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Coming in March: HP Updates in a Big Way

It's fair to say the refreshes HP announced for their consumer computers earlier this month seemed fairly lackluster. While nobody can complain about improved notebook speakers and the triumphant return of dedicated mouse buttons, there wasn't anything else remarkably fresh or exciting about their spring line. When we got a chance to meet with HP representatives in San Francisco to see their new business lineup, however, we saw very nearly the complete opposite.

HP's EliteBook and ProBook lines have undergone a major overhaul since the last time we looked at them, which wasn't very long ago. The last one we saw was fairly attractive but seemed somewhat schizophrenic in its aesthetics, like a hodgepodge of elements from enterprise and consumer lines that didn't blend together. It was the notebook equivalent of the American version of The Ring, appropriating scenes from its predecessor while gracelessly trying to integrate new material.

That's not the case with the new lineup. HP's designers have produced what have to be some of the most stylish notebooks we've seen, marrying some of the better trends in consumer notebooks to thoughtful, modern-looking engineering and design. You could argue they're cribbing from Apple a little bit, but that would do them a disservice.

HP is using aluminum on the lids of all of their new enterprise notebooks along with a single piece of machined aluminum for the interior panel with the ports cut into it. Internally they've employed a magnesium alloy chassis, and together with the aluminum shell these notebooks feel incredibly rigid and durable. In fact, in addition to having a mag-alloy backplane for the screen, HP also uses rubber padding between the bezel and screen to ensure it never compresses against the keyboard the way some cheaper notebooks can.

That keyboard is spill-resistant, with channels built into the frame beneath it, though depending on how you feel about the keyboards HP employs on their consumer line you may be pleased or disappointed to see the same  chiclet-style keys on their enterprise-class kit. They've also gotten rid of touch-based buttons along with pretty much the entire control bar above the keyboard, instead replacing it with a couple of actual quick-access buttons. It's a decision that simplifies the look while improving usability.

What was probably my personal favorite feature had to be the bottom panel mechanism they're using on these new notebooks. Check this out:

The bottom panel of the notebook is a single large piece that can be removed by simply squeezing a latch and sliding it off, allowing for easy access to all of the internals. It's such a smart idea that one wonders why we don't see it more often—we'd love to get such a feature on more consumer laptops! And for the IT people that don't want to worry about employees popping it off and potentially damaging the components, the mechanism can be locked by installing a single screw. Most people probably won't get that much mileage out of something like this, but it does make the notebook easier to service, along with being easier for people like me (and at least a couple of you) to tinker with.

The EliteBook, ProBook b-series, and ProBook s-series
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  • misuspita - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Thank you sir, I didn't knew that function until now (close tab with middle button) :)) Reply
  • Ben90 - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    I use the middle mouse button on my laptops religiously.

    I hate where new laptops are heading. 16:10 and 16:9 are absolutely horrible laptop form factors. 4:3 is insanely better. Are there any business class 4:3 laptops anymore?

    Also touch sensitives buttons suck balls. There are NO tangible advantages to having those over tactile switches.

    I honestly think the T60 is the best laptop ever created. Sandy Bridge notebooks can suck my 4:3 nuts.
    Reply
  • Taft12 - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    I'm a Linux user, but I've been clicking left+right mouse button simultaneously to middle click for 15 years now.

    Does Windows STILL not behave the same way??
    Reply
  • peterfares - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    It's up to the mousepad drivers to support the feature.
    I don't know why, but the Synaptics (the best touch pad manufacture) disables the feature in most of their drivers. None of the laptops I have owned after 2006 support the feature. It remains in the drivers though, and all that you need to do to enable it is add one registry entry.
    DWORD 'HasBothButtonFeature' and set to 1 in
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Synaptics\SynTP\Defaults\
    Then log out and back in. Clicking both buttons for middle will with then work.
    Reply
  • Hallucinogen775 - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    "The bottom panel of the notebook is a single large piece that can be removed by simply squeezing a latch and sliding it off, allowing for easy access to all of the internals. It's such a smart idea that one wonders why it hasn't been seen before."

    Well, it has been seen before. With the introduction of the DELL Latitude E-Series they implemented pretty much the same thing. Remove one scre only and pull off the entire bottom panel.

    Official removal instructions:
    # Close the display and turn the computer upside down.
    # Loosen the captive screw.
    # Slide the bottom of the base assembly away from the hinge covers, and lift to remove the bottom of the base assembly.

    So... this is nothing new... it's a pity that the review says it would be (kind of).
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the comment. We're aware that similar designs have been around, but they're rare. I've edited the text to reflect the intended meaning. Reply
  • davepermen - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    the 2550p and 2750p.. I hope the 2750p is out soon, I'm eager to replace my 2730p. Reply
  • flashbacck - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    any info on the dimensions of these laptops? Reply
  • John Smith - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    No W series? No IPS? Reply
  • mackintire - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    No class 2 graphics? Radeon 6750 mobility or Geforce 540M?

    Then I am not upgrading from my older Elitebook with its Radeon 2600XT

    At least consider giving it a a Raedon 6500 or something equalivent
    Reply

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