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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 Apple MacBook Pro, 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.
It, too, has a 1,920x1,080-pixel native resolution, but it's an in-plane-switching (IPS) panel instead of the twisted nematic (TN) panel type found in most other laptops. This allows for accurate color reproduction (it has 10 bits per color channel and supports more than 1 billion colors versus the 18-bit color accuracy and 260,000 colors of an average display) and a 178-degree-wide viewing angle. Color gamut coverage is 128 percent of AdobeRGB, 130 percent of NTSC, and 149 percent of sRGB/Rec. 709. The HP Mobile Display Assistant software gives you control over color space presets and the capability to specify luminance to correspond with color space (AdobeRGB and sRGB), and to set a specific white point, depending on the type of work being done. There are multiple color space emulation presets, including native/full gamut (no internal color management applied), sRGB, AdobeRGB, SMPTE-C, Rec709, DCI-P3 emulation, and one user-defined color space. It's a serious display for professional use and comes with a hefty $425 upgrade cost from the base 1,600x900-pixel resolution LCD.
|HP EliteBook 8560w||Average for category [desktop replacement]|
|Video||VGA, DisplayPort||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers with subwoofer, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, eSATA/USB 2.0, Mini-FireWire, multiformat card reader, ExpressCard/54||2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, SD card reader, eSATA|
|Networking||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner, optional Blu-ray player|
The port and I/O connections on the 8560w are ample, including five USB ports, two of which are USB 3.0. The power input is on the back with a modem jack, though we wish the Ethernet port and the VGA and DisplayPort outputs were in back as well. By the way, the 8560w can support up to four external displays via an optional dock; the docking connector is on the bottom of the system along with one for a secondary battery. The stereo speakers pump loud and clear, but they're light on bass. We're OK with that, since audio pros will likely want to take advantage of the stereo headphone/line-out jack.
Though the 8560w configuration we tested was strong, HP offers others as well as the option to configure one from scratch. You can choose from two Core i5 or four Core i7 processors (three of which are quad-core); up to 32GB of memory; three hard-drive and two solid-state-drive capacities; optical drives including a Blu-ray burner or a secondary 500GB hard drive; three graphics cards (one ATI, two Nvidia); and, as mentioned earlier, three screen 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 excellent given its components. It did well in our lab tests, but next to the consumer-oriented high-performance laptops we've tested it appears fairly ordinary for its price. During anecdotal testing we experienced no slowdowns when launching and using demanding photo and video editing software, and multitasking definitely posed no problems. The graphics cards available for the 8650w 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.
|HP EliteBook 8560w||Average watts/hour|
|Raw kWh number||85.98|
|Annual power consumption cost||$9.76|
We don't expect desktop replacements to last long away from an outlet. The 8560w did OK, running for 1 hour and 58 minutes in 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. In regular use, our uptime was just over 2 hours, and had we played with all the power management features we probably could'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 should get much better battery life.
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.
As expensive as the HP EliteBook 8560w Mobile Workstation can get, it's still a good value. That's because HP continues to offer plenty of component options for the performance you need inside a tough, professional, but not boring chassis that's packaged with software that's actually useful.
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