The first corporate laptop we've seen with an AMD A8 processor inside, the HP EliteBook 745 promises an attractive design and solid performance for a reasonable price. Starting at $749 ($1,049 as tested), this laptop is certainly light enough to take anywhere and, though it falls short of most Intel-powered competitors, powerful enough to perform mainstream tasks. However, the EliteBook 745's sleek, silver-colored chassis can't make up for its poor battery life, weak typing experience and dull display.
HP's design language for most of its laptops is sleek and silver. You can see it in the consumer-focused HP Envy 13t, and it's on display in the EliteBook 745. The body is black on the underside and a beautiful shade of gunmetal gray everywhere else, and it has a reflective HP logo on the lid.
The computer is constructed from aluminum and magnesium and felt solid in my hands, but I noticed a little bit of give in the lid when I pressed on it while the system laid flat on a desk. HP claims that the keyboard is spill-resistant, so a couple of drops of coffee or water on your desk should pose no issue for the EliteBook.
When you open the lid, you see that same shade of gray for the palm rest, black island-style keys, pointing stick, trackpad and fingerprint reader. The 14-inch display is surrounded by a thick, ugly gray bezel similar to the one on the Envy 13t. It really takes away from how sleek the rest of the laptop is, especially when you see the almost bezelless Infinity Displays on Dell's XPS 13.
The 3.4-pound EliteBook 745 felt light as I carried it around the office and easily fit in a bag. At 13.3 x 9.3 x 0.74 inches, it doesn't take up too much room on a desk, but it's still a little bigger than the Lenovo ThinkPad T450s (13.03 x 8.90 x 0.83 inches).
Keyboard and Touchpad
I wouldn't want to use the keyboard on the EliteBook 745 for long periods of time -- the keys felt really shallow with 1.3 mm of travel (we prefer keys that have at least 1.55 mm of travel). Typing also felt stiff, as the keys bottomed out too quickly, and I noticed some flexing in the center of the keyboard.
I beat my average score on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, hitting 110 words per minute (my average is 100), though I had a 2 percent error rate, which is high for me (I'm usually around 1 percent). I did appreciate the backlight on the keyboard, which has two levels of brightness for when you're in dim office meetings or travelling for business.
The 3.9 x 2.1 touchpad is accurate, and I had no trouble with gestures, including scrolling, pinch-to-zoom and extending three fingers (to show all of my open windows). The pad uses buttons to click, but I wish I also had the option of clicking with the touchpad itself.Some business users prefer a pointing stick, and I found the one on the EliteBook to be comfortable and accurate. The one major problem is that there is no center scroll button for the pointing stick, which means that users will have to utilize the scroll bar to move down Web pages and documents. The pointing stick is more accurate, but two-finger scrolling sure makes the trackpad easier to use.
The 14-inch 1920 x 1080 display on the EliteBook 745 may be fine for spreadsheets, but its inaccurate colors make it less than ideal for media viewing. I watched the trailer for Captain America: Civil War, and the blue tint cast a purple hue over Iron Man's red suit and made Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson's skin tones look wrong. I was able to see details in bright light, like bruising on Tony Stark's face, but a chase between Black Panther and the Winter Soldier in a dark tunnel was hard to make out on the display. Viewing angles were fine up to 45 degrees, though the closer I turned to 90 degrees, the less detail I could make out.
In our testing, the screen registered 317 nits of brightness on our light meter. That's brighter than the ThinkPad T450s (236 nits) and the Toshiba Portege Z30t-B (264 nits), but the Dell Latitude E5250 shone brighter than the rest of the field at 347 nits.
The EliteBook covers 84.1 percent of the sRGB color gamut (100 percent is considered excellent). The Portege Z30t-B hit 100 percent and the ThinkPad 450s, 100.8 percent. Only the Latitude E5250 registered less, at 68.2 percent, and the category average is 85 percent.
The screen could be more accurate, too; the EliteBook notched a Delta-E color accuracy score of 4.37 (the closer to zero, the better) and was beaten by the Latitude, ThinkPad and Portege (an astounding 0.2), as well as the category average.
HP's partnership with Bang & Olufsen just keeps on giving. I put the EliteBook 745 on our test bench in the Laptop Mag lab and blasted Ellie Goulding's "On My Mind" and "Guns and Ships" from the Hamilton Broadway soundtrack. The speakers, located just above the keyboard, got loud enough to fill the room. Vocals and mids were clear, though the bass could have been deeper -- that is, until I found the Bang & Olufsen app.
With a couple of sliders, I was able to enhance the music over the vocals, and the bass equalizer setting made the bass much more noticeable on both songs.
Our test unit of the EliteBook 745 came with a 2.1-GHz AMD Pro A8-8600B APU with integrated Radeon R7 graphics, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. This setup was fine for everyday use -- I streamed 1080p video from YouTube, wrote in Google Docs and had 10 tabs open in Edge before I saw any slowdown.
Still, this HP isn't as fast as competing Intel-powered business laptops. In Geekbench 3, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall speed, the EliteBook achieved a score of 5,494. The ThinkPad T450s' Intel Core i5-5300U CPU beat it at 5,993, while the Toshiba Portege Z30t-B and its 5th Generation Intel Core i7 pulled further ahead with a score of 6,401. The Dell Latitude E5250 and its Core i5-5200U fell behind the pack at 5,329.
This notebook was blown out of the water in our computation-heavy OpenOffice spreadsheet test -- it took 6 minutes and 36 seconds to match 20,000 names and addresses. The second-slowest of the group was the Latitude E5250 at 5:15 -- over a minute faster than the EliteBook. The T450s completed the task in 4:41, and the Portege banged it out in 4:15.
When we ran the EliteBook through our file transfer test, in which we have notebooks duplicate 4.97GB of mixed-media files, its 256GB SSD completed the test in 41 seconds -- a rate of 124.1 MBps. The Portege and ThinkPad both fared better at 212 MBps and 149.7 MBps, respectively, while the Dell Latitude E5250 mustered a lowly 86.3 MBps.
Ports, Fingerprint Reader and Webcam
If there's a port you need for day-to-day office use, it's probably on the EliteBook 745. The left side houses a Kensington lock slot, VGA port, USB 3.0 port and a smart card reader. On the right you'll find a USB Type-C port, DisplayPort, headphone/microphone combo jack, another USB 3.0 port, Ethernet jack, docking connector and micro SIM card slot. On the bottom, right under the DisplayPort, is an SD card reader.
The fingerprint reader on the palm rest worked well. Using Windows Hello, I quickly registered several of my fingers, which allowed me to unlock the computer. Almost every time I swiped, the reaction was instantaneous, except for a few times when the reader directed me to move my finger to the left or right.
The 720p webcam produced some grainy images, but it captured details well, like my dimple and the shadows on my face. As far as laptop webcams go, it's pretty solid.
Unless you don't travel often or don't go to a lot of meetings, you'll be disappointed by the EliteBook 745's meager battery life. The AMD-powered laptop lasted just 5 hours and 54 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which consists of continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits of brightness.
Other business notebooks held up better on our test, like the Portege Z30t-B (6:58), Latitude E5250 (8:31) and especially the ThinkPad T450s, which lasts 7:31 on a standard battery and a whopping 15:26 with an extended battery. The category average for battery life is 8:24 -- a good business notebook should last you the entire workday.
If you're looking for ways to slack off at work with the EliteBook 745, heavy-duty gaming won't be one of them. In our testing, AMD's R7 integrated graphics didn't stand up well to its Intel-powered foes.The EliteBook got handily beat in the 3DMark graphics performance benchmark. It notched a score of 44,377, while the ThinkPad (59,843), Portege (57,160) and Latitude (50,261) all scored much higher.
I played a game of Klondike in the Microsoft Solitaire collection, and the game ran smoothly. If you want to play Words with Friends or other nonintensive games, you'll have no problems.
Consider keeping this laptop on your desk, because it got a little toasty in our heat tests. After streaming 15 minutes of HD video from Hulu, the bottom of the EliteBook 745 hit a sweltering 104.5 degrees Fahrenheit. That's 9.5 degrees higher than what we consider comfortable. The touchpad stayed cool at 81.5 degrees, while the spot between the G and H keys on the keyboard was just under our threshold at 94.5 degrees.
Software and Warranty
Our EliteBook 745 came with a three-year warranty on parts and labor. However, the base model comes with a one-year limited warranty and HP Elite Support.
The bloatware on the EliteBook 745 is minimal; most of the add-on programs, such as HP Touchpoint Manager and HP Client Security, are from HP itself and may be useful for IT departments. AMD's Catalyst Control Center is also on board, should Windows' own settings not be to your liking.
The only real offender is CyberLink PowerDVD 12, which is fairly useless, since the EliteBook 745 doesn't have a DVD drive and there are better entertainment software options available. The Bang & Olufsen speaker software, on the other hand, came in handy when I was adjusting music to my liking. You'll also find a one-month trial of Microsoft Office 365.
Our review model of the EliteBook 745 came with a 2.1-GHz AMD Pro A12-8800B APU with integrated Radeon R7 graphics, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD and a 1920 x 1080 display. It costs $1,049, but other options are available.The base model costs $749 and features a 1.6-GHz A8-8600B with Radeon R6 graphics. It comes with 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard-disk drive and a 1366 x 768 display.
A number of other options include adding touch-screen functionality, display resolutions up to 2560 x 1440, up to a 1-TB HDD, up to a 256GB SSD and up to 16GB of memory.
The HP EliteBook 745 is a lightweight, attractive business notebook with powerful speakers, but it falls short in several key areas. The performance is decent enough, but less than 6 hours of battery life, a dull screen and an uncomfortable keyboard make it a less-than-compelling choice.
For those looking for a new business notebook, we still recommend the Lenovo T450s for its excellent battery life, strong performance and extremely comfortable keyboard.