Editors' note: Some of the features and design elements of the EliteBook 8560w Mobile Workstation are identical to the previous generation of this workstation, the HP EliteBook 8540w, so portions of this review are based on the 8540w review.
The HP EliteBook 8560w proves that a manufacturer can offer a powerful, secure, rugged mobile workstation that looks good, too. No, it probably won't be winning any beauty contests against an, but it isn't a big, bulky, boring rectangle, either. And more importantly it's highly configurable to suit a variety of users and it's built to take all manner of abuse.
As a laptop it still suffers from the performance bottlenecks associated with being mobile; a full-size desktop workstation will outperform it. But that doesn't mean it isn't capable of demanding tasks, and thanks to ample configuration options you can tailor it according to your needs. This includes a premium LCD for anyone who must have accurate colors. Battery life isn't as long as on power-sipping consumer models; however, there are ways of dealing with that. In the end, the EliteBook 8560w has no unusual shortcomings for a mobile workstation and is an excellent overall package.
If you want high-performance components and durability, but you don't need workstation-caliber graphics and performance or ISV (independent software vendor) certification, you may want to look at the EliteBook 8560p instead.
|Price as reviewed||$2,855|
|Processor||2.3GHz Intel Core i7 2820QM|
|Memory||16GB, 1,333MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||500GB 7,200rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel QM67 Express Chipset|
|Graphics||ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5850 with 1GB GDDR5|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Professional (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||15x10.1 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||8 pounds / 10.2 pounds|
Mobile workstations generally aren't purchased because they look good, but Hewlett-Packard at least tries to make its systems look less utilitarian. There's a subtle brushed radial pattern on the 8560w's lid with a backlit HP logo at the center and the chassis has an angular, chiseled look to it. It's a cleaner design than its predecessor's, but we're not crazy about it.
What's more important is that it's built to meet military standards (MIL-STD 810G) for vibration, dust, humidity, altitude, and high temperature. HP's updated the DuraCase chassis materials to make the 8560w tougher than previous EliteBook models (which were already pretty tough). This includes a stronger display enclosure and frame. To protect against bumps and drops, the 3D DriveGuard uses a three-axis digital accelerometer that parks the hard drive to minimize damage to your data. It's definitely made to take the abuse of travel, though our review system's travel weight was 10 pounds, of which 2 pounds was the power brick.
The backlit DuraKey island-style keyboard is extremely comfortable to use, with good response and no flex while typing. It also has a full number pad. The keys have a clear coating to reduce wear and the keyboard is spill-resistant and has drains should something spill on it. Above the keyboard are simple silver buttons for turning wireless on and off; launching a calculator and Web browser; and mute.
Below the keyboard is a spacious touch pad, which seems twice as large as the 8540w's. Like the keyboard, the pad is clear-coated to reduce wear, but it's also made from chemically strengthened glass. The surface is wonderfully smooth and provides just enough drag, perfect for multitouch gestures like pinch zoom. The touch pad is joined by a bright orange pointstick. Each side of the touch pad has a set of three user-programmable buttons for left and right clicks and scrolling up.
In general, no one likes to see a bunch of software preinstalled on a new laptop. For the most part, though, the stuff included with HP's EliteBook workstations is helpful for improving performance and security. The HP Performance Advisor gives you at-a-glance information about your system--everything from component details to performance monitoring--and can be used to optimize the system for individual applications as well as keep them and drivers up-to-date. It basically gives you a single interface for managing your hardware and software for peak performance.
With another application, the HP Power Assistant, you can easily manage power consumption, which is critical if you're trying to get work done before your battery empties out. Like the Performance Advisor, it provides a single easy-to-use interface for viewing and adjusting your power usage and battery life. There are a handful of profile presets or you can set up your own for specific needs. For each profile you can decide what services and devices are managed by the computer.
For security there's HP ProtectTools, which has options for complete data shredding for files, folders, and storage drives; drive encryption; and setting up preboot security. Should you forget your password, it has a SpareKey feature that lets you identify yourself by answering three personal questions. Our review system also had a fingerprint scanner that made it easier to set up all of these features in addition to adding another layer of security. Lastly, HP includes Computrace LoJack Pro, which can do a remote wipe of the system and help locate the laptop should it be lost or stolen.
The 8560w can be configured with one of three LED-backlit LCDs. The base model uses a 1,600x900-pixel resolution display, but there are step-up models with a full HD 1,920x1,080-pixel-resolution screen. Our review sample had HP's top-of-the-line option, a 15.6-inch wide-screen DreamColor 2 RGB LED-backlit 30-bit LCD.