So I snagged an HP Elitebook 8470p for $230 on eBay. Before you go all “LOL HP” on me, note this is an EliteBook, which is their business class line. It competes with Dell’s Latitudes and Lenovo’s ThinkPads.
They’re built to military standards and are known for their durability and high quality inside and out.
Before I go on, I should specify the hardware of this machine.
i5 3340M Ivy Bridge Dual Core 2.6GHz (performs similarly to the latest Broadwell ULV i7s)
4GB RAM (ordered 16GB, it’s on its way)
128GB Samsung SSD + 320GB 7200RPM HD in 2nd bay using a 2nd bay SATA enclosure to replace the DVD drive (thanks again to Galileo for that drive)
Windows 10 64
14” 1600x900 matte screen
AMD RADEON HD7570M 1GB dedicated gfx
2xUSB 3.0 ports
USB 2.0/eSATA combo
Intel Centrino 6205 wifi
Line in/out jacks
SD card reader
Durability - It is rock solid. No flex anywhere in the chassis. One of the best built laptops I’ve had. Oh and the keyboard is supposedly spill proof. I learned it the hard way on an 8460p I had last year.
Maintenance - Super easy. Two latches on the bottom to remove the battery (either 6 or 9 cell) and the metal cover slides right off. You can easily change wifi cards, install a 3/4G modem, upgrade the RAM, swap out the HD, remove the DVD drive, change the CMOS battery, upgrade the processor from here. There is also a SIM card reader near the battery compartment.
Input devices - Keyboard layout takes some getting used to, but it is a decent keyboard. Four dedicated buttons and an eraser head... the button feel is good. Touchpad is excellent and has a glass surface, similar to MacBooks. Supports gestures as well and they, unlike many other Windows laptops, work like a charm. There is a fingerprint reader as well.
Display - This is the lackluster part of the machine. You get two options, 1366x768 or 1600x900. The sane people go for the higher one. The resolution is livable but the contrast is not very good and neither are the viewing angles. Still, should be suitable for most people. Brightness is adequate. Webcam is 720p and is acceptable. Oh and there is a reading light next to the camera. Not very useful.
Speakers - They work and they are more towards the tinny side, but there are plenty worse laptop speakers out there. Bonus is that this machine has stereo mix for recording your speaker output.
Performance - I don’t really have any real # benchmarks but the i5 3340M is more than decent. Once I have more RAM in this thing it’ll be even better. It does pretty much everything I throw at it, from video editing to game design in Unity 3D. Obviously I get more FPS and such on my desktop, but most games I play (SkiFree, Dolphin emulator, Unity 3D development) are playable on my 8470p. The 7570M isn’t much of a gaming card if you’re planning to play the latest games. Also works fine for 3D modeling in Maya. The machine runs quietly unless you stress it.
I get around 500MB/s read and 450MB/s write for my SSD. Can’t really complain about that at all. I keep my documents, music, videos, etc. on the 320GB 7200RPM HD which is actually a pretty fast drive for a laptop HD. Because I am evil, I have XP on that drive as well.
Portability - Due to its durability and expansion capabilities, this isn’t the thinnest and lightest machine around. It still weighs in under 5 pounds but it is a bit thicker than many laptops. Not a big deal for me though. The battery life is not that great. You can expect 2-5 hours (depending on usage) from the default 6 cell or 4-7 on the 9 cell.
Overall - Yeah, fucking buy this thing. I love it. It’s built better than most new laptops, recent enough to support SATA III and USB 3.0, and is very upgrade-friendly. Performance wise, it bests those new Core Ms and in par with the latest ULV processors (if you have an Ultrabook, chances are it has an ULV i3/i5/i7 processor in it). They can be had for $180-300 depending on condition and specs. Mine’s very clean inside and out.