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HP EliteBook 850 G4 review – HP’s surprisingly expensive business solution

Like in almost every market segment, the high-end business segment is oversaturated with plenty of options to choose from. HP’s EliteBook series have always been there and remain as one of the first go-to options when looking for a business solution. However, today’s standards have changed quite a lot and hard to keep up with the competition. While the EliteBook 850 G4 that we will be reviewing in this piece is seemingly an excellent business solution with plenty of advantages over some of its competitors, it fails to meet our expectations in one key aspect – image quality.

While the inclusion of an IPS panel in a business-oriented laptop isn’t a necessity, it has become a standard for mid-range to high-end notebooks and we are pretty disappointed by the fact that the EliteBook 850 G4 is missing on this. For comparison, the Lenovo ThinkPad T570, Acer’s TravelMate P658 and Dell’s Latitude E5570 are all similarly priced and boast excellent IPS displays with high brightness, great contrast and wide sRGB coverage. They can even be used for multimedia, not only for work. In any case, the EliteBook 850 G4 holds up to the competition with good build quality, great battery runtimes, comfortable input devices and a few other key deciding factors that need to be considered. Read the full review below.

You can find the available configurations and their prices here: http://amzn.to/2tG5bbb

Contents


Retail package

The box, in which the laptop ships, contains all the usual user manuals, AC adapter and power cord. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Design and construction

The majority of the casing uses plastic but the base is made of magnesium alloy and anodized aluminum for the interior. This has resulted in a well-built chassis with little left to complain about. And although the ThinkPad T570 and the Latitude E5570 feel more premium and probably look better (this is more of subjective opinion after all), the EliteBook 850 G4 is lighter and thinner than both of them. Still, in terms of sturdiness, the EliteBook 850 G4 doesn’t fall behind its rivals.

Probably the only relatively weak spot would be the lid. It’s made of patterned, slightly roughened plastic finish but it’s surprisingly resistant to torsion and bending. When the center of the plate is pressed, the surface gives in ever so slightly. As for the hinges, they appear to have a firm grip over the lid and we didn’t notice any rocking or unnecessary sway. They are also well-tightened and allow opening the notebook with one hand. The bottom of the laptop features a black roughened plastic with a big vent opening for extra airflow but no dedicated maintenance hatch.

Going around the sides, we find the usual set of connectors crammed on 19.4 mm thin profile. On the left, you can see the main heat dispersion grill, a VGA connector (don’t know who’s still using this one), a smart card reader and a standard USB 3.0 port. The right side accommodates the rest of the connectors – USB-C 3.1 (Gen2), DisplayPort, 3.5 mm audio jack, USB 3.0, RJ-45 LAN port and a SIM card tray. Right under it, you will find the docking port if you find yourself needing the extra connectivity options. The only thing missing here, however, is the HDMI connector, which is way more common nowadays than the VGA and DisplayPort so it’s quite the mystery HP didn’t include it.

The interior is where this laptop excels with almost nothing to complain about. The base plate uses anodized aluminum that’s rigid enough to withstand pressure and twisting. Moreover, it doesn’t attract smudges and fingerprints. Regarding the input devices, they are just great, however, we weren’t expecting anything less in the first place. The keyboard has relatively long key travel with clicky tactile feedback making it excellent for typing. Only the “B” key is a little bit small as it makes some room for the track stick. Still, we didn’t notice any problems with this particular key when typing. The touchpad appears to be responsive with excellent gliding surface and the mouse keys are an absolute delight to work on. The same goes for the dedicated mouse buttons for the track stick positioned below the spacebar.


Disassembly, maintenance and upgrade options

The bad news is that the notebook doesn’t offer any service lids for easy upgrades but you can get rid of the bottom piece quite easily anyway.


Storage upgrades – 2.5-inch HDD/SSD, M.2 SSD

As expected, the laptop offers an M.2 SSD slot and a standard 2.5-inch HDD/SSD slot. Our unit came with an M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD from Toshiba while the 2.5-inch drive bay turned out to be empty. The latter is located right next to the battery.

SlotUnitUpgrade price
M.2 slot256GB Toshiba THNSN5256GPUK M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD (2280)Upgrade options
2.5-inch HDD/SSDFreeUpgrade options

RAM

The motherboard supports up to two RAM chips each going up to 16GB. Our unit, however, came with the usual 8GB DDR4-2400 chip from Micron leaving the other slot free for upgrade.

SlotUnitUpgrade price
Slot 18GB Samsung DDR4-2400Upgrade options
Slot 2FreeUpgrade options

Other components

The Wi-Fi module can be found near the RAM chips and it’s Intel 8265NGW.

The notebook comes with a big 51Wh battery, although looking at the chassis inside, a bigger one can fit in.


Cooling system

The cooling system isn’t anything special and consists of one big cooling fan and two heat pipes. One of them is bigger than the other and connects the GPU’s heatsink while the other is for the CPU. Our temperature tests confirm that given the hardware, the system should do just fine.


Display quality

The laptop uses an AU Optronics Full HD (1920×1080) TN AUO35ED panel with 142 ppi and 0.18 x 0.18 mm pixel pitch. It can be considered as “Retina” when viewed from a distance equal or greater than 60 cm.

Viewing angles are poor due to the nature of TN panels.

We’ve recorded an unusual maximum brightness for a TN display – 354 cd/m2 in the center of the screen and 354 cd/m2 as average with just 6% deviation. The color temperature on a white background at maximum brightness is 6800K which is close to the optimal 6500K but as we go along the grayscale, the color temperature can go above 12000K – really cold color reproduction. Our custom profiles take care of that. Below you can see the results at 140 cd/m2 (70% brightness).

The maximum color deviation dE2000 is 2.9, which isn’t all that bad since values above 4.0 are unwanted. The contrast ratio is 330:1 before calibration and 300:1 after calibration.


Color reproduction

To make sure we are on the same page, we would like to give you a little introduction of the sRGB color gamut and the Adobe RGB. To start, there’s the CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram that represents the visible specter of colors by the human eye, giving you a better perception of the color gamut coverage and the color accuracy.

Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut (sRGB) that is being used by millions of people in HDTV and on the web. As for the Adobe RGB, this is used in professional cameras, monitors etc for printing. Basically, colors inside the black triangle are used by everyone and this is the essential part of the color quality and color accuracy of a mainstream notebook.

Still, we’ve included other color spaces like the famous DCI-P3 standard used by movie studios, as well as the digital UHD Rec.2020 standard. Rec.2020, however, is still a thing of the future and it’s difficult for today’s displays to cover that well. We’ve also included the so-called Michael Pointer gamut, or Pointer’s gamut, which represents the colors that naturally occur around us every day.

The notebook’s display covers just 63% of the sRGB gamut so it won’t be suitable anything more than general browsing and office work.

Below you will see practically the same image but with the color circles representing the reference colors and the white circles being the result. You can see main and additional colors with 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% saturation inside the sRGB gamut pre and post calibration.

The “Gaming and Web Design” profile is created at 140 cd/m2 brightness, D65 (6500K) white point and optimal gamma in sRGB mode.

We tested the accuracy of the display with 24 commonly used colors like light and dark human skin, blue sky, green grass, orange etc. You can check out the results at factory condition and also, with the “Gaming and Web Design” profile.

The next figure shows how well the display is able to reproduce really dark parts of an image, which is essential when watching movies or playing games in low ambient light.

The left side of the image represents the display with stock settings, while the right one is with the “Gaming and Web Design” profile activated. On the horizontal axis, you will find the grayscale and on the vertical axis – the luminance of the display. On the two graphs below you can easily check for yourself how your display handles the darkest nuances but keep in mind that this also depends on the settings of your current display, the calibration, the viewing angle and the surrounding light conditions.


Response time

We test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “black-to-white” and “white-to-black” method from 10% to 90% and reverse.

We recorded Fall Time + Rise Time = 14 ms.


PWM (Screen flickering)

Pulse Width modulation (PWM) is an easy way to control monitor brightness. When you lower the brightness, the light intensity of the backlight is not lowered, but instead turned off and on by the electronics with a frequency indistinguishable to the human eye. In these light impulses the light/no-light time ratio varies, while brightness remains unchanged, which is harmful to your eyes. You can read more about that in our dedicated article on PWM.

Although the notebook’s display isn’t completely flicker-free, it’s still good for extended use as the PWM appears only below 100 cd/m2 luminance (30% screen brightness). You won’t be using the display lower than that anyway.


Blue light emissions

Installing of our Health-Guard profile not only eliminates PWM but also reduces the harmful Blue Light emissions while keeping the colors of the screen perceptually accurate. If you’re not familiar with the Blue light, the TL;DR version is – emissions that negatively affect your eyes, skin, and your whole body. You can find more information about that in our dedicated article on Blue Light.

You can see the levels of emitted blue light on the spectral power distribution (SDP) graph.


Conclusion

We are pretty disappointed by the HP EliteBook 850 G4’s panel because given the price tag, HP should have used a budget IPS display at the very least. With the present TN panel, you get poor viewing angles, narrow sRGB coverage and awful contrast. However, we were surprised to see the panel being really bright and the absence of PWM above 30% brightness is a big plus to consider.

Buy our display profiles

Since our profiles are tailored for each individual display model, this article and its respective profile package is meant for HP EliteBook 850 G4 configurations with 15.6″ AUO AUO35ED (FHD, 1920 × 1080) TN screen and the laptop can be found at Amazon: http://amzn.to/2tbyqDf

*Should you have problems with downloading the purchased file, try using a different browser to open the link you’ll receive via e-mail. If the download target is a .php file instead of an archive, change the file extension to .zip or contact us at bg.laptopmedia@gmail.com.

Read more about the profiles HERE.

In addition to receiving efficient and health-friendly profiles, by buying LaptopMedia's products you also support the development of our labs, where we test devices in order to produce the most objective reviews possible.

Office Work

Office Work should be used mostly by users who spend most of the time looking at pieces of text, tables or just surfing. This profile aims to deliver better distinctness and clarity by keeping a flat gamma curve (2.20), native color temperature and perceptually accurate colors.

Design and Gaming

This profile is aimed at designers who work with colors professionally, and for games and movies as well. Design and Gaming takes display panels to their limits, making them as accurate as possible in the sRGB IEC61966-2-1 standard for Web and HDTV, at white point D65.

Health-Guard

Health-Guard eliminates the harmful Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM) and reduces the negative Blue Light which affects our eyes and body. Since it’s custom tailored for every panel, it manages to keep the colors perceptually accurate. Health-Guard simulates paper so the pressure on the eyes is greatly reduced.

Get all 3 profiles with 33% discount


Sound

The EliteBook 850 G4’s sound is loud and there’s enough clarity in the low, mid and high frequencies with barely noticeable distortion.


Specs sheet

The current specs sheet refers to this particular model – configurations may differ depending on your region.


ProcessorIntel Core i7-7500U (2-core, 2.70 – 3.50 GHz, 4MB cache)
RAM8GB (1x 8192MB) – DDR4, 2400MHz
Graphics cardIntel HD Graphics 620
HDD/SSD256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD
Display15.6-inch Full HD (1920×1080) TN, matte
Optical drive
ConnectivityLAN 10/100/1000 Mbps, Wi-Fi 802.11ac/a/b/g/n 2×2, Bluetooth 4.2
Other features
  • 2x USB 3.0
  • 1x USB-C 3.1 (Gen 2)
  • 3.5 mm audio jack
  • DisplayPort 1.2
  • VGA
  • SD card reader
  • SmartCard reader
  • fingerprint reader
  • docking station port
  • 4G LTE connectivity
  • keyboard LED backlight
Battery51Wh
Thickness20.8 mm (0.82″)
Weight1.89 kg (4.17 lbs)


Software

We used the pre-installed Windows 10 (64-bit) for the writing of this review but if you wish to perform a clean install and get rid of the bloatware, we suggest downloading all of the latest drivers from HP’s official support page.

Battery

To be honest, we are not expecting anything less than excellent battery endurance from a high-end business laptop but the HP EliteBook 850 G4 shows impressive energy-efficiency for a 15-inch laptop. Probably the main reason for such long battery runtimes is the TN panel, which is less power-hungry than the IPS alternative. Anyway, the battery is rated at 51Wh, which is more than enough for a business-grade 15-inch laptop.

All tests were performed using the same settings as always – Wi-Fi turned on, screen brightness set to 120 cd/m2 and Windows battery saving feature turned on.

Web browsing

In order to simulate real-life conditions, we used our own script for automatic web browsing through over 70 websites.

Excellent result for a 15-inch laptop – 660 minutes (11 hours).

Video playback

For every test like this, we use the same video in HD.

Surprisingly, the video playback test returned a higher than usual score – 677 minutes (11 hours and 17 minutes).

Gaming

We recently started using F1 2015’s built-in benchmark on loop in order to simulate real-life gaming.

Of course, the laptop isn’t made for gaming but it’s good to know that it can a little over three hours under heavy workload – 221 minutes (3 hours and 41 minutes).

CPU – Intel Core i7-7500U

The Core i7-7500U is part of the latest Intel Kaby Lake generation of CPUs built upon 14nm manufacturing process – or 14nm+ as the company markets – and should offer marginal performance gains over the Skylake generation while improving overall power efficiency. It’s a direct successor to the Core i7-6500U (Skylake) and Core i7-5500 (Broadwell) but opposed to previous architecture refreshes, the Kaby Lake Core i7-7500U is bringing much higher clock rates. Now the chip is clocked at 2.7 – 3.5 GHz (compared to the 2.5 – 3.1 GHz on the Skylake Core i7-6500U) and still adopting the 2/4 core/thread count using the HyperThreading technology with a maximum 4MB cache.

However, the Core i7-7500U’s TDP is still rated at 15W including the iGPU and dual-channel memory controller that supports DDR4-2133, LPDDR3-1866 and DDR3L-1600. And as far as the iGPU is concerned, it integrates a slightly improved Intel HD Graphics 620 clocked at 300 – 1050 MHz, which is slightly higher than the iGPU on the Core i5-7200U (300 – 1000 MHz).

You can browse through our top CPUs ranking: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-cpu-ranking/

Here you will find other useful information and every notebook we’ve tested with this processor: http://laptopmedia.com/processor/intel-core-i7-7500u/

Results are from the Cinebench 20 CPU test (the higher the score, the better)

Results are from our Photoshop benchmark test (the lower the score, the better)

Results are from the Fritz chess benchmark (the higher the score, the better)


Fritz

Fritz is a chess benchmark that tests the computing capabilities of the CPU with various chess moves. The Intel Core i7-7500U scored 6.891 million moves per second. In comparison, one of the most powerful chess computers, Deep(er) Blue, was able to squeeze out 200 million moves per second. In 1997 Deep(er) Blue even beat the famous Garry Kasparov with 3.5 to 2.5.

GPU – AMD Radeon R7 M465 (2GB GDDR5)

The AMD Radeon R7 M465 is a low-end graphics card released in mid-2016 built on a 28nm process. It has 384 shading units clocked at 825 MHz but can go as high as 960 MHz. The rest of the specs include 24 TMUs, 8 ROPs and 128-bit memory controller for the 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM clocked at 1000 MHz but keep in mind that the most of the variants out there feature a 4GB of DDR3 memory.

Although the core architecture is GCN 1.0, the GPU supports OpenGL 4.5 and DirectX 12.

You can browse through our top GPUs ranking: http://laptopmedia.com/video-card/amd-radeon-r7-m465-4gb-ddr3/

Here you will find other useful information and every notebook we’ve tested with this GPU:

Results are from the 3DMark: Fire Strike (Graphics) benchmark (higher the score, the better)

Results are from the Unigine Heaven 3.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)

Results are from the Unigine Heaven 4.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)


Gaming tests

cs-go-benchmarks

CS:GOHD 768p, Low (Check settings)HD 768p, Medium (Check settings)HD 768p, MAX (Check settings)
Average FPS135 fps93 fps66 fps

GTA-V-benchmarks

Grand Theft Auto V (GTA 5)HD, Low (Check settings)HD, Medium (Check settings)HD, Very High (Check settings)
Average FPS78 fps43 fps21 fps

Temperatures

Of course, the stress tests that we run do not represent real-life usage scenarios but they are still a great way to determine the overall effectiveness and stability of the cooling system in the long run.

We started off with 100% CPU test and the Core i7-7500U was able to run at its maximum frequency for a while then dropped to 3.0 GHz keeping relatively low and stable temperatures.

After we turned on the GPU torture test, the CPU started to get a little bit warm while the GPU was only able to run at its base 825 MHz frequency. However, we noticed that the GPU was running exceptionally hot – even high-performance GPUs in gaming laptops don’t reach 86 °C. We think that the cooling system isn’t entirely responsible for the high temperatures but the nature of the GPU itself. We often find low-grade AMD mobile chips running pretty hot during load on other notebooks as well.

Temperatures on the surface were also pretty high reaching as high as 53.5 °C. Again, that’s a rare occurrence even for gaming machines.


Verdict

The EliteBook 850 G4 fits quite well the premium business profile but fails to impress in some key areas considering the asking price. For starters, the feel of the laptop doesn’t really exude quality with the almost entirely plastic build and generic roughened plastic finish on the bottom. Still, this doesn’t take away the rigidity and the notebook appears to be quite sturdy. Also, we are fairly impressed by the dimensions and weight – for a 15-inch laptop, the EliteBook 850 G4 portable.

What else would you want from a business notebook? Good input devices and long battery life. Well, luckily, the EliteBook 850 G4 delivers both with ease. This is one of the most enduring 15-inch notebooks we’ve tested so far and the input devices are just great for work on the go.

But for the long battery life, you will have to pay a price and that’s the screen quality. Probably one of the main reasons this laptop fares so well in our battery tests is the TN panel. Usually, laptops priced above a certain point (€800-900) sport IPS panels but the EliteBook 850 G4 starts at €1 300 and disappoints with a budget TN panel with narrow sRGB coverage, extremely low contrast ratio and poor viewing angles. The only two things that stand out are the maximum brightness and the absence of PWM above 100 cd/m2 (30% brightness).

All in all, the EliteBook 850 G4 is a good notebook but a bit overpriced. You should really consider getting the base configuration with Intel HD Graphics 620 instead of the AMD Radeon R7 M465 as our stress tests show exceptionally high thermals and poor heat dispersion on the surface of the notebook during heavy workload and you will save a few bucks along the way. It seems that the current GPU isn’t the best choice given the current cooling design but it’s still able to run some of the latest titles at decent frame rates. Moreover, make sure the TN panel will suit your needs or you can go for Lenovo’s ThinkPad T570, which is in the same ballpark as the EliteBook 850 G4 price-wise but sports a decent IPS panel. Another great alternative to consider is the Dell Latitude E5570.

You can find the available configurations and their prices here: http://amzn.to/2tG5bbb

Pros

  • Decent build
  • Thin and light
  • Excellent input devices
  • The screen doesn’t use PWM above 100 cd/m2 (30%)
  • Extra long battery life


Cons

  • Pricey
  • Uses a TN panel instead of at least budget IPS display
  • Lacks that “premium feel”
  • The GPU reaches high temperatures and results in overheating during extended workload