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HP Compaq 8710p

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Light weight, solid graphics, and a good battery life set the HP Compaq 8710p ($2549 as of 10/9/07) apart from most other desktop replacement notebooks. It also happens to be a very elegant-looking laptop equipped with a cutting-edge Blu-ray Disc optical drive.

The 8710p is not customizable, but HP offers five different configurations on its Web site. Our review unit, equipped with a 2.2-GHz Core 2 Duo T7500, 2GB of RAM, and Windows Vista Business, gave us above-average speed, receiving a WorldBench 6 Beta 2 score of 77. It performed a little better than an HP Pavilion dv9500t equipped with the same processor and amount of RAM, which earned a mark of 73, and a smidgen above the average of 75 earned by 17 currently tested desktop replacements. Thanks to its high-end, dedicated 256MB nVidia Quadro NVS 320M graphics card, the 8710 also proved to be a fine game machine, turning in one of our best-ever average-frames-per-second rates for a notebook: 142 in Far Cry.

Its battery life was tops for this class of laptop. Its 3.6-hour performance was 40 minutes longer than the 2.6-hour average, and it was the best of any currently tested 17-inch-screen notebook.

The notebook is nicely equipped across the board, especially if you have lots of peripherals to connect. It offers a whopping total of six USB ports, most of them conveniently located on the right side. The no-glare matte finish of the 1680-by-1050-pixel screen doesn't reflect office lights, and the keyboard is splendid. The mouse buttons, scored with tactile finger ridges, have a lot more travel than most, pressing deeply into the case. The keyboard includes not only a dedicated number pad but also a touch-sensitive shortcut (one of several backlit controls located at the top) that launches the Windows calculator at the tap of a finger. The only notable omission is an ExpressCard slot, passed over in favor of the older PC Card slot.

The 8710p's stereo speakers are unusually robust for a business laptop; music and movies sounded plenty loud and rich. And controlling volume by swiping the touch-sensitive keyboard gauge is a breeze.

Large but lithe, the 8710p bears a slight wedge shape. It measures less than 1.5 inches thick at the front, rising to 1.75 at the hinges. Its cool bluish-silver hues bestow a sophisticated look. A nice touch: Cream-colored icons stamped on top of the case conveniently identify the side ports. The 7.5-pound minimum weight is very good for this class, which averages 8.8 pounds.

The 8710p would be a great choice for any desk jockey seeking a laptop powerful enough to replace a desktop PC. Those doing graphics work on the go will appreciate it most.

--Carla Thornton

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