HP has put quite a bit of effort (but not to their full potential, apparently) to spice up this year’s Elitebook 8440 and 8540 models. After pondering things over, I think making the Elitebook 8740w merely a “17 inch version” of the 8540w would be risky for HP. With 2008’s Elitebook 8530w vs Elitebook 8730w, there was plenty to justify going for the 17 inch 8730w: numeric pad, more powerful graphics card, DreamColor display and optional Quad Core.
The same can’t be done with the 8740w as two original differentiating factors: numeric pad and quad core are already standard on the 8540w, leaving graphics and the optional DreamColor display as the only reasons to settle for a bulkier, less portable 17 inch model. More things have to be introduced in the Elitebook 8740w to differentiate it from the 8540w… coincidentally, one of the negative points some critics made about the original 8730w was the lack of a second built-in hard disk bay which manycompetitors had (and whose successors still have at the moment, like the Dell Precision M6500). You could have had two hard disks spinning in your 8730w, but you had to sacrifice the optical drive for that to happen. That is why I highly suspect HP’s 2010 Elitebook 8740w will have options for up to three hard disk drives (two standard notebook storage bays; option to replace optical drive with 3rd hard disk/solid state drive).
But one of the issues would be space. The Elitebook 8730w was/is the slimmest 17 inch Mobile Workstation available (Apple MacBook Pro 17 doesn’t count because it has consumer graphics), and I get a feeling the 8740w will inherit that title from its predecessor. While some two and a half inch thick 17 inch laptops can pack two hard disks above each other or tuck them under other components, you’d have to place the hard disk bays side on the Elitebook 8740w (which is gonna be a little over an inch thin). I’ve seen what’s inside the old Elitebook 8730w before (after dissection) and if we were to assume components in the 8740w to be about the same proportions and take up a similar amount of space, HP could fit in a second hard disk bay under the left side of the palmrest. Some reshuffling would have to be done, however – relocating the Smart Card reader to above the optical drive (ala their other non-17 inch Elitebook models) is a must. The Express Card slot can remain – there is sufficient room to have the hard disk sit directly below the EC slot.
It’s good to see HP working their way “up” the model range when designing their Elitebooks. I see some manufacturers are doing the opposite, creating higher end models and then “crippling” certain features in them to create lower end variaties – I personally think this isn’t the way to go if one was to bring innovation to the table. I get a gut feeling multi-hard disk bays will be one of the many surprises HP will introduce in the Elitebook 8740w….