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Seeing an AMD Ryzen processor in a laptop is enough of a rarity to be noteworthy these days. That's what powers HP's EliteBook 745 G5, which is available in ten off-the-page configurations on HP's UK website. With a starting price of £839 (inc. VAT; £699.99 ex. VAT), a solid build and a 14-inch screen, the EliteBook 745 could do duty as a mid-range mobile workhorse. But does it deliver the goods?
If you need a robust laptop to withstand the rigours of business travel, the EliteBook 745 fits the bill. The metal chassis feels very solid, and I wasn't able to bend or bow the lid in my hands. The trade-off is the weight -- 1.48kg, which is hefty for a 14-inch laptop. The laptop's footprint of 326mm by 234mm is compact considering the screen size, although it's a little thick at 17.9 mm.
Design-wise, the EliteBook 745 is workmanlike, rather than flashy. There's a notch below the wrist rest that makes it easier to lift the lid, while a taper towards the front of the laptop makes it seem a little thinner than it really is. Three minuscule LEDs on the left front indicate wi-fi, power and drive activity status. They are so small as to be useless during daylight hours, although they are noticeable in dim lighting conditions.
The screen does not rotate -- indeed, it doesn't even swivel far enough to lay flat on a desk. It goes back to about 145 degrees, which is fine for everyday working.
Security is an important feature of this notebook, which has a smart card reader on the left edge, as well as a fingerprint scanner and Windows Hello-compatible camera. My review sample was set up with Power-On Authentication -- a pre-Windows-launch security feature that requires a passcode or fingerprint. An optional sliding privacy cover for the camera can also be configured.
To help prevent others seeing any work being done in public places, the EliteBook 745 G5 can also be configured with HP Sure View. This feature wasn't in my review sample, but I did test it recently when reviewing the EliteBook 1040 G4. Sure View is invoked by a simple Fn key press, and does a very good job of reducing the screen's visibility on both the horizontal and vertical planes, so that people sitting next to you or standing nearby can't see the screen without leaning towards it.
Unfortunately the screen is a weak point of the EliteBook 745. The entry-level model, which costs £839 (inc. VAT; £699.99 ex. VAT), lacks a touch screen. To get a touch screen you'll need to step up to the review sample I was sent, which costs £1,268 (inc. VAT; £1,056.67 ex. VAT). In both cases the screen resolution is Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels), with no higher resolution available.
We can live with the resolution, but the 14-inch screen's combination of low brightness (220 cd/m²) and reflectiveness is troublesome. Working on battery power the default setting of 'darker' was only just usable. I didn't go brighter for my battery test (although I was sorely tempted to), and if I were using this laptop every day it would have to be on a brighter setting to overcome the problem of reflectiveness -- not to mention simply seeing what I was doing clearly. Indeed I would probably settle for the brightest setting, which would affect battery life (more below).
But that's not the end of it. Even at its brightest and on mains power, the screen still seems dull with lacklustre colours. This puts the EliteBook 745 out of the running if you're looking to do professional-grade graphics work. The Bang & Olufsen speakers deliver reasonable volume, but -- as so often on laptops -- bass tones are lacking.
The keyboard is well put together. The keys have a light but bouncy feel, and 'thunk' rather than click when pressed. Pressing a key down invokes the two-stage backlight, which can also be turned on and off via a Fn key. There are also keys dedicated to making calls (one start and one end) on the Fn key row.
A pointing stick between the G, H and B keys is responsive to use, but take a rather large bite out of the keys it eats into -- the B key suffers particularly. The loss of key area is rather more than Lenovo requires with its pointing sticks (for example, see my recent review of the ThinkPad E580). I found it easy to tap the stick while typing, and while I might well get used to the design and compensate for it, my touch typing slowed slightly during testing. There's a pair of physical buttons at the top of the touchpad for use with the stick, but no central scroll rocker such as Lenovo provides with this kind of setup.
HP uses the same AMD Ryzen 7 2700U processor across all ten of its off-the-page configurations of this laptop. This is a 2.2GHz quad-core processor capable of running at up to 3.8GHz in Max Boost mode, with a Radeon RX Vega 10 GPU. HP pairs this with 8GB or 4GB of RAM. Storage options run from 128GB to 256GB SSDs, with Windows 10 Pro installed across the range.
I found my 8GB RAM/256GB SSD review unit perfectly capable of coping with a mix of mainstream workloads, which included having more than 10 browser windows open at once, simultaneous music streaming, and writing into a web app.
HP provides a good range of ports and connectors on the EliteBook 745. The left edge houses a smart card reader and a USB 3.0 port; there's another USB 3.0 on the right edge, where you'll also find a 3.5mm audio jack, a full size HDMI port, a USB-C connector with Thunderbolt, an Ethernet port and a SIM card slot for the optional mobile broadband. There is also a docking connector on the right-hand side.
Battery life is disappointing. I mentioned earlier that on battery power the screen brightness is set to 'darker' automatically, and that if using this laptop on a daily basis I would have to use the 'brightest' setting.
Even with the 'darker' setting, the battery depleted from a full charge to 25 percent during a 6-hour period, during some of which the laptop was simply idling with the screen on. For about half this period I was using the web, writing into a web app and streaming audio or video. In real-world conditions I think users would struggle to get a day's work from a full charge.
According to HP, the 3-cell, 50Wh battery should last for up to 11.5 hours, but my testing suggests that this is optimistic, to say the least.
The HP EliteBook 745 G5 has some impressive features, including a solid build and a good array of ports. The keyboard is comfortable to use, although the cut-out for the pointing stick is oversized and makes typing with the G, H and B keys awkward. Unfortunately the screen is a big let-down, lacking in both brightness and in colour vibrancy. Also, based on my real-world testing, the battery is unlikely to support a full day's work.