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Earlier this year HP unveiled the EliteBook 1050 G1, a 15.6-inch business notebook with options including a six-core processor, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics, up to 32GB of RAM and 4TB of SSD storage. Along with up to 16 hours of battery life, it's quite a package. Prices start at £1,698 (inc. VAT), but if you want all those headline-grabbing options you'll need to spend considerably more than that.
According to HP, the EliteBook 1050 G1 is an 'ultraslim' business notebook, but don't get too excited about that. This 15.6-inch laptop has a desktop footprint of 245mm by 360mm, and is 18.9 mm thick. It's pretty heavy too, with a starting weight of 2.06kg. You'll need a fairly hefty backpack or bag, and you're unlikely to want to carry it very far.
The good news is that the build is very tough. An aluminium chassis provides plenty of protection against knocks and bangs, and I found it very difficult to bend or bow the lid. Still, despite its resilience, the metal lid and base are vulnerable to scratching, so if you want to avoid blemishes, you might like to invest in a protective sleeve.
The back of the base and bottom of the lid have angled edges, which shaves a few grams off the weight and also adds a bit of interest to the industrial design.
The EliteBook 1050 G1 is firmly traditional when it comes to usage modes. The screen doesn't rotate, and only tips back to about 130 degrees, so it can't even be laid flat on a desk. The 15.6-inch IPS panel in my review sample was not touch-responsive -- indeed, none of the seven 'off the shelf' models on HP's UK website has a touch screen. Six, including my review sample, have Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution, with one offering 4K (3,840 x 2,160). The screen is matte, which is welcome.
Viewing angles are fine in the vertical plane, but not so great on the horizontal. This is a double-edged sword: it's not the best screen for sharing content with colleagues, but it could help to preserve privacy if you're working on a train or airplane.
For those seriously concerned about keeping their work private in public spaces, HP has deployed its Sure View Gen2 system as an optional extra. When present, this can be invoked by a Fn key combination. Once switched on, the working screen is a little duller than before, but screen brightness is easily raised and lowered with adjacent Fn keys. More importantly, even at its brightest setting, someone sitting to the user's left or right will find the screen much more difficult to read than before.
HP has deployed Bang & Olufsen speakers, which output through a grille that sits between the keyboard and the screen. Maximum volume should reach across a conference table with ease, and there's little loss of fidelity even at that setting. Sound output is reasonably well rounded at the default level, and the B&O app allows for quite sophisticated adjustments, including noise cancellation during voice calls.
The top screen bezel has enough space for a webcam and IR sensors, both optional extras. There's also a sliding privacy screen for the camera, a neat manual solution for anyone concerned about being watched. This is still a relatively rare feature, although Lenovo has included its ThinkShutter in some higher end models -- the ThinkPad Carbon X1 6th Gen and ThinkPad X1 Yoga 3rd Gen -- as well as the mainstream T-series laptops, such as the ThinkPad T480s.
The backlit keyboard is large, with well spaced keys. The space bar is notably clacky while all the other keys are thunky -- an oddity, but not a usability issue. The keys spring back nicely after being struck, and I reached my usual touch typing speed easily enough. That said, I was initially irritated by the column of keys to the right of the single-height, double-width Enter key: my natural inclination to go to the far right of the keyboard for the Enter key resulted in striking PgDn on a few occasions before I got used to the layout. The Fn key row has a pair of keys dedicated to making and ending calls -- ideal for VoIP users.
The large glass clickpad is very responsive, and its width allows you to move the cursor right across the screen in a single sweep.
The EliteBook 1050 G1 is, potentially, a powerful laptop. A six-core Intel Core i7 processor, discrete Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics, up to 32GB of RAM and a 4TB SSD are all available for those looking to run demanding workloads such as CAD and other graphics/video-based use cases. But these options are costly. As noted earlier, there are seven preconfigured variants of this laptop on HP's UK website (none of which offers all of these features).
Here are the least and most expensive available configurations at the time of writing:
The aforementioned six-core CPU options are the Core i7-8750H and Core i7-8850H.
The EliteBook 1050 G1 has a good range of ports, and is generous with USB in particular. There are two USB 3.0 ports on the left edge, one with charging. The remainder of the ports are on the right edge. The main power input is round-pin rather than USB-C, leaving a pair of USB-C ports, both with Thunderbolt, free for other roles. A full-size HDMI port and 3.5mm headset jack are joined by an SD card reader that will take full-size SD cards -- MicroSD cards will need an adapter. If users configure a fingerprint reader it will be found on the wrist rest. There's no smartcard support, which is somewhat surprising on a business laptop. Wired Ethernet is a noticeable on-board absentee: if this is required, you'll have to pay extra (£115) for HP's USB-C Mini Dock.
The EliteBook 1050 G1 comes with either a 4-cell 64Wh battery or a 6-cell 95.6Wh unit. According to HP, the laptop will last for up to 16 hours on a full charge, without specifying which battery the claim refers to. The 64Wh battery in our review sample, tested in everyday working conditions, delivered impressive results: over a five-hour period I typed text into an online app, streamed music and browsed various websites. Not particularly arduous workloads to be sure, but the battery only depleted by just over 30 percent at the end of this period, suggesting that 15 hours is a possibility.
HP's EliteBook 1050 G1 is large and heavy, and won't easily fit into a bag or backpack. With a 15.6-inch screen and a discrete Nvidia GPU option, it's well suited to running graphically demanding applications. The build quality is solid, so if this laptop does have to travel, it should be well protected. Battery life is impressive, too, and the EliteBook 1050 G1 even has a decent audio subsystem, which is something of a rarity for a laptop.
The high-end options obviously push up the cost, but you'll get a system that's well equipped to handle demanding workloads. The EliteBook 1050 G1 should prove a worthy competitor for 15-inch laptops from the likes of Dell and Apple.
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