HP EliteBook 840 G7 Review

Posted on March 14, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Mobile, Windows 10 with 10 Comments

The 7th-generation HP EliteBook 840 is smaller and lighter than its predecessor, and it adopts some features from the more expensive 1000 series PCs. But this is a workhorse business-class laptop and not the type of PC that prosumers or enthusiasts would typically consider for personal use.

Note: HP also sells an EliteBook 830 G7 that is basically the same laptop but with a smaller 13.3-inch display. I was given a choice to review either and chose the 14-inch version.

Design

With its professional-looking silver design, the EliteBook 840 is about as buttoned-down and business class as a laptop can get. But look a little closer, and you will see some nice touches, plus some improvements over previous-generation EliteBook 800-series PCs, some of which were handed down from the more expensive EliteBook 1000-series, of which I’ve long been a fan.

Like its more expensive siblings, the EliteBook 840 features an all-aluminum body, and it’s been anodized not for color but for abrasion resistance, and it should prove to be quite durable over time. HP is also touting the sanitizable nature of this product and many of its other premium business-class PCs during this COVID pandemic era: All its surfaces, including the keyboard keys, can withstand 1,000 cycles of disinfection with household wipes, the firm says. And HP performs stain and fade tests against such things as alcohol, crayons, ink, and lipstick; work from home be damned.

HP has also gone in a more angular design direction with this revision, but it’s not as extreme as what we see on its prosumer-focused Spectre x360 line. There are some usability benefits from the changes too: The new tapered front edges, seen on the keyboard deck and the display lid, make it easy to open the display with just a single finger, and they provide an interesting visual slimming effect.

As with the new-generation EliteBook 1040 x360, there’s a subtle but professional-looking “ELITEBOOK” logo on the spine of the device, which is most easily seen when the lid is closed, above the rear venting.

I also like the now-classic triangular pattern on the speaker grills to the sides of the keyboard. These provide a bit of style to the otherwise plain-looking design. The large, single hinge is a nice touch, too. It looks and feels rock-solid.

Less successful from a design perspective is an awkwardly positioned pointer nubbin, the weirdly-shaped G, H, and B keys that it necessitates, and the old-fashioned-looking set of pointer buttons that sit on the top of the touchpad and below the keyboard. This looks like a setup from 20 years ago, and while I’m a fan of the dual-pointing system on ThinkPads, HP’s use of such a thing here looks weird and out of place. It’s inconsistent too, since this configuration isn’t found on most of its other premium PCs, and the touchpad is too far to the left for some reason. I don’t get it.

Display

The review unit’s 14-inch LED-backlit Full HD (1920 x 1080) display panel is serviceable. It has an undesirable 16:9 aspect ratio, it’s not particularly bright, and it’s housed inside surprisingly large bezels when compared to other premium HP designs. Oddly, it could be worse: HP sells EliteBook 840 models with 1366 x 768 (!!) and 1600 x 900 displays, too, like it’s 2001 or something, and there’s an even dimmer display configuration than what I received with the review unit.

But as it turns out, those bezels are, in fact, significantly smaller than the bezels on the previous generation version. The G7 has an 85 percent screen to body ratio, compared to 76 percent on its predecessors. And the bezels are 19 to 34 percent thinner, depending on which side you’re comparing, than those on its predecessors.

I realize that HP needs some differentiation between the 800- and 1000-series, the latter of which are even more expensive. But the EliteBook 840 starts at over $1350 with a Full HD display. Hopefully, a future generation version will shrink the bezels further and adopt 16:10 display panels that better fill the available space.

One final nit: The EliteBook 840 display doesn’t quite lay flat. That’s odd.

In the good news department, the display on the review unit is outfitted with an anti-glare coating that really works. It seems like a matte display panel, which is great for productivity work.

Internal components

The EliteBook 840 G7 is powered by 10th-generation Intel Core processors, some with vPro and some without, and since shipping me this review unit, HP has added so-called G8 versions with 11th-generation Core processor options too. The review unit contains a high-end, six-core Intel Core i7-10810U processor, 16 GB of RAM, and 512 GB of M.2-based NVMe SSD storage, but only integrated graphics. As you might expect, performance is excellent for productivity work, though the processor, RAM, and storage are all overkill.

HP touts some thermal innovations in the EliteBook 840—among them, some additional sensors that help the machine stay cool while under load—but the review unit would still sometimes exhibit hissy fan noise during application installs and other business work. That said, the 840 never seemed to get hot.

Connectivity

Connectivity is modern and versatile, with Intel AX201 Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5, NFC, and optional 4G/LTE Cat16 via a SIM card slot. I had no connectivity issues.

Ports and expansion

This laptop doesn’t skimp on modern or legacy connections, so most users will be able to operate dongle-free. On the left, you’ll find two full-sized USB 3.1 ports, a headphone jack, a lock slot, and a smart card reader.

And on the right, there is a circular, barrel-style power port—for the included adapter—a full-sized HDMI 1.4 port, two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, and a nano-SIM card slot.

That dedicated power port eliminates one of my key complaints about many other EliteBook products, which rely on awkwardly placed USB-C ports for power. Plus, it frees the two USB-C ports for other uses, which is nice.

Audio and video

The EliteBook 840’s audio subsystem consists of two upward-firing stereo speakers with Bang & Olufsen tuning, located on either side of the keyboard. The playback quality with music and videos is excellent, with bright, crisp sound and nice stereo separation. There’s a simple HP Audio Control app that lets you switch between presets and fiddle with an equalizer, but I found no reason to move it off the auto-detection mode it uses by default.

The HP webcam in the EliteBook 840 offers just 720p of the resolution, and the quality is decent at best. It does offer a wide 86-degree field of view, compared to about 75 degrees for most webcams, which I like. And it has a (manually operated) privacy shutter and Windows Hello facial recognition capabilities, both of which are quite desirable.

The unit also provides two front-facing microphones plus a single world-facing microphone, and that latter microphone offers noise cancelation functionality (that I did not test, sorry). I used the 840 for a few work meetings and I consider it successful that no one noticed. (They did notice the grainy video.) There’s a microphone mute button/key in the top row of the keyboard, also a nice touch.

Keyboard, touchpad, and fingerprint reader

The EliteBook 840 sports HP’s new-ish collaboration keyboard, albeit with a few differences. Most obviously, there’s a pointer nubbin jammed right into its center for some reason.

And the fingerprint reader is separate from the keyboard and not integrated into a key as with other recent HP premium PCs. It’s still fast and reliable.

I really like this keyboard layout overall, and HP puts the power button—which is integrated into the keyboard—to the left of the Delete key where it belongs, unlike some other PC makers. (Cough, Dell.) I also like the vertical row of keys on the far right for Home, Page Up, Page Down, and End.

The typing experience is excellent, and among the best I’ve ever experienced. It appears to be lifted directly from the EliteBook 1000 series, one of my all-time favorites, and it offers short, accurate throws and quiet operation.

The smallish-sized glass precision touchpad is likewise excellent and accurate, but it’s also about an inch over to the left when compared to other HP portable PCs for reasons I can’t fathom. I didn’t have any issues using it, but it looks weird, and I had to compare it with other PCs to be sure I was seeing the placement correctly.

We need to discuss the pointer nubbin.

As noted previously, I’m a fan of the ThinkPad dual-pointer system, which combines an in-keyboard TrackPoint nubbin with a touchpad, allowing users to choose the pointer type they prefer. When I first saw the EliteBook 840, I figured this similar system, while weird-looking, would offer similar versatility.

But in using it, I’m less impressed. The rubber-capped nubbin has a weird feel, its pointer buttons aren’t particularly responsive, with deep button presses, and the system just looks weird, visually. Given how much HP’s touchpads have improved in recent years, I would prefer a version without the nubbin. Which, incidentally, is what we see on most other HP premium PCs: The 13-inch EliteBook 830 lacks this pointer, as does the new EliteBook 1040 x360.

Portability

The EliteBook 840 G7 weighs 2.95 pounds, and it somehow manages to feel even lighter than that when I carry it around. Battery life is unclear, sorry, and this has become a bigger and bigger problem as the pandemic stretches past the one-year mark. According to Windows 10’s battery life report, I’m seeing over 6 hours of battery life on average, but I suspect the real number is higher than that.

The EliteBook 840’s 3-cell, 53 watt-hour battery supports fast charging via an unusual (for these days) barrel-type 45-watt charger. You can alternatively charge via USB-C, as with HP’s 65-watt units, but those ports are closer to the front of the machine and the charging cable could get in the way if you’re right-handed and use a mouse. (It looks like some 840s come with a USB-C charger instead of the barrel charger.)

Software

The HP EliteBook 840 ships with Windows 10 Pro and a metric ton of (really, 15) HP management, security, and other software utilities plus three Intel utilities. Few of these would be fairly characterized as crapware, but it’s still a bit much, and some of the utilities feel superfluous.

I’ll just mention a few that I found useful. HP Support Assistant will be familiar to any HP customer, and while some driver updates are available via Windows Update, you’ll still want to check for updates in this app from time-to-time. HP Programmable Key is used to program a special key in the function row of the keyboard so that it can launch whatever app(s) you prefer, either by itself or in tandem with the Ctrl, Shift, and/or Alt keys. And HP Wolf Security provides malware scanning and threat containment capabilities that work with the HP Sure Sense and Sure Click services.

I’m running out of ways to complain about the proliferation of PC maker software I’ve seen on recent PCs, so I’ll just leave this the simple admonition that less is more, and that surely there’s some way to consolidate these apps or at least make it obvious which can be safely deleted.

Pricing and configurations

The EliteBook 840 starts at $1350 for a base configuration with a Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB of SSD storage, and a dim 250-nit Full HD display. The review unit, with its Core i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, 512 GB of storage, and still-dim 400-nit Full HD display, will set you back an incredible $2200. But an even more fully optioned system, with 64 GB of RAM and 2 TB of storage, will cost north of $3300. I cannot even fathom such a thing.

HP can somewhat justify these costs by its ample three-year warranty and the bundled security and management functionality; remember, this is a business-class PC, not a consumer product. But if I were shopping for an EliteBook 840, I stay as close to the base model as possible.

Recommendations and conclusions

For businesses that rely on the durability and reliability of HP’s EliteBook family of products, the EliteBook 840 is something of a no-brainer given that HP has brought some high-end features down to a more mainstream and affordable product line. But this laptop is still expensive, and there are some surprisingly poor component choices, chief among them its display panels and the anachronistic dual-pointing system.

But there are some high points of course. The build quality is premium and should prove quite durable over time. The typing experience is stellar. The port selection is perfect and should satisfy any need. And the EliteBook 840 has an almost magical airiness about it, making it seem even lighter than it is.

Whether these are enough to sway the decision-makers in your organization will depend on needs and budget. But since the EliteBook 840’s price tag puts it out of reach for most individuals, I recommend shopping on the prosumer-focused Spectre side of HP’s product portfolio. You’ll find similar build and keyboard quality but coupled with lower prices, flashier designs, better displays, and more modern components. (You may also lose out on some legacy ports; no machine is perfect.)

At-a-glance

Pros

  • Excellent keyboard
  • Great selection of new and legacy ports
  • Feels surprisingly light
  • Superb audio performance

Cons

  • Dim 16:9 display with large bezels
  • Occasional fan noise
  • Expensive
  • Confusing array of bundled software

Tagged with , ,

Join the discussion!

BECOME A THURROTT MEMBER:

Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Register
Comments (11)

11 responses to “HP EliteBook 840 G7 Review”

  1. Avatar

    ibmthink

    The reason for the touchpad shift is that the touchpad on this machine is centered to the keyboard, not the overall laptop. That is because the EliteBook 840 has a pointing stick, which sits in the middle of the keyboard - but keyboards are not 100 % symetrical, which is why you get the shift to the left.

  2. Avatar

    crunchyfrog

    That screen on the base model at that price is a deal breaker. Lenovo gives you more specs for the same or often less money for the X1 series.

  3. Avatar

    crunchyfrog

    "HP performs stain and fade tests against such things as alcohol, crayons, ink, and lipstick" Just another day at the office for some!

  4. Avatar

    angusmatheson

    My work laptop at home is a HP elitebook 2570p, that is more than 10 years old. It still runs great, but it is built like a brick. It wouldn’t win any beauty contents with an MacBook Air or surface laptop or even a dell xps - but it gets the job done.

  5. Avatar

    BigM72

    I have the previous gen model the 840 G6 as do many of my colleagues. The reality is that the machine is most often used in an HP docking meaning I don't interact much with the screen, keyboard, mouse, sound or any of it. It's just a processing unit.


    And that's the way I like to use it because the in-laptop experience viz. screen mouse and keyboard can't hold a candle to my Surface Book.

  6. Avatar

    dougkinzinger

    It is a stellar laptop. I've sold and set up several and there are reasons business keep coming back to the EliteBook line. Though I miss true, wire-to-wire docking stations sometimes. :D

  7. Avatar

    SebastienJRM

    "The smallish-sized glass precision touchpad is likewise excellent and accurate, but it’s also about an inch over to the left when compared to other HP portable PCs for reasons I can’t fathom."


    I imagine it's because the column of keys on the right of the keyboard (Home, Page Up/Down, End) are surplus, and thus they centered the touch-pad with the keyboard's space bar, so that it's centered with your hands as you normally type.


    I have an older EliteBook Folio 9470m that has the same surplus keys on the right. Just like this 840 G7, the touchpad is aligned with the space bar, making it placed slightly left-of-center.


    While I can understand it visually being a peeve to some people, from a day-to-day usability standpoint I appreciate that they aligned it this way.


    That being said, I wish all the major laptop makers would abolish display panels lower than Full HD resolution at this point. And I, too, would welcome a return of 16:10 (1920x1200) displays; there was a time in the mid-2000's where this was a common resolution (I had a Dell Latitude D800 in 2006 with such a panel) and I hope to see it become more commonplace again.

  8. Avatar

    rpitchford

    I was very disappointed to see that the dock port has been removed. This is a huge mistake.

    Relying on a cell phone connector to provide this functionality, power and hold up over time is laughable.

    My favorite laptop line just became a lot less useful...

Leave a Reply