Gaming on the Elitebook 8730w

Besides running Photoshop CS4 and other heavy duty applications, I’ve found the HP Elitebook 8730w Mobile Workstation fairly adept at gaming, to a certain extent. That’s what I’ve been doing throughout most of last month: gaming on HP’s Elitebook 8730w.

Before I go on, let me give you guys a run down of the specifications on the one I managed to test out:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 2.53 GHz
  • 4 GB of RAM (2 X 2 GB)
  • 17 inch Dream Color display (1920 X 1200 resolution!!)
  • 160 GB SATA II Hard Disk
  • NVIDIA Quadro FX3700M graphics card (1 GB of dedicated memory)

So this is sort of the middle child of the Elitebook 8730w Mobile Workstation line with top graphics and a really nice, but expensive, Dream Color display. Yet this isn’t the best processor it can take (there are configurations with Core 2 Extreme processors available) and larger hard drive options available (HP currently offers up to 320 GB).

Anyway, the Elitebook 8730w runs most games really smoothly, even at the highest settings. I say most games because I haven’t tried things like Crysis Warhead on it yet. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare runs fine (well, most of the time) at full 1920 x 1200 and everything else set at the highest/best quality settings; with frame rates going at around 60 to 90 frames per second.

Unfortunately, there are some shortcomings to using a workstation-class (!!!) graphics card for gaming. For those who aren’t familiar, workstation-class graphics cards like the Nvidia Quadro card on the 8730w are meant to deliver quality frames as opposed to quantity of frames on real gaming cards. Somebody told me that they’re both based on the same thing, only tweaked later for their respective purposes but we’ll save that debate for some other time.

So you can get an amazing amount of detail and fairly smooth frame rates, though you certainly won’t get  200 frames per second as you would on a real gaming PC. Enter very intense game scenes when using a workstation graphics card, and frame rate tends to choke. A good example is when somebody throws a smoke screen bomb or calls in an airstrike which lands in the area in front of you in Call of Duty 4, frame rate drops down to 20 FPS… and you don’t even need benchmarking software for that, for I could notice the frame rate drop noticeably with just my eyes.

It’s not HP’s or Nvidia’s fault for that by the way, blame me for maxing out all the textures and setting “soften smoke edges” to ON (LOL!). Again, I had maxed out literally everything in the game… if I had turned off or lowered some of the settings, perhaps the frames wouldn’t have dropped so drastically.

But really, a workstation graphics card, or a mobile workstation notebook for that matter, should NOT be used if you plan on doing some serious gaming. It’s fine if you’re doing some casual gaming (in my book, that means you don’t smash your head on your keyboard if you die because of choppy frame rates when someone calls in an airstrike) to unwind after a day of rendering Shrek 4 scenes. You could use the Elitebook 8730w at several LAN parties with friends, but you probably shouldn’t use it in gaming tournaments where the different between life-and-death matters…

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