HP's Compaq range is synonymous with usability and strength for the business user, and the Compaq 8710p (£1469 inc. VAT) continues this trend.

Where its rivals are aimed at the regular home user, the 8710p is very much a corporate workhorse.

The 17-inch display is ideal for designers, and boasts a high resolution, at 1680 x 1050 pixels (WSXGA+). We found it sharp, while colour reproduction was excellent.

Impressive performance

Even when compared to the Super-TFT panels of its rivals, which are typically more vibrant, the HP impressed. It was also good when used in brighter conditions, with reflections, dust and even fingerprints causing no problems.

If the display isn't good enough for your needs when in the office, there's an HDMI port in place to allow High Definition (HD) connections to an external display. There's also a VGA-out port for connecting older equipment.

This HP features a non-consumer graphics card, with nVidia's professional Quadro NVS 320M in place. Boasting 512MB of dedicated memory, it gives the Compaq enough performance to run the most demanding of 3D applications with ease.

This makes it a great choice for those wanting to run CAD (Computer Aided Design) software.

Conservative design

The Compaq puts form ahead of function, with square lines and conservative black and grey plastic. The case is tough and there's no sign of flex from the screen, even under pressure.

The keyboard is comfortable, with large and responsive keys. There's also a dedicated numeric keypad. However, the keys are not as firmly attached as previous Compaq laptops, and rattle when used.

Power comes from a 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 processor, and the system ran smoothly thanks to 2048MB of memory. Although it's not the most powerful laptop around, we had no trouble running several applications at once.

The 160GB hard drive is larger than average, but will soon fill up if you use it to store video files.

A corporate laptop

Networking is comprehensive, with support for the fastest fixed and wireless connections currently available.

There's a microphone built-in for internet calls, but there's no integrated webcam. However, this laptop does feature a fingerprint scanner, offering an additional layer of security.

The conservative design and TFT display won't suit everybody, but the Compaq 8710p is a great tool for designers or corporate users wanting a desktop replacement machine.