HP EliteBook G5: Design And Build Quality
Unlike last years model the HP EliteBook G5 series has a precision-crafted aluminum cover. The overall look is stylish but understated and the aluminum has other benefits as well. Unlike plastic composite chassis, aluminum doesn't pick up fingerprints or smudging nearly as much, so even after a long day of use, your laptop will look presentable. It also helps cool the internal components. Where plastics can thermally insulate, aluminum wicks heat, so at the same time it's making your laptop stand out it's also helping reduce the thermals of the internal hardware. You'll also notice HP has changed their logo to be more stylized. On previous EliteBook laptops, the logo was on the bottom corner with the traditional design. It's now smack dab in the middle. The new font really makes it standout and helps denote the EliteBook series as a premium product.
(HP EliteBook 830 G5)
Internally there is very little difference between the two models HP sent us. Of course every product range in the EliteBook series can be configured with different hardware, so regardless of these models sporting the same hardware, there are many options to chose from. Beyond just the specs, what makes these models different is the size of the screen and clam-shell.
Below is the EliteBook 840 G5. This model has a HP Sure View 14" diagonal FHD IPS anti-glare display that has a 700 nits rating. The size of the screen increases the overall size in comparison to the 830, but the slim bezels on both models are able to keep the clam-shell small while offering plenty of screen real-estate. Another difference between the models is the new HP privacy camera, which we will go into further detail shortly.
(HP EliteBook 840 G5)
The HP 830 features a smaller FHD 13.3 inch display, but unlike the 840 it has full touch screen capabilities. Overall, colors were vibrant (even at a lower nit rating) thanks to Corning Gorilla Glass 3 technology, which provides multiple layers of glass to improve the resolution, color, responsiveness, and durability of the device.
In total, there are four display options available for the 830. You can opt for the Gorilla Glass screen included in our kit, or you can chose between two FHD IPS displays, one of which as a 220 nits display, while the other has a 400 nits display. The fourth option is for those that need some extra security. If you work in public, or just have sensitive material on your PC, HP has you covered with their Sure View Integrated Privacy Screen. Traditional privacy screens are applied on top of the screen, meaning they can't be disabled. They serve their purpose well, but there are times when you need to view your laptop from other angles than dead on. With HP Sure View you can turn the privacy screen on and off with the simple press of a button. Privacy when you need it and a large viewing angle when you don't.
(HP EliteBook 830 G5)
One aspect HP really wanted to expand upon was connectivity and in that regard they delivered. Starting with the right side and going from top to bottom, you have a AC power plug, Thunderbolt (USB Type-C) connector, docking connector, full RJ-45 port, HDMI 1.4b port, USB 3.1 port, headphone/microphone combo and SIM card reader. On the flip side you have a smart card reader, the second USB 3.1 port and a Kensington security lock.
Most of the expansion options are self explanatory, but the docking station is something many people might not have come across and for good reason. It is designed exclusively for ultraslim HP EliteBook notebooks. The docking station is simply a one-click, slide-in side dock for select ultra-slim HP EliteBook notebooks. When connected to the docking station, the laptop has access to more USB options, the ability to run dual displays and more. With all the processing power on board the HP EliteBook series, the dock essentially turns this machine into a desktop, just with the added benefit of portability when disconnected.
(HP EliteBook 830 G5 on top)
The overall size difference between the two models is less than an inch, but that can make all the difference in the world, depending on what you use your laptop for. In total the 830's total dimensions are 12.22 x 9.03 x 0.7 in, while the 840 is 12.84 x 9.22 x 0.7 in. Both are extremely portable, so you can easily throw them in a back pack and be on your way. It's impressive just how compact each are when take display size into account. By reducing the size of the bezel on both models, HP was able to fit a large screen into a compact clam-shell. Using the 830 as an example, the screen measures in at 13.3 inches, while case is only 12.22 inches. Of course you have to take into account that displays are measured diagonally, but the side benefit of thinner bezels is a compact and efficient chassis.
(HP EliteBook 830 G5 on top)
Overall, the keyboard on the G5 is very similar to last years model. It still sports center trackpoint stick and the layout is virtually the same. Overall, we felt the keys were extremely comfortable to type with. A concave surface might slightly increase the comfort level, but we had no real complaints with these chiclets. The keys were also extremely quiet when typing and accuracy we dead on. These are the kind of things you really notice when you type for a living. One thing that is different from last years model though is the larger finger pad. The G4 series had a smaller surface area for your finger to travel. The G4 also featured easy access and control buttons at both the top and bottom of the trackpad. Since the surface area is now larger, HP didn't have enough room for four buttons, so instead you only have dual buttons at the top. The lack of buttons isn't a net negative though,as the previous layout seemed a bit like overkill.
The bottom of the EliteBook series is as clean as you can get. In all you simply have a bottom facing vent and four rubber padded feet. Looks can be deceiving though, because if you look closer you can see that there are just a handful of phillips head screws securing the base to the laptop. HP did this to make it easier to access the internal components in case you ever want to upgrade your memory, or SSD. We applaud HP's effort here, in a time where more and more manufacturers are making it harder to access internal hardware, HP went a different route.
Under the hood, the HP G5 series features a dual-pipe heatsink array to cool the processor along with dual memory slots and a 3-Cell 50WHr battery. Overall, we were pleased with what was inside the chassis, as dual memory slots offer plenty of future upgrade options, but the cooler seemed a little on the small side for the system's Intel 8th Gen quad-core processor. We have seen this generation of processors, running on the hot side, so a beefier thermal solution could prevent throttling. We will keep an eye on the thermals during our testing to see how they fair during our benchmarking process. In addition, HP boasts a battery life of up to 14 hours under normal use and the EliteBook series comes with HP fast charge technology, which can replenish 50% of max capacity in just 30 minutes.
One aspect of laptops that's never going to really standout is the sound, but that didn't stop HP from trying. In an effort to improve what can only be described as lackluster audio, HP has partnered with Bang & Olufsen, who have been in the audio industry since well before you anyone reading this review was born. The collaboration lead to dual upward facing speakers that are capable of producing audio up to 87 decibels and a bass roll-off of 350Hz. Decibels are an expression of the relative loudness of sounds in air as perceived by the human ear, so more decibels will produce fuller and richer sound. The 350Hz rating refers to how low the speaker can go. 350Hz by no means will create rich and deep bass, but it is better than the majority of laptops on the market. Overall, the sound was still limited due to the size of the speakers, but the audio was above average for a business class laptop.
The included microphones are also B&O branded and are designed to make meetings and collaboration events easier. To do this HP has included a world-facing microphone that has noise canceling technology built directly into the mic. They have also included a robust software suite that allows the microphone to seamlessly switch between meeting types. If you're having a one-on-one conference the mic can be set to isolate a single voice, while canceling out the background noise. However, if there are multiple people on the conference call the world-facing mic can be set to pick up everyone's voice in the room, making it easier to distinguish who is talking.
HP isn't the first company to introduce a camera cover to the market, but it's good to see the trend continue. Just a few years ago many people (especially corporate users) were covering their cameras with post-it notes. With this tech that is a thing of the past, as the HP Privacy Camera physically blocks the lens of your webcam to protect against malicious surveillance. Another security feature added to the EliteBook series is HP Sure Recover. Essentially, Sure Recover is a network-based software image recovery tool that allows you to re-image your laptop to a saved OS state with only an internet connection. You can start the reimaging by simply pressing F11, or you if no OS is detected, the system will automatically present the user with the ability to re-image.
(HP EliteBook 840 G5 camera)
Along with the microphone, HP has also included collaboration keys on the right side of the keyboard that work with Skype. With these keys you can present, answer and hangup from a Skype meeting in seconds. You don't have to open a program, or click anything with the mouse. It's all built into the key, making it a true time saver. HP is the first company to add collaboration keys to their laptop lineups and it's a welcome feature for anyone that knows what it's like to be multi-tasking and then have to drop everything when you have an incoming video call.
All of the keys come with blue back-lighting that can be turned on or off via the "F9" key. In total there are three settings, off, dim and bright. This is actually a nice feature to include as it works on both an aesthetics front and makes it easier to see the keys in low lighting as well. We know this is a business class notebook, but RGB may have been a nice, unique touch, especially for Millennials.