The HP Elitebook 8730w Windows Vista Ultimate laptop is the nearest there is to a true rival to the Apple MacBook Pro.

It's not as slim and light - although it's much closer to the size and weight of Apple's laptop than any other, and is easily portable - but the HP Elitebook 8730w boasts a much better screen and is an able performer in our tests.

HP's laptop stands up to some staunch competition in terms of speed. While the MacBook Pro was fastest in pure chip speed, beating the HP Elitebook 8730w in our Cinebench rendering test, HP's notebook pulled ahead in Photoshop and After Effects, where it was helped by the nippy 7,200rpm drive. Unsurprisingly, it can't match quad-core laptops in AE, but it was marginally faster than even the Asus G71V in Photoshop.

The key selling point of the HP Elitebook 8730w is the option of the Dreamcolor RGB LED screen, which our test model has. This is the best laptop screen we've ever seen, having a colour gamut to rival some high-end desktop monitors (and it's matte to boot) - and it is almost perfectly accurate even before calibration.

The HP Elitebook 8730w's design is functional and rather boring. The MacBook Pro is a great example of how simplicity can make for great design, but the 8730w's spartan combination of black and silver won't turn heads.

We have no complaints about the HP Elitebook 8730w's ergonomics though, as it has a great keyboard, trackpad and a touch-based control strip between the screen and the keyboard. We also like the long battery life and eSATA port for connecting high-performance external storage.

Our only real issue with the HP Elitebook 8730w is its price. It's a good price for a mobile workstation with a 1GB nVidia Quadro FX graphics chip if you're a VFX artist or 3D animator, but for designers and digital artists who don't need a workstation-class chip, it's pricey next to the MacBook Pro.

The HP Elitebook 8730w's 15in cousin, the 8350w, is available with a standard graphics chip as the 8530p at a much lower price, but for some reason HP doesn't offer this for a 8730p.

HP Elitebook 8730w: Specs

  • Intel Core 2 Duo (T9600) 2.8GHz 6144KB (L2 Cache)
  • CPU Bus Speed: 1066MHz
  • EliteBook 8730w motherboard
  • Intel PM45 Express chipset
  • ExpressCard 54 Slot
  • 4096MB (up to 8192MB) RAM, 2 x SODIMM
  • 320GB 7200rpm hard disk
  • DVD±RW DL SuperMulti optical drive
  • keybard, touchpad and pointstick
  • 17in LCD WUXGA
  • 2 x Built in Stereo Speakers, HD support, Integrated Microphone
  • 15-pin D-Sub, HDMI, RJ-45, 4 x USB 2.0, FireWire (1394a), 3.5mm Stereo Mini-Jack (audio in/out), eSATA Connector, RJ-11, Docking Connector
  • ethernet 10/100/1000Mbps, IEEE 802.11 a/b/g draft n, Bluetooth, 56Kbps Modem
  • 2Mp webcam
  • Microsoft Windows Vista Business
  • Lithium-Ion (8 Cells) battery
  • 393x282x32mm
  • 3.4kg
  • Intel Core 2 Duo (T9600) 2.8GHz 6144KB (L2 Cache)
  • CPU Bus Speed: 1066MHz
  • EliteBook 8730w motherboard
  • Intel PM45 Express chipset
  • ExpressCard 54 Slot
  • 4096MB (up to 8192MB) RAM, 2 x SODIMM
  • 320GB 7200rpm hard disk
  • DVD±RW DL SuperMulti optical drive
  • keybard, touchpad and pointstick
  • 17in LCD WUXGA
  • 2 x Built in Stereo Speakers, HD support, Integrated Microphone
  • 15-pin D-Sub, HDMI, RJ-45, 4 x USB 2.0, FireWire (1394a), 3.5mm Stereo Mini-Jack (audio in/out), eSATA Connector, RJ-11, Docking Connector
  • ethernet 10/100/1000Mbps, IEEE 802.11 a/b/g draft n, Bluetooth, 56Kbps Modem
  • 2Mp webcam
  • Microsoft Windows Vista Business
  • Lithium-Ion (8 Cells) battery
  • 393x282x32mm
  • 3.4kg

OUR VERDICT

The HP Elitebook 8730w has an outstanding screen and offers a long battery life. It also provides great performance and is relatively thin. It is also very expensive, however, and despite forking out £2,500 you end up with a dull-looking workhorse.

Find the best price