Chances are that you have either read or heard that technology is moving to the mobile market and that tablets and smartphones are the next big thing. That may not be wrong as mobile devices are easier and more functional than desktop PCs or laptops, but it’s hard to predict the future of technology. Remember that only ten years ago the smartphone concept was just beginning.

So if the world moves to mobile devices, what’s left for the people who require a physical keyboard and a powerful machine that is still portable? Along comes HP’s new, powerful, light, and versatile business notebook. Designed to be used in a business environment, the notebook offers a load of useful features; from helping users be more efficient as well as offering easier IT maintenance. HP kindly provided me with an Elitebook 820 to try. My Elitebook 820 review will cover all aspects of the notebook including the unboxing, usage and design, features and specifications, then finally my overall thoughts.

Figure 1 – The Elitebook from behind.

Unboxing the Elitebook

To begin, when unboxing the notebook you will find the Elitebook itself, along with the charging cable, and some user documentation. When unpacking everything I found that the power cable for the notebook is far longer than that for a normal notebook, which is ideal for meeting rooms with electrical outlets in odd locations; the power cable also has a compact power brick for easy travel.

Once powered on either you or your company's IT department will need to follow through on the Windows Setup guide. The stock operating system on the notebook is Windows 8 Pro. However, there is the option of a downgrade to Windows 7 provided by HP.

Once you have charged the battery and setup Windows, the notebook is almost ready to go. One final, but optional, premeasure you may want to take is, if the notebook is being distributed out in a company, you may wish to use a small security screw to lock the bottom hardware access panel; more on the access panel later in the review.

Figure 2 – Design of the Elitebook

Usage and Design

As I said before, the Elitebook is a business grade notebook designed to help businesses raise their technology to the next level.

The first thing I noticed are its compact size and light weight of only 3 pounds which makes traveling from meeting to meeting, or hotel to hotel, that much easier. Don’t let the small size put you off, as the notebook’s 12.5” LED anti-glare display looks spotless and displays MS Office documents just as well as any other notebook or laptop.

If you work in a business IT department you understand that the abuse of everyday work and travel can take a toll on any machine and finding a notebook that can handle this can be difficult. This Elitebook, however, is constructed using an all magnesium body that stands up to things like drops, grime, shocks, etc. To prove this, HP takes selective notebooks to verify that they pass the MIL-STD 810G test, which is a United States Military Standard test to assess a product's durability. More on this type of test here .

Still covering the usage of the notebook, we need to understand why this notebook stands above its competition; what, in my opinion, makes this HP Elitebook better than a Dell Latitude? The Elitebook fulfills the needs of both IT departments and the intended user by performing in such a way that the notebook’s downtime is minuscule along with excellent security. The Elitebook also surpasses its competitors by having that all-magnesium body and premium design.

Earlier, I mentioned the access panel. IT departments will love the easy and very quick hardware access panel on the bottom of the machine. With the slide of a switch, you gain access to all of the major components such as the SSD, battery, CPU fan, and RAM. HP was clever in not including so many screws, which does reduce the time for repairs. The panel removed can be seen in figure 4.

My personal experience while using the Elitebook has been exceptional. The keyboard has a nice feedback after being pressed, and the touchpad buttons are quiet as well as having a nice response after being pressed. The touchpad area is a little smaller then I would have liked, but it is recessed into housing. Power, mute, and WiFi on/off buttons are also an outstanding add-on for quick access to mute and WiFi on/off. The Elitebook's speakers are something that I would like HP to improve as for my experience they were lacking since the sound produced was average. Another positive, is the keyboard layout is seamless with its long backspace and enter keys. Finally, there is the notebook's magnesium housing that has a very premium feel to it.

Next there is the security aspect for the end user. Previously I worked for a $3 billion company that took its overall security very seriously. A 2012 census from Symantec states that worldwide 50% of all malicious attacks were aimed at businesses with 2,500 or less employees. Read more about this census here . We are now living in a connected world where all of our content can be accessed by just one malicious attack. The Elitebook fights back with HP’s Sure Start to protect against BIOS attacks, along with the Elitebook's finger print scanner for Windows Login, HP Hard Drive Encryption, and a large range of HP security software that is pre-installed on the machine.

Figure 3 – Symantec Virus Sheet

Moving on to design, I have to say that the Elitebook looks like a premium notebook and is quite professional looking in any environment. Beginning at a price of $874 and capping out at $1659, the Elitebook comes in six different models that differ from each other in terms of CPU and/or hard drive to SSD upgrades. Specifications of the different models may be found here .

On the back of the display is a matte black finish which as I said, gives a premium look. While using the notebook I found that the matte finish began to collect smudges which I had to use a cleaner to remove.

Looking around the sides of the notebook, on the right we have a fan outlet, a VGA port, one single USB 3.0 port with battery charging indicator and finally a smart card slot (commonly used with 4G wireless cards). On the left is the power port, media card reader, Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 ports, a Display Port and a microphone/headphone combo jack.

Unfortunately, the Elitebook lacks a DVD reader/writer which may become an issue to some people, however, in a day of cloud storage and USB flash drives there should be some way to transfer your content to the PC.

Something that did bug me was the lack of an HDMI port. VGA technology is quite outdated by today’s standards and even though some business video devices like projectors and monitors still use VGA, newer projectors and monitors have moved on to HDMI and DVI. What would be really pleasant is to see a HDMI port and for HP to include a HDMI to VGA adapter cable.

On the front you will see the indicator LEDs for battery, power, charging and hard drive activity, where the back had just a stylish Hewlett Packard logo. On the bottom you’ll find the Windows COA sticker along with the access panel I spoke about previously.

Now let’s take a look at the inside of the notebook where you find the true beauty of the Elitebook. Its magnesium shell is tinted in a dark grey that matches well with the black soft touch keyboard. The keyboard is also back lit with three levels: off, dim, and high. Likewise, found in the keyboard is a center pointing stick to make typing easier since you don’t need to move your hands to move the mouse. See figure 5 for the keyboard layout.

Figure 4 – Hardware Panel Removed

Features and Specifications

My F2P29UT model was shipped with Windows 7 Professional 64bit installed which was downgraded from Windows 8 Pro. Other options are available, dependent on your business requirement.

We all mostly understand how Windows works so I won’t go into the OS, but the notebook’s features extend to what HP installs on the PC. I mentioned earlier how security protection is a big deal in businesses today and I will be covering the HP security software that is installed.

HP Sure Smart is a program that stops malware from attacking or corrupting the BIOS. Very similar to Gigabyte’s Dual BIOS, the Elitebook basically has a backup BIOS that restores or repairs itself in case of failure. The Sure Smart software can also receive BIOS updates from a secure IT department wirelessly. In case the notebook does get into the wrong hands Sure Smart does have the ability to wipe the hard drive clean. Read more on this software here .

Also available is the HP Trust Circles that like Google+ allows you to share content among different groups. The software requires no server side connection and works in a LAN setup. Keep files safe but protected is the idea. Read more on this software here .

There is also Safeguard which adds encryption to the solid state drive and even has the ability to remember your passwords for you on IE. Lastly there is the finger print reader which is a secure way to login into Windows or launch certain applications on the PC.

Let’s not forget about the 720P front facing camera for those business meetings/calls. When using the webcam I found that it was very similar to what is found in my smartphone in terms of picture quality. There is also a built in microphone.

Finally, we have the hardware of the Elitebook. My model is powered by a Dual core i5-4200U CPU running at 1.6GHz which runs the Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU. The monitor's 1366x768 resolution looks pleasing but what helps is the anti-glare coating on the display. The notebook is also packed with 4GB of 1600MHz memory and a 180GB Solid State Drive for incredible boot up times. The notebook connects to 802.1abgn Wi-Fi connection along with Bluetooth 4.0 for a wireless mouse.

The stock storage on my model is a 180GB solid state drive which boots Windows and applications at incredible speeds. 180GB may not seem like a lot, but with large capacity USB drives available and businesses having network drives you should not find yourself ever filling up the drive.

In my performance testing the notebook handled internet/office tasks like a dream and I even tried some online gaming that it handled just as well. The hardware is top notch, but when it comes to battery life, don’t expect to get too much out of it. A 3-Cell 26Wh battery lasted me approximately five hours while running a YouTube video at 1080P playback. The Elitebook did last all day if you place it in sleep/standby mode.

For real-time ideal performance and video playback performance you can see the verified CPU-Z files here .

Figure 5 – Backlit Keyboard

My Overall Thoughts

All in all I am quite happy with my experience with the Elitebook 820. I have been using the notebook for quite a while now and have begun to really enjoy using the notebook for everyday usage. Some other reviews claim that this Elitebook doesn’t offer that premium feel, but I would disagree as the body and design is rather stylish and certainly premium. Something I would like to see changed is the price point. I understand that this is a business notebook but it’s hard to justify a $1214 (My Model) price point for a notebook PC. If the SSD is the reason for the high price point I would rather HP install a standard hard drive to a lower $1000 price. Whether you are a large IT department looking to upgrade your PC fleet or a small startup business, I would highly recommend you pick up this HP Elitebook 820 notebook.

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© 2014