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HP EliteBook Mobile Workstation 8540w review: HP EliteBook Mobile Workstation 8540w

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Though we were pretty happy with the 8540w configuration we tested, HP offers multiple setups as well as the option to configure one from scratch. You can choose from two Core i5 or four Core i7 processors; up to 32GB of memory; three hard and two solid-state drive capacities; optical drives including Blu-ray or a secondary 500GB hard drive; three graphics cards; and, as mentioned earlier, three display options--with or without a 2-megapixel Webcam. Of course there are plenty of accessories, too, including extended life and ultracapacity batteries. Basically, you can make it what you want and still get all the durability and security extras, which is a big chunk of what you're paying for.

The performance of our review laptop was above average for its class, but it was not the mind-blowing experience you might expect for its price tag. As noted earlier, this system can certainly handle demanding tasks, but it can't match desktop workstation performance. Keep in mind that a lot of this system's cost goes to the rugged build, the DreamColor display, and its various other capabilities and offerings. That said, during anecdotal testing we experienced no slowdowns with photo and video editing, and multitasking definitely posed no problems. It did well in our lab tests too, but next to the consumer-oriented high-performance laptops we've tested it appears fairly ordinary. The graphics cards available for the 8540w are designed for 3D modeling, CAD, and graphic arts, so our gaming tests don't really do them justice. Still, you should have no difficulty playing games on this system at high resolutions.

Juice box
Performance (Avg watts/hour) HP EliteBook 8540w
Off (60%) 0.46
Sleep (10%) 0.78
Idle (15%) 30.15
Load (15%) 89.36
Raw kWh Number 160.14
Annual Energy Cost $18.18

Annual energy consumption cost
HP EliteBook 8540w
HP Envy 17-1003
Asus G73jh-A1

We don't expect desktop replacements to last long away from an outlet, and the 8540W doesn't. It ran for 1 hour and 37 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, using the included eight-cell battery. Since this test constantly has the hard drive spinning, it is particularly draining on battery life given this system's 7,200rpm drive speed. In regular use, our uptime was just over 2 hours, and had we played with all the power management features that probably would've stretched that time a bit. Also, the DreamColor display requires more power than a typical LCD, so if you opt for a different screen you might be able to get 3 hours or more from the 8540w.

HP includes a three-year parts-and-labor warranty with the system regardless of configuration. HP offers several upgrade options with next-day on-site service and accidental damage coverage for up to five years. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, an online knowledge base, and driver downloads.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP EliteBook 8540w
HP Envy 17-1003

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Envy 17-1003
HP EliteBook 8540w

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Envy 17-1003
HP EliteBook 8540w

Unreal Tournament 3 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1280x800, 0X AA, 0X AF*  
1440x900, 4X AA, 8X AF*  
1920x1200, 4X AA, 8X AF*  
Asus G73jh-A1 @ 1280x768 / @14x10 / @ 19x10
HP Envy 17-1003 @ 1280x768 / 16x9 / @19x10
HP EliteBook 8540w @19x10

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
HP EliteBook 8540w
HP Envy 17-1003

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