HP has a video that takes you through the basic steps with the ForcePad on Windows 7, but the footage doesn't do justice to how smoothly and flawlessly it works. No need to "click" the trackpad any more; a slight increase in pressure does the job, and the pressure level is fully configurable. No need to double-click to move an icon -- just push a little harder than normal and drag. You don't run out of room for a pinch because you can continue a pinch (to keep making an object larger or smaller) by pushing harder at the end of the pinch. Similarly, you can continue two-finger scrolling by applying more pressure at the end of the pad. And both one-finger and two-finger drags speed up the harder you push. Once you get used to it, the actions are intuitive and quick.
On the business side, this EliteBook comes standard with Sure Start for BIOS protection and restoration and Trust Circles for file sharing, two proprietary HP packages. Your admin requirements may vary. Of course, there's a TPM chip, as has been the case with commercial HP laptops for years. And HP's 24/7 support draws very positive reviews, by and large.
I found only one aspect of the EliteBook 1040 that rankled: hard drive capacity. The machine I tested has a 128GB SSD, but when it arrived from HP, Windows Explorer showed the C: drive had a mere 69.8GB of free space left. That's with all Windows updates and Microsoft Security Essentials installed, and after a complete run of System Cleanup.
Rummaging around a bit, I found a few clues to the disk scarcity. The hard drive had three hidden partitions: 645MB for System, 1.3GB for D: HP_RECOVERY, and 1.96GB for E: HP_TOOLS. The Windows 7 hibernate file (D:\hiberfil.sys) takes up 4GB, as does the Windows 7 paging file (C:\pagefile.sys) -- both standard for a 4GB Windows 7 system. The sizes of both can be adjusted manually, with some reduction in speed. The Programs folder contains additional software for HP, Synaptics, a DVD burner, and the like. But in the end, Windows Explorer says there's only 69.8GB left.
If you're sitting on the sidelines, waiting for Microsoft to jump up to Windows 9, and you need a go-to Windows 7 clamshell for the interim, the HP EliteBook 1040 is a solid choice -- and the Synaptics ForcePad puts it over the top. Spring for the 1,920-by-1,080 screen and a 256GB SSD, and you may find this system good enough to carry for many years.
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