HP Compaq 8710p review

Price when reviewed

A huge 17in widescreen, which manages to pack in an expansive 1,680 x 1,050 pixels, means this HP 8710p is a very large laptop. But though its hulking dimensions make it unwieldy and uncomfortable to carry about, they’re exactly what makes it so comfortable to spend time with at a desk.

Those generous dimensions allow plenty of room for the keyboard to breathe. This is spacious, with no sign of any shrunken keys or bizarre layouts, and there’s even enough room to accommodate a separate numerical keypad. And while those full-sized keys don’t have a lot of travel, they feel great in use, with a light, responsive action.

The trackpad is of a similarly high quality, and its three rubberised buttons are hinged from the front, giving a very tactile action. It’s also thoughtfully offset to the left to centre it to your hands as well – a sensible ergonomic decision. In addition, there’s a trackpoint stick built into the keyboard, with its own set of mouse buttons at the base of the keyboard.

The basic components are superb, but as the HP Compaq is predominantly aimed at a business audience, it lacks the niceties of similarly-priced consumer laptops. Don’t expect to find an HD optical drive, high resolution webcam and rows of flashing lights here – the 8710p is a laptop with its eye firmly fixed on productivity.

it_photo_5476Features such as a TPM chip and fingerprint reader cement its position: both are vital for businesses from a security point of view. Our only gripe with this is that the fingerprint reader would have been better situated above the keyboard, as we sometimes found our palm stirring the security software into action at the wrong moment.

The enormous screen and spacious keyboard that make the HP such an attractive desktop replacement do inevitably come with a trade off: at a shoulder-straining 3.4kg, the 8710p is not what we would call easily portable. It’s light enough to move from one desk to another, sure, but we’d hesitate to sling it in a bag on a daily basis.

Because of this, it’s forgivable that the battery life is less than stunning. Just 3 hours 47 minutes under our light use tests is as much as we’d expect from such a sizable laptop, and heavy usage saw that dwindle to one and a half hours.

With its high resolution display, the HP is perfectly suited to working with huge spreadsheets or mobile CAD applications. To help keep these kinds of business tasks responding snappily, an Nvidia Quadro NVS 320M graphics card has been included. This card is based on the 8700M-GT, but has been optimised for CAD and digital content creation work.

Although it’s a business machine, HP has put a lot of thought into the Compaq’s design. Its blue-grey livery is classy and understated, but distinctive enough to distinguish it from its competitors.

Another stylish feature is the row of touch sensitive indicator lights above the keyboard. Press your finger against the Wi-Fi icon for a second and the LED lights up as wireless networking is enabled; touch it again and the light fades. Volume controls and a calculator button are also provided, but another two buttons are wasted on shortcut keys for some proprietary HP software and switching the laptop to “presentation mode”.

it_photo_5477Connectivity is suitably generous. HP has included a generous six USB ports, although four of those are so closely bunched together that two flash drives cannot fit side by side. A mini-Firewire connector is also available, as well as a memory card reader that supports SD, MS, MMC and xD formats.

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