Review: HP's Elitebook 8560w
Issue: November 1, 2011

Review: HP's Elitebook 8560w

PRODUCT: HP Elitebook 8560w


PRICE: $3,255
·Portable workstation performance
·10-bit color accurate DreamColor display
·Nvidia Quadro FX2000 graphics

Portability is becoming more important to me, but workability is still king. Whether I’m working a job with lots of CG elements or on set working a shoot and need to quickly previz work to show the production crew, I need a machine that can quickly and effectively get my scenes out. I don’t have the time or patience for lagging graphics or slow calculations. Having my fair share of experience with mobile workstations, I flatly know what I can, and cannot rely on. So I’ve come to expect a lot from these systems.

With that said, HP’s Elitebook 8560w is a fantastic blend of portability and workability that allows me to get solid 3D results within a reasonably portable package that I can pick up and trek around with ease. I have been exposed to the HP mobile workstation line for quite some time (as well as their desktops) and I’m pleased to see a continued evolution in what is offered with every release. Two things come to mind that are great steps forward with this new release: power and display.


While the 8560w’s 15.6-inch diagonal display is not the largest in the Elitebook line-up, it more than makes up for it in portability. This 15-inch notebook is noticeably easier to manipulate and carry than the 17-inch Elitebook, and makes for a bit of an easier time on a cramped desk or in a hectic shoot environment. The screen itself is a gorgeous DreamColor display, with a 10-bit IPS panel that has a very impressive color range that not many others can touch in a notebook. It comes calibrated and is supposed to not lose calibration over time. For digital content creation, this is significant. The color you see today at home is the color you will show your clients six months from now at the office. And while the screen may not immediately show up as sexy glossy as the MacBook Pro display, you can be assured its color is a much more accurate match. Me likes.

Above the screen is a built-in Webcam, which accentuates the 8560w’s bevy of features, from the impressive suite of security features (a fingerprint reader for one) to the multicard reader and BDROM/DVDrw drive. With four USB ports (two are USB 3.0), an eSata port, FireWire, Displayport, old school VGA and audio ports, you are not lacking in peripheral options. The SRS premium sound is powerful, though lacking a little bass. But for a laptop it sounds great and is able to get incredibly loud without distortion. The bundled suite of software from HP is useful and enhances security and usability features. For one, the Performance Advisor aggregates updates and makes it easier to keep things running at their peak.

The multi-gesture capable trackpad is responsive and great to work on, and is augmented with a trackpoint (which I find obsolete at this point). The 8560w has an elegant chicklet-style backlit keyboard (with number pad!) that has crisp and precise feedback when you type, and a solid magnesium alloy case that is sturdy with ample ventilation to keep it easy to handle while under extreme loads. The case is sturdy, portable and looks well designed and thought out, appreciably more so than HP’s workstation laptops of six-plus years ago. Honestly speaking, Apple has the “sleekness” market cornered with their current MacBook Pro line, but that sleekness comes at the cost of comparative performance that I can’t tolerate in this high-end 3D market. But compared to some other large “desktop replacement” notebooks, the 8560w is seriously a looker and sure to get noticed.

I wouldn’t say that the 8560w’s overall form factor is slender, but the design is sleek and easy on the eyes, and it can handle a lot of power to run the beast inside. And this is where the HP shines, just as I expected it to!


Powered by an Intel i7-2820QM quad-core CPU at 2.3GHz on a bed of 16GB of RAM, apps like Maya and Photoshop run extremely well. As a matter of fact, applications and Windows 7 64-bit run extremely quickly off of the 256GB Micron SSD drive, a key component in the sheer speed of this machine. Power up time from sleep was snappy (on par with MacBook resume times), and boot from off was super quick. Battery time was fair, depending on the load, giving me just under 85 minutes before powering down while running a Maya render and stressing the video card purely on battery. You wouldn’t render and peg the video card on battery alone normally. Under normal laptop use, I got over two hours easy.

While the Quadro FX2000M graphics subsystem doesn’t outshine the top-of-the-line 5000M chip available in the 17-inch Elitebook, it is a highly capable graphics card with a whopping 2GB of dedicated DDR3 memory. In my home-built Maya benchmarks, the 8560w posted frame rates that rivaled pro desktop systems and eclipsed the standard GeForce 330M found in last-gen MacBook Pros for high-end 3D work. I feel like HP gets it.


The features and usability make this a viable professional desktop replacement, once you hook it up to multiple screens and external storage like NAS or a RAID tower via eSata. But not only that, this is also a nice laptop for all around use — games, videos, Facebook stalking, etc.
Overall, in my weeks with the HP Elitebook 8560w, I was able to work on test scenes, run benchmarks and churn CG renders to really stress this system and never ran into a hitch, crash, or hiccup. The 8560w is comfortable to work on, has all the amenities you need for a laptop, and can power through some serious work easily with a beautiful, color-accurate screen. And while it’s tough to say if this particular notebook will stand the test of time without first using it for years, my personal experience with HP mobile workstations has been spectacular, and I could easily see using this machine for the next three years. As a matter of fact, my wife is still using her HP 8510w from ‘09 —quite a testament to the line.