If you're the type of user who wants a lot of power and plenty of features in their laptop, the business-oriented HP EliteBook 8470p is worth a look. It's a chunky beast that actually gives you a few features from the past, such as a built-in optical drive, a VGA port, FireWire, and even a dial-up modem. And while it has a relatively small 14in screen size, it is a fairly heavy notebook because it's so well built and so richly stocked.
The EliteBook 8470p is meant to be a portable workhorse type of computer and it delivers great performance for everyday office work and media tasks. Because it's a business machine you won't find Windows 8 on it, but instead Windows 7 Pro, which has been installed via Windows 8 Pro downgrade rights. It's powered by an Intel Core i5-3360M CPU, which has a frequency of 2.8GHz and integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics. It also comes with 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM and a 500GB, 7200rpm hard drive.
In consumerland, that might not seem like a great configuration when you consider the £1156 price of the machine — where is the solid state drive, why doesn't it have more RAM and how come you don't get a discrete graphics card or a Core i7 CPU, we hear you say. But as we mentioned earlier, it's a business machine. This means it comes with a serviceable configuration (including a vPro chipset and security features such as TPM 1.2 and a fingerprint reader), a well-built chassis (it's very solid) and a good support plan. HP supports this model with a 3-year on-site international warranty (and the battery gets three years, too).
Performance and battery life
Unlike many thinner notebooks that use 17W ultra-low voltage Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs (such as the HP EliteBook Folio 9470m and the Toshiba KIRA, for example), the EliteBook 8470p's chassis is thick enough (at 34mm) to accommodate a proper 35W Intel mobile CPU. This gives the laptop a faster frequency that comes in handy for pure processing tasks.
Our test model came with a Core i5-3320M CPU, rather than the Core i5-3360M that you can buy it with, but the CPU's 2.6GHz speed, and its ability to process four threads simultaneously, still put up great times in our benchmarks. It took only 37sec to complete our Blender 3D rendering test, 45ec to complete our iTunes MP3 encoding test and 18min 20sec to turn a DVD file into an MP4 using Handbrake.
The integrated graphics of the CPU are no slouch either. In 3DMark06, the laptop achieved a score of 7037, which is excellent for a laptop without a discrete graphics adapter. Meanwhile, its scores in the latest 3DMark benchmark are also impressive: 44959 in Ice Storm, 4479 in Cloud Gate and 604 in Fire Strike. The chassis is thick enough to accommodate a discrete graphics adapter and cooling system, and there is a version of the 8470p that ships with an AMD Radeon HD 7570M graphics adapter (as well as a Core i7-3720QM CPU) for $2599. We should also mention at this point that the chassis didn't get uncomfortably warm during our tests, and its CPU cooling fan wasn't annoyingly loud.
Despite coming with a mechanical hard drive rather than a solid state drive (SSD), the EliteBook's storage performance isn't bad. It felt zippy during our tests while loading applications and performing file management tasks, and this performance was reflected in CrystalDiskMark, too, where the 7200rpm drive recorded read and write rates of 124 megabytes per second (MBps). There is an option for a 256GB self-encrypting SSD for $600.
As for battery life, the EliteBook 8470p put up a good showing of 4hr 1min in our rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video. It's a 55 Watt-hour battery that sits in the spine and is easily removable. There are options for a second battery, too, which can be docked to the bottom of the chassis and which will add to the already hefty 2.3kg weight of the notebook.
The user comfort of this laptop is very good, even though it feels solid and a little heavy. It comes with a matte screen, a good keyboard, a large touchpad, and it has plenty of built-in ports. The keyboard is an interesting one though. Its keys are not as crisp in their feel as the ones that we used on the EliteBook Folio; they feel a little softer and more squishy. That's not to say they are bad. In fact, it's a very good keyboard that's a pleasure to type on for long periods of time, mainly because the keys are full-sized and responsive. The up and down arrow keys are small though, and there is a TrackPoint with a concave tip in the centre of the board, but that didn't get in the way while we typed.
The touchpad, which is 100x50mm is soft to the touch, but it turned out to be a little frustrating in our tests. In particular, taps were not always recognised the first time, which meant that we either had to tap again or use the physical buttons to initiate an action. We couldn't find a setting in its software to change its sensitivity to taps, but in the end we got use to it.
With a native resolution of 1366x768, the 14in screen on this laptop won't blow you away. It's decent though and we love the fact that it won't be prone to reflecting light sources located behind you as you use it. Still, we would have liked a higher resolution panel, even 1600 pixels wide if not Full HD, which would make it better for multitasking and working with applications that benefit from larger areas, such as spreadsheets. The screen also comes with a light that shines down onto the keyboard. This is used because the keyboard is not backlit, and while it's fine as a bit of ambient light at the top of the keyboard area, it can't replace the effect of a good keyboard backlight.
There is a DisplayPort on the right side that allows you to plug in to a secondary, larger-resolution monitor though, and you even get a VGA port on the rear, which can be handy for plugging in to a projector when giving presentations. Other ports include USB (two of which are USB 3.0, two of which are USB 2.0, one of which is also an eSATA port), mini FireWire, Gigabit Ethernet, a dial-up modem port, and separate headphone and microphone ports. You also a built-in DVD burner, a webcam, dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, an ExpressCard/54 expansion slot, an SD card slot and a smart card reader. It has speakers, too, but they are poor.
As you can see, it's a very well stocked machine, which is what contributes to its overall heavy weight, despite being a manageable 14in form factor. It's a worthy laptop to consider if you want great performance while on-the-go and can't stand the thought of getting a full-on workstation notebook. Additionally, its keyboard, battery life, and matte screen are also positive points. We just wish it came with a higher resolution screen and perhaps 8GB of RAM considering the high price tag.
HP's EliteBook 8470p offers stacks of built-in features, security options and connections to the past. It's a solidly built business machine with great performance and it feels comfortable to use. We just wish it had a higher resolution screen and perhaps a bit more RAM for the price.