HP EliteBook 8730W
Product Review: Page (1) of 1 - 12/23/08 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at MyDmn.com).print page facebook
HP EliteBook 8730W Mobile workstation with power By John Virata

Hewlett Packard has been known for years for its solid workstations. The company has been an innovator when it comes to content creation machines, even supplying its own designed graphics adapters in the late 1990s to power its visual systems. When the company decides to enter the market, it does so with a lot of thought, offering systems that are unique from what is currently available from its competitors, yet still remaining price competitive. The company's latest mobile offering is such a system. Housed in a sleek gunmetal enclosure, the EliteBook 8730W is surprisingly stylish for a workstation class notebook computer.

The EliteBook 8730W is built around the 2.53Ghz Intel Core 2 Extreme Q9300 CPU with 3GB RAM, a 160GB, 7200RPM hard disk drive, and the 1GB NVIDIA Quadro FX 3700m CUDA parallel processing graphics processor powering the EliteBook 8730W's 17-inch, 1920 x 1200 max resolution Dreamcolor display. That is right, the same display technology co-developed with Dreamworks Animation is built into the display of the EliteBook. This system shipped with Windows XP, the operating system from Microsoft that won't go away. It is also available with Windows Vista preinstalled.

The Bluetooth-capable and WiFi-enabled EliteBook 8730W  features a multi-card reader on the front of the unit (with support for SD, Memory Stick/PRO, MMC, and XD) next to the headphone and microphone ports. On the right side of the system you'll find three USB 2.0 ports, an e-SATA port and the Blu-Ray/DVD-RW drive. You can also forgo the Blu Ray drive and opt for a second SATA II hard disk drive in its place, allowing for RAID 1 mirroring or RAID 0 striping.

The left side of the unit has an additional USB 2.0 port plus a 4-pin IEE 1394 FireWire port, A PC Card slot, a VGA port for hooking up projectors and other external display devices, and an HDMI port. The display bezel also houses a webcam. There are no peripheral ports on the rear of the unit, though the bottom of the unit features a dock, so you can dock the EliteBook.  The EliteBook 8730W  also sports a full size keyboard with number pad, a black pointing device (made famous by IBM's ThinkPad) between the G,H, B, and N keys, and a fingerprint reader on the wrist rests.

I've been running Adobe's CS4 Creative suite on this system for the last several weeks, and things couldn't be smoother. Of course, new systems always run things generally snappier, but coming off an AMD Athlon X2 series, well, let's just say things are no longer a wait and wait. With regard to testing, the EliteBook 8730W beat the last system with the same configuration that we tested, the Lenovo ThinkPad W700 in Test 3, Test 5, and Test 6 of the After Effects, while it lost out to the Lenovo in Test 2. It tied the Lenovo in Test 1 and Test 4. It also tied the Lenovo in the Adobe Photoshop test and did slightly better in the Cinebench R10 test. The system handled other everyday tasks fairly easily, with no real issues.

Results in minutes: seconds
Version of After Effects used: CS4
Hewlett Packard EliteBook,2.53Ghz Intel Core 2 Extreme Q9300 CPU, 3GB RAM, NVIDIA Quadro FX 3700m (1GB) Windows XP SP 2   
 Test 1: Animation:   2 seconds 
Test 2: Video Composite   16 seconds   
Test 3: Data Project:      29 seconds
 Test 4: Gambler:     12 seconds 
Test 5: Source Shapes:         37 seconds 
Test 6: Virtual Set Final Comp:     34 seconds  
CineBench r10   (Check Cinebench.com for more results )     
 CPU Benchmark Rendering 1 CPU  3033 CB-CPU    
 CPU Benchmark Rendering multiple CPU   9815 CB-CPU   
 Multiprocessor speedup     3.24x
 OpenGL Benchmark        
OpenGL Standard test     4227 CB-GFX   
Single CPU Render Test     3033
Multiple CPU Render Test         9815
Photoshop CS4 Gaussian Blur test (apply Gaussian blur with 6.3 radius on 9.51MB JPG image   3 seconds    

First Impressions
The EliteBook 8730 is a very fast mobile workstation and serves proficiently as a desktop replacement, especially for those working with Adobe's latest Creative Suite 4, which takes advantage of the CUDA graphics processing technology of the NVIDIA card. One of an often overlooked aspect of any workstation is its capability to run the latest creative applications. Not all vendors bother to certify their systems with the latest creative software, any some folks may think that a workstation is a workstation. Keep in mind that the companies that do certify their systems with the latest software have the customer's interest in mind. They don't have to expend the time and R&D to do so. The EliteBook 8730 is certified to run the latest applications and HP does have a list of certified apps on its website. It's another important point to consider when spending the money on a system.

I personally enjoy this system due to its cool look, construction, and speed. It features a gunmetal alloy shell, and the pins that lock the display down when not in use are also metal, giving it an original locking design. They close flush to the wrist rests, and lock into place nicely. Another nice trick is the volume control, which is located above the keyboard on the bezel. Slide your finger along the volume bar to the right and volume goes up. Slide to the left and volume goes down. Along the same lit panel above the keyboard is a calculator icon, WiFi, power button.

Performance is outstanding for a mobile system, though the fan is audible on occasion. The unit sports more expandability options than other systems, and the display is the nicest I've seen this year. The power brick is just that. It is definitely an unwieldy brick to keep the unit humming, but anything less and you'd probably get a meltdown. In all the EliteBook 8730w is a solid mobile workstation that offers kick ass graphics, a beautiful display, and an almost military/industrial look that gives the EliteBook an aura of power. It's a killer system for sure, and it's pricey, but in this case pricey gives you the best.

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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at [email protected]
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