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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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  • chiddy - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    Also very interested if updated line will include W series, IPS, W/Station graphics etc. Reply
  • mschira - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    All very nice but where are simple stats such as weight etc.
    The look nice, but they also look heavy....
    In particular what would the weight of the 14" elitebook with 32h battery be - that's what it all comes down to in my book.

    So no real number here all just noise, moving on nothing to see.
    M.
    Reply
  • AmdInside - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    I dunno. These look so ugly compared to dells business laptops. Maybe they look better in person. Reply
  • bigd33ns - Saturday, February 26, 2011 - link

    Have you seen the new line of Lattitude and Precision Laptops that's coming in march?

    They are most ugly. They look like consumer laptop with a much more rounded shape. They look really cheap and makes me think of their Studio lineup. I love their current lineup though.

    On Topic, I was also really disapointed by the lack of GPU power. My 8530P currently has an Radeon 3650 which is 2 years older in design but still manages to be comparable. I understand that they won't put a premium GPU in this P line (Thinking about the W line) but I was maybe looking for a Radeon 6550M with good memory. That would have been much better and versatile.

    Also, the move back to AMD is a good one. Since the G8x and G9x fiasco in laptops during the mid-end 2000's I will never ever buy a mobile Nvidia product again.
    Reply
  • Byte - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    Im in the market for an i7 2xxx series. These look pretty decent. Middle mouse button can be done with two buttons if they are implemented in the drivers, just press both buttons at the same time. There are a few laptops where you can just push them both with one thumb. The easiest is my Dell 1705, what a great notebook, they just don't make em like they use to. All the new don't even have physical buttons. The older DVXXXX series at least had buttons that can be thumbable middle buttoned. Also the newer synaptic drivers remove this function all together so you have to find old driver. I use the middle button as much as I use the right button. This makes using the laptop in bed way easier, if i want to use a mouse, i'd go to my desktop.

    The more i look at the new stuff the more i'm thinking maybe I should just find a used 1705 for around $200ish.
    Reply
  • LaptopDoc - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    As a retired IBM engineer with a laptop repair business, I am somewhat puzzled as to why nobody seems concerned about HP's failure rate and warranty/service policies. Over 60% of the laptops that come into my shop (last 3 years) have been HPQ. Grated most of these have been retail models (DV, CQ, and G series), but the internal build quality of HP products has certainly gone to hell....but they sure are pretty. A little less attention on marketing hype (ie..Beats commercial) and a bit more on thermal packaging would be appreciated. Most of them, especially the AMD packages, are little furnaces. Reply
  • Taft12 - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    As someone with a laptop repair business and former engineer, how have you not noticed this is true for all low-end consumer laptops for the last few years regardless of brand? They all compete on price only and are equally trash.

    The HP laptops this article is about are nothing like those.
    Reply
  • mike8675309 - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Please remind HP when they show stuff off like this to you. Sure, the screen size has some impact but if not a proper resolution, who cares how big or small it is? Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    "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."

    If the refresh includes reliability, it would be fresh and exciting. I've seen far more reliability issues with HP consumer laptops than, say, Dell's consumer products. Overheat issues, solder joins causing power-on or fan-sensor problems, etc. I can't comment for the business line, (see my bottom question).

    "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!"

    Dell's been doing it for a bit on their business Latitudes, and possibly some Vostros. Looks to me like HP might just be using the same builder for some of their new designs.

    One question: Is HP's pricing becoming more competitive? My past two business notebook purchases, I've been able to get both equivalent Dell or Lenovo for cheaper, which ruled out HP from the start.
    Reply
  • Scipio Africanus - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    The Elitebook line has been very good but just so pricey. My 8530w is just a great machine. I owned its predecessors as well, the 8510p and the nc8430. I'm not too sure about the Mac-y look myself and the graphics card blows. They'll most likely introduce a 8560w which will have hopefully a way better graphics card. They are built like tanks though and I hope this continues. Reply

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