HP Compaq 8510p review
The HP Compaq 8510pis a member of the latest revision in Hewlett Packard’s business line. HP labels the 8510p as a performance model, little sibling to the aptly named 8510w (workstation); the question burning in everyone’s minds of course, is whether the 8510p, and especially the relatively untested ATI Radeon mobility HD 2600, can live up to the expectations surrounding these new computers.
Reasons for Buying
Back in of this year my previous laptop, an Acer Travelmate 800, finally bit the bullet as I wrote the last words of a massive term paper. None too pleased with this I decided that regardless of whether or not I could fix it, the relationship was over. The trust was gone! She served me well for four years but with the warranty expired and my games running slower than paint peeling, it was time for a change.
So, pulling my old desktop out of retirement, I spent the summer trolling the NBR forums and the web for my next machine…
I considered many other laptops, such as the:
- Asus G1s-A1, F3Sv, F8sv, V1s
- Dell Inpsiron 1520, Vostro 1500
- Sager 2090
- Thinkpad T61p
But each and every one of these machines had problems I couldn’t accept, be it a grainy screen, audio jack problems, Core 2 Duo whine, two year warranty only, three month delay, or otherwise.
I had heard rumours of a mysterious new notebook HP was set to release: the 8510p. As an update to the fairly well-received nc8430, I was quite interested. Several friends and co-workers use HP business notebooks and always have good things to say. In the end it came down to the T61p and the 8510p, but unable to wait past the beginning of school, time forced my hand. Sorry, Lenovo.
Where and How Purchased, Customer Service
Sadly being a Canadian means more than just eating lots of back bacon and maple syrup. Technology releases are generally delayed up to two months from their US release dates. Knowing HP was notorious for this (I waited 3 months for the original HP Compaq X1000 to come out in Canada before giving up and getting the Acer), I decided to pursue other avenues of acquiring my new machine.
First off, I dealt with HP Canada several times before buying. I had questions about the warranty and the model itself. Customer service via email was not very helpful, and directed me to phone in with all my questions. Phoning customer service was a pleasant experience however; there was a 30 second wait and after that I talked to a well-spoken young lady at length. She answered all of my questions even though the 8510p was not even available in Canada at the time.
I then found a company on the Eastern seaboard (www.shopblt.com) that would accept an international credit card with a domestic shipping address added to the card.
Although HP delayed their initial shipment to the reseller by 7 days, I was able to ship it to a friend in Washington State, cross the border and return by 28th, only 2 weeks after HP effectively launched shipment of the 8510p (but almost 4 weeks after their paper launch).
Dealing with Bottom Line Telecommunications was, in a word, excellent. I emailed them often with questions and always received an answer within one hour during business time. The staff were prompt polite and helpful. The ordering process was painless and effective. I received updates every time something happened, and indeed my laptop was shipped 45m after I placed my order.
The only qualm I have is that the shipping prices on their site are automatically calculated based on weight and nearest warehouse. Normally this is fine, but on the day they received the units, neither was updated to reflect the higher weight and the fact that Texas had the only shipment of the new computers.
Thus at first my shipping price was quite low, but suddenly leapt upward at the last minute of the ordering process as the weight and origin of shipping were actually taken into account. However, considering they just received the notebook that day and I was already jumping at the gate to order, I can’t really blame them. The shipping costs are now accurate on their site.
Also, when my unit arrived it was packed inside a larger box with only some flimsy cardboard shredding for packaging. Thankfully it wasn’t damaged but the laptop box was able to move about freely inside the larger shipping box. I’m now sure if this was BLT or FedEx, though.
I brought the machine across the line myself. Taking advantage of the fact that laptops are covered under the technology category at Customs Canada and thus exempt from fees, I did not pay any duty or brokerage costs. I paid $200 CAD in taxes (PST+GST).
Specifications as Reviewed
I was lucky in that I purchased a pre-configured model (RM269UT#ABA), and so there was no delay in shipment. I know there are several frustrated souls on the NBR forums who just recently received their customized laptops, but who ordered far before I did.
In the end I paid:
$1395 USD ($1450 CAD)
$50 USD for express shipping (hey, I was in a hurry!)
$200 CAD in taxes
= ~$1700 CAD. An extra gig of ram was $40 CAD.
When compared to purchasing in Canada (if I had waited), HP advertised the price at $1600 CAD before taxes and shipping. They do not sell direct in Canada and you must buy from a reseller. I saw several of the latter taking pre-orders for my model for upwards of $1800 CAD at that time however. In the end I figure I saved $200 or more by heading south to purchase, but I realize this isn’t an option for everyone.
Anyway on with the show!
HP Compaq 8510p(RM269UT#ABA)
- Windows Vista Business
- Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 (2.0 GHZ 800MHz front side bus 4MB L2 cache)
- 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM (1GB installed myself)
- 160GB 5400rpm SATA, HP 3D DriveGuard
- 15.4″ WSXGA+ (1680 x 1050)
- ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2600, 256MB
- Intel 802.11a/b/g (4965AG), Bluetooth 2.0
- Intel Gigabit Network Connection (10/100/1000 NIC), 56K v.92 modem
- 8-cell Lithium-Ion Battery (73WHr)
- 3/3/0 HP business warranty
Initial Impressions, Build & Design
An HP Compaq nc6120 alongside the 8510p (view large image)
Upon returning home with my new machine it was already 11:30pm but I decided to start it up to at least take a look around (and check for any dead pixels!).
The first thing I noticed was how light and sturdy the laptop seemed while closed. My old 14.1 Acer was about 5.5 lbs and I was worried upgrading to a 15.4 chassis would be a large weight increase. Not so! The 6.1 lbs weight and dimensions (1.1″ x 14.0″ x 10.2″) of the 8510p make it very comfortable; my old Acer would creak and groan even when being handled. The 8510p didn’t make a noise as I carried it around, picked it up by a corner, flipped it around, stuck it over the edge of my table, etc.
HP nc6120 on the left, 8510p on the right (view large image)
As my last notebook was also a business model, it looked almost identical to my new computer. Clean lines, dark underside and inner area, lighter coloured lid, etc. However, the 8510p’s finish was much more polished and refined than that of the Acer. I did notice that the lid immediately picked up several fingerprints though.
On the body itself, the only place I can produce some minor flex through standard pressure is right at the top middle near the screen. On the keyboard, I can produce flex through light-moderate pressure right above the DVD drive, but nowhere else. This is of course facilitated by the fact that HP has changed the keyboard in this revision to include giant plastic spacers right above the DVD area drive to fill up the spots on the keyboard they didn’t have any keys for.
8510p on the left, nc6120 on the right (view large image)
Regarding the screen chassis, there was an issue in the older revision nc8430 where the screen bezel could be separated. I am happy to report this is NOTan issue any more as I was unable to reproduce the problem even after 15m of attempts (ugh HP/Vista setup… let me get to that in a minute). I can twist the screen to produce rippling, and push it from behind to get the same effect, but the pressure required is such that unless you drop a book on your LCD you should be fine
The hinges do not seem to have evolved since the 8430, as bumping the laptop jiggles the screen. On the other hand, it is quite resistant to actually moving so in this aspect there should not be any issues.
8510p in the foreground, nc6120 behind (view large image)
Just below the keyboard on either side of the space bar are two rubber spacers. I’ve been told these are to prevent the screen from impacting the keys during transport when the laptop is closed. They’re kind of annoying in that you have to keep them relatively clean or they will mark up the LCD, but I suppose the alternative is seeing your whole keyboard mark up the LCD. The lesser of two evils!
These screen marks were present upon opening, but easily cleaned off (view large image)
Upgrading the RAM was easy as pie, as both slots are located on the underside of the laptop, one screw away. I love how HP did this, as I’ve wasted quite a few hours digging into laptops to install RAM for friends and family.
As reported by a few other 8510w/p owners, I can jiggle the battery slightly when it is in place. But the movement is nothing extreme and the battery is actually kind of difficult to get out until you get used to the mechanism.
My unit does have some imperfections—there are two bumps on the lid, one near the HP logo and one at the top near the printed icons which rest on the front of the lid. There is a blotch of plastic in the middle of the spacebar at the bottom, as well as inside the hole the right lid claw snaps into when closed. But considering my old Acer first showed up DOA, and the reseller took six weeks (!) to make things right again, I wasn’t going to complain.
Finally, the light indicators on the machine are thankfully located on the front, so they’re hidden when you are using the computer. I don’t know about any other 8510p users but I find the bright blue wireless light rather annoying.
When I first turned on the machine, the screen was very bright but unevenly lit. There were dark patches in each bottom corner as if the backlight didn’t work there. However upon booting into Vista for the first time these anomalies disappeared and have not returned.
The viewing angles are decent enough horizontally and vertically. I can read text horizontally to 90 degrees, but of course the colours wash out.
In terms of brightness, it’s bright enough as many other 8510p users will attest. I think it could be brighter, but the screen is still very usable. The maximum brightness is good, but it seems the screen gets dark very fast below higher brightness levels. I can use it at say, 80% and above, but anything below is too dark for me.
Also, as it’s a matte screen I haven’t had any reflections at all, which is quite nice when watching my friends struggle to see their glossy screens in class.
I have some backlight bleed on both sides of the screen as (I assume) there’s a backlight on either side; it’s about a fifth of an inch, and not really noticeable unless you’re looking for it. You can see it quite easily at extreme viewing angles but dead on it’s almost impossible to notice.
In regards to the quality of the LCD, I quite like it. The colours are vibrant—there is not a hint of graininess. Like other 8510p users I’ve disabled ambient light sensor control, as my screen constantly changing was just too weird.
I have one dead pixel, in the far bottom left corner. It’s black/grey and disappears in the taskbar, thankfully. The screen appears to be a Quanta.
The speakers take up almost the entire front of the notebook. I’m assuming there are only two tiny ones in there, so I’m not quite sure why they decided to make a speaker grill which covers the front of the notebook almost completely. Either way, I would call them decent; no better, no worse. They’re functional for business activities and pretty much anything non music. However as with all notebook speakers they are tinny, with no bass and very poor highs. The mid range isn’t bad though.
Set-up and Operating Systems
As I mentioned earlier, the first boot was uh, not a very good experience. Between Vista and HP setting up the computer, the total initial start up time was 70 minutes. Now I don’t know if that’s the norm with new laptops these days, but that much time seems rather excessive.
Still waiting… (view large image)
Upon first loading Vista I was struck by the sheer resource requirements of the system while running the default HP setup. HP only installed their own applications and some anti-virus stuff but there were 77 processes on the go, for a total of 800mb RAM used.
Right away I was bombarded by Intel Active Management Technology, Bluetooth, HP SecureGuard, User Account Control, and a few other rather annoying programs. Half of these are Vista’s problem but I was less than impressed with the software at first boot. A novice user would be completely overwhelmed with all the activity going on.
HP SecureGuard would ask me if it wanted to remember all my passwords every time I went to a website. UAC would jump all over me whenever I tried to install something. Intel AMT, Bluetooth and HP SecureGuard leap at my face every time the system rebooted to tell me various things they thought were of the utmost importance. In short, I was unhappy with the invasiveness of Vista and HP’s software. I was of course able to disable all of this in the end but it took a few minutes to find the right way for each program.
XP vs. Vista
As someone used to a streamlined Windows XP Professional install, seeing almost half my 2 GB of ram used at idle was just too much. Desperate to revert to my beloved XP, I immediately stuck my own SP2 installer CD in. Of course, I completely forgot you need to slipstream customized SATA drivers in beforehand…
…Skip ahead three hours, and I’m installing XP Pro once again, with the proper SATA drivers. Everything went fine until I went to install the Radeon HD 2600 XP drivers. No one even supports it yet! No modders, not ATI, nada. I had to use HP’s default drivers, which although relatively new, are in no way guaranteed to continue to be updated in any frequent fashion. Acer was years behind on driver updates, and frankly I wasn’t about to take a chance on HP’s diligence.
To my great surprise, HP included actual Vista install DVDs (32/64bit) with my 8510p. Despite the fact that these DVDs are plastered with the HP logo, they are in fact clean installs of the OS. A fresh Vista 32bit install made my system much faster. I then used the HP drivers/programs CD that came with the machine to reinstall the essentials. While I’m not really happy with my tweaked-to-there-and-back install of Vista using 550mb of ram as compared to XP @ 200mb…I guess I’ll take it for now.
Under the hood of my 8510p is the latest Core 2 Duo revision, clocking in at 2.0 GHz with a 4mb cache.
Super Pi results:
PCMark05 measures the overall system performance of a notebook, the 6910p came out with a respectable score, though nothing spectacular:
NotebookPCMark05 ScoreHP Compaq 8510p (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2600, 256MB)5,170 PCMarksToshiba Tecra M9 (2.20GHz Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA Quadro NVS 130M 128MB)3,723 PCMarksHP Compaq 6910p (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100)3,892 PCMarksHP Compaq 6510b (2.20GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, Intel X3100)4,241 PCMarksHP Compaq 6910p (2.20GHz intel Core 2 Duo T7500, ATI X2300 128MB)4,394 PCMarksHP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52, ATI x1270)2,420 PCMarksToshiba Satellite A135 (Core Duo T2250, Intel GMA 950)3,027PCMarksHP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)4,234 PCMarksFujitsu LifeBook A6010 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo, Intel GMA 950)2,994 PCMarksAlienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX)5,597 PCMarksSony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400)3,637 PCMarksToshiba Tecra M6 (1.66GHz Intel T2300E, Intel GMA 950)2,732 PCMarksAsus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, Nvidia Go 7400)3,646 PCMarksSony VAIO FE590 (1.83GHz Core Duo)3,427 PCMarks
The hard drive is a Hitachi Travelstar 5400 160 GB SATA. I’ve noticed a few other 8510p owners have received Seagate instead, which is kind of disappointing as I prefer Seagate.
Windows Experience Index:
At least we come to what you’ve all been waiting for—a test of the elusive ATI Radeon HD 2600 256mb. Of course, I’m still not quite sure about this GPU myself. Everest and every other program I’ve used so far (O/C apps, other ID programs, etc) all list my GPU as GDDR3. Everest even clocks me in at 500 core/400 memory. But both ATI Tool and ATI Tray Tools claim it runs at 300 core/400 memory!
Regardless, some HD 2600 owners with DDR2 have posted their scores on the NBR forums, and as you’ll see they’re a few hundred points lower than mine. Sticking with my assumption of GDDR3 then, it’s underclocked either way (stock is supposedly 500/600 according to ATI), so bear that in mind when viewing these results!
Anyway on to the benchmarks; these were all done using the Catalyst 7.8 drivers.
3DMark06 comparison results:
3DMark06 tests the graphics performance of a notebook, as you’d expect the dv2550se doesn’t tear up the competition here as it wasn’t designed as a 3D gaming notebook.
Notebook3DMark06 ScoreHP Compaq 8510p (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2600, 256MB)3,312 3DMarksToshiba Tecra M9 (2.20GHz Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA Quadro NVS 130M 128MB)1,115 3DMarksSony VAIO TZ (1.20GHz Core 2 Duo U7600, Intel GMA 950)122 3DMarksLG R500 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GS 256MB)2,776 3DMarksHP dv2500t (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB)1,055 3DMarksDell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB)1,329 3DMarksSony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100)532 3DMarksDell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB)1,408 3DMarksSamsung Q70 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 and nVidia 8400M G GPU)1,069 3DMarksAsus F3sv-A1 (Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz, Nvidia 8600M GS 256MB)2,344 3DMarksAlienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB2,183 3DMarksFujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi 1526 (1.66 Core Duo, nVidia 7600Go 256 MB)2,144 3DMarksSamsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, ATI X1700 256MB)1,831 3DMarksAsus A6J (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB)1,819 3DMarksHP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)827 3DMarks
Unfortunately I don’t really have any recent games nor have I had the time to acquire any newer game demos. Until I can find the time to pick up a copy for myself, here’s the best I can do:
Counter-Strike Stress Tests
Recommended settings and results:
Highest settings and results:
Half-Life 2: Lost Cost Stress Tests
Recommended settings and results:
Highest settings and results:
World of Warcraft
All tests done at 1680×1050, with all video settings maxed.
Shattrath City (bank + main building area)
24bit color 24bit depth 1x multisample = average 45-50 FPS
24bit color 24bit depth 8x multisample = average 17-20 FPS
Flight (tested on nether ray and netherwing drake around Terrokar Forest…no it’s not my account!)
24bit color 24bit depth 1x multisample:
Flying at horizon level = 65-90 FPS while rotating the camera around
Flying at ground level = 27-42 FPS while rotating camera around
Max possible FPS (facing a wall…did this for fun) = 127.1
High Quality, 1680×1050, no AA = 63 fps regardless of where I was
High Quality, 1280×1024, 8x AA = 35-60 fps – average high 30s mid 40s
[The results were lower in open areas, higher in corridors; never any real lag though]
Ultra Quality, 1280×1024, 8x AA = 15-60 fps – average high twenties low 30s
The system hiccupped a few times in the massive underground portion of Mars City, especially the maintenance areas, but was relatively playable inside the compound
Heat and Noise
In all honesty, after spending a summer reading about new generation laptops running excessively hot and loud, I was worried about the 8510p. Coming from a 5+ year old notebook which was whisper quiet and cool except for the fan (which whined like crazy), I had my doubts. But the 8510p really does deliver in terms of both heat dissipation and quietness.
The unit doesn’t really get too warm anywhere except the underside, where the RAM and the wireless create quite a toasty combination. Other than that, I’ve been benchmarking and gaming for hours now and have had little issue with heat anywhere on the unit. As other owners have noted, the left wrist rest does get warmer than the right, which is rather paradoxical as the right side has the hard drive.
Depending on the power scheme and whether idling/under load, the temperatures varied as follows:
While sitting in front of the computer, the fan is only really noticeable at high RPM. At medium speed you can just barely hear it, and low is basically inaudible. It pumps out pretty warm air but you can put your hand in front of the vent and not experience any real discomfort.
The hard drive is noticeable during high activity when the fan is at low or medium RPM, but otherwise is drowned out by background noise. I must say though, as this is my first Hitachi, I’m not too impressed with the overall noise level. It clicks up a storm quite often; my Seagate drives (2.5) are nowhere near as loud.
One disconcerting issue with my 8510p is that the fan runs all the time. I’ve checked the bios and that feature is disabled, so I’m not quite sure what the problem is.
Keyboard, User Interface
The keyboard itself is quite nice to type on. The keys have good depth and respond nicely to touch. I really wish HP would have done something with the extra space on the right side above the DVD drive. There’s an annoying bit of empty keyboard area filled only by plastic panels, especially right around the arrow keys.
The touchpad is quite nice to use, although I normally hate anything but a mouse. Unlike my last machine it responds quickly and accurately; having a third button in the middle does takes some getting used to. The same goes for the pointing stick buttons. I’ve personally always preferred pointing sticks to trackpads, and this one is pretty good.
While I haven’t completely activated the finger print reader features yet, I’ve begun the process accidentally now so many times that I’ve had quite a bit of time to play around with it. Provided you don’t swipe too quickly the sensor seems to work well enough, but often it will ask me to swipe a few extra times just to be sure.
The built-in microphone is actually fairly decent. I can turn up the receiving volume and it can hear me fairly clearly from a sitting position, even if it is a little quiet. Moving closer produces a recording with clear quality and good volume. Of course, bending over to speak every time you want to use voice chat or record something isn’t that feasible.
Above the keyboard are two pre-programmable touch sensitive buttons and a touch-sensitive volume control. I find the volume control too finicky for my taste, and the programmable buttons sometimes don’t respond either.
Ports, Wireless, Battery
The HP 8510p has four USB 2.0 ports, a DVD drive, HDMI, VGA, headphone/line out, microphone port, firewire, Ethernet and modem connections, a docking connection, power connection and even a secondary battery connection.
From the front: screen latch and indicator lights.
From the left side: memory card reader, PC card slot, two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, fan vent, firewire, Ethernet port, and security lock slot.
From the rear: VGA out, power connection, battery area.
From the right side: modem connection, DVD drive, two USB 2.0 ports, microphone port, and audio port.
From the bottom: you can see the hard drive, RAM, and wireless slots all clearly, as long with the battery and docking station connectors.
The only issue I have with the port arrangement is that, as a right handed person, I like my mouse pad right by the laptop on that side. When I have external audio and/or other USB devices connected on that side, I have to move the pad away or the cables run right over the pad. Furthermore, when there are items connected on that side, it’s often annoying to open the DVD drive as there are cables running right in front of it. One or two USB ports in the back would have been nice.
Finally, when rebooting my DVD drive will randomly clunk and make strange noises. It doesn’t happen every time, but still very strange.
I haven’t had any issue with wireless connections at this time. The wireless interface is one of the few areas where I quite like Vista so far. It picks up networks quickly and effortlessly, connecting is a breeze, and there’s quite a bit of information available if I’m looking for it. The only downside is that it takes a few more clicks to get to the advanced wireless information when compared to XP.
With screen at 80% brightness, Bluetooth off, wireless on, set to power saver mode, I seem to average about 3.5 to 4 hours battery life, depending on the office/school/work tasks I’m doing at the time.
A movie watching yielded around 2:15.
The 8510p came with a start-up manual, warranty card, and a few other small documentation pieces. There is easily enough documentation to get a novice user going. Considering most full laptop manuals are rather thick, I’d rather save a few trees than have every single unit come with a real manual anyway.
The HP restore DVD comes with all the software and drivers needed for Vista 32/64bit. As noted above, HP also supplies clean Vista install DVDs, which is a real bonus!
The laptop also comes with a standard three year international warranty. Wherever you are HP will service the machine as long as they operate out of that country and can support the model. If not then you’ll have to go to the nearest country where they can do the repairs.
Although I had my doubts, the HP Compaq 8510p has certainly lived up to my expectations, and even exceeded them in some cases. While there are some minor drawbacks, they are acceptable given the overall quality of the notebook. The 8510p will please anyone looking for a new computer, regardless of whether they’re a gamer, businessperson, student or otherwise. Considering all the positive aspects of this notebook as well as the low price, there can be no doubt this is a top tier machine.
- Excellent performance for the price.
- Sturdy reserved design, light and small.
- Beautiful screen other than brightness issue.
- No Core2Duo whine! (Or grainy screen, or audio problems…)
- Standard three year international warranty, business class support.
- Runs very cool and fairly quiet.
- HP supplies clean Vista DVDs.
- Overall very good user interface.
- Excellent battery life.
- Good selection of ports.
- Cooling fan runs constantly.
- Screen could be brighter.
- HP SecureGuard software is intrusive and bothersome.
- Lid picks up fingerprints.
- Rubber bumpers on keyboard have to be kept clean unless you want marks on the screen.
- Touch sensitive buttons, especially sound, are finicky.
- Wasted space on keyboard.
- Somewhat awkward arrangement of USB and sound ports on right side.
- DVD drive randomly clucks during some reboots.
- HDD can get loud during high activity
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