HP and Lenovo have begun shipping new mobile workstations that offer exceptional performance and mobility at affordable prices. Lenovo has also announced, but is not yet shipping, a new high-end ThinkPad for power users. Finally, Dell has also introduced new lower cost Intel Dual Core Processor i5/i7 options for their top end Precision 6500M.
The HP Elitebook 8540w delivers a superb balance of performance and portability. Featuring a 15.6″ widescreen display and nVidia Quadro FX 880M graphics, the 8540w supports processors ranging from the dual core 2.4 GHz Core i5 520M to the quad core 1.73 GHz Core i7-820QM and can be configured with up to 16 GB RAM. They’ve even managed to fit a dedicated numeric keypad into the motherboard – very unusual for a 15″ notebook. HP is currently offering a nicely configured system with a 2.66 GHz dual core CPU (with a maximum Turbo Boost speed of 3.33 GHz!), 4GB RAM, and 320 GB hard drive for $1,679. Higher end configurations can easily top the $3,000 mark, but that is a fair price to pay for such a thoughtfully designed system.
For global engineers requiring even greater mobility, HP has introduced their thinnest and lightest mobile workstation ever, the HP Elitebook 8440w. With a starting weight of under 5 lbs, the 8440w sports a 14″ widescreen display, nVidia Quadro FX 380M graphics, and the same range of Core i5 and Core i7 processors as the larger 8540w, but the smaller system is limited to 8GB RAM.
The ThinkPad w510 may not be as sexy as the Elitebook 8540w (no dedicated numeric keypad) but it offers great performance, up to 16GB RAM, and a 15.6″ widescreen display at an aggressive price point. Lenovo forgoes the cheaper dual core CPUs and offers only industrial strength Intel Quad Core Processor i7 CPUs – up to the 2.0 GHz Intel Quad Core Extreme Processor i7-920XM. I put together a very nice system with a 1.7 GHz Intel Quad Core Processor i7 820QM CPU, 8GB RAM, Quadro FX 880M graphics and 320GB hard drive for under $2,100 – more than $1k less than comparably configured Elitebook 8540w.
Lenovo has announced, but is not yet shipping the high-end ThinkPak w701. With a 17″ display, nVidia Quadro FX 2800M/3800M graphics and choice of Intel Quad Core Processor i7 CPUs the ThinkPad w701 will offer exceptional performance. If money is no object, Lenovo offers a dual screen version and the option of an integrated Wacom digitizer for creative artists.
Dell Precision M6500
Introduced in December, Dell’s Precision M6500 was the first Core i7 based mobile workstation and still tops the wish list of many engineers. Unfortunately, pricing of Dell’s flagship mobile workstation put it out of reach for most. Dell is now offering lower cost Intel Dual Core Processor i5/i7 options for the M6500, but “lower” is a relative term. A Precision M6500 with a 2.66 GHz Intel Dual Core Processor i7-620M CPU, 4GB RAM, 320 GB hard drive and nVidia Quadro FX 2800M graphics still adds up to over $2,800 and the dual core models are limited to a maximum 8GB RAM.
Who wins this round?
The Lenovo ThinkPad w510 delivers the best peformance for the price, while the HP Elitebook w8540w gets kudos for incorporating a dedicated numeric keypad in a 15″ notebook. The Dell Precision M6500 is a true powerhouse for those who can afford it.