Introduction, Design, Features
Why has Lenovo started offering ThinkPad business notebooks in silver as well as matte black? Maybe to fend off competition from HP EliteBooks, which had silver first. Certainly the EliteBook 1040 G4 is a business laptop that can compete with anything on the market—it’s a thin and light 14-inch model with strong quad-core performance, good battery life, and an exceptionally sunny 1080p touch screen.
It’s worth noting that the G4 achieves its combination of quad-core power and solid battery life despite using a 45-watt, seventh-generation Intel Core i7-7820HQ processor, not one of the more battery-friendly, 15-watt, U-series quads in Intel’s eighth-generation lineup, as seen in the latest Dell XPS 13Lenovo Yoga 920.ThinkPad T470s but for the T470p, which substantially outweighs the HP (4 pounds versus 3.3, though the Lenovo also offers dedicated graphics while the G4 makes do with integrated graphics).
Economy isn’t one of the EliteBook’s strengths. Prices start at $1,379 for a Core i5 dual-core model with 8GB of memory and a skimpy 128GB solid-state drive. Stepping up to $1,749 gets you a 256GB SSD and a Core i5 with Intel’s vPro manageability features and ups the warranty from one to three years.
Our test config, with the vPro Core i7-7820HQ, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB PCIe solid-state drive, and the touch screen, lists for $2,099. Options include a 4K (3,840×2,160) display or HP’s SureView 1080p privacy screen, which makes your view substantially worse but makes it impossible for the person next to you to steal company information by stealing a glance.
The 1040 G4 measures 0.63 by 13 by 9.2 inches, making it easy to slip into a briefcase or bag. It’s handsomely clad in matte silver aluminum, with a stylized HP logo centered in the lid; the sides and a front strip are shiny, reflective chrome and the EliteBook name is etched into the back edge. We appreciated the niche carved out of the front for inserting a fingertip to open the lid. Like its ThinkPad rivals, the G4 is not just a pretty face; it’s passed MIL-STD 810G tests for surviving shock, vibration, extreme temperatures, and other environmental hazards.
Lifting the lid reveals a glossy 1,920×1,080-pixel display surrounded by fairly slim side bezels and thick top and bottom bezels; the top bezel holds a Webcam and the bottom another HP logo. There’s a speaker grille above the keyboard, along with a power button and Bang Olufsen branding, and a fingerprint reader in the palm rest below it. A thin chrome strip surrounds the touch pad.
On the laptop’s left side, you’ll find a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port and headphone jack, along with a cable lock slot and cooling vents…
The right edge holds another USB 3.1 port, an HDMI port, and two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, either of which may be used with the supplied 90-watt AC adapter. Alas, there is no SD card slot, though there’s a SIM card slot for models equipped with optional WWAN mobile broadband. As you’d expect, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are standard.
The fingerprint reader and face-recognition Webcam give users two ways to log in via Windows Hello instead of typing passwords. The Webcam captures well-lit, nicely detailed selfies and videos.
Except for being prone to reflections (a common problem for glass-topped touch screens), the HP’s full HD display is first-class, with wide viewing angles and vivid, saturated colors. The screen’s resolution is a good fit for its 14-inch size—the system arrived with Windows’ zoom set to 150 percent, but we dialed it down to 125 percent with no squinting needed.
Details are sharp and 1080p videos look great. There’s ample contrast and plenty of brightness—almost too much at the top couple of backlight settings, so (uncharacteristically for us) we turned it down a full four notches for everyday work. The touch screen barely wobbles when swiped or tapped; it responded quickly and accurately to our fingers.
The keyboard deck is free of flex, even if you type with a heavy hand. The backlit, tiled keys combine adequate travel with a firm typing feel—fans of mechanical desktop keyboards will feel more at home than they do on most soft, plasticky laptop arrays. HP wins points for providing dedicated Home, End, PgUp, and PgDn keys and special conferencing keys for muting the microphone and placing and disconnecting Skype calls.
We subtract points—or rather, half a star from our overall rating—because of HP’s insistence on arranging the cursor arrow keys in an awkward row, with half-sized up and down arrows sandwiched between full-sized left and right arrows, rather than the proper inverted T. Pressing the down arrow feels especially clumsy. At least the sizable touch pad works smoothly, with just the right amount of pressure for a click.
The EliteBook’s Bang Olufsen speakers don’t produce booming bass, but their sound is well above average, even exceptional for a thin laptop—there’s easily enough volume to fill a conference room, and instruments sounded both crisp and rich.
HP loads the system with a squadron of utilities (we counted 26 in Windows’ list of apps and features), ranging from Sure Start, which protects against BIOS hacking, to Sure Click, which aims to defend against malicious Web sites. A beta Bluetooth app called HP PhoneWise lets you receive and generate calls and texts on the computer with your Android or unlocked iPhone smartphone in your pocket.