HP EliteBook 1040 G3 Review

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Editors' rating:
The Pros

Innovative privacy-mode display; Comfortable keyboard; Solid audio

The Cons

Short battery life; Dull color output

Verdict

The EliteBook 1040 G3 is a 14-inch business notebook with an innovative integrated-privacy screen but poor battery life.

Imagine you're on a plane, reviewing sensitive business material, when out of nowhere, the person next to you looks at your laptop's display. Did they see something important? Does this person work in your field? You won't be asking these questions if you're using Sure View mode, the privacy-enabling setting in the HP EliteBook 1040 G3 (starting at $1,462 with Sure View, and $1,233 without it).

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But Sure View isn't the only business-centric feature included on HP's notebook. It also features a comfortable keyboard for productive typing and solid sound for post-work dance breaks. Unfortunately, the privacy-first panel suffers from poor color, and the laptop suffers from below-average battery life. However, if you are worried about being visually hacked, the EliteBook 1040 is a strong choice.

Design

The EliteBook 1040's asteroid-silver, machined-aluminum body and the shiny, metallic beveled edge around the notebook's base give it a stylish look and feel that match its $1,279 starting price. Its full-size, island-style keyboard is slightly recessed, and the glass touchpad feels luxuriously smooth.

HP EliteBook 1040 G3Measuring 0.7 inches thick and weighing 3.1 pounds, the EliteBook 1040 G3 is thinner and lighter than the Lenovo ThinkPad T460 (0.8 inches, 3.8 pounds or 4.2 pounds with extended battery). The Dell Latitude E7470 (0.7 inches, 3.1 pounds) is of similar weight and thickness.

HP placed a security lock slot, USB 3.0 port, headphone jack and Smart Card reader on the left side of the notebook. A micro SIM tray, USB Type-C connector, second USB 3.0 port, HDMI port, docking connector and power port sit on the right. The fingerprint reader is found below the right corner of the keyboard. 

MORE: Best HP Laptops

Sure View

The big news about the EliteBook 1040 is the debut of HP's Sure View technology. Just clicking fn and F2 dims the screen in a way that makes it nearly impossible for someone sitting to your left or right, or standing above you, to read what's on your display.

Up until now, companies that wanted to avoid visual hacking needed to buy annoying $30 privacy screens that must be attached manually. It's hard to overstate how much more convenient it is to activate privacy mode with a simple keystroke. The feature got rave reviews around the office. One of my co-workers actually said, "Whoa!" when I showed him the feature.

Sure View works as advertised, but nothing really looks that great on the panel, even with the privacy mode disabled. I'd love to see a panel that sports rich, vivid color get this feature, so hopefully the technology advances soon.

For now, you're going to want to toggle Sure View on only when you're viewing sensitive files, such as banking information, private fiscal results or a creative project you're worried about someone else aping.

Display

The EliteBook's 14-inch panel offers clear image reproduction, but it suffers from terribly dull colors. When I streamed the latest Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 trailer on the notebook, I noticed that the green of Gamora's skin appeared muted. I also noticed a persistent white tint, which led to grayish backgrounds in lieu of inky blacks and flat-looking reds.

The one thing going for this 1920 x 1080-pixel display is its sharpness, as I could see fine details including the Chia Pet-like fuzz on Baby Groot's head as well as every distinct hair on Rocket Raccoon.

HP EliteBook 1040 G3According to our colorimeter, the EliteBook's screen reproduces 93 percent of the sRGB gamut, which places it below the Dell Latitude E7470 (118 percent), but above the average thin-and-light notebook (85 percent) and the ThinkPad T460 (67 percent). While we expect better color from a display with a 93 percent score, the EliteBook's lackluster hues are likely due to a lack of luminescence.

The EliteBook 1040's 14-inch panel emits a deplorably low average brightness of 168 nits when all four corners are taken into account. However, the center is quite a bit brighter, registering a respectable 269 nits on our light meter. You'll find displays with higher average brightness on the ThinkPad T460 (239 nits), Latitude E7470 (338 nits), and average thin-and-light notebook (247 nits).

MORE: Best Laptops for College Students

The EliteBook's touch screen accurately tracked my digits as I navigated the desktop, tapping on folders and selecting icons. It even kept up with my input as I speedily doodled in Paint.

Security & Durability

IT managers and buyers alike should be happy with the level of security and ruggedness the EliteBook 1040 delivers. The machine passed 12 MIL-SPEC safety tests, the same kinds of evaluations used to make sure equipment is ready for the military. This means this notebook should survive drops (closed, on its edge and on its faces), vibrations against its corners, and extreme hot and cold climates. 

The EliteBook 1040 packs a TPM chip for remote manageability by IT, a fingerprint reader for biometric security and an integrated Smart Card reader for verified logins. Some models, such as the one we tested, feature a vPro chip, which enables encrypted storage of sensitive materials. HP's SureStart technology will also guard users from attacks on a system's BIOS, the root-level system that everything loads from.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The EliteBook 1040 has an excellent keyboard and touchpad that help improve your productivity. The keyboard provides a comfortable typing experience despite the 1.46 millimeters of travel and required 59 grams of actuation force (we hope to see between 1.5mm and 60 g, respectively). I still clicked my way to 81 words per minute, which edges out my average (80 wpm). 

HP EliteBook 1040 G3The notebook's 3.9 x 2.6-inch, buttonless, glass touchpad is one smooth surface. Not only does it offer a solid feel to each click, it also correctly registered two-finger scrolling and three-finger app-switching.

Audio

The EliteBook 1040's Bang & Olufsen-optimized speakers provided enough volume to fill a medium-size conference room with a good rendition of The Weeknd's "Six Feet Under." The track's bass sounded solid, synths hit accurately and vocals came out OK.

To improve those vocals, I opened the Bang & Olufsen Audio app, clicked Listening Experience and selected Movie.

Performance

Get our review configuration of the EliteBook 1040 G3, which has a 2.6-GHz Core i7-6600U CPU and 16GB of RAM, if you want a system that enables serious multitasking. I saw no lag when scrolling through web pages and moving among applications after I split my screen among a dozen tabs and a 1080p YouTube video. That seamless experience continued even after I launched the Camera app, Paint and a full-system scan in Windows Defender.

HP EliteBook 1040 G3The HP business notebook earned a solid score of 7,470 on the Geekbench 3 general performance benchmark, which bests the scores of the 2.5-GHz Core i5-6300U-powered ThinkPad T460 (6,708) and the 2.3-GHz Core i5-6200U-packing Latitude E7470 (6,059). The thin-and-light notebook average (7,558) was only slightly better.

The 256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD in our EliteBook 1040 G3 copied 4.97GB of media files in 14 seconds, for a blisteringly fast rate of 363.5 MBps. That leaves the 256GB SSD in the ThinkPad T460 (175.5 MBps), the 128GB SSD in the Latitude E7470 (132.3 MBps), and thin-and-light notebook average (161.69 MBps) in the dust.

The EliteBook 1040 G3 finished our OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro test (matching 20,000 names to addresses) in 3 minutes and 43 seconds, beating the times of the ThinkPad T460 (4:13), the Dell Latitude E7470 (4:30), and the thin-and light-notebook average (5:10).

With just its integrated Intel 520 HD Graphics, the EliteBook 1040 G3 scored a 74,551 on the Ice Storm Unlimited graphics test. That score places the EliteBook above the Intel 520 HD Graphics-based ThinkPad T460 (65,981), the Intel 520 HD Graphics-based Latitude E7470 (59,801), and the average for thin-and-light notebooks (71,402).

Battery Life

The EliteBook 1040 G3's battery life is nothing to brag about. The notebook made it only 6 hours and 15 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuous web browsing over Wi-Fi), which is less than the ThinkPad T460 with touch screen (13:12 with extended battery, 6:40 without it), the Latitude E7470 (9:16), and the average for thin-and-light notebooks (7:46). 

MORE: Laptops with the Longest Battery Life

Webcam

Skype addicts will find the EliteBook 1040's 0.9-megapixel webcam acceptable. It accurately rendered the red wall behind me as well as the pinks of my cheeks and the black and white tones of my sweater. It suffers only from fuzzy details, such as when it captured my face in what appears to be a pointillist filter, a problem you'll find on many integrated webcams.

Heat

Not only does the EliteBook 1040 look slick, but it also stays cool under pressure. After we streamed 15 minutes of HD video on the business notebook, our heat gun registered acceptable temperatures on its touchpad (85 degrees Fahrenheit), G and H keys (85 degrees), and underside (91 degrees). Our comfort threshold is 95 degrees.

Software

The EliteBook 1040 G3 comes packed with programs for the business world, though some are trial-ware cruft. HP Touchpoint Manager, for example, enables IT departments to easily manage notebooks remotely, so IT pros can service end users' systems from afar. The included Drawboard PDF and Foxit PhantomPDF annotator apps seem cool, but HP includes only trial versions for testing.

Configuration Options

Our review configuration of the EliteBook 1040 G3 costs $2,432.50 and packs a Core i7-6600U CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD and a Sure View 14-inch 1920x1080-pixel touch-screen display. You can save $33 by getting a nontouch version of the same display.

The entry-level version of the EliteBook 1040 costs $1,233 and includes a Core i5-6200U CPU, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of SATA-3 SSD storage, but it doesn't offer Sure View technology. Getting a Sure View display bumps the minimum price (with those same specs) up to $1,462.

Unless you want the luxury of pushing a laptop to its multitasking limits, like I did with the review unit. I'd suggest opting for the Core i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD configuration with Sure View, which lowers the price to $1,705.

Bottom Line

If you're truly worried about someone spying over your or your employee's shoulders, the EliteBook 1040 G3's Sure View technology will take away those concerns. Unfortunately, that comes at the cost of a dull, dim screen and short battery life.

For a brighter screen (albeit one you'd need to attach a dimming panel to), the $1,339 Latitude E7470 is a great option, though it's not as sleek, and its sound quality is weak. The $1,363 ThinkPad T460 is your best option for lengthy battery life, though that machine's display doesn't deliver the best color. Overall, the mix of Sure View, speedy performance and a comfortable keyboard makes the HP Elitebook 1040 G3 a powerhouse for privacy- and productivity-minded workers.

CPU 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6600U
Operating System Windows 10 Pro
RAM 16GB
RAM Upgradable to
Hard Drive Size 256GB SSD
Hard Drive Speed
Hard Drive Type M2 PCIe NVMe MLC SSD
Secondary Hard Drive Size
Secondary Hard Drive Speed
Secondary Hard Drive Type
Display Size
Native Resolution 1920x1080
Optical Drive
Optical Drive Speed
Graphics Card Intel HD Graphics 520
Video Memory
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Wi-Fi Model Intel 8260 802.11 a/b/g/n/ ac (2x2)
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.2
Mobile Broadband
Touchpad Size 3.9 x 2.6 inches
Ports (excluding USB) USB 3.0
Ports (excluding USB) Headphone
Ports (excluding USB) HDMI
Ports (excluding USB) Docking Connector
Ports (excluding USB) security lock slot
Ports (excluding USB) USB Type-C
USB Ports 3
Card Slots Smart Card
Warranty/Support
Size 13.27 x 9.23 x 0.65 inches
Weight 3.06
Company Website
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2 comments
  • Daniel Says:

    Thanks for the review. I want to confirm the change in touchpad functionality from G1 and G2. So, with the G3 you get a physical feedback when clicking the touchpad? Is it like a button that travels or is it a haptic feedback function under the touchpad? Thanks.

  • lizard Says:

    Hi
    Why wasnt compare to t460s?

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