At Siggraph 2008, up close with mobile workstations

We got an up-close look at the HP EliteBook 8730w and Lenovo ThinkPad W700 mobile workstations at the Siggraph conference in Los Angeles.

Michelle Thatcher Former Senior Associate Editor, Laptops
Tech expert Michelle Thatcher grew up surrounded by gadgets and sustained by Tex-Mex cuisine. Life in two major cities--first Chicago, then San Francisco--broadened her culinary horizons beyond meat and cheese, and she's since enjoyed nearly a decade of wining, dining, and cooking up and down the California coast. Though her gadget lust remains, the practicalities of her small kitchen dictate that single-function geegaws never stay around for long.
Michelle Thatcher
2 min read
HP EliteBook 8530w and 8730w
HP EliteBook 8530w and 8730w CNET Networks

LOS ANGELES--This week's Siggraph conference attracted a diverse crowd of graphic designers, animators, and industrial designers, and both HP and Lenovo were on-site to show off their new mobile workstations for graphics professionals. I had a chance to meet with both companies at the show to talk about some of the key features of these new models.

HP started the week by announcing the 17-inch EliteBook 8730w and 15.4-inch EliteBook 8530w, both of which support Intel's not-yet-official quad-core Core 2 Extreme processors, 8GB of RAM, and Nvidia's next-generation Quadro FX cards with up to 1GB of VRAM. In addition, these latest EliteBooks feature a few small design enhancements, such as a new latch designed to reduce stress on the display and a special coating on the keys and touch pad to help prevent wear. Even cooler is the VGA camera on the display bezel, which pairs with included software to double as a business card reader.

The EliteBook 8730w is also the first workstation on the market to include an HP DreamColor display option. The RGB backlit-LED screen can display millions of colors and displays true color even when the screen is dimmed. I got a quick demo of the EliteBook 8730w and I was impressed with not only the stunning color quality but also the ease of switching back and forth between sRGB and Adobe RGB on the display.

Also remarkable: both the 15- and 17-inch EliteBooks were quite thin and sleek, especially for such high-powered machines.

ThinkPad W700
The ThinkPad W700's built-in drawing tablet CNET Networks

After HP I moved on to get a glance at Lenovo's ThinkPad W700 workstation, which was announced Tuesday. The beast was even larger than I'd imagined; after all, Lenovo representatives have emphasized that it's a workstation first, and mobile computer second. It's obviously larger than HP's 17-inch workstation, but the ThinkPad W700 also packs some bonus features: a built-in color calibrator and an integrated digitizer pad next to the touch pad.

Color calibration takes about 90 seconds; you start the Xrite software, close the workstation's lid, and wait for the beeps that indicate the process is complete. The digitizer pad, meanwhile, can be mapped to the entire screen or to a defined area so you can manipulate images by hand. During my quick hands-on time I found it to be quite responsive and (because of its height) just a bit less comfortable than a stand-alone Wacom tablet. Of course, I write right-handed; as one observant CNET reader pointed out, the tablet's position on the wrist rest is sure to frustrate some lefties.

Lenovo racecar simulation
CNET Networks

Like the HP EliteBooks, the ThinkPad W700 can be configured with an Intel quad-core processor, 8GB of RAM, and Nvidia's next-generation Quadro FX cards.

My work done for the day, I sauntered over to Lenovo's booth on the floor, which included an actual race car--or, rather, a rather realistic race car simulator. After posting several thoroughly average lap times, I emerged from the convention center and returned to the mean streets of Los Angeles.