Workstations

HP EliteBook 8760w Mobile Workstation

1 Apr, 2012 By: Art Liddle

First Look Review: Nine-pound powerhouse delivers exceptionally fast performance.


We have been looking forward to getting our hands on an HP EliteBook mobile computer for some time. When the Elitebook 8760w arrived at Cadalyst Labs, we didn’t waste any time installing our software and revving up the engine, so to speak. As you will see, it proved to be well worth the wait.

System features. HP configured our review unit with the Intel Core i7-2820QM, a quad-core CPU with a clock speed of 2.3 GHz and turbo mode of 3.4 GHz. It arrived loaded with Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. A pair of 8-GB DIMMs occupies two of its four memory slots, providing 16 GB of DDR3-1333MHz memory. Filling the two empty slots would double system memory to a whopping 32 GB.

The system's two internal drive bays house a pair of 320-GB SMART SATA II hard drives, which you can configure as RAID 0 or 1. A third drive bay houses a Blu-ray ROM SuperMulti DVD+-R/RW optical drive with double-layer support. You can exchange this optical drive for a third hard drive, increasing storage space and allowing a RAID 5 configuration. Note that filling all three drive bays with the largest-capacity drives expands the maximum storage space to 2 TB — amazing for a mobile computer.

Our HP Elitebook 8760w arrived with a 17.3" LED-backlit DreamColor display, which supports one billion colors at a native resolution of 1,920 x 1,080. The optional DreamColor display is ideal for designers, graphic artists, and others who require accurate color fidelity onscreen. An NVIDIA Quadro 5010M GPU (4-GB GDDR5) powers the graphics subsystem. Thanks to its parallel processing architecture and ECC memory, it provides ultimate graphics power and accuracy for this mobile package.

As for connectivity, the EliteBook 8760w offers a wide choice of options to suit most situations: two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, one eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port, one IEEE 1394a port, one Ethernet connector, and one RJ-11 modem jack. External graphics options include a VGA port and DisplayPort. Stereo microphone in and stereo headphone out jacks round out the external connections.

Test scores. What about performance? We ran our standard suite of three tests: Cadalyst c2011 v5.3b benchmark with AutoCAD 2011 and its default driver; Cadalyst c2011 with AutoCAD 2011 and NVIDIA’s enhanced driver; and SPECviewperf 11. (Although Cadalyst c2012 is now available, we opted to run c2011 to enable apples-to-apples comparisons with the previous model, and we continue to run AutoCAD 2011 while we await NVIDIA’s update of its enhanced driver for AutoCAD 2012.) We set the screen resolution to 1,280 x 1,024 and the color depth to 32-bit, enabled hardware acceleration for AutoCAD, and turned off vertical sync for the graphics card.

Once the dust settled and we had a chance to view the results, we were astounded. The Cadalyst c2011 total index score with the NVIDIA NVGL10.hdi driver was 50% faster than any mobile computer previously reviewed by Cadalyst Labs. The total index even beat the fastest desktop workstation we have ever tested by 25%. The full set of benchmark scores were: total index of 1,530; 3D graphics index of 5,361; 2D graphics index of 326; disk index of 188; and CPU index of 245.

The weighted scores for the SPECviewperf 11 suite of tests, single sample mode only, were as follows: 46.05 for catia-03, 41.93 for ensight-04, 54.04 for lightwave-01, 85.33 for maya- 03, 9.61 for proe-05, 50.30 for sw-02, 44.88 for tcvis-02, and 42.97 for snx-01. These scores are also excellent. In fact, three represent Cadalyst Labs top scores by a wide margin compared with the next closest competitor (desktop or laptop): ensight-04 (30% faster), snx-01 (29%), and tcvis-02 (23%).

For the record, the c2011 benchmark scores using the default AutoCAD 2011 driver were: total index of 396, 3D graphics index of 898, 2D graphics index of 251, disk index of 185, and CPU index of 250. The cooling fan of the EliteBook 8760w operated at full throttle during portions of the testing. The fan kept temperatures down, but the noise was distracting.

Battery performance. The EliteBook 8760w’s external power brick measures 77/8" x 37/8" x 1". Our review unit included a standard 8-cell (83WHr) lithium-ion battery.

We used the Battery Rundown Test option included with the Cadalyst c2012 benchmark to see how the EliteBook 8760w handles life off the power grid. We ran the test four times and found the battery lasts an average of 100 minutes under maximum operating conditions. The battery lasted an average of 2 hours, 50 minutes in idle mode, with default power settings and no applications running. What about charging the battery? Our testing showed the battery reaches 98% capacity in 100 minutes. These times are only guidelines; performance will decrease after repeated battery discharge cycles.


The 17.3" HP EliteBook 8760w has a full-sized, backlit keyboard that includes a dedicated numeric keypad, touchpad, and pointing stick.


Extras.
The EliteBook 8760w is not just fast, it is rugged. Its hybrid magnesium-aluminum metal case is designed to provide maximum protection for the internal equipment — it even meets the MIL-STD-810G military standards for environmental conditions, including temperature, altitude, humidity, dust, and vibration. The case measures 16¹/8" x 10½" x 17/8" and weighs 9 lbs — typical for a powerful 17.3" mobile computer.

HP is known for including powerful tools and extra features with its products, and the EliteBook 8760w is no exception. The HP SoftPaq Download Manager provides a single interface to manage and download software updates for all system components. The HP Power Assistant lets you fine-tune power-management settings; using dedicated circuits on the motherboard, it provides real-time data on battery use and displays current power consumption in watts. You can customize your power use based on the time of day or day of the week.

The EliteBook 8760w includes a limited three-year onsite warranty; the battery is covered for one year. Extended warranty plans are available. HP offers round-the-clock e-mail and online technical support during the life of your warranty.

In closing. The HP EliteBook 8760w is the most powerful mobile workstation to pass through the doors of Cadalyst Labs. Of course, you'll pay a price for this much power, but it's not as expensive as you might think. As configured for this review, this model costs $5,003. Anyone looking for high-end CAD workstation performance in a mobile form factor should check out the HP EliteBook 8760w. Highly Recommended.


About the Author: Art Liddle


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