The high end of the business laptop computer market is a battleground. The effort by leading laptop makers, such as Hewlett Packard, Lenovo and Dell, is to produce devices that are so sleek, so light and so thin that it becomes compelling purchases for business buyers. This may explain why styling is such an important issue, but performance and the ability of the machine to work well as a computer remain important factors.
The first thing I noticed when I unpacked HP’s new EliteBook 1040 G4 ultrabook was how trim and sleek it was. The new style of HP logo, which consists entirely of parallel lines fashioned into a “HP” will grab your attention as will the matte finish silver case. This is one good looking laptop.
While this notebook may collect envious gazes in the first class lounge, a good business computer needs more good looks. Users also demand top-end performance, security, portability and user friendly features to complete the package.
The EliteBook G4 checks all of the boxes in terms of performance. It’s gives buyers a choice of Intel Core i7 and i5 processors, including the four-core i7-7820HQ with boost speeds up to 3.9 GHz. You can outfit this laptop with up to 16 GB of memory and data storage options ranging up to a 1 TB solid state drive. HP ships this model with Windows 10 pro, but buyers have the option of downgrading to Windows 10 Home.
HP has upped the ante in notebook screens with a 14-inch 4K IPS (in-plane switching) screen with a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. You can also get one with a built-in privacy screen or a full HD screen.
The unit that HP provided for testing was a middle-of-the-road machine with a full HD touch screen. It had 8 GB of memory and a 512 GB SSD. The touch screen provided on the EliteBook was highly reflective which allowed room lighting to be a distraction. However, in the absence of reflections, the high definition screen was clear and easy to read and the colors appeared to be true.
The only pointing device, other than your finger (or a stylus) on the screen is a clickable touchpad in front of the keyboard. This “clickpad” as HP calls it is smooth and sensitive, providing an obvious click with tactile feedback when you want to make a mouse click. There’s a spot for an NFC antenna marked on the touchpad.
The keyboard is the one area where the EliteBook 1040 G4 falls short. As was the case when we reviewed the earlier version, the keys are flat and rise only slightly above the level of the chassis. As a result they have little travel.
Typing on this keyboard is difficult because of the limited travel, although there is good tactile feedback. The real problem shows up at the bottom of the keyboard where you’ll find the spacebar. Immediately in front of the spacebar is a ridge that’s the same height as the keys. This slows down typing dramatically.
On the other hand, there are a number of improvements over the last version. The G4 version is slightly smaller in every dimension and it’s lighter now, weighing slightly less than three pounds. However, this is no longer the thinnest business laptop on the market. Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon is slightly smaller in each dimension, including thickness. The X1 Carbon is also a half pound lighter.
There are other changes. The docking station and the connector for it are gone. Instead there are USB-C Thunderbolt docks available from HP that connect to the laptop with a cable, so you don’t get the raised position that you would with other laptops. We did not test a docking station with this notebook.
However, the docking station might be a useful addition if you plan to use the EliteBook 1040 G4 in the office. There are only four communications ports on this laptop, two USB 3.1 Type A and two USB 3.1 Type C. One of the Type C ports is either connected to the power supply or to the dock. Connections to external peripherals will use up the built-in ports in a hurry. Plus, if you want to use an external monitor or an Ethernet connection, you’ll need either a dongle or one of those docks.
The price of the EliteBook 1040 G4 as tested is about $2,300, however as I mentioned above, this is a mid-range model in the EliteBook line. A fully configured system with a 4K touch screen, a 1TB SSD, 16 GB of memory can easily top $3,000.
There are other options that I didn’t mention (because they weren’t tested) such as HP’s SureView, which is a built-in privacy screen that prevents shoulder surfing, but that would preclude using the 4K screen.
Overall, this is quite a nice ultrabook. HP has done a lot to make it easier to carry while traveling and the company has a number of security features available to protect your data. But it’s worth noting that HP is not claiming that the G4 version meets MILSTD ruggedness standards as is the case with its competition. It’s not clear whether that’s a design choice on HP’s part, of whether the company hasn’t finished the ruggedness tests.
The keyboard in this laptop remains a problem if you depend on typing on the built-in keyboard. Otherwise, it’s a very nice computer that measures up well against rival models that are at least as nice.