Sunday, 30 September 2012


If you're a businessperson who demands the ultimate in portable computing, and isn't afraid to pay for it, you might just be interested in this slick powerhouse from HP. Packing the latest and greatest technology, does the overall package warrant such a budget-busting price tag?

We didn't even need to see the cost to know that this was a high end notebook. Wrapped in HP's plastic and aluminium DuraCase design, the refreshingly cool feel of the metal palm rest immediately sets this PC aside from the low rent wannabes. HP claims that it's built military tough, abiding by the MIL-STD 810G standard to ensure reliability in even the most fearsome laptop battlefields. However, closer examination reveals that this standard is very vague, and has become more of a marketing slogan than a reliable seal of strength. We weren't quite brave enough to drop test the notebook, but are happy to report that it feels very sturdy, with absolutely zero keyboard flex and just a little screen flex. This rugged case isn’t a light one, tipping the scales at 2.85kg.

A healthy range of ports are ready for your peripherals, with two USB 3.0, two standard USB 2.0, one Firewire and one eSATA port. Strangely HDMI is absent, replaced by the cutting edge DisplayPort technology that is still a rarity.

The touchpad is a silky delight to use, and is as accurate as it as smooth to the touch. It's decked out with four buttons instead of two, while the island keyboard itself is full sized. Like the touchpad, it feels wonderful in use, helping keep your fingers ache-free even after typing up your 57 page annual report. There aren't any blingy dedicated multimedia controls, with the function keys doubling as shortcuts.

Unfortunately the keyboard isn't backlit, and the tiny spotlight above the display barely provides any more illumination than the display itself. A large 15.6in screen is equipped with an ambient light sensor, but the display tends to be a little dark with this feature enabled. Even when using manual controls, the screen's brightness remains underwhelming until set to maximum. Colours are accurate, but they don't exactly pop, with an underwhelming default configuration. It's a Twisted Nematic (TN) screen, which means viewing angles aren't its strong point, a negative for those who need to present to small groups on the screen. It's also only 1,600 x 900 in resolution - for this price we expect 1,920 x 1,080 to be standard.

Thankfully the rather average display is offset somewhat by the rather powerful components packed within. Intel's quad core i7-2720qm CPU ramps up to 3.3GHz when under maximum load, more than enough to run Excel, PowerPoint, IE and half a dozen other productivity apps simultaneously. It's mounted in a QM67 chipset, and is paired with a very satisfying 4GB of 1333MHz DDR3 memory. Performance is helped along massively by the 160GB Intel X-25M SSD. With these components in place it's no surprise that it clocked in with a blazing overall PC Mark Vantage score of 14,606, blazing nearly every notebook we've tested here at APC. If you're a GM with a secret gaming addiction, sadly the integrated AMD Radeon HD 6470M GPU won't keep up with your needs. It's fine for the odd game of Hearts, but not much else. These components don't tax the battery too much, lasting a lengthy 207 minutes during our DVD playback test.

There's no denying the blazingly fast productivity performance or rugged construction of this notebook, but for this price tag we really expected more out of the visual experience. With a lacklustre display (upgradable to 1080p for a cost) and low-end GPU (not upgradable at all), the 8560p faces stiff competition in this price range for those who value a pretty picture along with superb performance.

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