HP’s undercover gaming laptop – the Elitebook 8540w

It’s a weekend and I’ve been busy with spring cleaning, vacuuming the place and sorting things out, tossing out unused junk… and I’ve also been eying Assassin’s Creed 2 for PC, which is coming out in March 2010! Alienware (by Dell) recently came out with a very interesting 11 inch ‘gaming’ notebook this CES and I’ve been visiting their site to check out their M11x and M15x notebooks (not that I’m considering either, I’m just curious to learn more about various manufacturer offerings).

Okay, while I was on Alienware’s website looking at their M15x gaming notebook, I couldn’t help but to compare it to the recently launched Elitebook 8540w! No, don’t go “what the…??” just because the Alienware M15x is a dedicated gaming notebook and the Elitebook 8540w is a professional mobile workstation. I kinda figured that the HP Elitebook 8540w, despite being a business notebook and looking nothing like one suited for hardcore gaming, can in fact double as a pretty powerful and potent gaming notebook (and to a certain extent, and can put up a fight against Dell/Alienware’s heavy weight performer. Here’s why…

  • The Alienware M15x has various Intel Core i7 Quad and Core i5 Dual core processor options. The Elitebook 8540w does too (except the i7 Extreme option, at the moment).
  • The Alienware M15x can be fitted with a full HD 1080p widescreen display. Well, so can the Elitebook 8540w (with points for having a matte display; reviews of the M15x mention it has a glossy one).
  • The Alienware M15x has two DDR3 RAM (1333 MHz) slots so you can have up to 8 GB of memory… the Elitebook 8540w has a whopping four DDR3 RAM (also 1333 MHz) slots for double the memory: 16 GB max.
  • Both notebooks have 7200 RPM hard disks standard (up to 500 GB), and optional solid state drives (up to 256 GB)
  • Both notebooks have optical drives with optional Blu-ray. The Elitebook 8540w has an advantage here of being able to swap out the optical drive for a second 500 GB 7200 RPM hard disk.

The Alienware M15x and Elitebook 8540w also have the exact same variety of ports (except USB). The Elitebook 8540w’s five USB ports (three USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0) beats three USB 2.0 ports that the Alienware has. But the Alienware M15x is a better entertainment notebook with two headphone jacks (versus one on the Elitebook).

The Elitebook 8540w comes with an 8-cell battery standard, with the option to add on a secondary 8 or 12 cell battery via the secondary battery connector on the notebook’s underside. On team Alienware, the M15x comes standard with a 6 cell battery, with the option to go for a 9 cell battery option (this battery sits in place of the 6 cell, and is not an add on battery). In theory, if one was to “game on the go”, you could swap batteries on the Elitebook more easily without having to power off/hibernate the notebook at all.

Sure, the advantages that the Alienware M15x has include: better built-in speakers, extremely customizable AlienFX keyboard backlight/overall lighting system, system/cooling designed specifically for gaming, gaming-specific Nvidia GeForce graphics and a striking exterior design that’s bound to intimidate your opponents at a LAN party. I mean, how’s an innocent looking Elitebook gonna have any psychological effect on the other team at a gaming tournament/gathering, at all? Well, you gotta know the Alienware M15x is also 50% heavier, 50% thicker and slightly wider/longer than the Elitebook 8540w as well!

The Alienware M15x’s current graphics card options are: the 512 MB Nvidia GeForce GT240M and 1 GB Nvidia GeForce GTX260M. Granted the Elitebook 8540w is NOT a dedicated gaming notebook and comes with workstation-class graphics, its 1 GB Nvidia Quadro FX880M and 1 GB Nvidia Quadro FX1800M graphics offerings (equivalent to Nvidia’s new GeForce GT330M and GT335M cards, I think) still hold up pretty well… you could still use them for gaming.

There’s also the HP Night Light on the Elitebook 8540w… and while it won’t hold a candle against Alienware’s advanced Alien FX lighting system, at least it still does its job of providing keyboard illumination while you’re gaming or working in the dark!

If the Elitebook was a Wall Street guy in a business suit and tie, the Alienware would probably be Arnold Schwarzenegger during his bodybuilder days. As I mentioned, the Alienware M15x and Elitebook 8540w are two completely different animals, that nobody would even think of comparing. Yet somehow, my creative mind has come up with this fairly fair and square comparison of the two. No, I don’t expect gamers to be switching over to CAD workstations used by professionals anytime soon, or vice versa… but today’s comparison does bring up an interesting revelation: the Elitebook 8540w has more ‘gaming genes’ under its hood than one would probably expect. While it wasn’t built from the ground up for gaming, I think the Elitebook 8540w packs quite a punch for a business notebook; enough to allow graphic designers, CAD professionals, students, etc (whatever you plan to use it for) to unwind with a game of Need for Speed Shift or Crysis 2 (almost) maxed out in full HD after a day’s work.

*Note to self: I should really make a video of ‘gaming and gameplay using an Elitebook’, bet that’ll be interesting…

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  1. Tinus January 10, 2010 Reply

    I totally agree 🙂

    I have been using the Elitebook 8530p to play Modern Warfare 2 with medium settings and that was great. And that is with the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650, so I expect that the new elitebooks are going to be great for this.

    • Joel Chackungal January 8, 2013 Reply

      Modern Warfare 2 isn’t that demanding, I played it for 5 seconds at maximum settings on 8540w before the graphics card driver failed

  2. schoko January 12, 2010 Reply

    I´m totally shocked by Hp´s choice of a 16:9 screen for a workstation. is it solely meant to watch hd videos?

    i´m curious if anybody really working with such a high-end notebook is happy about the screen size.

    what do you guys think ?

    • Brad January 13, 2010 Reply

      Hi, I understand your disappointment, but I can see the reason behind this is two fold: 1) Display suppliers nowadays are moving over towards 16:9 widescreen displays and HP has no choice but to go with the flow; partly due to the “HD video” and entertainment media, partly due to making notebooks more portable (a 16:9 screen is slightly smaller than a similarly sized 16:10 one) and 2) Cost, it would cost a lot for HP to develop their own 16:10 displays as (1) occurs. With the exception of 17 inch notebook displays, many 16:10 notebook displays are just about out of production or currently being phased out. HP can also ‘share’ the 8540w’s screen with other 15 inch models in their line, such as the Pavilion dv6 and Envy 15.

      The 8740w will have a 16;10 screen, however.

    • Joel Chackungal January 7, 2013 Reply

      You’re right about the 16:9 screen but the previous generation of hp elitebooks/Mobile Workstations had 1920×1200 screen (16:10), Hp had to make 16:9 screens simple because it would make everything more flexible

  3. Dana January 16, 2010 Reply

    I think this idea of 16:9 being “better for media” is itself totally ridiculous. I mean, if you want to watch a 16:9 movie on a 16:10 display, you have room for a taskbar if you need it (say, for watching IM status)…. but if you watch it on a 16:9 display, you either have no room, or have it letterboxed on all 4 sides!

    • Brad January 16, 2010 Reply

      Yup, exactly, I think the 16:9 mania is just rubbish. Most movies aren’t really 16:9 anyway, they’re something like 2:1 or close, but definitely not exactly 16:9 because I can still see black blank lines at the top/bottom whenever I watch. Only TV shows and some movies seem to fit 16:9 precisely. But it is such a waste to use 16:9 displays on laptops just to cater to “movies and shows”. I mean, don’t people have a television for that (I don’t, I watch all my shows on my PC, but that’s another story… and I don’t mind letterboxing on my 16:10 dv4 screen). I think 16:10 is the sweet spot for displays: 16:9 has a tendency to feel a little “short” (my feelings exactly when I was trying out the Envy 15 for a few days back in October) and 4:3 is a little too “tall”, causing the notebook to have awkward dimensions when trying to stuff into a bag/compartment

  4. Mike January 22, 2010 Reply

    Gaming ability is the main reason why I ever went to the business line HPs. Keep in mind, 3-4 years ago, GPU’s in laptops were very scarce. Back then the NC8430 with the ATI x1600 was a power packed gaming machine. Fast forward to now and I’ve had the NC8430, 8510p, and now the 8530w Elitebook. Thanks to companies like Asus, gaming laptops are now common and I could go that route and save a few bucks. But they just don’t build em like the HP business laptops.

    The Elitebook 8530w is the best laptop I’ve ever owned. Compared to my friends who own or use a T500 or Dell Precision series, the Elitebook is another notch above them. The HP business line has always been behind the Thinkpad and even the Dell business lineup. With the launch of the Elitebook series, we may see HP finally break into the fore.

  5. terafirma April 30, 2010 Reply

    Hi have the HP 8540w just arrived and am now setup and using it. Must say I am blowen away by what it has and how it performs and the screen is a huge pluss it is one of the best screens I have worked on. Have not yet played games but will soon I am sure and the i& 820 chip plus the 4 RAM slots (upgraded mine to 8GB) make for plenty of working room just have to try and stretch the Quadro 1800 to see how it goes.

  6. Lachlan * August 9, 2010 Reply

    🙂 My 8540w arrives tomorrow – CAN’T WAIT!!! It’s great reading the comments and hearing how pleased people are with it.

    I think the 1920×1080 res might have been selected by HP because they want to target video professionals, and these days you need to be able to preview your 1080p edits on the go. I’m doing a trip to Greece soon and will be shooting vid on the road. The screen resolution of this puppy was one of the many reasons I chose it.

  7. luke December 2, 2010 Reply

    i got the 8540w 3 or 4 months ago and i´m totally satisfied with it, apart that it misses a DVI and/or a HDMI plug

  8. gsmollin May 24, 2011 Reply

    My 8540W is on order, so I’m cruising the forums. I have owned an 8710w for 3 years, and haven’t had a problem with it, despite those airport X-ray machines. The display situation is a step backwards, and we all know it. My 8710 has a 17 inch, 1920 x 1200 display (16:10), and I am less than excited by scaling down to the 16:9, 15 inch. On the other hand, the weight and size of the 8710 is so terrible when traveling, that it is really a desktop replacement.

    I don’t game on this machine. However, you gamers should try COMSOL finite element analysis on your hot rod gaming machines for a humbling experience. CAD/CAE and gamer machines are both maxed-out performance-wise, just dressed differently.

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