Last year we took a very thorough look at what HP was doing in the mobile workstation space with the 10-part EliteBook 8740W project (the conclusion can be found here). The short of it is: the EliteBook 8740W was a very, very impressive machine. It still is. Editing video on the NVIDIA Quadro 5000M is a stunning experience, and still remains faster than most desktops.
Thus, when HP told us they were sending us their newer model, the EliteBook 8760W, the first thought was, “How much better can it get?”
The 8740W that’s still here on the Icrontic testbench got a breath of new life with the recent addition of a Seagate Momentus XT 750gb hybrid drive; so of course it’s even faster than it was when we first tested it. Therfore, when I say the 8760W is a great deal faster than the 8740w, try to understand how significant that is.
The specs of the machine that HP sent to us are as follows:
- HP EliteBook 8760W mobile workstation (ENERGY STAR) XU100UT
- Intel Core i7 2820QM
- NVIDIA Quadro 5010M
- 16GB Micron DDR3
- Crucial M300 256gb SSD
- 1920×1080 DreamColor display
As configured, this laptop currently retails at ~$6500 US. The SSD, Quadro 5010M, and DreamColor display all add significantly to the cost; without these high-end components, the base price is closer to $3000.
First, let’s look at what they’ve updated from the 8740W
Differences between 8760w and 8740W
The first, most obvious difference is that the 8760W resides in a completely different chassis than its predecessor. The new shell looks a great deal sleeker than the 8740W; the radial brushed steel around the newly “light up” HP emblem on the top is especially cool:
The 8760W is shallower than the 8740W by about an inch:
But at the same time, it’s also wider by about a half an inch (the 8740W is on top):
Overall, widening it while making it shallower gives it a sleeker look.
The port layout is a lot better than the 8740W: The power cord is on the rear (a place it should be on all laptops), and there are two USB ports on the right, next to the audio and mic jacks (on the 8740W the audio jacks are, annoyingly, on the front). The left side sports three USB jacks: two are USB 3.0 and one is a combo eSATA/USB 2 port. There is also a gigabit network jack, a 1394 port and a DisplayPort connector on the left. If you need a 56K modem (?) there is a small phone jack on the rear right corner. There’s also an analog video connector (D-sub) on the right side near the back if you have an old projector or something.
The 8760W does away with the touch-style buttons above the keyboard that the 8740W sported. The Wi-fi, audio mute, quick-launch web browser and calculator buttons are all discrete buttons that you cannot possibly “accidentally” press like you can with sensitive touch buttons.
The keyboard is the same type of keyboard that’s on the Envy line. It’s a lot like a keyboard on a Mac or a Google CR-48 Chromebook. It looks nicer than the 8740W, but some may prefer the older style keyboard of the 8740W, as it feels more substantial. The backlighting is still present, but it’s not as noticeable as it was on the 8740W. In honesty, this reviewer prefers the 8740W’s keyboard. Still, the 8760W keyboard is much nicer than most laptops I’ve used, and I’d take this thing in a heartbeat, even as a desktop keyboard. There are still two three-button mouse selections for those who are used to that: Both the touchpad and nub-mouse are still here. The touchpad is multi-touch and supports gestures such as pinch-to-zoom.
The Validity fingerprint sensor is still on-board, a feature that once you get used to is hard to stop using. Finger-swipes to log in are something every laptop should support.
One glaring difference between the 8740W and 8760W (no pun intended) is the resolution of the DreamColor display; the 8740w sports a 1920×1200 display while the newer 8760W has been reduced to 1080p: 1920×1080. The screen is still as beautiful as the 8740W, it’s still 30-bit, and still features the HP Mobile Display Assistant, but it’s just slightly lower resolution. An argument could be made that 1920×1080 makes more sense for video work, but I still cringe at the concept of losing those hundred and twenty horizontal lines; on a workstation you need as much screen real estate as possible. For most people this won’t be a problem, but just be aware that if you are looking for 1920×1200, you cannot order an 8760W with that resolution.
The bottom of the laptop is, strangely, one of the most exciting parts of the 8760W. In one of those “every manufacturer needs to stop what they’re doing and emulate this immediately” moments, the 8760W’s entire bottom access panel comes off without a screwdriver, a triumph in laptop design. You simply slide a switch to the full unlock position and the bottom panel pops right off. It’s made of metal so there’s no fear of cheap plastic tabs breaking off. Once the bottom panel is gone, you have access to all the guts: The two HD bays, the memory modules, the expansion cards. It’s a triumph of laptop chassis engineering, and I am in love:
And last, we have the NVIDIA Quadro 5010M, an upgrade from the 5000M that was in the previous model. We talked to NVIDIA to ask them what some of the key differentiators were between the two, and Quadro mobile product line manager Shawn Worsell came back with this,
“Compared with our previous generation, ultra high-end flagship 5000M, the NVIDIA Quadro 5010M steals the crown to become the new ‘king’ of mobile GPUs, featuring double the dedicated frame buffer size of the 5000M, with 4GB of fast GDDR5 memory to enable interactivity on the largest projects, plus 64 more CUDA cores. Similar to the 5000M, the Quadro 5010M also features Error Correction Code (ECC) and fast, 64-bit double precision capabilities to ensure the greatest accuracy and fidelity of results for professional applications.”
So there you have it. The 5010M is the absolute top-of-the-line mobile workstation GPU that NVIDIA makes. In CUDA applications, those extra 64 cores should make quite a difference. Let’s find out.
The benchmark runs were very surprising on this new computer. I didn’t expect the CPU to make that much of an improvement over the 8740W, but the numbers don’t lie.
Since this is a content creation workstation, we’ll run the same DCC benchmarks that we use on discrete workstation GPUs such as the AMD FirePro and NVIDIA Quadro. First up is CineBench R11.5:
The OpenGL numbers are astounding for a laptop. 69.92FPS at 100W TDP. To put that in perspective, look at our own Quadro 6000 review. The Quadro 6000 is NVIDIA’s flagship discrete workstation GPU. This mobile part actually benchmarks higher than every card on that chart. Even the AMD FirePro V9800 falls to the 5010M by 4FPS. I checked the power consumption during this test: for the entire laptop it was 121w. The 5010M TDP is listed as 100W and it crunches out numbers like that. Pretty damned impressive.
The CPU test is about where you would expect. It’s at the top of the charts for quad core CPUs and the only way to score higher is to throw more cores at the benchmark. What’s most impressive is that, at 2.3ghz, it still scores slightly higher than the Core i7 960 running at 3.2ghz. Again, for a mobile platform, it really doesn’t get better than this.
SPECviewperf tells a similar tale:
It’s important to note that our Quadro 6000 numbers come from a Phenom II six-core system that’s two years old at this point; the Core i7 2820QM CPU is certainly helping pump data into the Quadro 5010M faster than the Phenom II could get data to the Quadro 6000. In an equivalent desktop workstation with a modern Intel CPU, chances are the Quadro 6000 would score higher than the Quadro 5010M in every test; still, comparing it to the Quadro 5000M numbers should tell the story: The 8760W outperforms its older brother the 8740W in almost every test.
Of course, the Quadro 5010M is not meant for gaming; but hey, even hardcore DCC pros, engineers, and video editors like to break it down and play some games every now and then. Will the 8760W handle your gaming needs? Yes.
It scores a P3027 on 3DMark 2011, which puts it on par with most modern video cards for gaming. Skyrim runs on “high” settings, at 40-60FPS consistently. You’ll be able to play your games on the road (although you will have to be plugged in).
Speaking of plugging in, we also ran FutureMark’s new battery benchmark PowerMark. As was explained in the 8740W review, these workstations are not really meant to run on batteries. The workstation GPU is just too much for any real battery usage; besides, these machines are too big for your lap anyways. PowerMark puts the battery life of the stock 8-cell battery at 2 hours 08 minutes under load. That’s an hour longer than the 8740W, so at least there’s that.
One of the tasks that these particular EliteBooks excel at is video editing. As we covered extensively in the 8740W review, these are almost purpose-built for video editing when you consider the Mercury Playback Engine in Adobe Creative Suite 5 and CS 5.5 and how well it performs with the Quadro GPUs.
We opted to run PPBM5, a standardized benchmark for Adobe Premiere Pro CS 5.5. It gives results with both MPE enabled and disabled, and helps compare the system to others on the exact same content. The scores broke down like this (the numbers are seconds; the lower the better):
- Disk I/O: 116
- MPEG2-DVD: 169
- H.264: 86
- MPE: 7
With MPE OFF, the last score is 109—A 15x decrease. We’ll go as far as to say that Mercury Playback Engine is required for Adobe Premiere Pro work.
To put those numbers in perspective, see the global benchmark results at the PPBM5 site; the top-scoring computer in the world is a 12-core Xeon workstation with 48GB of RAM and an SSD RAID. This laptop falls somewhere around #277 on that global chart. Top 300 in the world, and one of the only laptops that even appears in that list. She’s plenty fast enough for you, old man.
As we mentioned in my 8740W reviews, the DreamColor display is just stunning. It’s by far the nicest mobile display I’ve ever personally seen. If you’re a video editor or graphic arts professional, you need the DreamColor display. The DreamColor display is a 30-bit IPS panel that really is the only proper pairing with the 30-bit color support that the Quadro 5010M provides. Pairing the Quadro 5010M with a lesser display would be like serving pate de foie gras with Diet Pepsi. Just… look, if you’re spending the money, just get the wine, bro.
Worth the upgrade?
If you’re a professional who needs mobile video editing, the HP EliteBook 8760W is for you. The price premium introduced by the features required for good mobile video editing, however, are steep. You’ll need a similarly configured machine: SSD, DreamColor IPS display, Quadro 5010M. Of course, if you’re a professional video editor, this machine is the Ferrari of mobile solutions, and it will serve you well. Throw that aforementioned 750gb hybrid SSD drive in the second bay and revel in the glory that is your mobile movie studio.
If you are already invested in the EliteBook 8740W, this upgrade is significant, but may not be worth the price premium. It’s faster, but not world-changing faster. If mobile CUDA performance is critical to your workflow (like our own Allen Pan who does mobile robotics development on CUDA and built his own external GPU for the task), this machine could be a lifesaver for your work. It all depends on what your needs are.
As far as just a laptop build goes, it’s hard reviewing the best of the best. Other than the high cost and the disappointing downgrade to 1080p from 1920×1200, there isn’t anything bad to say about the HP EliteBook 8760W as configured this way. It represents the pinnacle of performance in a mobile form factor—it’s essentially the fastest mobile workstation money can buy. We really have no trouble awarding the HP EliteBook 8760W the Icrontic Golden Fedora, our award for best-in-class product excellence—it is a truly remarkable machine.
The HP EliteBook 8760W Mobile Workstation starts at $1929 and is available immediately.