HP Elitebook: MBP Killer?

Posted by Scott

eb mini-bn_6930p_topclosed HP has announced several new notebooks, but one in particular has a design-centric feature set that has really piqued my interest. I have been using HP notebooks for years now, it’s not that I’m really in love with them, it’s just that they are so damned powerful and ridiculously cheap. Of course that has come at a cost, the construction is downright shoddy; both of mine have broken at one time or another, luckily I had warranties on them. I travel with a TX-1000 series for internet / email chores and a hulking DV-9000 series for on the road video / graphics duties (along with running the visuals for live shows). I am really tired of the sub-par display quality and power management of most PC notebooks so I have been looking at replacing mine with a MacBook Pro. I really like the physical construction of the MBPs and the the power management of OSX (my HPs both have abysmal battery life stats). But HP’s past offenses aside, I may have to reconsider my switch in light of this new breed of designer-targeted notebooks.

The recently announced HP Elitebook 8730w comes with a Dreamcolor display. That’s pretty impressive for a laptop; the specs on the Dreamcolor displays are amazing (1,000,000,000 colors?!) and to have that kind of color reproduction on the road would be a huge advantage. Add to that a dual-SATA drive option (two physical disks for Photoshop Swap Drive duties or RAID-0/1 configurations) along with dual DVI outs (one onboard HDMI/DVI socket, one external via the optional dock) and docking capability (something the MacBook inexplicably lacks) and you have yourself a portable graphic design powerhouse. Another incentive is the anodized aluminum "Duracase" which is hopefully better than the brittle plastic they made the previous models out of. Given the specs (Quad Core Intel / 8GB RAM / 1GB VRAM!) you could get away with using this as your desktop machine as well.

My only concerns with this new offering are the lack of a 15" screen option (17" is a bit too large to really be portable in my opinion) and the fact that HP is gloss-happy when it comes to screens. On both my laptops the screen is so glossy that the glare prevents me from seeing the screen in most outdoor environments (and many indoor environments). The don’t seem to specify whether the screen on the 8730w is glossy or matte, but if they end up offering a 15" matte screen option they can put me down for one.

And the real kicker? It’s $1699. That’s US dollars, and it’s not a misprint. $1699!!!  A comparably equipped MacBook Pro doesn’t exist, but even a lesser-equipped MBP would run you over double that figure. It’s times like these I feel lucky to be so entangled in the complete disaster that is Windows. I learned on Windows and really can’t fully divorce myself from it and therefore am at it’s mercy, so when a great hardware option like this comes along I have to be thankful. Oh yeah, and a Windows XP downgrade option is also available on the 8730w; this is opposed to the earlier HP / MS bed-buddy policy of forcing you to use Vista on new laptop purchases. They went as far as to remove the XP drivers from their site for my DV9000 when Vista came out just to force me to upgrade. To tell the truth, XP has matured into a remarkably stable operating system. I have tested it extensively versus OS X and it’s stood up to the challenge. I will admit that OS X is overall a more stable and reliable OS, but when configured properly, XP gets the job done and gets it done faster.

So here’s to hoping that the 8730w lives up to the hype and eventually spawns a 15" incarnation; it would be a valuable addition to any designers arsenal and a very cost-effective one at that.

Have you used or do you own a Dreamcolor display? What do you think? Any other potential Mac switchers swayed by this recent development? Let us know.

37 Comments Leave A Comment


mathi says:

August 13, 2008 at 3:06 am

I advise you a mac. I couldn’t live without mine. Especially the new features of the osx 10.5 are really feasible. I couldn’t imagine what I would do without the Quick Look- Function with the space-key. In addition to the Coverflow feature this makes it a lot more easy to organise various photos and other files. And it shows you almost every format in QuickLook. Even psd!!

I would buy a mac. It’s simpler to work on it. Or like Aral Balkan once said: On a mac you don’t have to get the system working, you can simply work with it.


Daniel Carvalho says:

August 13, 2008 at 3:26 am

I’m glad you said Windows was pretty stable, because with all the debates going on about how bad Windows XP is, coupled with the fact that people are just predisposed to hating Microsoft products without due reason and most of all experience can be so annoying.

I’ve been using Windows XP for years, once you have the service pack on there, it’s pretty damn stable. I can count the number of blue screens I’ve got over the years on one hand. I understand peoples experiences can differ, but, a lot of the time, it’s normally a case of PEBKAC.

Grunts aside, I would really recommend looking into it further, I know someone with a MBP and it doesn’t perform well under the stress our line of work requires, albeit there are there are more powerful MBP solutions available. Unless you like seeing a beach ball / colour wheel. Also, the screen colour was pretty off.


Scott says:

August 13, 2008 at 3:58 am

you can …. I am running OS X on my HP DV9000 and it screams, stable as a rock too. once apple switched to intel architecture and released PC_EFI it became possible to run OS X on many PCs. HP is particularly good because they build their laptops using almost identical components to a MBP.

The only reason I have that setup though is to run VDMX, a mac-only VJ application, for live shows.

I will agree that your average PC is not as stable as your average mac, but in the right hands and with the right knowledge, a PC can be configured to run very, very stable and very very quickly.

One of the major reasons for the stability of Macs is the fact that the hardware is hand-picked to run with the software. the hardware is also of very high quality. most pre-built PCs are built using shoddy components or components that don’t play very well with windows. if you build your own machine you can purchase memory, for instance, that is tested tot he standard of Mac memory and therefore will produce fewer errors and lead to fewer problems in Windows (blue screens etc..) . After SP2, win XP is a very stable OS. it may not have all the bells and whistles of OS X, but it works and actually has a few features that I miss when I use OS X (windows displays thumbnails representing files inside folders on the outside of the folder, this comes in very handy when I am scanning through the hundreds of folders in my projects directory looking for some specific file, I don’t have to click into each directory).

at any rate, I think this new laptop is great news for those of us who prefer windows. and after working with OS X for about 6 months now, I am starting to prefer windows more than ever.

The other issue is how friendly the OS is to designers. XP is gaining ground now considering the recent announcement that Photoshop CS4 will only ship a 64bit version for Windows, the OSX version will still be plain old 32bit, meaning 6 of that 8GB of ram in your Mac Pro is useless to photoshop. And now with these new HPs, windows has an option available with the most color accurate screen ever on a laptop.

At the end of the day it’s not about being a die hard mac or pc fanboy, it’s about getting work done and if the tools and options on the mac side are better for what I am doing, I will use a mac, if it’s better on a PC, I will use a PC.


butler says:

August 13, 2008 at 4:08 am

There is no… NO way I would ever switch to a pc again, I had a pc all my life until last year when i first started using a mac. I don’t believe there is any good reason to buy a pc over a mac now, even if the price is so much lower.


gareth says:

August 13, 2008 at 4:34 am

just like to add.. who the hell has had a blue screen on xp? By the mac if you want a nice looking toy or buy the hp if you want the best bang for your buck.


gareth says:

August 13, 2008 at 4:39 am

i really don`t get the obsession with mac`s (i run both for work) with windows i can hide the OS so it just becomes a place to store launchy. I can tweak every last ounce of power out of my pc, but my mac is always trying to shove its clunky animated glossy crap in my face.


Daniel Carvalho says:

August 13, 2008 at 4:56 am

At the end of the day it’s not about being a die hard mac or pc fanboy, it’s about getting work done and if the tools and options on the mac side are better for what I am doing, I will use a mac, if it’s better on a PC, I will use a PC.

That is exactly the ticket. Sober judgment goes much further than bias.


Mirwen72 says:

August 13, 2008 at 6:00 am

I was wondering since you are all talking about hardware like it’s your second nature… Do you know any website of kind… let’s say “how to set your windows xp 64 with your nice intel” or “setting photoshop for particular hardware”?


Lukeo says:

August 13, 2008 at 6:24 am

I have to say I used to be a mac hater, until the intel mac pro’s came out and although it was expensive I was paying to enjoy OS X as well as have the advantage of installing windows. After using both XP, OS X and now 64bit vista I’ve come to learn what ever operating system I use its going to crash. So at the moment I’m using OS X simply becuase I find its easier to swap through windows and application.

As far as the MBR is consered your paying for the design (which is amazing) and to be part of the mac world. Although if this new HP is cheaper and will run OS X and windows faster it will definitely be worth considering.


Scott says:

August 13, 2008 at 6:25 am

I went into some detail about configuring photoshop and your computer here:

there isn’t much to do inside PS except for setting the correct swap drive, setting cache levels, and allocating ram. I recommend investing in solid dedicated RAID card and running at least 2 drives in raid0 as swap. I use a highpoint 3520 with 4 drives.


jefta Varwijk says:

August 13, 2008 at 7:04 am

as a 17year old i was doing the full macromediapackage (the old days) plus quark (i told you) plus photoshop 7 (you see..) on a very slow windowscomputer. i drove me nuts and to the brink of i-dont-know-what. I came to my school (graphic design) with ibooks and imacs (the bowls. best ever!) Imagen my jealousy. So i decided i wanted a mac. went to look for the ibook, then discovered the powerbook. more power. hmm. interesting… So went looking after that one. After a while i discovered that i’d been looking at the old titanium version, and then set my sights on the alu G4.

bought it, and alas, i was satisfied.
now. several years later, i’ve run all the heavy stuff on it, at the same time. I’m talking adobe, FCP kinda stuff… now its slow, it has spots everywhere, more tiny dead pixels than i can count and dozens of kernal panics.

So i set my eyes on the new sh*t. MacBookpro.
No HP. Never a windows again. No multitouch trackpad. No superiour looks, hard- and software. The eye is there too… and wants some.

so, to use the words of todd bentley, on behalf of steve jobs, i’d say,
come get some!

and i’ll go refurbished! Go $600 discount for same product!


Alex / HeadUp says:

August 13, 2008 at 7:34 am

Lower price for high performance is no longer incentive enough for me to suffer through Windows and it’s slew of imperfections…I’m (finally) ordering my MacBook Pro this week– going with the 15″ (agreed on 17″ being too big, and expensive, for that matter when you could just hook it up to a larger monitor and go dual) medium 2.5 GHz Processor, 7200 RPM HD and 4gig memory upgrades.

I can understand using something like this for the grunt work while you’re on the road, but as a designer making a serious effort at taking the next step with my creative work (not just graphic, but also video and music), I see no other suitable alternative, and being able to run BootCamp or Parallels on top of that makes it all worth it for me.


Eric says:

August 13, 2008 at 7:47 am

Speaking as a long-time former Windows user, I honestly don’t think you’re going to find any Mac switchers swayed by this.

The performance/tweakability benefits of dual hard drives and 64-bit apps are negligible at best for most of the work of a typical designer, and have the drawbacks of adding heat and increasing load on the system. While yes, Macs may not have bleeding-edge specs, they’re a pretty successful balance of power, reliability, technological feasibility, and price — one of their biggest selling points. It’s a pretty good counterpoint to these PC makers’ selling point of “check out these x-treme specs maannnn!”

Simpler is better. No tweaking, docking, or Star Trek-esque technology necessary. Designers got by for years without computers at ALL.


slobot says:

August 13, 2008 at 8:14 am

i have been an hp user for years as well. i have a dv8000 that i use every day. i specialize in powerpoint design, and most of my clients use PC for their presentations, so working on windows is better in my case. i, for one, am excited that HP is upping the ante on their systems, and look forward to this new piece of hardware..


vlad gorshkov says:

August 13, 2008 at 9:13 am

New MacBook Pro will come out in September. Just wait till that kills this PC and all others. =)

The beauty of OS X is that you don’t need all these fancy features to do the job. Window machines seems to degrade in months, while OS X keeps running almost like new.


Newton Poetry says:

August 13, 2008 at 9:43 am

Two things. One, I’ll never get over XP’s wonky treatment of EPS files. For some reason, XP treats my EPS files like garbage – it either won’t save them or won’t delete them when I need to. Weird.

Second, my girlfiend pruchased an HP DV9000-series laptop and it fell apart within weeks. The display stopped working (it was a documented problem – she had to send it in twice to get it fixed) and it came with Vista. Two strikes.

So I’ll hold out any hopes for HP laptops until you report otherwise. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, but I’d rather you experiment on it than have me trust it. Good luck, and be sure to let us know how it treats you.


Kenny G. Villacorta says:

August 13, 2008 at 10:35 am

Wow that’s a monster of a laptop desktop replacement. I’ve used OS X and Windows XP/Vista and I have to say that all three have their quirks. There’s features that OS X has that XP/Vista doesn’t and vice versa. It’s more of a personal choice, they’re both good OSes, it’s just that sometimes marketing influences a person’s opinion too much. If you are considering buying sometime soon, there are rumors that Apple is coming out with something in September. Apple has used up a lot of their resources working on the iphone, and there hasn’t been major desktop laptop redesigns in 2.5 years (I’m not talking about just hardware).


Frank says:

August 13, 2008 at 11:26 am

Hey Scott, that sounded too good to be true so I looked closer…
It is the 15” model (without dreamcolor display) that starts at $1699, not the 17”. Prices for this high end model are not available yet on the site, but considering its specs I wouldn’t be surprised to see it above $3000… the dreamcolor monitors alone are more than $3000…


drew kora says:

August 13, 2008 at 2:57 pm

For your needs, I agree that windows is the way to go Scott. More power to you.

These new notebooks don’t tempt me away form Mac though. The work I do simply doesn’t require all that power. Plus, stable as XP may be, it just doesn’t hold a candle to the killer interface of 10.5.

…but that display is dreamy.


MK says:

August 13, 2008 at 3:39 pm

My Mac at work (10.4) crashes way more than my Windows XP rig at home. At the end of the day they both run the software and PCs are way more upgradeable and cheaper to fix. Plus they play games :)

Mac lust is lame. It’s about getting work done, and for me it’s windows + adobe.


Forrest says:

August 13, 2008 at 4:16 pm

This is great news! I’ve been looking at the MBPs for awhile now, and was about ready to lie down a few student loans to pay for one, but now this new HP is looking better and better! Thanks for the post Scott


Rent says:

August 13, 2008 at 4:23 pm

after having looked into the laptop game for what seems like an eternity now and mainly focusing on the Macbooks due to their praise and appeal, this looks pretty appetizing to me for only $1700.

I also grew up on a PC and feel like I can use one inside out, but yet I feel like their is some awesome Mac club I’m not a part of and everyone is laughing at me because my computer is still on the Photoshop load screen. this laptop looks like it could be the cure to these ails and I wouldn’t have to convert everything I know and have over to a Mac.

now only for the seventeen-hundo….


Justin S. Meyers says:

August 13, 2008 at 6:04 pm

For a laptop, that’s really awesome. I don’t know about you guys, but I am not rich… $1699 for what a MBP would cost double for in terms of equal specs. Very tempting. My Dad was a programmer/IT Tech for most of his life so I got equal experience on Macs and PC’s and I am comfortable with XP. Definitely takes some configuring, but that’s exactly what gives it it’s advantage… I love Macs, still use one for various tasks, but PC’s make much more sense to the pocket book, especially if you’re able to run OSX, no brainer in my opinion.


OP says:

August 13, 2008 at 6:18 pm

Personally I’ve been rather dissapointed in my experience with macs. I’ve lost more work on them than working at home on both xp based and even (shock horror!) vista.
Just yesterday in fact at studio I work part time went to quick save – program just closed no warning. Theres many other little problems that Ive come across also – at uni often get the spinning hamster wheel of doom on a variety of programs – Still at least Force Quit works well, tested quite a bit ;) And why can you not view thumbnails of files? sounds like you can with new version quicklook..? Ive got the little fix on PC that lets you see psd thumbnails and its pretty handy seeing without having to open anything at all.
At that power and price I’d be dead keen on a 15″ version of that HP if it came out. can afford a lot more backup devices too to be extra secure! :)


James says:

August 13, 2008 at 7:05 pm

I think you’re over looking one major factor here. It’s a PC.

Also, Apple will most likely be introducing a refresh for their laptops by the end of September (MacRumors). All the new notebooks will be aluminum and they’ll probably have Intel/Nvidia chipsets. Futureproof for OpenCL.

You might as well switch now mate. Stop cheating yourself with that Hackintosh and just embrace the Apple..


Joseph X. Burke says:

August 13, 2008 at 7:13 pm

PC vs. Mac aside (although I am a Mac user, I was a PC user for decades and really, both platforms pose serious problems in stability when they’re not maintained properly and/or streamlined for the tasks you’re looking to accomplish [so kudos on that platform/productivity correlation) — I’m ultimately just really pleased to see HP stepping up and filling the void of high-end, well-designed PC laptops. Too often I help my PC-based friends with their new acquisitions, even [comparatively] expensive Sony products, and am just amazed at how sub-par the construction and components seem to be.

The specs on the HP look pretty genius and while I wouldn’t swap my Mac Book Pro for much (again, only ’cause it’s worked so well for me in terms of productivity and durability), it seems appealing if you’re looking to swap up to a new PC portable. I’m a firm believer, too, that the 15″ is the way to go. Had the same debate with the 15″ vs 17″ MBP and am glad I kept my machine as portable as possible.



Scott says:

August 13, 2008 at 10:58 pm

the 8730w starts at $1699 / adding the dreamcolor option is $400 which still brings it in well below a slower MBP.

Also, here’s some hands-on:

From the looks of these pictures it’s definitely a marked improvement over the 9000 series, but still has that plasticy PC vibe about it. but until they come out with a 15″ it doesnt really matter to me anyways. I have been reading up on all the rumors about the upcoming MBP, definitely going to wait until all the cards are on the table until I make any decisions.


steven wade says:

August 14, 2008 at 9:12 am

hardly a MBP killer, and where are you getting the ‘half he price figure?’

my partner and i just got our second MBP, and we bought it under the education discount. neither of us is in school and they didn’t seem to check that we were. also, we got a free ipod touch for buying it under the education discount.

these are similarly priced computers.

first off, i could NEVER work on that awful glossy screen. secondly, and i am sure that as designers we can admit this to ourselves; aesthetics matter. the mac products look great as well as performing great. that HP looks clumsy, boxy, and plasticy to me.

even if that is faster, i don’t think you are going to be able to count the milliseconds. i am running illustrator, photoshop, indesign, itunes, and firefox right now and she’s purring along… quickly.


Ed Shin, Infographic Designer says:

August 20, 2008 at 7:49 am

If you’re gonna buy a mac, better get hardshell protective casing. They dent so easily from bumps and short falls. The mac construction is not as robust as you think. Most people at my work who have macs also have soda-can-like dents and crumpled corners.


Matthias says:

September 21, 2008 at 3:04 am

These new Elitebooks are extremly rugged as well.
They showed them off at university where you could get them for a steep discount along macs and lenovos (ibm). I was joking with the HP guy if they take it up stability-wise with the lenovos (which are known to have very solid cases). He said no problem: you actually can step on them. I grabbed the 14 inch model (6930p) and said ” really I can step on that right now?” – He said yes. Well I didn’t have the heart to step on a new laptop, but my friend did (70kgs).. took it, put it on the floor.. and stood on it completely.. It didn’t have a scratch. After that we went to the apple guy and asked if he would mind us taking a step on his powerbook.. he just shrieked.. :)
Well.. that little demo sold them two Elitebooks right there.. The good thing is they still look like a nice laptop not like a freaking tank like the lenovos do.