- ✓Excellent screen
- ✓Impressive CPU, GPU and RAM options
- ✓Plenty of ports and connectors
- ✕Bulky and heavy
- ✕Poor battery life
The HP EliteBook 8560w Mobile Workstation is a solid, powerful notebook, designed to deliver serious CPU and graphics performance in a transportable form factor. To that end, it has a 15.6in. screen plus the ability to run up to five displays, and plentiful quad-core processor options. Preconfigured models start at £1,065 and rise to £2,032 (ex. VAT).
The EliteBook 8560w is not a notebook you'll want to carry very far or very often: it weighs no less than 3kg with a solid-state drive fitted — more if you opt for a mechanical hard drive. The power supply is also large and heavy by today's standards.
HP Elitebook 8560w: a workstation-class 15.6in. notebook with military-standard build quality
The system measures 38.2cm wide by 25.7cm deep by 3.45cm thick. If you do carry the EliteBook 8560w around, you'll appreciate the solid dual-hinged clasp that keeps the lid and base sections together in transit.
The weight is indicative of solid build materials, and the EliteBook 8560w is certified as meeting MIL-STD 810G. This means it can withstand challenging drop, vibration, dust, altitude and temperature conditions. So if you do carry it around, or accidentally knock it from a desk, it ought to survive.
The chassis is made from aluminium and magnesium alloy. The lid section is thick and exhibits almost no flex; we couldn't depress the wrist rest area either, no matter how hard we pressed it. Dust protection is a little less obvious, as the ports and connectors are all exposed rather than fitted with protective covers — as we're used to seeing on rugged notebooks from the likes of Panasonic and Getac.
The screen isn't vast at 15.6in. across the diagonal, but our review sample had a native resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels. You can also specify 1,600 by 900 if you don't need quite so much viewing area. HP's DreamColor system is an option if you need precision colour selection and matching from design to finished product.
You can run up to five displays from the EliteBook 8560w's ATI FirePro M5950 GPU, but you'll need an optional docking station
With its matte finish and high resolution, we found the screen wonderful to work with. If you need multiple displays, then ATI's Eyefinity technology is on hand (via the FirePro M5950 GPU) to cater for up to five monitors, although you'll need a docking station to implement this feature.
The keyboard has an isolation-style design with well-spaced keys. The travel is minimal, and the keys make a rather loud banging sound when pressed — even light-touch typists will notice this in quieter offices. There's room for a full sized number pad to the right of the keyboard. The keys are backlit, the light automatically kicking in when any key is hit. There's very little light bleed around the keys.
The EliteBook 8560w's isolation-style keyboard features automatic backlighting
There are four buttons to the top right of the keyboard that are bright lozenges of silver against the dark-grey chassis. One toggles the mobile wireless connections, the second mutes the sound, the third launches Internet Explorer, while the fourth calls up the Windows calculator for easy and fast use with the physical number pad. The power switch is also above the keyboard, on the left-hand side.
HP includes both a pointing stick and a touchpad with the EliteBook 8560w. The orange stick stands out against the dark grey of the surrounding keys, and has three large buttons sitting below the spacebar, for left and right mouse clicks and scrolling. Scrolling efficiently takes a little practice as you only need a gentle amount of pressure on the stick to scroll though text at a sensible reading speed — push too hard and it goes far too fast for reading. We found the pointing stick a little too hard to manipulate for our liking, although it may bed in over time.
The touchpad is large and very responsive. Beneath it are three more buttons, again for left and right mouse clicks and scrolling. Each of the six buttons around the touchpad is large, raised proud of their surroundings. Some may see them as clunky, but we appreciate their size and their definite action.
Three rubber lozenges sit on the wrist rest, helping to keep screen and keyboard apart when the lid is closed. They don't look very pretty, but they do an important job.
HP equips the EliteBook 8560w with top-notch internal hardware. Processors available include the quad-core Intel Core i7-2820QM and i7-2630QM, and the dual-core i7-2620M, i5-2540M and i5-2520M. All models ship with Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.
Our review sample had the quad-core Core i7-2820QM running at 2.3GHz (and up to 3.4GHz with Turbo Boost), supported by a massive 16GB of RAM. With four SODIMM slots, the system can support up to 32GB of DDR3 memory. There are eight preconfigured samples listed at HP's UK web site, but none has this particular mix of CPU and RAM — indeed, 8GB is the most memory available in a preconfigured model.
Not surprisingly for a mobile workstation, HP has opted for high-quality graphics options: our review unit had the AMD FirePro M5950 Mobility Professional Graphics GPU, but Nvidia Quadros are also available.
Storage options include a 500GB or 750GB hard drive spinning at 7,200rpm and a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD).
For wireless communication there's Bluetooth (2.1) and dual-band Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n) in all configurations, with mobile broadband as an option. Gigabit Ethernet is included across the board too.
There's a fingerprint sensor in the wrist rest, and the EliteBook 8560w also has a SmartCard reader, the HP ProtectTools Security Manager suite and TPM (Trusted Platform Module) support. There's a webcam on many models, but thankfully HP has foregone the temptation to include login by face recognition.
Ports and connectors are plentiful. We've noted the SmartCard slot, which sits on the lower left edge of the chassis. Above it are a mini-FireWire port, two USB 2.0 ports (one with charge support), an eSATA/USB combo port and a DisplayPort connector. The Ethernet (RJ-45) port is at the back of the left-hand side.
The front carries a SD card slot, while the right side has two USB 3.0 ports, a pair of audio jacks and an Express Card/54 slot. The optical drive is on the right too, along with an old-fashioned 15-pin VGA port at the back. At the rear you'll find another legacy connector in the form of an RJ-11 modem port.
With its quad-core processor, 16GB of RAM and AMD FirePro M5950 GPU, it's no surprise that our EliteBook 8560w review unit was a stunning performer. Windows Experience Index (WEI) reported scores of 7.0 or more (out of 7.9) for every subsystem except Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate), which got a still-respectable 5.9.
The remaining scores were 7.0 for Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance and Graphics (desktop performance for Windows Aero), 7.5 for Processor (calculations per second) and 7.6 for RAM (Memory operations per second).
To boost the system's disk performance, you'll need to replace the hard drive with a faster (but more expensive) SSD.
There's a lot of computing power in the EliteBook 8560w, and the supplied 8-cell battery has its work cut out. To test it, we chose the HP Optimized power plan and played video from a DVD for as long as possible. Noting that our review unit wouldn't charge beyond 96 percent, we got video playback for just 1 hour and 42 minutes. This suggests that if you take this notebook to a client's premises, for example, you'll also need to pack the large and heavy power brick.
We not sure why battery power is used to illuminate the HP logo on the lid when the notebook is switched on: we'd take few minutes' extra uptime over this affectation.
The system's SRS Premium Sound and stereo speakers deliver good audio quality that's maintained even at high volume. You could certainly use this notebook for delivering multimedia presentations to small groups.
The EliteBook 8560w is a well-built mobile workstation that can be configured with top-notch components that make it ideal for CPU-, GPU- and memory-intensive workloads. It's not especially portable, though, and battery life is among its least impressive features.