September 21, 2009
Hardware Review: HP EliteBook 8730w
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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HP’s Most Powerful Mobile Workstation Performs Well Under Pressure

I don’t often review mobile workstations, but when HP offered the EliteBook 8730w, I welcomed the opportunity – primarily for some of the unique features it has, but more about those later. I’m an MCAD guy, and wanted to see how it performed with a Beta version of SolidWorks 2010. I also ran a series of simple benchmarks from the
Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) that I’ll briefly discuss, as well.

Opening the Box and Getting Started

Upon arrival, I unboxed the unit and was immediately taken with the physical size of the EliteBook 8730w not as bulky as I had imagined it might be. However, weighing in at almost eight pounds (not including the AC power adapter) and the closed unit measuring 1.3” x 15.5” x 11.1”, the 8730w is classified as a mobile workstation, but with those physical attributes, it’s more workstation than mobile.

The evaluation unit came loaded with Windows XP Pro (SP2), although it could have easily run under Windows Vista, an Intel Core 2 Extreme Q9300 @ 2.53 GHz CPU, and 4 GB RAM. Enhanced graphics capabilities were provided by an NVIDIA Quadro FX 3700M, a GPU developed specifically for high-end mobile workstations. With 1 GB memory, it provided excellent image quality, and optimized visual computing application performance, complementing the overall 8730w package.

The keyboard has HP’s DuraKeys for longevity and is a very generous size with a separate dedicated numeric keypad and plenty of room to rest your wrists. Even though the keyboard did have a large span, it did not flex at all, owing to the amount of metal (aluminum) used for the interior structure and exterior shell. Something that may take some getting used to is a third button on the touch pad that can tend to get in the way. Overall, the build quality is excellent with a solid feel. It seems very durable and is thinner than its competition.

One of the key selling points for the 8730w is its high-end DreamColor display with 1920 x 1200 (WUXGA) resolution. If you have to peer at a computer screen all day, the 8730w’s display offers welcome relief because of its resolution and brightness.

Keeping in mind the sheer size and capabilities of this machine, I suspected battery life for the W700 would not be too impressive. However, while performing some basic computer operations (including Web browsing, photo editing, and part creation and manipulation with SolidWorks 2010), I was able to get just under three hours of life before I was warned to plug the 8730w in for recharging. All in all, not too bad a time away from an outlet for a machine of this size and performance level.

Under conditions when the CPU wasn’t being pushed too hard, the 8730w never got much warmer than the ambient room temperature in my office. However, when I was working with large assemblies in SolidWorks and when the benchmark tests were being run, the cooling fan ran constantly and was actually quite loud, pushing a lot of hot air – not obnoxious, but definitely noticeable.

Overall, though, the 8730w was enjoyable to use from visual, tactile, and performance points of view.

Below are the configuration and pricing details of the HP EliteBook 8730w review unit.

Note that the Blu-ray writer, which is included in the price tag above, adds $390 to the overall cost. There is also an optional 80 GB SSD available for the EliteBook 8730w.

I ran a fundamental SPEC benchmark suite (SPECviewperf 10) on the EliteBook 8730w. The benchmarking software provides performance measurement for full-scene anti-aliasing and multithreading for evaluating higher-quality imaging and multi-core systems. It also measures how effectively graphics subsystems scale when running multithreaded graphics content. The numbers below compare very favorably, and in a few instances, superior, to competing conventional and mobile workstations from companies such as Dell and Lenovo that are listed on the SPEC website:

I also ran a Beta version of SolidWorks 2010 Premium on the 8730w and it performed both basic design tasks and tasks involving an assembly with over 10,000 component parts quite handily. The large assembly was a good test for the resolution and performance of the DreamColor display, and it passed with flying colors.

For the past few years, several notebook computers have been touted as “desktop replacements. The HP EliteBook 8730w is an example of the next phase, “workstation replacements,” and it represents this new class very well. This mobile workstation is not perfect, but stands out as a well-designed, quality offering in this class of machine and could support the MCAD community quite well.

HP EliteBook 8730w

High-End Mobile Workstation

Pros: Brilliant and sharp DreamColor display; good industrial design; solid build and feel; optional Flash SSD (expensive, but available).

Cons: Beyond the sometimes noisy cooling fan, none significant.

For More Information on the

The Week’s Top 5

At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.

Continental DataGraphics (CDG), a Boeing subsidiary, has purchased SolidWorks to meet the increasing demand for 2D-to-3D file conversion. The SolidWorks tools will support CDG’s internal requirements to support Boeing projects. CDG authors and publishes illustrated parts catalogs and maintenance manuals to support all Boeing commercial aircraft worldwide. As part of that work, the CDG graphics team uses SolidWorks software to convert 2D pictures of parts into 3D models for use in publishing and engineering. “We recognized that a lot of other companies, like those in trucking, energy, and other industries using complex equipment, have similar needs,” said Josh Migdal, CDG production manager. “Because SolidWorks accepts and outputs a wide range of file formats, we have been able to expand our engineering services capabilities to convert 2D pictures into 3D models for a broader range of customers across multiple industries.” SolidWorks also enables CDG to repurpose 3D data to 2D isometric projections for Component Maintenance Manuals (CMMs) and Illustrated Parts Catalog (IPC) technical illustrations. SolidWorks software includes bi-directional translators that support DWG, DXF, Pro/ENGINEER, IPT (Autodesk Inventor), Mechanical Desktop, Unigraphics, PAR (Solid Edge), CADKEY, IGES, STEP, Parasolid, SAT (ACIS), VDA-FS, VRML, STL, TIFF, JPG, Adobe
Illustrator, Rhinoceros, IDF, and HSF (Hoops) formats.

CIMdata announced the availability of its annual PLM Market Analysis Report. The report provides detailed information and in-depth analysis on the worldwide PLM market. It contains analyses of major trends and issues, leading PLM solution suppliers, PLM purchases investments in software and services for geographical regions and industry sectors, and historical and projected data about market growth. The PLM Market Analysis Report comes in two modules—Module 1 presents CIMdata’s overview of the PLM market, overall market statistics, an analysis of PLM suppliers’ performance in 2008, and CIMdata’s overall forecast for 2009 through 2013. It also includes information about the evolution of the PLM market and the trends that will drive the market in the coming years. Module 2 builds on the information presented in Module 1 by providing detailed 2008 geographic and industry revenue results, and forecasts for 2009 to 2013. The PLM Market Analysis Report is sold as a stand-alone report or as part of the CIMdata PLM Community Gold membership. It is also important to note that in this report, CIMdata has revised its estimates of growth based on the poor results of the first half of 2009. The first half-year results have been disappointing, and indicate a potentially longer delay in the
restart of the economy and in investments getting back to their previous good levels. The forecasts address the impact of the current economic downturn and indicate CIMdata’s estimates as to how the PLM market will recover. The Table of Contents and further details including pricing information about the report are available on CIMdata’s web site at . In addition, the 2009 PLM Market Analysis Report presents an analysis of the 2008 PLM market with special descriptions of each of the major sub-segments, including:
  • Collaborative Product Definition management (cPDm)

  • Mechanical Computer Aided Design (MCAD)

  • Simulation and Analysis (S&A)

  • Non-Bundled Numerical Control (Non-bundled NC)

  • Digital Manufacturing (DM)

  • Systems Integrators, Resellers, VARS

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    You can find the full MCADCafe event calendar here.

    To read more news, click here.

    -- Jeff Rowe, Contributing Editor.

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