The HP EliteBook 8440p is a high-power 14in-screen laptop for the corporate elite, built like a tank and with state-of-the art performance thanks to the fastest Intel Core i7 mobile dual-core processor and SSD storage - UPDATED 14 SEPT 2010

Designed for the corporate elite, we’re told, is the HP EliteBook 8440p. Like the Samsung P580 business laptop, this HP EliteBook 8440p won’t win any beauty pagents and is hardly boardroom eye-candy. But it may win loyal fans from anyone needing a high-spec rugged laptop with a great turn of speed.

When first presented with its lid closed, the HP EliteBook 8440p is an incredibly rigid, if angular, notebook whose magniesium-aluminium alloy lid seems welded to the rest of the chassis.

 HP EliteBook 8440p (WL653PA)

A rigid lid on the HP EliteBook 8440p combines with a flex-free chassis to make one tough notebook

Depress the front release button, and the HP EliteBook 8440p's stiff lid can be raised to reveal a superb anti-glare screen of well-judged resolution – 1600x900 pixels across its 14.0in matt panel.

Speaker volume, wireless and touchpad on/off, as well as an email program’s quick-launch buttons are all found just below the screen, as touch-sensitive backlit buttons. The keyboard is a tough-feeling type with quiet flat-top keys, including a trackpoint steerer in its middle. It’s said to be spill-resistant, although we can’t confirm how well this works in practice.

The trackpoint is joined by a regular trackpad, a rather small but precise device, ably assisted by two long-travel click buttons. There’s no additional number keypad due to the limited width of this 14in form-factor notebook.

For night-time use, there’s a natty little white LED light sited in the top of the HP EliteBook 8440p's screen bezel next to the webcam. Press the square tile and the light pops out and softly illuminates the top deck.

On the left of the HP EliteBook 8440p we find three USB 2.0 and a mini FireWire 400 port, as well as an ExpressCard 54 expansion slot. On the right are the DVD±RW optical drive, Lightscribe enabled as you’d expect from the owners of the technology, as well as 56k modem and ethernet ports.

At a shade under 2.4kg it’s a little heavier than you might expect of a 14in design, but overall construction oozes solidity.

HP hasn’t skimped much on the HP EliteBook 8440p’s silicon either. There’s no separate graphics processor, but the one integrated into the notebook’s Intel Core i7-620M is good enough for almost any game-free use. And in fact this latest-generation Intel GMA HD can even play Windows games if you keep detail settings down. We saw 17 fps in FEAR at Maximum quality, and 27 fps at High.

HP includes a fairly decent 55Wh battery that allowed the HP EliteBook 8440p to run for nearly 5.5 hours in the MobileMark 2007 Productivity test (327 mins). But given a dose of mains power, the 8440p is a very swift performer.

In the WorldBench 6 speed test, it reaped a giddy 123 points. That’s a great result, aided by the inclusion of an SSD for storage. That drive is 160GB in size, a little small for home users with large media libraries, but plenty enough space for Office docs.

NEXT PAGE: The PC World Australia review of the Intel Core i5 version of the HP EliteBook 8440p >>

Or skip to the PC Advisor Verdict >>

See also: Group test: what's the best laptop?

It's easy to get caught up in the minutiae of a notebook's technical specifications, but a big part of buying a great laptop that suits you is getting one with the right design. And the HP EliteBook 8440p's is a ripper. It compares favourably with top-end business laptops from Dell and Lenovo. The magnesium alloy chassis feels incredibly sturdy and looks wonderful. The LED-backlit screen is held in place by metal hinges, and the notebook has a latched closing system. Embedded in the bezel are a webcam and a keyboard light.

The display has a nice matte finish (great if you're working under fluorescent lights). It doesn't have exceptional viewing angles, but images look crisp and clear.

The EliteBook 8440p weighs a little over 2kg, so it's not an ultraportable laptop. But given HP's data sheet notes it's designed "to meet the tough military standards (MIL-STD 810G) for vibration, dust, humidity, altitude, and high temperatures", we're not surprised, and the weight feels reassuring (we also love its balance). The keyboard is exceptional, with full-sized keys that are comfortable to type with. We wish the keys had a smidgen more travel, but this is a quibble.

Above the keyboard are touch-sensitive buttons to disable the touchpad and wireless, adjust volume and launch a web browser. There's also a button that brings up a menu to install HP software (such as HP's 3D DriveGuard to protect your data if you knock the laptop). We couldn't find any way to remap this button to do something useful, which, quite frankly, is bizarre. We loved the location of the fingerprint reader — on the palm rest's far right — because it's out of the way and you aren't likely to hit it with a thumb when using the touchpad.

The touchpad is a little cramped but has a nice smooth texture. If you're like us you'll prefer the joystick-like pointing device located in the middle of the keyboard. It's great if you're writing while on public transport, and it has two dedicated buttons. (Some people might prefer the convex tip of a TrackPoint device on a Lenovo ThinkPad rather than the convex tip on the EliteBook, but we didn't mind it.)

The notebook's beauty is just not chassis-deep: inside there are components that should keep any road warrior happy, as long as they aren't engaging in specialised tasks (like 3D design) or playing high-end games (stick to Solitaire). The notebook is equipped with an Intel Core i5-540M CPU that runs at 2.53 GHz and 2GB of DDR3 RAM. The CPU has two physical cores, so you will have four virtual cores to play with in total thanks to Hyper-Threading. Turbo Boost can jack the clockspeed up to 3.066GHz automatically. Quite frankly, most office productivity tasks won't require this — the multiple cores are much more important, because they ensure that multitasking will be a breeze.

 HP EliteBook 8440p

The HP EliteBook 8440p (WL653PA) has two RAM slots: one is accessible via an easily removable panel on the base, while the other (below) requires you to remove the keyboard.

 HP EliteBook 8440p

When we ran our WorldBench 6 test suite, the notebook scored an excellent 107. The MP3 encoding and Blender 3D rendering tests took 58 seconds and 54 seconds respectively to complete, which isn't particularly impressive — these results are slightly slower than the budget Medion Akoya MD98330, a Core i3 notebook for home users. 3DMark06 returned a low score of 1770; this is an unsurprising result from the integrated Intel graphics adaptor (though it still falls short of many non-business notebooks that have integrated graphics). Modern games are pretty much ruled out — hardly a surprise for a notebook that means Srs Bsns — but you'll be able to watch high-definition videos.

We tested the battery by disabling power saving, turning up the screen brightness and enabling Wi-Fi, then looping an SD video file. The notebook lasted 2hr 26min. It's a not a bad result for a laptop this size packing decent components under the hood. HP's 15in Probook 6540b only lasted 2hr 13min, while Dell's smaller, 13in Vostro V13 lasted 2hr 1min.

Around the sides you get pretty much everything you'd want from a business notebook: four USB 2.0 ports (one doubles as an eSATA port), an ExpressCard/54 slot, FireWire, a dial-up modem, mic and headphone jacks, an SD card slot, Gigabit Ethernet (there's also 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth), a smart card reader — deep breath — a Kensington lock slot, a DVD burner and a VGA (D-sub) connection and DisplayPort for hooking up an external monitor.

PC World Australia Verdict

The HP EliteBook 8440p looks stunning while retaining a functional design, and it offers pretty much everything you'd want from a business notebook. Check it out in store and prepare to be smitten. It's not cheap, but for a business notebook of this calibre we think that's a pretty reasonable proposition.

Rohan Pearce

PC World Australia

NEXT PAGE: Our expert verdict >>

See also: Group test: what's the best laptop?

HP EliteBook 8440p: Specs

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7-620M
  • 14.0in (1600 x 900) matt LCD display
  • Windows 7 Professional 32-bit
  • 4GB DDR3-1333 RAM
  • 160GB 2.5in SATA SSD
  • Intel GMA HD graphics
  • DisplayPort, VGA
  • DVD±RW DL with Lightscribe
  • 3 x USB 2.0, 1 x eSATA/USB 2.0
  • SD card slot
  • mini-FireWire 400
  • SC reader
  • ExpressCard 54
  • fingerprint reader
  • 56k modem
  • trackpoint and trackpad
  • 55Wh lithium-ion battery
  • 336 x 236 x 31mm
  • 2378g
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7-620M
  • 14.0in (1600 x 900) matt LCD display
  • Windows 7 Professional 32-bit
  • 4GB DDR3-1333 RAM
  • 160GB 2.5in SATA SSD
  • Intel GMA HD graphics
  • DisplayPort, VGA
  • DVD±RW DL with Lightscribe
  • 3 x USB 2.0, 1 x eSATA/USB 2.0
  • SD card slot
  • mini-FireWire 400
  • SC reader
  • ExpressCard 54
  • fingerprint reader
  • 56k modem
  • trackpoint and trackpad
  • 55Wh lithium-ion battery
  • 336 x 236 x 31mm
  • 2378g

OUR VERDICT

In sheer performance terms, the HP EliteBook 8440p is a true desktop replacement, packed into a relatively totable 14in-screen package. It’s very pricey, but obviously built to last. With the help of its top-spec Core i7 dual-core processor, it should also keep up with the competition for a couple of years too.

Find the best price