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HP EliteBook 8440w Notebook Review

by The Review CrewMay 30, 2010

Workstations traditionally conjure up images of large, hulking boxes with lots of power—gaming rigs without the flair, almost. HP’s new EliteBook 8440w changes that perception with a workstation that won’t induce a hernia by carrying it. While not the most powerful of notebooks, the Core i7 processor and discrete graphics in this $1,649 EliteBook put it near the top of the pack in this system’s weight class, and its business-rugged design will help keep your investment (and data) safe and sound.

The 8440w continues in the same aesthetic tradition as other EliteBooks: the lid and palm rest are made of anodized aluminum, and the keyboard area is a matte black plastic. Distinguishing the Workstation line from other EliteBooks, the metal on the 8440w and its ilk are a dark gunmetal gray, as opposed to the brighter platinum finish on the EliteBook 8440p. We actually prefer the 8440w’s look; it has an elegant yet slightly menacing feel, which is something you want in a mobile workstation. This thing says, “I mean business.”

At 5.6 pounds (5.4 pounds with a six-cell battery), the 8440w isn’t as portable as the spate of ULV systems appearing these days, but neither is it as heavy or bulky as such mobile monsters as the Lenovo ThinkPad W700, or even the EliteBook 8730w. As with its performance, the 8440w’s design is a nice compromise of the two extremes.

Above the keyboard are a select few touch-enabled controls. From the left: HP’s QuickLook 3, Web browser launch, wireless, touchpad, mute, and volume controls. At the bottom right of the keyboard deck is an optional fingerprint reader.

Keyboard and Touchpad

Since its previous EliteBooks, HP changed the key design slightly; no longer are the keys the traditional, chamfered style, nor are they chiclet-shaped. Rather, they’re a combination of the two: while abutting one another at their base, the keys tier up in a terraced fashion. We found the layout to be comfortable to type on and fairly quiet. The keyboard boasts HP’s DuraKeys, which help prevent wear over the long term.

Like Lenovo, HP offers both a pointing stick and touchpad. However, HP’s is concave rather than convex. The slight depression is intended to help secure your finger, but we found ours slipping a little more than on Lenovo’s.

The 1.4 x 2.8-inch touchpad is a little squashed—we had to backtrack a bit while scrolling down pages. On the plus side, it offered very little resistance, unlike the glossy touchpads found on the Mini 5102 and the Pavilion lines.

Software, Warranty, and Support

In addition to SkyRoom, QuickLook 3, and QuickWeb, HP includes a number of utilities, including Recovery Manager (for Windows 7 and Vista systems), Power Assistant, Client Manager Software, Client Configuration Management Agent, OpenView PC Configuration Management Solutions, and HP Performance Tuning Framework.

At $1,649, the HP EliteBook 8440w is on the expensive side for a Core i7 system with a midrange graphics card, but its price also reflects the sturdiness, security, and support that comes with a system of this caliber. Still, with the portability of the 8440w comes some trade-offs; its graphics card is not nearly as powerful as larger workstations, which may turn off some potential buyers. But with better-than-average performance, as well as strong runtime for a system this powerful, the EliteBook 8440w is a durable notebook with the muscle to back up its good looks.

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The Review Crew
The Review Crew is a group of beat editors, writers, and consultants that have been working together for years. They know just about everything about everything collectively and have published their collective work under the Review Crew brand moniker for almost 20 years.