Not content with the usual defensive layers of smart card reader, infrared webcam and fingerprint reader, HP goes one step beyond: press F2 on this machine and the screen switches to privacy mode. You can still view the display face-on, albeit dimmed, but those to your left and right see a grey blur.
Then there’s HP’s combination Sure Start Gen4 feature. While it may sound like a government-sponsored house-buying scheme, it’s actually an added layer of protection for your BIOS. If malware targets this and makes a change, Sure Start will revert to the latest “good” version and notify both the user and the IT team. Clever.
All this would be for nought if the laptop was a lemon, but it’s a solid business laptop. I stop short of calling it stylish, with a business-like silver finish and – compared to the Dell XPS 13 – a porky base. I measured it at 13.1mm thick and, even though the lid is slim, this laptop’s total thickness of 19.1mm is nothing to boast about anymore. If 1.59kg sounds heavy, note that our review sample had a touchscreen, which adds around 100g.
In HP’s defence, that weight is partly due to the 14in panel on show here, compared to the 13.3in XPS 13, and the aluminium chassis feels suitably sturdy and rugged. HP weakens such arguments by including big bezels, though. The 8mm-wide side bezels look okay, but the one at the bottom is almost a full inch and the top bezel not much better at 20mm. These make the 14in screen feel smaller than it is.
The screen itself is great. Its star feature is the ability to hit a blazing 625cd/m² for use outdoors, while a Delta E of 2.15, contrast ratio of 1,071:1 and sRGB gamut coverage of 91.7% are all fine scores for a laptop. I have few complaints about the keyboard either. It would have been nice to have a little more travel in the keys, but that’s just me being fussy. The only thing that stops me being more fulsome in my praise is that the touchpad is too far to the left, so I had to adjust the position of my palm when typing or it would nudge the position of the cursor.
HP includes a few nice features to make up for this minor annoyance. One is the trackpoint in the middle of the keyboard, with accompanying mouse buttons below the spacebar, which come in handy in cramped conditions. It’s also curious to see dial and hang-up buttons at the top-right of the keyboard. This highlights HP’s aim to make this a conferencing-friendly laptop, with the promise of “crystal clear collaboration”, thanks to a third microphone on the outside of the lid. The idea is that, if other people are taking part in your call, this third mic will help pick up their voices; if it’s just background noise, the laptop will block the sound.
HP promises up to 14 hours of battery life from the EliteBook 840, but our video-rundown tests suggest you’ll be lucky to reach this. With the screen brightness set to 170cd/m² and Flight mode on, it lasted for 6hrs 30mins. You’ll want to carry the 355g power supply when travelling, but at least you won’t need any adapters. Along with two USB 3.1 ports, there is a Thunderbolt 3 port, full-size HDMI output and an Ethernet slot.
Yet more options come via HP’s existing side-mounted docking stations – which are still compatible – and the upcoming Thunderbolt Dock G2, which can power a pair of 4K displays. This laptop has the potential to be a workhorse, too, thanks to Intel’s eighth-generation Core processors and, in future models, optional Radeon GPUs.
We tested the high-end model (code 3JX09EA-ABB) that included the popular quad-core Core i7-8550U processor with 16GB of RAM and a fast 512GB PCIe SSD. This combination was potent enough to push the Dell XPS 13 over 100 in our benchmarks, but for reasons I can only speculate on – most likely thermal throttling – it only hit 77. I’m not too concerned by this. Our benchmarks are stress tests that last over half an hour, and in general use, I doubt that many people will notice a slowdown.
While I wouldn’t go mad for the EliteBook 840 G5, there’s much to like here: the conferencing features; the extra levels of privacy; the convenience of built-in Ethernet and HDMI ports to accompany Thunderbolt 3. This versatility, make the EliteBook an attractive option for security-sensitive businesses.
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