|Introduction & Specification|
Virtually all of the system builders on the planet are looking to hop on board Intel's Sandy Bridge platform, but not all systems are created equal. Serving as a testament to the architecture's flexibility, some Sandy Bridge systems take aim at gamers, while other have multimedia chores in mind. Hewlett Packard's EliteBook 8560p can do a little a of both and is described as a "business performer."
We see you rolling your eyes at the notion of an in-depth business notebook review, but hang with us, it will be worth the ride. HP emptied its entire bag of tricks on the EliteBook 8560p, the company's top-end business laptop that employs several features we wish other notebook vendors would adopt. HP tells HotHardware the 8560p is the result of lots of user feedback, sporting several subtle suggestions that combine to make this one of the most enjoyable non-gaming laptops we've ever played with.
It all starts with durability. The EliteBook line is military-grade tested for drop, vibration, dust, altitude, and high temperatures, so no matter where your work takes you, one thing you won't have to worry about is coddling your notebook. That's not a free pass to drop kick the EliteBook 8560p down a flight of steps or chuck it across the room at pretend bad guys as you prance around like Captain America, but it certainly feels solid enough to withstand accidental bumps and drops.
|Overall Design & Layout|
If you're looking for an obnoxious LED light show, aggressive styling, or an attention getting paint job, you're going to strike out with the EliteBook 8650p. That's not to say HP's design is boring, however.
As we mentioned previously, physically the EliteBook 8560p feels solid and weighs about 6.27 pounds with battery (actual weight will vary by configuration). Visually, the brushed aluminum, while plain compared to gaming notebooks that do everything but jump up and down to get your attention, looks gorgeous and extends beyond the lid and into the notebook itself. Armed with HP's DuraFinish, the 8560p is both smudge and water resistant.
We're big fans of the precision aluminum-alloy hinges HP is using these days. One of the things these do is allow the display panel to bend backwards up to a 180-degree angle. While we can't envision many scenarios where you'd need quite that amount of flexibility, it does ensure you'll be able to use it with any notebook stand out there. We've played with other notebooks that didn't open far enough to remain perpendicular to the eye when plopping onto a stand.
To quote Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys, "Decent!" It appears HP took some design cues from Apple without the goal of creating a Mac-centric clone. Clean lines, brushed aluminum, a large trackpad, and an uncluttered interior combine to give the 8560p its orderly, unblemished looks.
Typing on the 8650p's attractive full-sized keyboard complete with a numpad is about as comfortable as its gets on a notebook. The keys are ever-so-slightly indented, and the click-action feels right. We also appreciate the inclusion of quick-access buttons in the top-right corner that, based on customer feedback, HP chose to replace touch-sensitive buttons found on previous models with. From left to right, you're given one-touch access to wireless, QuickWeb (pre-launch environment), mute/unmute, and calculator. We've run into issues where touch-sensitive buttons sometimes fail to register, and while there's a certain gee-whiz factor with using them, we applaud HP's willingness to listen to customer feedback and replace them with physical buttons.
Without a doubt, one of our favorite features of the EliteBook 8560p is the oversized trackpad. The trackpad isn't just gigantic, it also supports touch gestures, a feature that will ruin you for regular touchpads. To scroll horizontally, for example, you tap with two fingers and swipe up or down rather than hunt for that magical, unseen strip on the right side. To scroll left or right, you do the same thing, except swipe accordingly. Pinch-to-zoom is available, you can drag-and-drop items by double-tapping to select and then sliding your finger, and you can rotate images in applications that support it by placing two fingers on the touchpad and rotating them in either direction.
One of the concerns with having a touchpad as large as this is that it could get in the way of typing. However, you can turn it off/on by double-tapping the top left corner.
For whatever reason, OEMs typically don't like to grant end-users easy access to internal notebook parts, or at least that's how it used to be. Things have been steadily improving, but HP takes it a step further by providing tool-less entry into the 8560p's underbelly. With the flip of a switch, the entire bottom panel slides effortlessly away exposing key components. This makes it incredibly easy to add more RAM, upgrade the storage, or even blast the dust bunnies out of the fan blades. Why can't all notebooks be this easy to work on?
HP provides plenty of USB ports to play with, including two USB 2.0 ports (one of which is a charging port that lets you charge mobile devices even when the system is turned off) on the left side and a combo eSATA/USB 2.0 port, plus a pair of SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports on the right. Other odds and ends scattered about the sides and back include the optical drive, FireWire, VGA, headphone and mic inputs, GbE LAN, modem, serial port, ExpressCard/54, SDHC/SD/MMC card reader, and a DisplayPort. Curiously missing from all this is an HDMI port.
|First Boot & Software|
Included with the EliteBook 8560p is a power cord, the notebook itself, and, well, that's it. To call the bundle sparse is an understatement, and we suppose we could say we appreciate HP's no-nonsense approach (after all, how many people actually read manuals in the first place?), but a restore and/or Windows disc would have been nice.
One place we're thrilled HP didn't go crazy with extras is the desktop. Being a bulk OEM, we expected to fire the EliteBook 8560p up and be met with hordes of performance robbing crapware. To our (pleasant) surprise, the desktop and systray were nearly devoid of all but the bare essentials. That means you can hop right in and start using your notebook rather than spending the first half hour cleaning out the crud and Googling the names of programs you don't recognize. Well done, HP.
While HP doesn't litter the system with trialware, the OEM does include several handy utilities that you'll want to actually use, as opposed to the ones that just take up space until you replace them with better third-party alternatives. One of these is HP ProtectTools. As a business-oriented notebook, the 8650p comes with several security features baked in. The ProtectTools Security Manager is your frontend for managing most of them. With it you can manage passwords, setup theft recovery through CompuTrace, enable drive encryption, shred files and folders so that they're virtually unrecoverable without professional tools, manage backups, and more.
HP's Connection Manager won't have enthusiasts jumping out of their seats and pumping their fists in excitement, but it does wrangle all the connectivity protocols into a central location that's perhaps easier to use and more straightforward than fumbling through Windows.
Perhaps more useful is HP's Power Assistant utility designed to "put all of your PC's power settings at your fingertips with one easy-to-use interface." Power Assistant goes beyond just tattling on which components are power hogs, it also lets you set up customized schedules, estimate energy consumption based on the applied settings, and even reports estimated energy costs, pounds of CO2, and kilowatt hours. And if you're an IT manager, you can deploy Power Assistant profiles throughout the entire workforce. You can read more about HP's Power Assistant here (PDF).
Finally, HP's EliteBook line ships with QuickWeb, a pre-boot environment that fires up in seconds and gives you access to lightweight tasks when you're in a hurry, like looking up something on the Internet, sending a Skype message, composing an email, or even checking the weather. Several widgets adorn the screen, including a calculator, and you can add, remove, and customize up to eight at a time.
|PCMark & 3DMark Tests|
To start things off, we fired up Futuremark's system performance benchmark, PCMark Vantage. This synthetic benchmark suite simulates a range of real-world scenarios and workloads, stressing various system subsets in the process. Everything you'd want to do with your PC -- watching HD movies, music compression, image editing, gaming, and so forth -- is represented here, and most of the tests are multi-threaded, making this a good indicator of all-around performance.
Color us a little bit surprised. While HP's EliteBook 8560p can't match Maingear's eX-L 15 desktop replacement in PCMark Vantage, it outpaced every other recent notebook we've reviewed. We ran PCMark twice just to make sure it wasn't a hiccup, but both times, the 8650p managed to outrun its counterparts.
Just as we would expect, the 8560p's Sandy Bridge processor and Huron River platform give the system a sizable advantage in CPU performance against previous generation notebooks, and a 2.7GHz clockspeed doesn't hurt. We would have thrown more modern notebooks into the mix, but the 8560p is one of the few 15.6-inch business class laptops to come through our labs in awhile; recently reviewed notebooks have mostly fallen into the desktop replacement and/or gaming categories (in which we don't bother with 3DMark06), or ultraportables with lower end chips.
After recording a rather anemic 3DMark11 score using the benchmark suite's Advanced setting, we didn't even bother to torture test the 8560p with the Extreme preset. The idea seemed cruel to us and the point was already made -- this isn't a PC for gamers (nor is it intended to be).
|SiSoft Sandra & CineBench|
We continued our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA 2011, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. We ran four of the built-in subsystem tests (CPU Arithmetic, Memory Bandwidth, Physical Disks). All of the scores reported below were taken with the processor running at its default clock speeds of 2.2GHz with 8GB of DDR3-1333 RAM running in dual-channel mode.
The high-frequency RAM and Sandy Bridge processor strutted through our SiSoft Sandra run and proved a solid foundation. Even the physical disk returned a score comparable to higher end systems, as the 8560p uses a 7200RPM mobile hard drive. For even better performance, you have the option of slapping a solid state drive into HP's EliteBook.
Maxon's Cinebench R11.5 benchmark is based on Maxon's Cinema 4D software used for 3D content creation chores and tests both the CPU and GPU in separate benchmark runs. On the CPU side, Cinebench renders a photorealistic 3D scene by tapping into up to 64 processing threads (CPU) to process more than 300,000 total polygons, while the GPU benchmark measures graphics performance by manipulating nearly 1 million polygons and huge amounts of textures.
Cinebench is a particularly brutal benchmark, and the 8560p's scores bear that out. However, it did manage to hold its own during the CPU portion, posting a relatively impressive score for a dual-core processor.
|Game Tests & Battery Life|
There's just no way around it -- if gaming is your number one priority, the 8560p is the wrong notebook for you. AMD's Radeon 6470M graphics chip just doesn't have the muscle to flex its way through games on higher quality settings, even at 1280x720 with AA turned off. You'll be able to play casual games and even some modern titles if you're willing to dial down the eye candy, otherwise ,the 6470M will leave you wanting.
In case further proof was needed that the 6470M with its 64-bit memory bus isn't up to the task of high end gaming, our Lost Planet 2 benchmark destroyed the 8560p, then took its lunch money and laughed all the way back to the yard where gaming notebooks hang out.
Want to know what happens when you flip a less demanding title onto the 8560p and crank the available eye candy down to low? So did we, and to find out, we loaded up Left 4 Dead 2 and dialed the settings down as low as they would go, minus some modest AA and AF settings to smooth things out.
In this case, Left 4 Dead 2 is not only a great time-waster but the game also has reasonably impressive visuals as well. The results, as you can see, proves that the Radeon 6470M does have a little bit of spunk to it, provided you don't ask too much from it.
Our unforgiving BatteryEaterPro benchmark thrashed about the 8560p for a good 79 minutes before the system called it quits. That's pretty good considering the nature of this benchmark, which measures a worst case scenario. In real-world usage, you can expect longer battery life, particularly if you spend some time tweaking HP's Power Assist options.
|Performance Summary & Conclusion|
Performance Summary: If concentrating strictly on the benchmarks, HP's EliteBook 8560p carried itself well in most of our general purpose tests and turned in the kind of performance you would expect out of a Sandy Bridge system. The Core i7 2620M doesn't offer the same punch that a quad-core chip does, but it speeds along at 2.7GHz, and even faster when Turbo Boost kicks in. We also credit the fast system RAM and 7200RPM hard drive for the system's well-rounded performance. Where the 8560p falters a bit, as expected, is in gaming. Even though this is a notebook aimed at business users, we would liked to have seen a better showing in our game tests, especially since the notebook's 15.6-inch screen sports an undemanding 1600x900 resolution. Not only that, but HP doesn't afford end users the option of upgrading to a faster GPU, so if you plan to game during your downtime or in between meetings, you'll be better served by whipping out your Nintendo 3DS or Sony PSP.