Review

HP EliteBook 840 G5 review: It's my new favorite laptop

The life of a tech reviewer is a conflicting one. Sometimes, I can't wait to get a review published because I want to move on to the next device. Other times, I dread moving on to something new because I love the device I'm reviewing so much.

The HP EliteBook 840 G5 is definitely the latter. I want to make this thing my forever PC, but sadly, I'll have to move on after I finish writing this article.

It pretty much has everything that I want in a PC. It uses an Intel Core i7-8650U CPU, the latest quad-core 15W chip. But that's fairly common. It also packs a 4GB AMD GPU into a thin and light chassis, along with 32GB RAM and a 1TB SSD.

That's not even the best part. The 14-inch 1080p has HP's Sure View privacy technology, so people can't see what I'm working on while I'm in public. There's also 4G LTE, meaning that I don't have to worry about asking for Wi-Fi passwords when I'm on the go.

Read on for the full review.

Specs

CPU Intel Core i7-8650U vPro processor (1.9GHz base frequency, up to 4.2GHz with Intel Turbo Boost Technology, 8MB cache, 4 cores)
GPU AMD Radeon RX 540 (4GB GDDR5 dedicated)
Display

HP Sure View 14" diagonal FHD IPS LED-backlit touch screen with Corning Gorilla Glass 3, 700 cd/m², 100% sRGB (1920 x 1080)

Body 12.84 x 9.22 x 0.7in (32.6 x 23.4 x 1.79cm), 3.56 pounds (1.61kg)
RAM 32GB DDR4-2400 SDRAM
Storage 1TB M.2 SATA SSD
Ports
  • 1 Thunderbolt 3
  • 2 USB 3.1 Gen 1 (1 charging)
  • 1 HDMI 1.4b
  • 1 RJ-45
  • 1 docking connector
  • 1 headphone/microphone combo
  • 1 AC power
  • Smart Card reader
  • Nano-SIM
Audio Bang and Olufsen
Connectivity HP Module with NXP NFC Controller NPC300 I2C NCI
Intel I219-LM GbE, vPro
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2x2) Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 Combo, vPro
Intel XMM 7360 LTE-Advanced
Windows Hello Fingerprint, IR camera


Obviously, this machine is full specced out. Obviously, you don't need to get it with a Core i7 vPro, 32GB RAM, or 1TB of storage. 4G LTE connectivity is optional as well.

Day one

Design

Like the rest of HP's EliteBook lineup, the 840 G5 only comes in Natural Silver, so you won't see that sexy Dark Ash Silver found on the latest Spectre PCs. This saddens me, as that color is lovely, and Natural Silver is, well, basic. It's that standard aluminum body and color that you'll see from devices across the board. It's what some might refer to as a 'MacBook clone'. On a side note, I love this PC so much that it could look like a monkey and I'd be ok with that.

As far as ports go, you'll find almost everything you need. On the left side of the device, there's a smart card reader and a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port. On the right side, there's a charging port, Thunderbolt 3, RJ45 Ethernet, HDMI 1.4b, USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A, 3.5mm combo audio, a micro-SIM slot, and a docking port. While I appreciate the wide array of ports, I would have liked an SD card reader.

USB 3.1 Gen 1 in the Type-A ports is a nice touch, providing speeds of up to 5Gbps, while the single Thunderbolt 3 port provides 40Gbps. With the dedicated 4GB GPU, you could hook up two 4K displays to that port, or a single 5K display. HDMI 1.4b is a bit disappointing, as it limits your 4K output through that port.

HP once again went for narrow side bezels, with wide top and bottom bezels around the display. The top bezel makes room for a webcam and an IR camera for Windows Hello, and the bottom room makes room for an HP logo. Also, to be clear, the larger chin lifts the display up a bit, giving it a better viewing angle.

The keyboard area is pretty standard for a 14-inch HP laptop. There are Bang & Olufsen speakers placed above the keys, and a trackpad below them, that's slightly off-centered to the left. There's also a fingerprint sensor for Windows Hello to the bottom-right. The trackpad also has physical buttons above it, and that's because this machine actually has a trackpoint, something that's rarely seen outside of Lenovo's ThinkPads.

Sure View Display

I actually didn't expect to love the EliteBook 840 G5 as much as I do. The reason that I requested this unit is because I've reviewed a bunch of devices from the EliteBook 1000 series, and I always point out that they come with a Sure View option, but the model I was sent doesn't have the feature. The EliteBook 840 G5 was supposed to just be a mainstream business laptop, but it would be my chance to finally test out Sure View outside of a demo area.

Sure View is HP's solution for a privacy display, preventing visual hacks. That means that if someone looks over your shoulder to see what you're working on, they won't be successful. Visual hacks are probably more common than you think, so this is something that's worth having.

All that you have to do is press the F2 key, and you're protected. If someone looks at the screen from an angle, they'll just see a blank white screen.

There are some downsides though, such as that it uses more battery when it's on. It's also a bit harder to read the display while you're using it, and in certain lighting conditions, it can get really hard. I still think it's a fantastic feature to have, as you only have to turn it on when you need it.

Sure View still only comes in 1080p flavors, which is a bit disappointing. I could definitely see battery life being an issue if this was done on a 4K display, but I feel like 1440p would be the sweet spot.

The 14-inch touchscreen display looks great though, all things considered. I'd recommend getting the Sure View option just to have it, as it does come in handy, unless you're going for 4K. There's also an anti-glare option that you might want to look into, as this model is a bit too reflective in bright lighting conditions.

4G LTE

It's 2018. Seriously, everything should be connected to the internet all of the time.

I've always felt this way. I'm the guy that always buys the cellular iPad while everyone else is saying they can just use their phone as a hotspot if they need to. But really, who wants that extra hassle?

The HP EliteBook 840 G5 has 4G LTE, and it's incredible. I can't even say how convenient it is to just be able to pull the laptop out anywhere I am and start working. I don't need to worry about finding Wi-Fi passwords, or connecting to shady networks. With this machine, I've worked in airports, on buses, and anywhere else that I needed to.

The concept of the Always Connected PC is something that Microsoft has been pushing, but especially in ARM-based PCs. Those machines aren't as powerful. This machine, however, has a U-series Intel Core i7, a 4GB AMD GPU, and 32GB of RAM, so it's a beast of a laptop, but with that extra connectivity.

4G LTE is a feature that should be standard in all portable PCs. Come on, guys. It's 2018, and constant connectivity is a game-changing feature. I cannot stress enough how useful and convenient this is, and how much it improves the overall user experience.

Keyboard, trackpad, and trackpoint

As usual, HP has produced another excellent keyboard on this device. It's one of the quietest keyboards that I've used, next to maybe Lenovo's ThinkPads. The backlit keyboard is also more accurate than previous EliteBooks that I've used. I've used some that seem a bit too sensitive, but this one is just right.

The large trackpad beneath the keyboard is placed slightly to the left of the center, and it has two physical buttons above it for left- and right-clicking. The glass trackpad itself is clickable, but those buttons will likely be used for the trackpoint. In other words, you have multiple means of navigation with the EliteBook 840 G5.

The trackpad itself is definitely one of the better ones out there. I didn't have any problems using it, which is more than I can say for some other devices.

The trackpoint sits between the G, H, and B keys, which is standard placement for the rare navigation tool. You can use it to control the cursor, and then the physical buttons to click. There's no middle button for scrolling though, as you would find in one of Lenovo's ThinkPads. That means that you can either scroll manually by clicking and holding on a scrollbar, or you can do it with two fingers on the trackpad.

Performance

The HP EliteBook 840 G5 performs like a dream. It includes a Core i7-8650U CPU, AMD Radeon RX 540 GPU with 4GB GDDR5, and 32GB RAM. What else could you ask for? All of that comes in a fairly slim and light package.

This is what I'd refer to as an 'anything PC'. You can use it for all of your computing needs. It's great for typing, but if you need to, you can get into some heavy photo editing and even video editing. If you want to do some gaming, that works too. Of course, it's not primarily for video editing or gaming, as it's not a workstation or gaming PC. But you can do these things if you need to, and that's what's so great about the dedicated GPU in this machine.

Let me put it this way. My workflow typically includes running Chrome with about a dozen tabs open, Skype, Slack, and OneNote all the time. But I'm also using Adobe products like Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, and Acrobat. I have never been using this PC and wished it had something that it doesn't.

For benchmarks, I used PCMark 8, which has three tests: Home, Creative, and Work. First up is Home, which checks common tasks like video chat, web browsing, casual gaming, photo editing, and more.

As you can see, this machine scores quite well on the test, better than many gaming PCs. Next up is Creative, which checks more GPU-intensive tasks like video editing and mainstream gaming.

As you can see, the EliteBook 840 G5 once again scores quite well. None of this should really be a surprise, as the hardware is quite good.

Finally, the Work test checks productivity-related tasks like writing and spreadsheets.

If my personal experience isn't enough to prove to you that the EliteBook 840 G5 performs like a dream, the benchmarks certainly should be.

WorkWise and PhoneWise

HP's EliteBook lineup has a lot of business-centric software built into it. For example, Sure Start checks the BIOS against a master copy and replaces it if it's corrupted, and Sure Click provides a safe browsing experience. But the two things I want to draw special attention to are WorkWise and PhoneWise.

WorkWise first arrived last year in the EliteBook x360 1030 G2, and it's kind of disappeared since then. When HP introduced PhoneWise, the two services were incompatible with each other for a time. Now, we finally have a machine that does both.

Now only compatible with Android, WorkWise is a sort of mobile control center for your PC. For example, if you lock your EliteBook and walk away from it, and someone closes the lid on your PC while you're gone, you'll get a notification that someone has touched your PC. You can turn on Focus Mode, or you can even install new printers from the app. It's a powerful and useful service, and I'm really happy to see its return.

And then we have PhoneWise. If WorkWise brings your PC to your phone, then PhoneWise brings your phone to your PC. You can use it to make and receive calls, send and receive texts, and you can even mirror and interact with your phone.

While PhoneWise does work with Android and iOS, it's much more limited with iOS. You can't mirror your phone, and to send a text, you'll have to enter your iPhone PIN into the PhoneWise app so it can wake your phone, unlock it, launch the PhoneWise app, and send a text from there. To be clear, this is an iOS limitation rather than a limitation of PhoneWise, and if you're looking to send SMS messages from your PC and you're an iPhone owner, you're really not going to find anything that works better than this.

Windows Hello

Windows Hello is so common in premium Windows 10 PCs these days, that it's almost a side note. I do want to point out though, that the EliteBook 840 G5 has both a fingerprint sensor and an IR camera.

Naturally, this offers the user choice. Personally, I think that the IR camera is the way to go, as it's more natural for a PC to just recognize me when I'm sitting in front of it. The fingerprint sensor is nice to have as a failsafe though, in case the IR camera's facial recognition fails.

Conclusion

I really love the HP EliteBook 840 G5. Many of the Always Connected PCs that we're seeing pushed aren't very powerful, or they're not in conventional form factors. Even the Intel-powered Surface Pro isn't my cup of tea, as it's tough to use without a desk making it impossible to use at events.

But the EliteBook 840 G5 is a premium laptop, and not just that, but it's really powerful. It has a Core i7 vPro processor with a 4GB AMD GPU and 32GB RAM to back it up. When you add 4G LTE to that, it's just an amazing experience.

On top of all of that, it has HP's Sure View display, which is fantastic for working in public places. Now, I can work in a Starbucks without having to worry about anyone seeing what I'm working on.

The software features are nice as well. WorkWise and PhoneWise are both great products, and it's great to see them both playing nice on the same PC.

Ultimately, I think that the EliteBook 840 G5 has it all, and I'll be sad to move on to the next laptop that I review, no matter how good it is.

 

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