Home Reviews Computers HP’s business EliteBooks reach a new level of reliability

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HP makes a range of notebooks that consumers seldom see. Branded EliteBook, these are for business customers that want maximum reliability and data protection for mission critica applications.

HP was the world’s largest computing company – and I use the term to cover everything from tablets to servers and much more. It is no longer so – eclipsed by the more consumer oriented Samsung, Apple, and Foxconn in that order - but could be again if its strategies work to counter the gradual decline in the PC market.

Its success has always been in the enterprise sector where entire organisations used HP’s own equipment and services - it all worked well together and reduced the system administrator’s workload. Indisputably, an all-HP user base was easiest to maintain. It enjoyed some success in the very crowded consumer market, but there were too many other dominant makers like Asus, Acer, and Sony.

I use a three year old, Intel Core i7 EliteBook 2560p – a legacy of my former enterprise work life - and it has been great. Solid, reliable, and a little boring. Its major advantage is that its docking station supports two 1080p monitors and adds more USB ports.

In order to see how EliteBooks have progressed I spent a week with the 10.6” Revolve 810 G2, the 14” Folio 1040 G1, and for comparison the newest ‘prosumer’ oriented Spectre 13 Pro.

First impressions are that EliteBooks are still solid and reliable – but they have added a certain style to the conservative square edged notebooks of the past. They actually have style – especially the Spectre.

The biggest changes over my EliteBook are:

  • Weight is considerably down – all three are under 1.5Kg and two are approximately 15mm thick. A big change from 2kg+ models of old. In part this is due to being based on Intel UltraBook designs so there is no internal DVD player
  • Use of Intel’s 4th generation Haswell i5 and i7 Core processors. These are not significantly faster but they increase battery life from 3 hours to 8 hours plus
  • Solid-state drives increase speed, reduce boot time, weight, and power consumption
  • Batteries integrated into the chassis – no more external, user swappable ones. This is not as much of an issue due to the longer battery life. If necessary users can buy an ‘Energiser energy to go’ XP18000 that will give another 6-8 hours life
  • Touch has crept into the EliteBook range in the Revolve and Spectre. Touch on a notebook is a good thing but most enterprise users will still use the older Windows 7 style desktop
  • Docking stations options are still available for the EliteBooks using a proprietary connector. The Spectre misses out but a USB 3.0 dock can provide much the same functionality
  • A HD 1080p screen looks so much better than a typical 1600 x 900 screen
  • Elitebooks remain with DisplayPort as the external video connector as it will support two external 1080p screens. The Spectre uses HDMI and one miniDisplayPort
  • Elitebook Revolve has a dedicated Ethernet connection and the 1040 uses a dongle that fits into the docking connector. The Spectre requires an inexpensive USB 3.0 to Ethernet adaptor – but a dock adds a lot more functionality

I was able to compare three screen sizes at once – 11.6, 13.3, 14” as well as standard 15.6” screen that seemed enormous by comparison. In order to reduce bias – I use 2 x 24” screens attached to my Elitebook – I asked a power user to spend some time with these four units. The result – he preferred the 14” screen to all others! I have to agree and it is only about 12mm larger in length and depth that the 13.3 and weights almost the same.

From top - Revolve 11.6", Spectre 13", Folio 14" and a 15.6" notebook

From the top - Revolve 11.6", Spectre 13", Folio 14" and a 15.6" notebook

Outcome

EliteBooks remain a leading choice for business. They are faster, lighter, and marginally cheaper than previous models. You can order them with Windows 7 or 8; 32 or 64-bit; standard, premium, professional or enterprise or even FreeDOS – whatever suits your total corporate environment.

HP EliteBook 810 G2

The unique selling point of this model is the revolving 11.6” touch screen that folds back onto the keyboard to form a tablet. Sure – it is a 22.2mm thick, 1.5kg one. It passes MIL-STD 810G and has a spill resistant keyboard and magnesium chassis. It is a good travelling companion.

Price range from $2,118 to $2,799 for the i5 and i7 respectively with the latter having 8GB ram and 256GB SSD.

The touch screen is 1366 x 768 resolution – it is clear but a 1080p screen would have made this spectacular.

The G2 version has Wi-FI AC; Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC; 2 x USB 3.0 (one acts as an external device charge port); microSD slot; 720p webcam; Ethernet port; DisplayPort; and a HP docking station connector.

My opinion – a good idea, reliable and rock solid that functions as promised. It will appeal to a corporate road warrior as long as screen size is not a priority. Rating - 7 out of 10.

HP EliteBook Folio 1040 G1

It is an Intel UltraBook design so it has to be thin (15.9mm), light (under 1.5kg), and have a handy backlit keyboard. HP has added a fingerprint reader, Smart Card slot, and HP Sure Start (some of its many security offerings) to this design.

It passes MIL-STD 810G testing for drop; functional shock; vibration; dust; humidity; altitude; high and low temperature; and temperature shock.

Prices range from $1,837 to $2,626 for top of the range with 1080p screen, 8GB RAM, i7 processor, and 256GB SSD. The latter is the one to buy – maximum performance and enough technology to stay current for a couple of years longer.

My only criticisms are (1) the lack of a user replaceable battery – a technician can do it (refer back the ‘Energi to go’ comment earlier) and (2) no Touch screen model – HP says it is coming soon.

The Folio gets Wi-Fi AC, Bluetooth 4.0, an Ethernet/VGA dongle (that plugs into the docking slot), 720p webcam, DisplayPort, 2 x USB 3.0 and a microSD slot.

My opinion – a premium model at a not too premium price that sets new standards for the EliteBook. It is the one to go for, especially with the docking station option. Rating - 9 out of 10.

HP Spectre 13 Pro

I called the touch Spectre a ‘prosumer’ model and there are subtle differences between this and EliteBooks. First is the design – it has a chocolate brown lid! Next, it has fewer options, and almost no corporate security options. Finally, it has Beats Audio – a concession to affluent consumers who will buy this stylish 13.3” notebook.

Prices range from $1,757 to $2,137 – the differences being more RAM, i7 processor, 256GB SSD and a 2560 x 1440 QHD screen in the latter.

Being more consumer oriented means it has a touch screen; HDMI and a mini DisplayPort - it supports two external monitors; a full SD slot; HD webcam; 2 x USB 3.0 ports (one charging port); Wi-Fi AC; and Bluetooth 4.0.

It weights under 1.5kg and is 15mm thick. An interesting feature is the new extra wide Windows 8 trackpad - it has two dedicated areas to bring up charms and other Tile gestures.

My one criticism is that its aluminium brushed alloy backlit keyboard is hard to see in certain light conditions – not a big issue.

My opinion – I liked it but the subtle differences put the Folio 1040 in front. It is a great notebook for corporate users that want a bit of style. It certainly proves HP can produce a desirable, stylish notebook but I question its choice of chocolate brown for the lid.

Other consumer reviews rate it from 7 to 9 out of 10 – I think it is an 8.

Summary

I think HP is suffering from an identity crisis – It has about 51 different notebook models including enterprise brands EliteBook, ElitePad, ProBook, and ZBook mobile workstation series and consumer brands Envy, Essential Business, Essential Home, Pavilion, Pro, Slate, SlateBook, and Spectre Pro. Add to that multiple operating system choices, different screen resolutions, an amazing range of desktops, workstations, all in ones, printers, etc., and its inventory must be killing it. One thing is for sure – lack of choice is not an issue.

HP has embarked on multi-year turnaround effort intended to revive growth, reduce its reliance on the consumer market, and move toward enterprise computing equipment and networking.

It is not alone. IBM, Dell, Lenovo, and Acer – its main enterprise rivals - have all recognised the need to be less hardware, and more service based enterprises.

HP remains one of the true ‘end to end’ computing companies that can deliver a total HP solution for enterprise customers.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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