The HP EliteBook 830 G5 Notebook may well be looked back upon as a missing link in the HP product line. The HP EliteBook 830 G5 balances the edge between a modern ultrabook that embraces USB-C as the universal port, and the legacy of traditional power, wired Ethernet, non-touch screen by default, non-folding design, desk-based docking stations, and enterprise security features.
Overall, the experience was a good one. The Notebook connected in a variety of situations, it felt comfortable when working and traveled without incident (the power block working flawlessly with 240v in England).
Would this be a first choice Windows machine? The answer to that is no unless I was buying it as an enterprise device. Features like SmartCard reader, fingerprint reader, and SIM slot differentiate the HP EliteBook 830 G5. Otherwise, the odd mix of features may seem confusing, but it isn’t—not if you were in the design meeting where the following statement was made: we need a goto enterprise notebook that has everything in it so there are no excuses for saying no.
And as you’ll read, an elegantly cobbled together notebook computer is just what HP’s engineers delivered. The 830 G5 did not arise from a blank sheet of paper design exercise, but more from a room full of legacy devices each of which had a unique feature that enterprise customers came to love. And as those were pointed out, the design engineers found a way to tuck them into a pretty slim case given the expectations the device had to meet.
First up is the display. No touch screen and just standard HD. And it will feel cramped for those with iPads or with larger resolution monitors. iPads arrive with a 2048-by-1536 resolution (even in the iPad Mini’s 7.9-inch frame)—and most personal entertainment systems sport 4K screens or better. In that world, Many competitive products, including Apple’s MacBook Air and the Dell XPS come with higher resolution screens (though not the standard Dell configuration).
It could be argued that most enterprises offer external monitors. And sure, the built-in HDMI port easily fills my 34-inch LG curved monitor, but the EliteBook is a notebook. And HP markets the HP EliteBook G5 as a productivity tool. A cramped screen means shuffling windows. Shuffling windows hinders productivity.
The display proved bright enough for most work, though outside it was pretty much unviewable. The evaluated version did not include HP’s SureView one-click privacy option.
The biggest question on this configuration was the lack of a touchscreen, which is another common “enterprise” choice. I find the non-touch-screen option probably offers fewer support issues and based on specifications, a brighter more resilient viewing experience. That said, with consumer devices almost universally adopting touchscreens (and with Microsoft and Apple, the pen and pencil), enterprise users may feel like they have a lesser device if it doesn’t at least support touch.
Connectivity and ports
The ports continue the theme of interesting choices. The only option for Wireless LAN comes as a negative. It’s either a Intel 8265 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2×2) with Bluetooth 4.2 or nothing. I’m not sure who would want a nothing, but I can imagine some highly classified programs may want to rely strictly on the built-in Ethernet port to avoid the interception of wayward packets.
As for other ports, the EliteBook G5 comes with powered and unpowered USB-A ports, a USB-C port, a SIM slot, an HDMI port, wired Gigabit Ethernet, an audio-out port and a desktop docking port. It also includes a standard Kensington theft protection lock receptacle.
So USB-C with data, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 3, and bi-directional charging. But no SD card reader. A SIM slot for putting the G5 830 on a cellular network, but no SD card reader? All I can say, is, um.
Internal and auxiliary storage
So as noted above, unless owners of the G5 attach a USB drive (either USB-C or A) to the device, it offers no external storage. What looks like a micro-SD reader is really an exposed SIM slot for mobile connectivity. One should not put a micro-SD card in that slot, as I learned from experience.
Main storage comes in the form of a 256 GB SSD – (M.2 2280) SATA 6Gb/s – Self-Encrypting Drive, TCG Opal Encryption 2, triple-level cell (TLC). Security and remote management. Even if the drive gets removed from the device, which can happen in industrial espionage situations, it won’t be readable. Optional drives up to 1TB support storage intensive applications like image and video manipulation.
The various USB ports support a variety of external storage options.
Input: Keyboard, trackpad, biometric, audio and camera
Continuing with its transitional styling, the G5 brings a collaborative keyboard, but one with a pointing stick smashed into the middle of the G,H and B keys. This seems to be the result of a “people still love the pointy stick so we’d better have one” somewhere in the design cycle. The collaboration keyboard includes telephony and video conferencing buttons for answering the phone and hanging up at the end of a call.
The keyboard is very comfortable to use. Good layout, good key travel. This is one place where they borrow modern inspiration from Apple, rather than enterprise features from IBM ThinkPads or older Dell Inspirons (the new Inspiron computers look very similar to the EliteBook HP line—all Apple MacBook Airy).
In the “include everything” category, the wide trackpad includes a pair of buttons for selecting and right-clicking. The 3.9 x 2.1-inch trackpad already handles those functions. So the buttons are just there as an extra feature. They don’t add value, but they do add cost. Most trackpads on devices at this level incorporate all the features into a single, multifunction pad that simplifies the experience.
The one point of ultra-modernity included in the configuration I evaluated was the Integrated HD 720p Infrared (IR) TripleMic Webcam that powers Windows 10 facial recognition. I found logging into the HP EliteBook 830 G5 as quick as doing so with my 3rd generation iPad Pro. A good 1080p or better camera would make the G5 feel more elite.
My evaluation configuration also includes a fingerprint reader. The fingerprint authentication was redundant to a trusted facial-recognition option. Some organizations, however, may prefer finger-print authentication.
As this is a configurable line, the G5 can also come equipped with a non-IR camera, or no camera at all. Same with the fingerprint reader. Only buy the security features you really need.
PC-makers now routinely partner with audio brands to fine-tune their sound experience and lend some street cred to the audio components. This HP includes Bang & Olufsen audio with noise-canceling 3 multi-array microphones and stereo speakers. Music, streaming video audio and audio-conferencing all sound great. While the built-in speakers deliver deep bass and clean highs, all the audio still sounds better with headphones.
My EliteBook G3 arrived with a standard HP charging block and cord. The device will also charge from USB-C, but I was not able to test that feature with the HP hardware available. I did try charging the notebook with a VougDuo 57W Car Charger—PD (reviewed here), and it indicated it was charging. When plugged into the VougDuo charger, however, the G5 suggested that I only use HP hardware, but it did not ignore the input.
I don’t perform rundown tests on batteries, but I do use devices in the wild. The EliteBook remained adequately charged under normal working conditions. On-and-off over a longer-than-eight-hour day and it was still going.
Handling software updates
HP delivers a lot of software updates via the HP Support Assistant. And they communicate a lot. Some might subscribe to the “you can’t over-communicate school” but in the case of software updates, I think you can. The tool that coordinates driver updates also offers hints and tips and messages from HP that aren’t critical. Seeing a counter on the icon should mean there is something the device’s owner really needs to pay attention to—like a new bios or an improved video driver—not that I should consider pairing my computer with a Bluetooth device (which I have already done thank you very much!).
As for the meaningful software updates, they come with pretty good frequency. Much more often than seen on my Mac or my Dell XPS. The updating takes some time, as many of the drivers require the launching of a third-party installer, complete with the need to accept new licensing terms.
The HP Support Assistant queries about the status of each installation. I would love to hear that Microsoft and its ecosystem are working on a long-needed driver installation acknowledgment protocol so the installers and the OS can communicate their state to each other. Not an HP issue per se, but because they centralize updates, it highlights the still arcane approach to software updates in Windows. (By the way, the installation in progress screen does seem to know when an installation fails, so I’m not sure about the value of asking the user—who also has the option of skipping the feedback).
The EliteBook shipped with the HP to Apple phone connectivity software (PhoneWise) that allowed the PC to answer a paired Apple phone. It also arrived with a message informing me that this feature had been discontinued, and though it might still work, it might not actually work in the future. I de-installed the app and with that, removed a feature touted as a major collaborative inroad just a couple of years ago.
For most work, the EliteBook performed well on collaborative tasks like writing in Microsoft Word, and using other Microsoft Office products across the Microsoft Teams environment. It did bog down while on a video conference using Microsoft Skype for Business when a call came in on the connected Apple device. I did not experience that issue after deleting PhoneWise.
My evaluation unit fell into the lower range of the configurations. The series can be upgraded to more recent Intel Core i7 processors, more local SSD storage and main memory, along with other features that will enhance performance.
The HP EliteBook generally draws its inspiration from previous generation MacBook Airs. Sleek aluminum body with a LED screen mounted in a thin lid and surrounded by a thick bezel. The rationale, likely goes, that enterprises don’t need state of the art, they need security, reliability and utilitarian capabilities, not the latest in design—and BTW, let’s also include all those beloved features. Fitting those features into a MacBook Air-like body created the design constraints for component selection.
The truth is, many enterprises shop price and the EliteBook, as the series name suggests, remains at the top end of HP’s enterprise offerings. I still see people lugging around thick machines from a variety of manufacturers while start-ups send people into the field with iPads and MacBooks. An equivalent MacBook, without the security features found on the HP EliteBook 830 G5 runs about the same price.
The one thing it doesn’t inherit from the include all things design approach is weight. At 12.2 in x 9 in x 0.7 in and 2.93 lbs, the EliteBook 830 weighs in slightly less than MacBook Air.
Two of the big questions about this design have to do with cost and quality. Would a less complex device cost less, at least to manufacture? Would it also deliver a more robust device if the design didn’t include the complexity from extra components? Most current devices drive down components to reduce cost and complexity. Which leads to lower lifetime costs, including repair and support.
It is important to keep in mind that the EliteBook 850 G3 sells as a configurable machine. HP lists display options, they remain limited to 1080P, though touch screen is available, as is a privacy screen option. Faster CPUs, more memory, and enhanced storage offer plenty of internal options. Security features are also optional.
If enterprise-PC means keeping up with ThinkPads from the 1990s, then the HP EliteBook 800 G3 ticks all the boxes. It’s design flaws derive from trying to be too many things: a MacBook Air, a ThinkPad and a secure enterprise device with a docking option.
Although HP can continue to be successful in selling less-than-distinguished, albeit solid computers, I would prefer to see more innovation in each instance. Their Pavillion series, for instance, shines with a blue tinge and it brings geometric unevenness to the speaker grill. A couple of little details that make it a bit more distinctive than other units. Surface-level differentiation to be sure, but a start.
It would be interesting to see HP take another design constraint, like enterprise security, and see how that might motivate innovation to implement it in a unique way.
There is nothing really wrong with the HP EliteBook 850 G3 if you end up being assigned one. Go for the best processor, memory and storage configuration you can wrangle. Unfortunately, the EliteBook 830 is more of a device chosen for people than one they might choose for themselves.
The evolution of the notebook market
HP makes a lot of computer types and that can be confusing for consumers and businesses alike. Their PC portfolio screams out for simplification. The company, though, appears to be taking a note from evolution. Think of HP as the Coleoptera (beetles) of the PC market. That means that they may look overly diverse, and they may appear highly randomized, but that is their survival strategy. Diversify, look for niches, and if you survive, then that’s a win. Apple is more like the Cavendish banana. Highly curated, but a bit at risk from lack of variety. A quote from ProMusa.org could be as easily applied to Apple as to the Cavendish banana: “As high as it is, their share of cultivar diversity pales in comparison to their hold on production.”
Perhaps what all this says is that I didn’t receive the HP computer that best aligned with my niche and its expectations. Reviews, however, are what they are. Each reviewer sees a device through their experience, their needs and the needs of those who read or listen to them.
HP EliteBook 830 G5 – 13.3″ – Core i5 8350U – 8 GB RAM – 256 GB SSD – US
As a hardware reviewer, more is better. Because I didn’t receive docking stations or alternative charging solutions, I was not able to evaluate their benefits. None of the USB charging blocks in my arsenal proved compatible with the G5, so I charged it with its traditional DC block and cable. A core i7 would also have been a better processor for more outstanding performance.
Note: this device was provided by HP for review and evaluation purposes.
Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.