes it the only laptop out there that can do Adobe MPE.

    The display is icing on top of a massively powerful GPU.
  17. Kevin Hey Guys

    I'm thinking of buying one of these babies...couple of questions:

    - can you buy a 3rd party hard drive and swap it with the supplied one? Or will it only take HP models?

    - if you get it with say 4GB RAM and you want to up that to 6 or 8, will you have to ditch the 2x2 GB sticks in order to maintain symmetrical pairs? Or can you just add a 3rd stick of RAM?

  18. primesuspect
    primesuspect Hi Kevin:

    Yes, you can buy any hard drive you want and it will work, but you'll need to download some of the HP driver packages (for the fingerprint swipe and SecureTools, etc.). Just make sure you hit the HP support site for all the latest driver packages and you'll be fine.

    I would recommend symmetrical pairs of memory.

Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!