You don't buy the HP EliteBook 8560w for its slightly pyramidal profile. You buy this high-end laptop for its workstation performance. Not that the 8560w is unattractive, but its looks fade into the background when you consider our test configuration's WorldBench 6 score of 156 - faster than most of the mainstream desktop-replacement laptops we've seen.
The prime movers behind the HP EliteBook 8560w's scintillating performance are a Core i7 CPU, 8GB of memory, and a 7200rpm, 750GB hard drive. The GPU is an Nvidia Quadro 2000M, which is extremely competent. The 8560w turned in a frame rate of 37.5 frames per second on Cinebench 11.5 with a 5.67 CPU rating.
The HP EliteBook 8560w is a very good gaming machine, too, unless you try to run games at 1920 by 1080 resolution, where its frame rate drops to near or below 30 fps - the Mendoza line for passable game play. Lower the detail settings, and gaming at 1080p is doable. Video playback is exceptionally smooth even at 1080p; but at low and high frequencies, audio from the speakers sounds a bit muddy and lacks oomph, despite the SRS Premium Sound software. Through capable headphones, the audio is excellent and can deliver of ear-damaging volume.
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The HP EliteBook 8560w's 1920 by 1080 display is great for games, photos, CAD, and video, but the byproduct of such a high resolution on a 15.6-inch screen is very small text and icons. Otherwise, the display is nicely backlit and colourfully renders the efforts of the GPU with the aid of HP's DreamColor technology. The display is an IPS (In-Plane Switching) type with truer 8-bit per component color reproduction and wider viewing angles than the common TN (Twisted Nematic) type offers.
Input ergonomics on the HP EliteBook 8560w are above-average. You get a full-size keyboard with numeric keypad, and both offer a tight, responsive feel. The touchpad is nicely responsive, too, and HP even throws in a PointStick ("eraser head") pointing device. Alas, the PointStick is too slippery for actual use, so consider it a splash of orange color in the otherwise all-gray keyboard deck. Dual sets of buttons appear, below and above the touchpad, for easy clicking as you type or move the cursor. The touchpad is recessed rather deeply, with vertical walls which makes it difficult to brush away detritus such as tortilla crumbs.
The HP EliteBook 8560w's ports are state of the art. One of the two USB 2.0 ports features eSATA, and HP provides two USB 3.0 ports as well. VGA, DisplayPort, audio-in and -out, plus both SDHC/MMC and Expresscard/54 slots are on board. Connectivity is top-notch with 802.11a/b/g/n (2.4GHz and 5GHz), and gigabit ethernet. Our test unit came with the optional EvDO broadband modem as well.
The HP EliteBook 8560w comes with 64-bit Windows 7 Professional plus HP's ProtectTools for hard drive encryption, control of the unit's biometric finger scanner, and password management. In addition, Intel's AT anti-theft technology harnesses the broadband chip for disabling and enabling the laptop via SMS messages. Intel's AT can also track your laptop's location using the un2430's GPS capabilities.
The HP EliteBook 8560w's a weak spot is battery life. The measured lifespan of 2 hours, 57 minutes is too brief to keep you working on short flight. On the other hand, at 3kg you probably won't be lugging it around the continent. Our review 8560w had a very beefy configuration, but models with a host of CPU, memory, hard-drive, and GPU options start at £1,185 inc VAT.