For the last couple of months, I’ve been traveling with an HP EliteBook 1040, the company’s high-end corporate notebook. I’ve found it offers many great features, including a very nice touch screen and an innovative way to protect the display from prying eyes, but there are some trade-offs associated with the machine that give me pause.
The machine I carried is the third generation of the 1040, and HP positions it as a corporate laptop that blends the features IT departments need with the look and feel professionals want, at a time when personal and professional lives are blurring. The 1040 does look like a premium notebook, with a silver-colored aluminum case and thin profile. HP says it meets a number of endurance specs, so it should be durable, and it certainly feels well-built.
The 1040 looks very nice, and the notebook is easy to open. It has all the ports you’d expect, including two traditional USB 3.0 Type A ports, as well as aport, though without Thunderbolt or the ability to charge the laptop through the port. Instead, it uses the same charger as earlier EliteBooks. The machine also offers full-size HDMI out, which I find useful; a smart card reader; and a connector for attaching the included Ethernet port and VGA out (which is a bit awkward but not surprising when wired Ethernet and VGA seem to be missing from most notebooks). One thing I missed is an SD card or mini-SD card reader.
The unit I tested had an Intel Core i7-6600U processor running at 2.6GHz, 16GB of DRAM, and 256GB of SSD storage; it seemed quite responsive on all the tasks I tried.
The display is perhaps the most innovative piece of the laptop. The unit I tested had a 1,920-by-1,080 Full HD display, though HP does offer models with QHD displays (2,560-by-1,440 pixels). It includes a touch screen, which I found quite responsive. But what makes it stand out is SureView, HP’s integrated privacy screen. You’ve likely seen third-party filters that cover a laptop screen and make it harder to view from an angle, but SureView is integrated into the 1040. It uses a lighting-control prism and proprietary backlight to make the screen harder to read if you are 35 degrees from center. You can turn this on or off using a function key.
I like the concept very much, but I found the implementation lacked a bit. When turned on, SureView does a pretty good job blocking the display from an angle, but at the expense of making straight-on viewing much darker and much harder to read. You can increase the brightness, but that increases visibility from the side, and I still found the screen not as comfortable to view as I would have liked. As a result, I found I didn’t use the feature much. Even when SureView is off, the screen just didn’t look as sharp or as bright compared to other premium laptops I’ve tried.
For multimedia and web conferencing, it has Bang & Olufsen speakers and a dual array microphone, with software that aims to block ambient noise. It includes a webcam on the top of the screen, which provides a much better angle than the webcam on the bottom, as seen in the competing, and in the 7360 I used recently. In general, this seems tuned for web and audio conference more so than for media, but it makes sense given the target audience.
HP says the keyboard features a 1.5mm travel distance and a consistent force displacement curve, reducing strain when typing. All I can say is that the keyboard had a very nice feel, and I particularly appreciated the very large touch pad. (Although I had to learn that if you tap the touchpad twice in the upper-left corner, it turns the mouse on and off.) In general, it’s a pleasure to type on the EliteBook 1040.
For security, an interesting feature is SureStart, which certifies the BIOS hasn’t been compromised and verifies the integrity of the BIOS while the PC is running. It’s a nice extra step. The unit has a TPM chip (standard now in all corporate laptops of this class) and a hardened fingerprint reader (which uses its own encrypted memory) that supports Windows Hello.
The 1040 did quite well in performance tests, and the Core i7-6600 (Skylake) processor running at 2.6GHz (with a turbo mode of up to 3.4GHz) had the fastest results of any laptop I’ve tested on complex tests in applications like Matlab. In day-to-day use, it seemed very fast at just about every standard business task, though that’s been true of every notebook based on a full-power Intel chip I’ve tried for several years. As usual, note that no machine in this class has discrete graphics (because it would be too hot), so this isn’t the kind of machine you want if you spend your day running workstation-style applications or high-end gaming.
Battery life is, as always, dependent on what you are doing. With the screen at maximum brightness and Wi-Fi turned on, the battery lasted 2 hours and 50 minutes on PCMark 8, a bit less than I saw with the ThinkPad Yoga X1 (which had a noticeably brighter screen). In a test using Chrome automatically reloading a page every 60 seconds over Wi-Fi at maximum display brightness and using Windows’ high-performance power setting, it lasted 3 hours and 12 minutes, about 15 minutes more than the ThinkPad. PCMag’s test showed it getting 6 hours and 55 minutes on its rundown test, notably behind the 10 hours the ThinkPad and the Latitude endured. In general, I thought battery life was fine most days (particularly with SureView turned off), but I found myself worrying about power toward the end of the work day.
Despite the relatively low starting weight, a concern I do have with the unit is the weight. The unit I tested came in at 3 pounds, 10.4 ounces due to the touch screen and the SureView option. In contrast,(above), with a 14-inch WQHD OLED touch screen display that flips completely around, comes in at 2.8 pounds–and that extra pound makes a big difference if you’re carrying it around all day. The 13-inch Dell Latitude 7000 series (7370) has a higher-resolution screen but an awkwardly positioned webcam. (Note the 14-inch Dell Latitude 7000 (E7470), which I haven’t tried myself, has the webcam in the normal position.)
I found a lot to like about the EliteBook 1040; it’s fast and responsive, well-designed for web conferencing, and has some unusual security features, like the SureView screen, which may make this particularly attractive for security-conscious organizations. But on the downside, battery life, weight, and the look of the screen in normal use aren’t quite what I hoped for in a high-end corporate notebook.
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