“Business” notebooks typically conjure up images of ugly, stripped down machines meant to crunch numbers on the barest budget possible – and keep ticking well after being handed down from executives to grunts. HP’s EliteBook series bucks the trend. Stylish and powerful, it also adopts a series of beefed-up components meant to withstand abuse that would crack, warp and destroy feeble consumer rigs. While you’ll pay a premium for the privilege, users who expect to drive their laptops into the ground with heavy use will see it paid back in every replacement notebook they don’t buy.
With a 14-inch screen and starting weight of 4.7 pounds, the EliteBook makes no pretension of ultra-portability, but manages to carry down many features from much larger notebooks. Chief among them: A full array of Intel Core i5 and even some i7 processors, which give the EliteBook power ranging from refined to almost brutish. Consumers also get their pick of Intel integrated graphics, or Nvidia’s NVS 3100.
Our EliteBook 8440p came equipped with a 2.4GHz Intel Core 5 CPU, an Intel Graphics Media Accelerator HD, 2GB of RAM, 250GB hard drive, as well as accessories like a fingerprint reader and 2.0-megapixel webcam.
Let’s break this into military terms: If Lenovo’s business-class ThinkPads scream “standard issue” with uniform black matte plastic, sparse graphics and chunky edges, HP’s EliteBook styling looks more like the notebook of an officer: simple but not Spartan, elegant but not flashy, and unmistakably solid. Brushed aluminum covers every inch of the lid and palm rest, but unlike the thin, flexible veneers you might find on an Asus, these feel like trim from the interior of a Lexus or Audi. According to HP they’ve been thermally welded to the magnesium subframe, not just glued over plastic.
Subframe? Exactly. Much like the Mini 5101, the EliteBook 8440p has been built around a lightweight metal skeleton that lends it rigidity and durability. If you believe HP’s product testers, the 8440p should survive repeated drops from 30 inches, heat up to 160 degrees, dust, humidity, and up to 300 pounds of weight on the lid, on the off chance a heavyweight boxer mistakes it for a step stool. The keyboard even has a drain in the bottom to funnel spilled drinks away from the electronics and straight through the bottom. That’s a wise design choice for a machine destined to share plenty of table space with venti lattes and tiny airline cups of seltzer water.
Fancy (and untested, if we ever hope to get an HP review unit again) benchmarks aside, it feels the part. The lid opens and shuts with the precision of lab equipment, the metal surface exhibit barely a millimeter of flex, and the oversized metal latches that hold it shut feel like they’re designed to repel prying by crowbars and screwdrivers. The only weak spots in this technological fortress appear around the base, which seems to be built from vanilla ABS plastic and exhibits some flex around the optical drive and other panels.
If you can find it, buy it or steal it, you can connect it to the HP EliteBook 8440p. Besides the usual three USB ports, you’ll find an additional eSATA/USB for faster devices, a FireWire port for compatibility with many Mac-centric accessories, an ExpressCard port for upgrades, an Ethernet jack and even a modem for those Wi-Fi-less hellholes business professionals sometimes find themselves in. Even the esoteric Smart Card reader – which can read the chips embedded in certain credit cards – finds a home here, and a dock connector on the bottom allows it to connect with one HP’s docking stations. Dedicated audio in and out jacks allow for separate headphones and microphones, unlike some combined solutions, like on Apple’s latest MacBooks. The front includes a standard SD/MMC card reader, and you’ll find both analog VGA and digital DisplayPort outputs on the back for video. Frankly, we would have preferred a standard HDMI output, especially when you’ll need an adapter to convert to the more standard HDMI interface.