HP EliteBook 820 G1 Notebook Core i7 – 4th Generation line has had difficulty competing with Lenovo’s ThinkPad. Price has generally been to blame, as even systems with mundane specifications often sold well above $1,000. This was justified, for enterprise users, by the company’s elaborate suite of security and network management software, but consumers have less use for such tools.
Now it appears that HP is changing tactics. The new Elitebook 820, a 12.5-inch laptop that offers 4th-gen Intel Core processors, starts at only $874. Our review unit, which boasts a Core i5-4200U CPU and a 180GB solid state drive, costs $1,274, but this price is reasonable compared to past systems. For example, the Folio 9470m we reviewed less than a year ago was $1,549.
Cutting the MSRP has required some sacrifices, however, most notably the luxurious (and heavy) metal construction that the Elitebook is known for. Does this make the 820 a light-weight that packs a punch, or a shadow of HPs past?
Is lighter, better?
The new 820 sets itself apart from past Elitebooks by abandoning heavy use of metal construction in favor of a mostly magnesium chassis. Though strong, magnesium feels much like plastic, and this cheapens the notebook’s look and feel, resulting in a system that seems geared towards buyers on a budget. Even low-end HP Pavilions and Envy systems use more attractive materials
However, switching to magnesium has its benefits. Weight has been cut down to just under three pounds, which makes the 820 over a half-pound lighter than the preceding Elitebook 2560p, and the chassis is barely more than 8/10 of an inch thick. Previous Elitebooks felt like bricks, and the new model is a feather-weight by comparison.
And while magnesium will never have the premium feel of aluminum, HP has made sure the materials used are put together well. Panel gaps are tight, the display lid is coated with a grippy finish that prevents accidental drops, and the screen is lined with a rubber barrier designed to prevent display damage if the system is dropped while closed or if a heavy object is placed on top of it. These touches give the 820 a rough-and-tumble attitude.
Not the keyboard you’re looking for
HP’s Elitebooks have always lagged behind ThinkPads in keyboard quality, and the new 820 is no different. There’s a surprising amount of space given this system’s 12.5-inch display, but key feel is spongy and a bit vague. We also wish the keys had a bit of a curve, as the HP’s flat keycaps provide poor feel when touch-typing. However, we didn’t note any problems with accuracy when using the keyboard.