The HP EliteBook 8740w is a highly configurable, rugged desktop-replacement laptop. You can plump for an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, up to 32GB of 1,333MHz DDR3 RAM, more than 1TB of hard-disk space (or up to 256GB SSD), and HP's DreamColor screen. Naturally, such a loaded model will set you back considerably.

The HP EliteBook 8740w is a highly configurable, rugged desktop-replacement laptop. You can plump for an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, up to 32GB of 1,333MHz DDR3 RAM, more than 1TB of hard-disk space (or up to 256GB SSD), and HP's DreamColor screen. Naturally, such a loaded model will set you back considerably.

The EliteBook 8740w laptop starts at a somewhat hefty £1,598, with prices going right up to £4,537 at HP's website. Our review model had a 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-520M processor, 2GB of RAM, a 250GB hard drive (running at 7,200 rpm) and Windows 7 Professional 64bit. It also featured a 2Mp built-in Webcam, an nVidia Quadro FX 3800M graphics card with 1GB of dedicated video memory, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth and a DVD+/-RW drive.

Slick and sexy, the HP EliteBook 8740w has a slate-grey, brushed-magnesium-alloy cover and a black plastic chassis. In the middle of the cover is a small, shiny silver HP logo with 'EliteBook' below it in matt white text. The inside of the laptop is also pretty: the grey magnesium alloy carries over on to the wristrest, while the keyboard and screen bezel are smooth black plastic.

Running along the top of the HP EliteBook 8740w laptop's keyboard is a black strip that constitutes a number of touch buttons for updates, internet, Wi-Fi, touchpad on/off, volume control and the calculator. These buttons, while cool-looking (they glow in teal and blue when turned on, and orange when turned off), are not as responsive as they should be.

As for connections, the HP EliteBook 8740w laptop is fully equipped with two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, an eSATA port, an ethernet port, a DisplayPort connector, a VGA port, FireWire, a docking connector, a secondary battery connector, an Express Card slot, a Smart Card reader and headphone/microphone jacks.

This is a desktop-replacement laptop, so its weight is unsurprisingly not one of its strengths - this bad boy weighs 3.6kg, not including its monster of a power brick. The 17in-screen HP EliteBook 8740w measures 398x286x37mm. Although toting this thing with you is like carrying a small child around, you can bring it along if absolutely necessary.

If you can't make up your mind as to whether you like Chiclet keyboards or regular ones, the HP EliteBook 8740w laptop has you covered: its keyboard is designed to offer a Chiclet-style feel with a regular-style look. Although the keys are smooth, black, and Chiclet-shaped, the bottom of each key tapers out to present a more connected appearance. Frankly, I'd prefer it the other way around - a Chiclet-style look with a regular-style feel. That said, the keyboard is very comfortable to type on (if a little slippery), and the keys give excellent feedback.

The keyboard is also a testament to the 'business-ruggedness' of this laptop: it has a drain that funnels out the bottom of the laptop, so spilling coffee on to your computer is no longer as much of a problem. The only minor annoyance I have with the HP EliteBook 8740w's keyboard is the backlight, which you can turn off but not dim in increments. If you are sitting a comfortable distance from the computer and it's on a table or desk, you are at just the correct angle for the backlight to shine out from underneath the keys and into your eyes. In this regard, a Chiclet-style look would have been much better.

The touchpad is a nice size - not too small, although not as big as some that I've seen - and its surface is an easy-to-use matt black. Three equal-size, rubbery buttons accompany it. The HP EliteBook 8740w laptop also has a textured pointer stick nestled between the G and H keys on the keyboard. The touchpad is quick and responsive; the buttons, meanwhile, are easy to press, although a bit weird feeling. The equal size of the buttons is a tad annoying, as the middle button (normally the scrollwheel on a physical mouse) seems to take up valuable space.

The HP EliteBook 8740w sports a gorgeous 17in (1920x1200) LED-backlit screen that provides superb colour reproduction and amazing blacks. The screen surface is matt, but on the shinier side you'll still see some reflections in bright light. The viewing angle is fairly good: even though the screen gets a little darker as you move to either side, colours stay decently bright and vivid on this laptop.

Video playback is very good. Streaming a video on the HP EliteBook 8740w laptop is no problem, but you won't get perfect results with HD clips. Microsoft's "Wildlife in HD" sample clip, for example, has just a little artefacting and shimmer, especially in fullscreen mode. Although the colours are excellent, the shimmery backgrounds are a little annoying.

The speakers, located on the front of the laptop just underneath the wristrest, are fairly loud. Even in a crowded, bustling room, you'll get a nice amount of bass and enough sound to at least hear what's going on. Music sounds a bit tinny on the HP EliteBook 8740w, especially at higher volumes, but the effect is hardly noticeable.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

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

HP EliteBook 8740w: Specs

  • 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-520M
  • Windows 7 Professional
  • 2GB DDR3 1,333MHz RAM
  • 250GB 7,200rpm HDD
  • 17in (1920x1200) LED-backlit matt LCD screen
  • 1GB nVidia Quadro FX 3800M
  • 802.11b/g/n
  • ethernet
  • Bluetooth
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x FireWire
  • supports SD/SDHC/MMC/xD-Picture
  • ExpressCard 54 slot
  • DVD+/-RW drive
  • stereo speakers
  • webcam
  • DisplayPort
  • VGA
  • 398x286x37mm
  • 3.6kg
  • 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-520M
  • Windows 7 Professional
  • 2GB DDR3 1,333MHz RAM
  • 250GB 7,200rpm HDD
  • 17in (1920x1200) LED-backlit matt LCD screen
  • 1GB nVidia Quadro FX 3800M
  • 802.11b/g/n
  • ethernet
  • Bluetooth
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x FireWire
  • supports SD/SDHC/MMC/xD-Picture
  • ExpressCard 54 slot
  • DVD+/-RW drive
  • stereo speakers
  • webcam
  • DisplayPort
  • VGA
  • 398x286x37mm
  • 3.6kg

OUR VERDICT

If you're into power and prettiness, the HP EliteBook 8740w laptop is for you. With prebuilt models starting at £1,598, the EliteBook 8740w is a decently priced desktop replacement, and it's sexy to boot. The brushed-metal chassis definitely makes the EliteBook 8740w look, well, elite - unlike a lot of boring, clunky business-rugged laptops. And if you want power, you can have it: custom configurations of the EliteBook 8740w surpass £4,500.

Find the best price