Hardware Laptops Reviews

HP EliteBook 840 G5 review: the laptop to stop snoopers?

HP EliteBook 840 G5 review
The HP EliteBook 840 G5 is the most secure laptop we've ever tested

People are nosy. If you’re sitting next to someone tapping away on their laptop on the train, it’s hard not to stare. Unless, that is, they have a built-in privacy screen, which is just one of the nifty features inside the HP EliteBook 840 G5.

HP EliteBook 840 G5 review: The screen

HP calls its privacy screen technology Sure View, and switching it on and off is easy: simply press F2 on the keyboard. As you can see in the short video below, it works too.

You may have noticed that switching on Sure View also dips the brightness, but it can go up a few notches from this base level. Indeed, brightness is another of this laptop’s big talents: in normal mode, it hit a dazzling 625cd/m² in our tests. Even laptops with bright screens normally only go up to about 400cd/m², making this the easiest screen to read outside I’ve yet seen.

It performed well in our other technical tests as well, covering 91.7% of the sRGB gamut with a decent Delta E of 2.15. Those two figures essentially mean this screen reproduces almost every colour and that you can trust the colours you see – light greens won’t look dark, for instance.

Figures don’t always tell you everything, however.

The first thing I’d like is a higher resolution than 1,920 x 1,080 on a 14in panel. This makes it less convenient to place two windows side by side, plus individual pixels become visible, giving the screen a grainy look.

This might also be a side effect of the privacy technology or the touchscreen layer, or both, but the end result is that I prefer the screen on the Dell XPS 13 and Surface Book 2.

HP EliteBook 840 G5: more security

You only need to visit the EliteBook 840 G5’s web page to realise the importance HP places on security with this laptop.

First, there’s HP Sure Start Gen4. This protects your BIOS from attacks: if it spots that the BIOS has been changed, perhaps by malware or rootkits, then it automatically reverts to the “last good” version.

HP EliteBook 840 G5 review
The fingerprint reader is just one of the many layers of security on offer here

Then there’s the inclusion of both a fingerprint reader and a smart card reader, plus the extra security offered by Windows Hello (which, naturally, is supported by the webcam).

HP also makes much of its Sure Click protection: “When a user starts a browsing session in Internet Explorer or Chromium, every site visited triggers HP Sure Click. For example, each time a user visits a website, HP Sure Click creates a hardware-based isolated browsing session, which eliminates the ability of one website from infecting other tabs or the system itself.”

With IE deprecated in favour of Edge in Windows 10, this is only of benefit to browsers that use the Chromium engine – but that includes Google Chrome, Opera and, our favourite, Vivaldi.

HP EliteBook 840 G5: Keyboard and touchpad

I’m a fan of the 840 G5 keyboard. There’s enough travel in the keys to make touch typing a pleasure, and HP makes no silly decisions about key positioning to spoil things. For instance, the cursor keys are well separated, while the Home, Pg Up, Pg Dn and End buttons are conveniently positioned at the far right.

HP EliteBook 840 G5 review
I like the keyboard, but found the trackpad’s positioning ever so slightly off

Some people may not be fans of the single-height Enter key, but in practice I had no problems hitting it. In fact, the only annoyance is the position of the touchpad: it’s a shade too far to the left, meaning my left palm kept touching it until muscle memory kicked in.

Other than that, the touchpad is excellent. Wide and smooth, with dedicated left- and right-mouse buttons above to accompany the trackpoint in the middle of the keyboard, it’s perfectly suited to Windows 10 gestures (should you ever learn them).

HP EliteBook 840 G5: design

HP EliteBook 840 G5 review
A nice design but too similar to the industrial MacBook Pro for my tastes

I have a personal bias against aluminium-shelled laptops: they’ve been done to death, and it feels to me that all the PC manufacturers are trying to mimic the look of the MacBook Pro. Boring.

HP does add its own element of style courtesy of the grille above the keyboard, and this does soften the look. As the Bang & Olufsen wording underneath indicates, the speakers lurk beneath, and they are truly excellent – among the best I’ve heard on a laptop.

I’m less fond of the big bezels above and beneath the screen. Yes, that leaves space for a stylish HP logo and the usual dual array of webcams, but it makes the 14in screen look smaller than it should.

HP EliteBook 840 G5: performance and battery life

A single-core score of 4,506 in Geekbench 4 is exactly what I’d expect from a laptop equipped with a Core i7-8550U processor and 16GB of RAM. The multi-core score of 13,676 was a little on the low side, I expected around 14,500, but far from disastrous.

The most important thing is that this machine proved snappy in daily chores such as web browsing. The only thing that’s going to slow you down is your internet connection.

I tested the version with a 512GB SSD, and again this of the nippy PCIe M.2 variety (see our guide to what the different SSD types mean here). It managed a respectable set of figures in A5 SSD benchmarks – 1,363MB/sec sequential write and 1,040MB/sec sequential read, for example – even if there are faster SSDs around.

Intel’s familiar UHD 620 graphics chip is available for light gaming, and it managed a respectable 48 frames per second in the GFXBench Manhattan on-screen benchmark.

The end result is a machine that could easily replace a desktop PC, and that’s something HP is well aware of. You can use its existing HP UltraSlim Docking Station, or wait for the Thunderbolt Dock G2 and Elite USB-C Dock G4 docking stations (due for release this summer).

HP EliteBook 840 G5: battery life and portability

The corollary to performance? Battery life. HP claims up to 14 hours of battery life, but when I looped a video with the screen set to a mid-range 170cd/m2 it lasted for only six hours and 30 minutes. Avoid Kevin Costner films, then. That reflected what I saw in general, too, with the battery depleting within five or six hours of use.

That means I wouldn’t travel overnight without packing the 355g power supply in my case, and note this isn’t a super-light machine: 1.59kg is fine, but hardly stellar when compared to the 1.3kg of the Dell XPS 13.

In HP’s defence? One, that I’m comparing a 14in laptop to a 13.3in machine; two, that the 1.59kg I measured was with a touchscreen. This adds around 100g to the weight, according to HP. Three: the company also claims that you can get up to 50% of battery capacity within 30 minutes.

HP EliteBook 840 G5 review
There’s no shortage of ports – note the full-size HDMI output, Thunderbolt 3 and a wired Ethernet socket

Another huge plus point in its favour is the sheer number of ports built into the chassis. It’s great to see a physical Gigabit Ethernet port, microSD slot, SIM slot (although this isn’t in all specifications), Thunderbolt, two USB 3.1 ports and a full-size HDMI output.

HP EliteBook 840 G5: video conferencing

As someone who averages one or two video conferences per week, I can see the value of a laptop designed for such things. HP embraces this world through its microphones in particular.

HP builds a third mic built into the speaker lid – facing outwards towards the world – which can be used in two ways. If you have several people taking part in the meeting, they can speak directly towards it. Or you can use the default setting, and let it detect external background noise and suppress it.

It’s a shame HP undermines this laptop’s video conferencing talents by including such an ordinary webcam. Its 1,280 x 720 resolution is typical of laptops, as are its grainy results indoors, but I hoped for more.

It’s perhaps surprising that third parties, such as Logitech, don’t partner with laptop makers to install their technologies – especially when Apple has shown us that excellent cameras can be installed into sleek iPad chassis.

HP EliteBook 840 G5: verdict

Clearly, there are areas where HP could improve the 840 G5. The battery life isn’t great, and that’s the biggest black mark against this machine. HP could also make it a shade more compact by reducing the size of the bezels.

But there are enough plus points to make any business buyer perk up. The stunning security features are at the top of my list, but don’t ignore the many docking options and the excellent connectivity.

With a very reasonable price, the HP EliteBook 840 G5 is a tempting machine.

HP EliteBook 840 G5: which to buy?

There are currently four versions of the 840 G5 available to buy from the HP UK website. All come with Windows 10 Pro and a 1,920 x 1,080 screen.

3JX01EA: £1,079 from HP. Core i5-8250U, 8GB memory, 256GB storage. Non-touch.

3JX04EA: £1,175 from HP. Core i7-8550U, 8GB memory, 256GB storage. Non-touch, doesn’t include Sure View privacy filter.

3JX01EA: £1,199 from HP. Core i5-8250U, 8GB memory, 512GB storage. Non-touch.

3JX94EA: £1,367 from HP. Core i7-8550U, 8GB memory, 512GB storage. Non-touch.

I’d choose a model with at least 512GB of storage and, for the sake of £168, choose the Core i5 model – that will still be more than fast enough. As such, the 3JX01EA for £1,199 would be my pick.

Now read this: Dell XPS 13 review

About the author

Tim Danton

Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro magazine and has written about technology since 1999. He enjoys playing with gadgets, playing with words and playing tennis. Email tim@bigtechquestion.com

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