Mid-range business notebook with C-suite ambitions
- Excellent keyboard
- Physical trackpad buttons
- Fast performance
- Large screen bezels
- Anemic battery life
- Touch isn’t standard
If you’ve ever been envious of the tech that executives carry, HP is hoping to cure some of your envy with the EliteBook G3 (starting at $749, £497, AU$1,040). The 14-inch EliteBook 745 G3 joins the 12-inch EliteBook 725 G3 and 15-inch EliteBook 755 G3 in HP’s mid-range 700 series. This range is inspired by the flagship EliteBook 1020 G1, retaining the metal build quality but without a premium price tag.
The EliteBook 745 G3 is part of HP’s strategy for offices to help recruit and retain talent. Millennial workers demand sleeker designs that are inspired by consumer products, while IT managers seek security and manageability. The EliteBook 745 G3 is designed to balance those competing needs in a compact, lightweight package.
The EliteBook 700 Series meets these workers’ needs by being the thinnest and lightest mainstream commercial notebook. As a 14-inch commercial laptop, the EliteBook 745 G3 competes against Lenovo’s ThinkPad T450s ($979, £650, AU$1,359) and Dell’s Latitude e7450 ($1,364, £906, AU$1,894).
With a silver, aluminum clad body, HP shows that enterprise laptops don’t need to be black box. The silver metal construction gives the EliteBook 745 G3 a solid feel, and the design looks similar to HP’s premium consumer-class notebooks, like the HP Envy.
HP’s goal in designing the EliteBook 745 G3 is to bring some of the premium features found on the flagship EliteBook Folio 1020 G1 to the mid-range model. For example, even though HP trades the premium unibody construction on the Folio 1020 G1 for a lower price point on the EliteBook 745 G3, you’ll still be treated with silver aluminum for the lid, side panels and keyboard deck, along with a durable magnesium alloy bottom plate.
The laptop measures 13.3 x 9.3 x 0.74 inches (33.8 x 23.6 x 1.88cm). The uniform thickness means that the EliteBook 745 G3 is a boxy laptop. However, HP employed clever contouring with the silver paint on the side panels to give the illusion of a tapered wedge-shaped design, making the 745 G3 appear slimmer than it actually is.
Even though the ThinkPad T450s and Dell Latitude e7450 share the same 14-inch screen size, the compact dimensions of the HP EliteBook 745 G3 makes it a whisper slimmer than its rivals.
However, despite its slim figure, the EliteBook occupies a larger surface area on your desk. The EliteBook is 0.27 inches (0.69cm) wider and 0.4 inches (1.02cm) deeper than the ThinkPad, and it’s 0.27 inches wider (0.69cm) and 0.18 inches (0.46cm) deeper than the Latitude.
Of the three notebooks, the EliteBook is still the lightest, weighing 3.41 pounds (1.55kg). This makes it 0.09 pounds (0.04kg) lighter than the ThinkPad and 0.02 pounds (0.01kg) lighter than the Latitude. Compared to the more compact 12-inch, Core M-powered EliteBook Folio 1020 G1, the 745 G3 is 1.21 pounds (0.55kg) heavier. You’ll sacrifice portability for extra power and screen real estate on the 745 G3.
Borrowing from the EliteBook Folio 1020 G1, the only thing that interrupts the brushed aluminum lid design is HP’s glossy silver logo. If you replaced HP’s logo with a glowing Apple logo, it would be easy to mistake the EliteBook 745 G3 for a 13- or 15-inch MacBook Pro from this angle.
Opening the lid, you’ll find a spacious 14-inch matte display on the EliteBook 745 G3. The base model comes with an HD+ (1,366 x 768) display, but our review unit shipped with a 1080p (1,920 x 1,080) full HD non-touch panel. A webcam is integrated into the top bezel. Users with a need for higher pixel density could upgrade to a version with a WQHD (2,560 x 1,440) resolution screen.
Compared to the glossy screens found on the premium 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina and HP’s EliteBook Folio 1020 G1, the matte screen on the 745 G3 helps reduce glare and reflection when viewed under bright indoor lighting or outdoors under sunlight. The downside is that the screen isn’t flush with the bezel. This makes the screen harder to clean or wipe down, as dirt and dust could get trapped in the area where the bezel meets the screen.
The sizable top and bottom bezels are the biggest gripes I have with the screen. If the EliteBook 745 G3 was a convertible laptop, then large bezels could be forgiven for improved ergonomics when used as a tablet, but since the 745 G3 is a standard laptop, it’s unclear why HP didn’t reduce the bezel size. Reducing the size of the bezels would have the added effect of reducing the overall footprint of the notebook, making it even more compact.
On the front edge of the laptop are tiny LED lights that indicate network connectivity, power, charge status and hard drive write status. The lights are labeled, but the downward-facing position of the label makes it hard to decipher what each light does.
On the keyboard deck, you’ll find a spill-resistant, full-sized backlit keyboard with HP’s premium keyboard design from the EliteBook Folio 1020 G1. To the top of the keyboard is a speaker bar, and below the keyboard is a trackpad with right and left mouse buttons. NFC is integrated into the trackpad, which also works with NFC-based Smart Cards for security. The keyboard deck design is similar to the HP EliteBook Folio 1020 G1.
Even though the key caps aren’t contoured and feel flat, the keyboard is highly responsive, with deep key travel. The keys are springy, but sound more dampen for a quieter typing experience than the enterprise-class keyboard on Dell’s Latitude E7250 7000 Series.
In some ways, the EliteBook 745 G3 feels like a more premium product than the more expensive EliteBook Folio 1020 G1. Whereas HP chose form over function when it comes to the trackpad on the 1020 G1, the dual-cursor inputs on the 745 G3 makes it feel like an enterprise-class system.
If you’re not a fan of the trackpoint, the downside with its placement is that the nub eats into the G, H and B keys, making these keys smaller. Even though the trackpoint design is shared with the Lenovo ThinkPad T450s, the G, H and B keys on the ThinkPad are larger, making typing easier on the Lenovo. I found that I made less typos with the ThinkPad’s keyboard design around these keys than on the EliteBook, but I preferred the EliteBook’s springier keys.
Another improvement that HP made on the 745 G3 compared to the EliteBook Folio 1020 G1 is that there are physical mouse buttons just below the trackpad. I found the force-sensitive trackpad design on the EliteBook Folio 1020 G1 to be difficult to use. Even though the use is similar to the Force Touch touchpad design that Apple uses on the new MacBook Pro laptops, HP doesn’t offer tactile feedback response for when a key is clicked. Having buttons buttons eliminate that problem.
Don’t let its svelte figure fool you. As a business-class notebook, the EliteBook 745 G3 is highly configurable and powerful, with various options for screen resolutions and up to two storage drives (users can add a single solid state drive and a single hard drive to maximize storage capacity).
The EliteBook 745 G3 is the first laptop to ship with AMD’s mobile sixth generation A12 APU, which comes with 12 total computing cores, which is divided into four processing cores and eight graphics core. The A12 APU comes with integrated AMD Radeon R7 graphics, which delivers comparable performance to AMD’s FirePro 2000 series graphics, according to AMD.
Because the AMD A12 Pro APU is positioned to compete against Intel’s mainstream Core i processor, it feels as if the EliteBook 745 G3 should be the flagship Elite notebook, not the EliteBook Folio 1020 G1. The EliteBook 745 G3’s faster processor delivers better performance compared to the power conservative Intel Core M chip on the 1020 G1.
Unlike the fanless Core M processor, the AMD A12 Pro processor requires active cooling, and you’ll find vents on the left side and bottom of the EliteBook 745 G3. In a way, this makes the 745 G3 more powerful than its premium counterpart, and you’ll also have access to full-sized ports without requiring any adapters. On the left side, you’ll find a lock, single USB and VGA ports along with a Smart Card reader.
A second USB port joins a USB Type C port, DisplayPort, Ethernet port, and headphone and microphone combo jack on the right side. You’ll also find a SIM card slot, HP’s slim dock connector and the power port on this side.
It’s unfortunate that HP did not include an HDMI port given that the company managed to cram in dual legacy video output standards on the 745 G3. Because a number of businesses are upgrading to projectors, HDTVs and monitors that support the consumer-centric HDMI technology, the omission of this port means that you’ll likely need to carry a dongle or adapter when traveling.
A slab of black magnesium covers the bottom of the laptop, and a removable plate conceals upgradeable components. You’ll be able to upgrade the RAM and storage drives once the bottom plate is removed. Additionally, you’ll also be able to add a mobile broadband card into the unit to get 4G LTE connectivity, as all 745 G3 models come wired with antennas and an accessible SIM card slot.
Here is how the EliteBook 745 G3 that was sent to techradar for review was configured:
Processor: 2.10GHz quad-core AMD A12-8800B R7 (up to 3.2GHz with Turbo, 2MB cache)
Graphics: Integrated AMD Radeon R7 (8-core)
Memory: 8GB 1600 DDR3 SDRAM
Storage: 256 GB 2280 M2 SATA III TLC Solid-State Drive (SSD)
Screen: 14 inch LED FHD SVA Anti-Glare (1920×1080)
Camera: 720p HD webcam
Wireless: Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, mobile broadband optional
Ports: 2x USB 3.0, 1 x USB Type A, DisplayPort, VGA, Ethernet, SD card reader, headphone/microphone combo port, HP slim dock, SIM, TPM, Smart Card reader, fingerprint scanner
Dimensions: 13.3 x 9.3 x 0.74 inches
Weight: 3.41 pounds
Even though the EliteBook 745 G3 has a low $749 (£497, AU$1,040) starting price, our review unit is priced at $1,800 (£1,196, AU$2,500). Upgrading the 745 G3 with a QHD display, 16GB of RAM, 4G LTE connectivity, and a 512GB SSD and 500GB hard drive brings the price up to $2,229 (£1,481, AU$3,096). At this price, you’ll get more storage, but the advantage of AMD’s powerful yet affordable A12 Pro APU compared to Intel’s mainstream Core i5 becomes less obvious.
In fact, fully configured, the EliteBook 745 G3 is $100 (£66, AU$138) more expensive than a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display configured with a 3.1GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM and a 512GB solid state drive. You will, however, lose the extra 500GB hard drive, fingerprint scanner and the 4G LTE modem with Apple’s laptop, but you’ll gain a more solid unibody construction.
PCMark8: Work: 2,227; Home: 2,644
Battery life: 3 hours and 31 minutes
3DMark: Fire Strike: 1,031; Cloud Gate: 4,745; Sky Diver: 3,614
Cinebench: CPU: 211 points; GPU: 33 fps
Geekbench: Single-core: 2,119; Multi-core: 5,251
The PCMark8, 3DMark and Cinebench benchmarks reveal that the performance of EliteBook 745 G3 is in line with Intel’s Core i series processors. The ThinkPad T450s’s PCMark Home score of 2,200 and 2,896 Work score delivered by Intel’s fifth generation dual-core Core i5 CPU were within range of the AMD A12 Pro APU on the 745 G3, and both processors share similar battery life with three-cell batteries.
Where the A12 Pro shines is with graphics, beating the ThinkPad’s graphic performance on two of three 3DMark benchmarks. The ThinkPad scored 731 on the Fire Strike, 5,305 on Cloud Gate and 2,648 on Sky Diver tests. Additionally, the ThinkPad delivered 10 fewer frames per second using Cinebench’s GPU benchmark.
As expected, both AMD A12 Pro APU and the Broadwell-based Intel Core i5 processors delivered much better performance than the energy efficient Intel Core M chipset found on the flagship EliteBook Folio 1020 G1. Compared to the 1020, the 745 G3 readily wins in all tests.
The 745 G3’s processor performance is 376 points better using PCMark 8’s work test, and 72 points higher using Cinebench’s CPU test. Graphics performance of the integrated Radeon R7 on the 745 G3 is about three times better than the integrated Intel HD graphics on the 1020 G1, earning scores of 407, 1,551 and 1,526 on Fire Strike, Cloud Gate and Sky Diver tests, respectively.
For a system that requires active cooling, EliteBook 745 G3 is surprisingly quiet. Although the fan turned on during the benchmark testing and in my general use, but the noise was quiet and never bothersome. For the most part, the fan remained idle for basic tasks, like word processing.
Compared to Intel’s newest mainstream processor, the sixth generation Skylake Core i5 CPU, on the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, the AMD A12 Pro APU on the EliteBook 745 G3 is still able to hold its ground.
Graphics benchmark was mixed between the two systems using 3DMark. Both the EliteBook 745 G3 and the Surface Pro 4 scored similar marks using the Sky Diver test, but the 745 G3 scored 175 points better on Fire Strike and 2,261 points worse on the Cloud Gate. Processing performance is about equal, with the Surface Pro 4 score 2,406 using PCMark 8’s Home test. The Surface Pro 4 pulled ahead with a CPU score of 305 points and GPU score of 37 fps.
HP claims that the notebook sheds 10% of its thickness and 13% of its weight from the previous generation G2 model. However, don’t let its lighter weight and slimmer figure fool you, the EliteBook is still a durable notebook having passed MIL-SPEC 810G testing against dirt, dust and drops.
For office workers who eat and drink at their desks, the spill-resistant keyboard means that an accidentally spilled glass of water won’t damage the laptop. Liquid that is spilled on the keyboard will flow through a drainage system that empties out through a hole on the bottom of the EliteBook 745 G3.
When used with Windows 10, the integrated fingerprint sensor makes it easy to unlock your laptop with Windows Hello. This makes securing your data easier than having to type in a password. The swipe-based fingerprint reader isn’t quite as easy as newer touch-based readers, but I found the system to be accurate and fast. Out of ten swipes, the 745 G3 was able to positively identify me eight tens.
For added security, the EliteBook 745 G3 also comes with HP’s Sure Start technology. The self-healing BIOS ensures that the BIOS will restore itself in the event of a corruption, either as a result of malicious software or an interrupted BIOS update.
Overall, the EliteBook 745 G3 feels fast, and I didn’t notice any performance difference when compared to systems with Intel’s Core i5 processor. The notebook had no problems handling Windows 10’s natives apps while running instant messaging clients, handling multiple tabs in multiple browser windows, and running Skype conference calls and messaging apps. The only slight slow down I’ve noticed is that larger programs, like Adobe Premiere Pro, would start up slower on the EliteBook 745 G3 compared to the Intel-powered Lenovo ThinkPad T450s, but performance within the app was similar with both systems.
A rarity even on business notebooks today, the matte display was very comfortable to use. Because of the matte finish, the screen doesn’t appear as crisp as a glossy display. However, I found the EliteBook 745 G3’s matte screen more comfortable than the glossy screen on the EliteBook Folio 1020 for extended use. The matte coating minimizes reflection and glare, which also means less eye strain.
The display provides wide viewing angles, and the 300 nits of brightness means that it is comfortable for use indoors and outdoors under shaded areas. You’ll want to avoid using the 745 G3 under direct sunlight, as the screen gets washed out.
As I’m now accustomed to using a touchscreen on Windows-based systems, not having a touchscreen on my EliteBook 745 G3 review unit was a big hindrance. A touchscreen is an optional upgrade, as is a higher resolution QHD panel.
Unlike the Envy and Spectre consumer PC lines, HP opted not to include any visible branding from its audio partnership with Bang & Olufsen. Even though you won’t find any B&O branding on this laptop, HP assured me that B&O tuning helps the 745 G3 deliver a superior experience for voice and video conferencing.
As a result of the collaboration with Bang & Olufsen, the EliteBook 745 G3 comes with noise reduction software to minimize background and keyboard noise when you’re on a video conference call, and the laptop comes with HP Clear Sound Amp so you can hear clearer audio from the call.
For a laptop, I found audio quality to be loud, rich and clean, even at high volume settings. Audio output is loud enough to fill a small room. There was no distortion at the highest volume, but audiophiles who want even richer audio output should invest in quality headphones or speakers.
For comparison, the standard edition of the HP EliteBook Folio 1020 G1 does not come with any Bang & Olufsen tuning.
HP didn’t provide battery life estimates, but AMD claims that the A12 Pro APU is capable of all-day battery life when playing back 1080p videos.
Looping a 1080p-encoded video with volume and brightness set to 50%, the EliteBook 745 G3 delivered just shy of six hours of battery life, which is good for a transcontinental flight, but you’ll want to find a charger as soon as you land to continue working.
PCMark8’s rigorous battery life test shows that the EliteBook 745 G3 is capable of three hours and 31 minutes of battery life when performing work tasks. In my anecdotal battery life test working in the browser, running messaging clients and working in Microsoft Office 2013, I found the battery depleted in five hours and 45 minutes.
AMD’s value proposition with the A12 Pro APU is that you’ll get similar performance to Intel’s mainstream Core i5 processor at a lower price.
With the savings you’ll get when choosing the A12 Pro APU over a comparable build with an Intel Core i5 processor, AMD says you can invest that price difference into other components. This means you can upgrade to a faster solid state drive, increase the hard drive capacity, add more RAM or use your savings to invest in a 4G LTE upgrade for your laptop.
HP designed the EliteBook 745 G3 for mid-level executives to have a business-class laptop with a similar fit and finish to the premium C-level class EliteBook Folio 1020 G1. And HP succeeded on this endeavor, delivering a metal-clad laptop that sacrifices a unibody construction for a lower price point. Best of all, the 745 G3 earns its keep with a faster processor than the power-sipping processor of the more expensive 1020 G1.
The EliteBook 745 G3 is a versatile laptop with numerous options for configurability. Keep in mind that adding a touchscreen, increasing the screen resolution and adding more storage and memory will quickly increase the price tag of the EliteBook 745 G3. However, at its base configuration, the EliteBook 745 G3 is an affordable mid-range business-class laptop.
The performance of the included AMD A12 APU with integrated Radeon R7 graphics rivals more expensive systems configured with Intel’s mainstream Core i5 processor. In this regard, the improved performance of the 745 G3 compared to the Core M chipset on the flagship HP EliteBook 1020 G1 makes this mid-ranger feel like a more premium product.
A comfortable keyboard, easy to use trackpad, loud speakers and bright, matte display round out the top features of this commercial notebook.
Like the flagship EliteBook 1020 G1, battery life remains an issue with the 745 G3. The powerful performance of the AMD A12 Pro processor, combined with the three-cell battery, means you’ll fall short of AMD’s all-day battery life claims.
As a mid-range notebook, features like a touchscreen, solid state drive and high resolution display are added extras.
Compared to Apple’s MacBook strategy, HP is taking a different approach with its EliteBook by offering performance at a lower cost. This makes the entry-level EliteBook 745 G3 an exceptional value for those who want Intel Core i5-level performance but don’t want to pay the price for the mainstream CPU. AMD’s A12 APU delivers exceptional computing. As long as you’re willing to sacrifice screen resolution and storage at lower price points, you’ll be rewarded with an affordable system that’s highly upgradeable as your needs evolve.