Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Review-HP EliteBook 8570w Mobile Workstation


I tested the HP EliteBook 8570w Workstation.  Here is my review.  It is broken down into two parts; Brief Overview and Full Review.  The brief review is short and covers the major points.  The Full review goes into far greater detail.  Sometimes you just want to know the basics and sometimes you need to know everything.

Brief Overview

Main Specs

The EliteBook 8570w that I tested was on the high end of HP’s spectrum.  Here is a list of the main specifications for the hardware:
  • CPU:  Intel® Core™ i7-3740QM (2.7 GHz, 6 MB cache, 4 cores)
  • Display: 15” LCD (15.6”) active color with built-in webcam (1920x1080)
  • Memory:  16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 SDRAM
  • Graphics: Nvidia Quadro K2000M 2GB 
  • Storage: Seagate 750 GB 7200 rpm SATA
  • Multimedia Drive: DVD read/write & SD Card slot
  • Security: Fingerprint reader, Face recognition
  • Operating System: Windows 7 Pro 
  • Wireless/Communications: Wi-Fi, 56K v.92 Modem, Optional HSPA+ Broadband Radio

The Good

The HP EliteBook 8570w mobile workstation is just that.  It has the full power of a desktop workstation, good graphics, interesting security options (fingerprint scanner), plenty of ports (USB, VGA, Display Port, Esata), the keyboard was easy to use, good looking screen, possible broadband data connection (built in), wi-fi, DVD player/recorder, and a backlit keyboard.  This mobile workstation has everything.  It is very expandable (up to 32 GB RAM on quad core i7), has a PCI slot, SD Card slot, and a great industrial design look.  It is very sturdy and rugged feeling.  A bonus is that the keyboard is full size and has a full numeric keypad.  Most laptops lack this feature.

The Bad

The HP EliteBook 8570w is heavy.  It’s not something you want to hold for a long period of time, or for a short period of time. It weighs over 6 pounds! Because of its enormous power the 83Whr battery does not last very long.  If you go out of the office with it bring your chord or some extra batteries.  Power and abilities are the priority to this machine, not battery life.  Running CAD and benchmark tests drained the battery down to 25% in about 2 hours’ time.  I expect to get around 4 hours of battery life from “regular workloads”.

Conclusion

The HP EliteBook 8570w is a fantastic piece of hardware that is filled to the brim with computing power.  You would be hard pressed to find desktops with this much juice in them.  It’s heavy and pricey but if you need full power that you can take with you then this is the mobile workstation for you.  If price is a factor then you will need to dial back the specifications.  The model I tested was the highest end version of the model and I fell in love with it, but of course I love computing power.  I really liked the fingerprint scanner.  It made logging on to the machine extremely easy and password entry was a breeze.  The track pad was also easy to use and very responsive.  It was one of the best track pads I have ever used.  I also liked that fact that there were ports everywhere and of varying types.

Price

The HP EliteBook 8570w starts at $1339 (U.S.D.) for an i5 dual core processor with 4 GB of RAM, a 500 GB HDD, and NVIDIA Quadro K1000M video card.  That machine might fit your computing needs at a more bearable price.  The full blown, all “bells and whistles” unit that I reviewed retails for $2500 (U.S.D.).  That’s almost twice the price, but you do get so much more computing power.

Disclosure

HP sent me a review unit that I was able to install various programs on and was able to use for several weeks.  HP paid for all of the shipping and I returned it to them (at their cost) when I was finished.  They provided me with specification and pricing information.  I was not paid or compensated at all in anyway by HP or anyone for this review.

Recommendation

I would recommend the HP EliteBook 8570w to anyone that needed a versatile mobile workstation.  Get the amount of power that you need which may not be the high end system that I tested.  But going all in on the $2500 spec set is not a bad idea either.  This machine would last you a very long time and is very robust.  For a mobile CAD Workstation this is a buy.

Full Review

The Review Process

To review the HP EliteBook 8570w I installed several benchmarking programs as well as AutoCAD 2013.  I made several drawings and created a few 3D photorealistic renderings using AutoCAD.  I watched internet videos, email, word processing, and pushed most of the buttons.

The Specs

There are so many hardware specifications for this mobile workstation that I am not certain what I need to put here.  Here is a link to HP’s PDF file of the full specs.

And here is a link to the site where you can purchase the EliteBook 8570w workstation.

This is a list of the main hardware specifications of the unit I tested (also posted at the top of the article)
  • CPU:  Intel® Core™ i7-3740QM (2.7 GHz, 6 MB cache, 4 cores)
  • Display: 15” LCD (15.6”) active color with built-in webcam (1920x1080)
  • Memory:  16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 SDRAM
  • Graphics: Nvidia Quadro K2000M 2GB 
  • Storage: Seagate 750 GB 7200 rpm SATA
  • Multimedia Drive: DVD read/write & SD Card slot
  • Security: Fingerprint reader, Face recognition
  • Operating System: Windows 7 Pro 
  • Wireless/Communications: Wi-Fi, 56K v.92 Modem, Optional HSPA+ Broadband Radio

Key Features

The single most key feature for the HP EliteBook 8570w is that it is a “portable powerhouse”.  This laptop has more computing power in it than what many are using in desktop workstations.  It is made to be portable, secure, powerful and expandable.  It can replace a desktop workstation.  It has nearly any feature in it that a power user would want.

Hardware

The hardware on the HP EliteBook 8570w is superb.  Here is an in-depth look at what is inside.

Processor

The processor is a 3rd generation Intel Core i7 Quad-Core with Turbo Boost Technology.  That means it’s tough to beat.  The chipset is Mobile Intel QM77 Express Chipset with vPro support.  Again, tough to beat.  Memory is DDR3 SDRAM PC3-12800, 1600 MHz.  Most workstations support ECC RAM (Error Correcting) but this is the next best thing.  Dual-core processors support 2 memory slots (2/4/8 GB) with a maximum of 16 GB.  The quad-core (what I tested) has 4 memory slots (2/4/8 GB) for a maximum total of 32BG.    This means that you can get a full amount of RAM to work with which in turn makes this machine fly.

Internal Storage

The Hard Drive options vary from 320/500/750 GB 7200 rpm HDD, or 500 GB 7200 rpm SED (Self Encrypting Drive), or SATA 6 Gb/s 128/180 GB SSD, or a SATA 6Gb/s 256 GB SED SSD.  The latter is the most expensive of course as well as the quickest.  I tested the 750 GB 7200 rpm SATA.  If there was one area where my review model could improve it was the hard drive.  The machine tested well but an SSD drive, especially a 6 Gb/s speed drive would have made an improvement.  Mobile devices such as this really benefit from an SSD.  It makes them more reliable because it removes a moving part in the HDD which is susceptible to shock failure from being dropped, jarred, or any type of force.  SSD’s also reduce noise and a bit of heat.

Cache

This EliteBook’s Flash Cache is also nice.  It is an Intel 24 GB SLC mSATA cache module.  It includes support for Intel Smart Response Technology but that is only available with non-SED HDD only.

Optical Drive

There is an upgrade bay consisting of 12.7 mm SATA optical drive or a secondary hard drive, or keep it empty as a weight saver.  This means you can add a DVD or Blue-Ray burner or a second hard drive.  Install an SSD to boot to and run programs from and use the HDD as file storage.  The unit I tested had a DVD R/W optical drive.

Display

The Display has three options when ordering.  There is a 15.6” LED-Backlit WVA anti-glare HD (1600x900), a 15.6" diagonal LED-backlit WVA anti-glare FHD19 (1920 x 1080), and a 15.6" diagonal LED-backlit UWVA anti-glare FHD9 19 DreamColor2 (1920 x 1080).

Video Card

The graphics, or video card options are:  AMD FireProTM M4000 with 1 GB dedicated GDDR5 video memory (AMD Eyefinity Technology for advanced multi-monitor support), or an NVIDIA Quadro K1000M with 2 GB dedicated DDR3 video memory, or an NVIDIA Quadro K2000M with 2 GB dedicated DDR3 video memory.  I tested the Quadro K2000M and it worked quite well has a higher end product should.

Audio

I don’t worry too much about audio in a workstation as it’s not a high priority for me.  However, this is a mobile workstation and it is likely that users will want to use it as a video conferencing tool.  This EliteBook has High Definition Audio (SRS Premier Sound PRO), stereo speakers, stereo headphone/line out, stereo microphone in, integrated dual-microphone array, and an optional 720p HD19 Webcam.  The machine I tested had a webcam built into the top center of the screen bezel and it worked just fine.  I mainly used it to test HP’s security software that utilized face recognition software to gain access to the machine.  I would have to say that the audio was satisfactory.  I didn’t test this feature out very much because to me it’s not just important enough on a CAD Workstation.

Security

Security is not something we often think about in a workstation, but this is a high end, expensive, piece of equipment that could be processing proprietary information.  The EliteBook 8570w has several security options.

Standard: Microsoft Security Essentials, HP ProtectTools, TPM Embedded Security Chip 1.2, HP Fingerprint Sensor, Pre-Boot Security, HP SpareKey (requires initial user setup), HP Disk Sanitizer, Drive Encryption for HP ProtectTools, Credential Manager for HP ProtectTools, Face Recognition for HP ProtectTools, File Sanitizer for HP ProtectTools, Smart Card Reader, security lock slot.
Optional: HP Privacy Filter, HP Notebook Combo Lock, HP Keyed Lock, Central Management for HP ProtectTools, Computrace.

The Face Recognition software that grants access to the machine worked quite well actually.  I was very surprised.  It made logging on to the computer very easy.  Open it up and stare at the camera.  It took it a few tries to get it right because varying backgrounds seemed to through it off.  However the software has the ability to learn by taking pictures of you at different backgrounds.  Once I did this a few times it logged me in right away every time.  The finger print reader though learned to read my prints right away.  It took more effort to set up but it was very easy to use.  This is a feature that I had not considered in a laptop before.  At first I dismissed it.  After using it here on this review unit I found that it made things easier for a mobile user.  I could set the screen to lock after a short amount of time of non-use but didn’t have to type in a password to start working again.  The finger scanner was very easy to use, just rub your finger over the scanner and you are in.  It took seconds.  I had similar results using the face recognition software.  Open the laptop and stare.  It took seconds.  In both cases if the computer locked itself it was no effort (or at least very little effort) to start things up again.

Wireless and Communications

Because the EliteBook is a laptop it does support multiple wireless formats.  Some of the optional items are HP hs2350 HSPA+ Mobile Broadband, HP un2430 EV-DO/HSPA Mobile Broadband, a Broadcom 802.11a/b/g/n 2x2 Intel® Centrino Advanced-N 6205 802.11a/b/g/n 2x2,an Intel® Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 802.11a/b/g/n 3x3.  Not only does it have Wi-Fi support but built in broadband support as well, as an option of course.  I did not test the broadband access feature but for users on the go this is a plus.  Users will not have to mess with an accessory antenna or aircard extra.  It’s built in to the hardware.  On top of those options there is an Integrated Intel® 82579LM Gigabit Network Connection (vPro™ support14), 56K v.92 modem.  Talk about going “old-school”.  As I stated before, this workstation has everything.
Ports, Connectors, Expansion Slots, and Input Devices.

The EliteBook 8570w has a multitude of ports and slots ready for your peripherals.  It has two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports (1 charging), one eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port (a total of 6 USB ports), one VGA, one DisplayPort, one stereo microphone in, one stereo headphone/line out, one 1394a, one RJ-11(optional modem), one RJ-45(Ethernet), one docking connector, one secondary battery connector, and of course one power connector.  As I said, it has lots of ports.  It also has one ExpressCard/54 slot, and one SD/MMC slot that supports SD (Secure Digital), SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity), SDXC (Secure Digital Extended Capacity), andMMC (MultiMedia Card), MMC+.  For input devices it has a full-sized, spill-resistant keyboard with full numeric keypad, bottom case drain, backlit keyboard, a touchpad with scroll zone and gestures support, a point stick, and discrete launch buttons (Web browser, WLAN on/off, mute, calculator).  I am so pleased that these ports are hear.  The only port it doesn’t have is an HDMI port.  However, since the point of this laptop is to be a workstation, you would use DVI or Display ports anyway.  It has that covered.

Physical Size, Weight, and Power

There are two different screens; standard and DreamColor.  That means the overall dimensions vary slightly depending on the screen you get.  Standard panel: 15.0 x 10.1 x 1.36 in (at front)/38.2 x 25.8 x 3.5 cm (at front); DreamColor panel: 15.0 x 10.1 x 1.44 in (at front)/38.2 x 25.8 x 3.7 cm (at front).  As for weight, remember that I mentioned before that this thing was heavy.  The standard EliteBook 8570w starts at 6.69 lb (3.0 kg) using the weight saver option.  After that, adding an optical drive or anything to that area will add more weight.  The overall weight will vary depending on what extras you get there.  Standard there is an 8-cell (83 WHr) Lithium-Ion battery or an 8-cell (75 WHr) HP Long Life Battery.  There is also an optional HP ST09 Extended Life Notebook Battery (73 WHr), or an optional HP BB09 Ultra Extended Life Notebook Battery (100 WHr).  It comes with an HP Smart AC Adapter.  Because of the power drain I suggest getting the Ultra Extended Life battery in addition to the standard battery.  I tested the standard 83Whr battery and only got a few hours of work out of it.  After running several benchmarks and some renderings from AutoCAD (over a span of about 2.5 hours) I was done to about 25% battery life remaining.  When only doing word processing and 2D CAD work I was able to get about 4 hours of battery life.

Expansion Solutions

Since this laptop is really a portable workstation you may want to use it on your desktop.  HP does have several docking stations available for it.  I did not test any of these but I imagine they could be a good investment.  The docking stations available are: HP 230W Docking Station, HP 90W Docking Station, HP 230W Advanced Docking Station, HP 120W Advanced Docking Station, HP Dual Hinge Notebook Stand, HP Display & Notebook Stand, or the HP Adjustable Display Stand.

Compare and Contrast

Benchmarks

I ran several benchmarking programs on this laptop to try to quantify its performance for you.  Sometimes benchmarks don’t tell the whole story or can be misleading.  Benchmarks also have the issue of not really testing the hardware in the way you might use it.  Use them as additional information but not as the “tell all” point of data.

Windows Experience Index

The Windows Experience Index measures the capability of your computer's hardware and software configuration and expresses this measurement as a number called a base score. A higher base score generally means that your computer will perform better and faster than a computer with a lower base score, especially when performing more advanced and resource-intensive tasks.
Each hardware component receives an individual subscore. Your computer's base score is determined by the lowest subscore. For example, if the lowest subscore of an individual hardware component is 2.6, then the base score is 2.6. The base score is not an average of the combined subscores. However, the subscores can give you a view of how the components that are most important to you will perform, and can help you decide which components to upgrade.  The scores currently range from 1.0 to 7.9.

The HP EliteBook 5870w received an overall score of 5.9.  Here is how the scoring broke down:
  • Processor: 7.7
  • Memory (RAM):  7.7
  • Graphics:  7.1
  • Gaming Graphics:  7.1
  • Primary Hard Disk:  5.9
This overall score was based off of the lowest scoring component which in this case was the hard drive.  It’s a tradition platter hard drive running at 7200 rpm which is fast for a platter hard drive.  SSD’s (Solid State Drives) are quicker and thus receive higher scores, often in the 7.x range.  The remaining categories received scores in the 7.x range showing that the computer can perform quite well.

3DMark 11 and PCMark 7 

I ran 3D Mark 11 and PCMark 7 (both from FutureMark.com) on this machine and these are the scores it received:
  • 3D Mark 11 Total score:  2011 (average Office PC’s and notebook scores: 831 and 1004)
  • PCMark 7 Total Score:  2690
Go to http://www.3dmark.com/hall-of-fame-2 to compare these results.  Keep in mind that this benchmark is used for PC Gaming rigs and the majority of those rigs are overclocked, water cooled, and are desktops running multiple super high end graphics cards that are based on speed and not on accuracy.  CAD Workstations require graphics cards that are based on accuracy and not speed.  They are very fast, but they are very different from gaming video cards.

NovaBench

NovaBench is another PC benchmarking software tool that is used by various reviewers to understand that performance of their machines. http://novabench.com/compare.php
NovaBench score:  1122

  • RAM: 240
  • CPU: 642
  • Graphics: 196
  • Hardware: 44

Ratings

These ratings from the benchmark testing show that the HP EliteBook 8570w is a solid machine.  These benchmarks are often used to test gaming rigs and are extreme cases.  Because a tested machine does not test in the highest of levels on these scores does not mean it’s a bad machine.  If you look at the hardware listings for the machines in detail you will see that those machines are overclocked, water-cooled, desktops that would cost in the tens of thousands of dollars and are custom built.  The scores from testing this laptop tell me that it is a very powerful machine.

Wrap Up

The HP EliteBook 8570w is a fully vetted mobile workstation.  It weighs about 6 pounds and has a beautiful case.  The track pad and screen are wonderful and it is lightning fast.  It easily handled any and all software that I threw at it.  In fact, if you are running AutoCAD for 2D work only or AutoCAD LT it is too much machine for you.  But if you run Solidworks, Civil3D, Revit, or Inventor and you need to be mobile then this is the machine for you.  The highest rated version is expensive, $2500, but it packs a lot of power.  If you get this machine you won’t need anything else for a long time.
I recommend the EliteBook 8570w for users that need a lot of computing power and need to be mobile.

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