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.