Review: The HP (Compaq) 8710w Mobile Workstation

hp8710.jpgSanta is a tease. What Santa giveth, Santa taketh away. Ever notice that Santa is a malformation of Satan? Well, either way, I was on the losing end of this stick. Not because I was forced to use a new HP 8710w Mobile workstation, but because I couldn’t keep it longer than 2 weeks.

For that reason this review will be somewhat limited to my experience using for 3ds Max specifically. I recently spoke at Autodesk University and for my presentation I was lucky enough to get hold of this HP rig from my office.

Lets begin with the easy stuff. The specifications were a delicious mix of efficiency and brute force.

  • Intel Core 2 Duo 1.8Ghz (the slowest model available)
  • 2GB RAM, 667Mhz
  • nVidia QuadroFX 1600m with 512MB
  • 120gb Hard Drive
  • LightScribe DVD/RW Burner
  • 6 (!) USB 2.0 + 1 1394 (mini)
  • Wireless Everything (B/G/N, bluetooth)

The visual styling of this box is really refined, HP has done a nice job with this considering past models (specifically the NX9600 behemoth that will not fit in any laptop carrying bag I own, nay a back pack). It also easier on the shoulders as it is a tight 7 lbs. HP/Compaq has never had a problem with their laptops feeling as though they were cheaply made. This is no exception. It feels solid- but isn’t a doorstop.

Speaking of doorstops. Even though HP has the business end of the power cable figured out, the power brick at the other end remains an unsightly reminder that, alas, this is a PC. Apple has figured out that people want to feel good about every part of the computing process, even plugging it in. Why has a company like HP not figured this out? This brick ruins the mobile experience because its big, heavy, and has heavy duty cables. Thud! I know its supposed to go beneath the desk, but its a part I see and touch every day. Hello HP? Are you listening? This, I feel, has gone beyond personal taste and is now a mainstream part of the mobile workstation experience. Its like buying a Ferrari and putting House brand tires on the car. (full body shiver)

Ok, I’m off my Soapbox now. Just because this thing has a brick for a power supply, its not a good enough reason not to get this machine.

The brick aside, there are only a couple of other negatives to report. There are touch sensitive controls across the top of chassis above the keyboard, by the screen hinges. These easily get brushed (and therefore activated/changed) when hitting the F-keys or the delete key. I kept muting my music while working, drove me crazy. They have added a finger print reader for securing your files, apps, and uh… photos. I really like the idea of this feature. Had I been able to keep the rig, I would have definitely used this. But its placement put it occasionally in the way. It is on the top of the wrist rest area beneath the keyboard. In the outer right corner of the surface. Certainly not a deal breaker, but why not put it up with the other touch sensitive controls? I might remember they are there and not brush them so easily.

Ok, we put the bad news in the middle, now on the good stuff.

This is a very capable production rig for 3ds Max. I used it for doing my demos and mental ray rendering before and during my presentation. This included lots of high res poly models zipping around the screen and tons and tons of Mental Ray rendering with Final Gather and HDR lighting. It rocked. Even with the slowest processor, it has decent render times. I can only imagine the faster processors would really set this thing afire- but it might just kill the budget. With the added power of the QuadroFX 1600m graphics card, I was way more efficient than I would be with my MBP,– it was relegated to a support role playing itunes and email. The MBP just sat on my desk looking pretty, like my cat (though, my MBP can’t lick itself– yet).

The 17″ screen a gorgeous at 1680 x 1050 (also better than Apple). There is a 1900×1200 option on a more expensive configuration. But it does support 1900 x 1200 out of the VGA port (as does the MBP). So I could hook up my smokin’ hot Gateway 2485w (here’s the review of that) and get crazy silly.

Bottom line; this is a way better mobile workstation than my Mac Book Pro. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know how I feel about that. If not, read this. I didn’t pay for this system (of course I don’t get to keep it either). So I configured (on 12/1/2007) the exact same one on HP.com and it came out to be about $2830.00. I then stopped by Dell.com’s small business site and configured a Dell Precision Mobile Workstation m6300 as the same laptop (as closely as I could, the Dell had 2.0 Ghz processor, they don’t offer a 1.8Ghz) and got about $2450. ($2100 after a $300 dollar instant rebate). So if it were my coin on the table here, I’d not buy this HP unless they matched the price and configuration of the Dell. I have not test driven this Dell yet. But I did have a M60 a couple of years ago and it was the best laptop I’ve ever had (for production-like duties) so I have warm fuzzies for Dell. I feel the same way about this 8710w as I did about the M60.

Here’s the wild card though. I know people at HP (hi Molly!). I know their stuff is seriously engineered for DCC (Digital Content Creation). I know, like for real, they support their stuff and they take your business seriously. So if its a onesy-twosey production studio, and HP matches Dell’s price, I’d probably get the HP. If they don’t, go Dell. If I were hooked into a really big company or studio. Get HP for sure. They are thinking about the artist when they are geeking out. (Plus, I bet in volume HP is pretty competitive against Dell).

The guru gives the HP/Compaq 8710w 4 out of 5 polygons.4-polys2.jpg

Image courtesy of HP.com

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~ by learn3dsmax on December 2, 2007.

11 Responses to “Review: The HP (Compaq) 8710w Mobile Workstation”

  1. Hp 8710W is the best workstation man can make.
    I love it and will always love it

  2. I’m thinkin bot gettin the hp or the precision 6300, it’s for REAL professionnal audio and using some professional audio card via firewire , i was very surprised taht HP was no more using the TexasInstruments Chipset but Ricoh ! even for a high spec workstation !!!same for dell ! my Viao have one but i need a new laptop more powerfull !

    Does anybody have an TI chipset in it’s 8710 W ,or is there a way to order one with this chipset on it ?

    here’s my email : jeezo@free.fr

  3. Hi guyz !
    Here’s the situation : i have seen this thread a couple dayz ago and decided to but the Percision fully loaded (X7900, 4Gb, 200GB 3 years complete care and alll…)

    But i’m sending it back !!!Why ? because of real time latency (for audio and video streaming !)

    You can check a system with this :

    http://www.thesycon.de/dpclat/dpclat.exe

    And the craziest thing is that we had very good result with an m90 and an XPS 1710 but some craziest peaks on the m6300 (same tweaks on devices !!)

    There’s somtehing on the system wich every couple of seconds is high demandin (of course i disabled devices on the bios like wireless, bluetoof….)

    The results on an Hp were way better (except if you have an tsscorp dvd player, just run the autorun value to 0 on the bios or you will see crazy peaks to !!)

    So here’s the conclusion : nowdayz , the word harware integration seems to be forgot, i’m mean manufacturers are puttin device because it’s new and of course they put the cheapest , to be straight with last technology, the test process (wich must be several months for real workstation)is no more the menu !! So when you buy a system , buy the most well integrated and not the most powerfull!! Cause a powerfull one with dirt integration, will be less efficient than a regular one with good integration !!

    I know it’s a video thread but my concern gives a good look on how know the machine are !!

    Hope it helps

  4. Edit : for the autorun value it’s on the register not the bios , sorry 😉

  5. I am using HP 8710w T7700 (2.4Ghz), 2 Gb of RAM, 1920×1200, in Latvia I payed for it about USD 2900.

  6. I bought mine for only $888 from the Philippines. I love its wide screen and awesome video card but I hate it for being too bulky. I’m still searching for a good laptop bag that would fit this monster.

  7. This post interests me to no end, as I need a new laptop for my 2d/3d work and have been researching the 8710w already.

    I’ve been comparing the 8710w to other laptops on the market (especially the MBP) and was wondering how much of a performance boost should I expect in openGL based applications (3ds max mostly) due to the 1600M card? Are we talking a about a minor (1.1x) power increase over a similar spec laptop (top end Hp dv9700t for instance) that wasn’t a workstation. In other words is the 1600M noticeably better than the 8700GT in openGL? considering that rendering is processer dependant and would not be very different in a laptop with a similar processor… thanks in advance for you time =)

  8. I really regret having purchased this expensive HP Compaq Mobile Workstation nw9440.

    Very soon HP discontinued this model; I suspect it maybe due to customer complaints.

    The problems I faced were:

    – very poor screen quality, poor fonts, very small view of documents or web pages in comparision with other laptop displays.

    – After few months the display started to develop vertical lines and the lines kept increasing every few weeks.

    – Display screen / laptop freezes when coming out of hibernation, need to manually switch off to re-start again.

    – Recording problems… garbled output of recorded sound.

    – HP Compaq Mobile Workstation nw9440 overheats in just few minutes of running.

    Don’t buy this, please… Very expensive and time consuming to have!!!

  9. I love your site!

    _____________________
    Experiencing a slow PC recently? Fix it now!

  10. Hi, thanks for this comment 🙂

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