The EliteBook 850 G1 is a Windows 7 Pro notebook built for productivity and security. Complete with a fingerprint scanner, HP's security software, a durable design and a luminous 15.6-inch 1080p display, the $1,614 laptop (starting at $954) has everything a business user could want. But is HP's Core i7-powered EliteBook the best notebook you can get for the price?
The EliteBook 850 G1 looks and feels like it can take some abuse. The first thing we noticed about HP's enterprise-oriented notebook was its durable black magnesium lid, which features the same matte soft-touch finish that's used in the auto industry to keep cars scratch-resistant.
This laptop will likely emerge scrape-free after rattling around in your luggage during flights. The EliteBook 850 G1 is also MIL-STD 810G approved, meaning it can endure more stressful scenarios involving extreme temperatures, pressure, altitude, shock and humidity than your average notebook.
Inside, the EliteBook's keyboard deck sports a shiny, premium-looking silver aluminum design. A speaker is situated just above this keyboard deck, with a fingerprint scanner placed just below it on the right. The Elitebook 850 G1's roomy touchpad almost makes the keyboard look small, but we certainly appreciated the extra space while scrolling.
The laptop's magnesium underside features a removable door for easy access to its internal components. This means you can easily switch out its hard drive for an upgrade without having to purchase a new unit.
Measuring 14.78 x 9.98 x 0.84 inches, the 4.4-pound HP EliteBook 850 G1 is fairly light and portable for a 15-inch laptop. In fact, HP says that this model is 40 percent thinner and 27 percent lighter than the previous model.
HP touts the EliteBook 850 G1 as one of the most secure business notebooks on the market. The system comes preloaded with HP software such as its SureStart program, which automatically detects malware and attacks to the computer's BIOS.
HP Trust Circle is an encryption program that completely locks down files unless you approve certain contacts to see them. The basic version of Trust Circle, which is available for free, lets you add up to five people to your trust circle. The Pro version, which sells for $19.98 for HP devices and $29.98 for non-HP computers, lets you create multiple trust circles.
Among HP's included security features is its Just In Time Authentication policy, which lets you place certain time restraints on the device. This means if you walk away from the computer and it remains inactive for a certain period of time, an intruder won't be able to plug in an external device with potentially malicious material without proper authentication.
The HP EliteBook 850 also comes with a fingerprint scanner for logging onto your computer and select websites of your choosing. When prompted to enter your password for a website, look for the HP Client Security shield symbol. This means you can use your fingerprint to log in rather than having to type your password.
During our testing we used our fingerprint to log into our Facebook account and to sign on to our computer easily. The process of enrolling your fingerprint is simple as well. We only had to swipe each finger two to three times before the device recognized our print.
The HP EliteBook 850's 15.6-inch 1920 x 1080 resolution matte display offers great image quality for work and play. Text looked bold and clear on the screen as we read through news headlines, and a high-res image of a snow-covered cabin on Flickr looked sharp. When watching the trailer for Disney's "Maleficent," we appreciated the vibrant red color in Angelina Jolie's lips and the glowing green smoke that surrounded her. However, colors quickly washed out as we turned the laptop at a right angle to our face.
HP's productivity-oriented notebook boasts not only beautiful visuals, but also a brighter screen than the competition. During our light meter reading the display averaged 300 lux, which is more luminous than the mainstream laptop category average (207 lux), the Dell Latitude E7440 (238 lux), the Acer TravelMate P645 (235 lux) and the Lenovo ThinkPad T440s (294 lux).
The HP EliteBook 850 is more for business than entertainment, but the notebook still pumps out crisp and clear sound. When blasting "Mother We Share" by Chvrches, the singer's voice sounded clean and bubbly. We really enjoyed the full-bodied background melodies and sugary synthesizers that popped, especially when switching to the Techno setting in the DTS Audio software. The bass-heavy "Evil" by Interpol also sounded rich, although the front-mounted speaker sounded a bit overwhelmed when the grungy guitar licks kicked in.
The bundled DTS Audio software allows you to choose between certain presets depending on what you're listening to. Music categories include Rock, Opera, Grunge, Techno, Rap and Country; each setting slightly tweaks elements such as bass, treble and focus.
The HP EliteBook 850 reached 84 decibels during the LAPTOP Audio Test, which is one decibel above the mainstream notebook category average. This was just slightly louder than the Acer TravelMate P645 (83 dB) and the Lenovo ThinkPad T440s (81 dB), but the Dell Latitude E7440 was the most boisterous (88 dB).
The HP EliteBook 850's backlit spill-resistant keyboard provided a smooth overall typing experience. The deck felt sturdy as we struck the keys, and we didn't notice any flex while pushing down on the keyboard. The key travel was deep enough for comfortable typing and productivity, but the tactile feedback could have been crisper. We notched 53 words per minute with a 3 percent error rate during the Ten Thumbs Typing Test, which is lower than our 63 WPM speed with an error rate of zero on our standard desktop keyboard.
Touchpad and Pointing Stick
The roomy 4.1 x 2.5-inch touchpad was responsive and fluid in everyday use. We had no issue using pinch-to-zoom and two-finger scrolling gestures, and we appreciated the dedicated clicking buttons.
The Elitebook 850's pointing stick sports a rubbery, comfortable grip that made it easy to scroll without reaching for the touchpad. The textured feel reminded us of Lenovo's TrackPoint pointing stick, although HP's nub features a concave shape made to fit the tip of your finger.
The HP EliteBook 850 managed to stay cool during our testing. The notebook's underside reached 90 degrees Fahrenheit when streaming video on Hulu for 15 minutes, which is below the 95-degree threshold that we consider uncomfortable. The touchpad only hit 78 degrees, and the area between the G and H keys reached a mild 89 degrees.
Ports and Webcam
The HP EliteBook 850 comes with all the ports you need to get work done. The right side houses a slot for its charger, an SD Card reader, and Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 ports, a DisplayPort and a headphone jack. The left side features a SmartCard reader, two more USB 3.0 ports (one with charging) and a VGA port.
The notebook's 720p webcam took clear and colorful images during our testing. Using the preloaded Cyberlink YouCam software, we didn't notice any grain or blurriness when snapping a self-portrait.
Our configuration of the HP EliteBook 850 has a strong mix of components, including a 2.1-GHz Intel Core i7-4600U processor with 8GB of RAM and 180GB SSD. In everyday use, the machine delivered speedy performance and multitasked with ease. We ran a full system scan, streamed an episode of "Bob's Burgers" via Hulu, opened five other programs, including Paint, DTS Audio and Cyberlink YouCam, and browsed the Web with six tabs open in Chrome all at the same time without any issues.
During the Geekbench 3 synthetic test, the HP EliteBook 850 scored 5,901, which is just below the 5,918 mainstream laptop category average and the Acer TravelMate P645 (5,954) but is higher than the Dell Latitude E7440 (5,259) and Lenovo ThinkPad T440s (5,151).
The Acer TravelMate is powered by a 1.8-GHz Intel Core i7-4500 CPU with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, while the Dell Latitude E7440 runs on a 1.9-GHz Intel Core i5-4300U processor with 4GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Lenovo's laptop comes equipped with a 2.6-GHz Intel Core i5-4200U with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.
The HP Elitebook 850 breezed past the 3,603 mainstream laptop category average on the PCMark7 test with a score of 4,596, but fell behind the Lenovo ThinkPad T440s (4,970) and Acer TravelMate P645 (4,886). However, it still beat the Dell Latitude E7440's score of 4,544.
HP's business notebook took a somewhat sluggish 30 seconds to boot, which is longer than the average mainstream laptop (0:26). The Acer TravelMate P645 (0:23, Windows 7 Pro) was also faster.
The EliteBook 850 also transferred files slower than all four laptops, but faster than the average mainstream notebook. It took HP's device 47 seconds to duplicate 5GB of mixed media files equaling a rate of 108.3 MBps, which is slower than the Lenovo ThinkPad T440s (188 MBps), the Acer TravelMate P645 (176 MBps) and the Dell Latitude E7440 (130 MBps).
HP's offering was the fastest when it came to retrieving data. The EliteBook 850 matched 20,000 names to their corresponding addresses during the Open Office Spreadsheet test in just 4 minutes and 28 seconds, which is faster than the 6 minutes and 17-second mainstream category average. This also outperforms the Dell Latitude E7440 (4:46), Acer TravelMate P645 (4:42) and Lenovo ThinkPad T440s (5:14).
The HP EliteBook 850's integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400 is more than adequate for casual gaming and watching HD movies, but don't expect a hardcore gaming experience. The notebook ran "World of Warcraft" at an acceptable rate of 47 fps with the screen resolution set to 1024 x 768 on auto settings, but this dropped to 21 fps at its native 1080p resolution.
The EliteBook scored 37,731 during the 3DMark Ice Storm benchmark, which falls below the 40,507 mainstream notebook category average. Comparatively, the Dell Latitude E7440 (29,235) and ThinkPad T440s (25,767) scored lower, and the Acer TravelMate hit a higher 39,585.
The HP EliteBook 850's 3-cell battery lasted for 7 hours and 26 minutes during the LAPTOP Battery Test, which consists of continuously surfing the Web with the display brightness set to 40 percent. This is longer than the 6:50 mainstream laptop category average, the Dell Latitude E7440 (5:52) and the Lenovo ThinkPad T440s with its regular battery (7:01). However, the Acer TravelMate P645 (9:46) and the Thinkpad T440s with its high-capacity battery (14:36) lasted much longer during the same test. To be fair, though, both of those notebooks are 14-inchers, which place more of an emphasis on portability.
The HP EliteBook 850 comes in a few different flavors depending on your budget. The least expensive model starts at $954 and features a 15.6-inch 1366 x 768 resolution display, 4GB of RAM, a 7,200RPM 500GB hard drive and runs on an Intel Core i5-4200U processor with integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400.
The priciest model sells for $1,914 and comes with a 1080p display, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SATA self-encrypting hard drive. Our review unit is just below the highest price point at $1,614 with a 1080p display, an Intel Core i7-4600U processor with 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD.
Software and Warranty
The Windows 7 Professional notebook is fairly barebones out of the box, but HP offers robust security software. The HP Client Security program serves as a dashboard for managing features such as enrolled fingerprints, passwords and HP Trust Circles. The File Sanitizer allows you to delete any folder or file by virtually shredding it so it can never be seen again. The Bing Desktop widget provides shortcuts to weather, news, trending topics, photos, videos and Facebook right on your desktop.
As mentioned above, the EliteBook 850 comes preloaded with Cyberlink's YouCam software for taking images with its 720p webcam and DTS Audio for managing sound preferences.
HP also includes a limited three-year warranty that covers parts and labor, including the device's battery. See how HP fared in our Tech Support Showdown and Best & Worst Brands report.
The $1,614 HP EliteBook 850 is one of the best 15-inch business notebooks money can buy. It offers robust security, long battery life and a luminous display for the price.
Geared toward those who want control over their files, the notebook comes with a removable bottom for swapping out your hard drive and HP's Trust Circles encryption software to ensure only approved contacts see your confidential content. We also appreciate the soft-touch scratch- resistant magnesium lid. The only notable strike against the EliteBook 850 is the matte display's somewhat shallow viewing angles.
Those who don't mind a smaller screen should check out the Lenovo ThinkPad T440s, which offers swifter performance, a better keyboard and a more impressive 14 hours of battery life. Overall, though, the EliteBook 850 is a very good choice for workers in need of a durable and secure large-screen they can take with them.