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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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  • Jellodyne - Friday, February 25, 2011 - link

    We picked up a Probook 4250s to evaluate for work as a possible replacement for the Dells we buy, and the big thing I see it's missing is a real dock option -- the USB 2.0 dock is a half solution, requiring you to hook up both a usb cable and a power cord to the laptop to 'dock', and it lacks a power button -- you have to open the laptop to power it on. As far as I can tell the USB 2.0 dock is the standard for the whole line. The only USB ports on the Probook are all located on either side, right by the front of unit, which is frankly awkward to use IMO. What ever happened to ports on the back of laptops? The side of this thing is jam packed with ports, and the back is blank. The USB dock comes with a DVI port, so presumably you're working off some sore of USB video card while you're 'docked' -- it works slick and doesn't seem to be a problem for what we use them for, but if you're looking to do any video intensive work while docked it might be an issue. Or it might not, I don't know, we really didn't stress it.

    Anyway, Dell's docks are awkward to get the laptop into, but at least it's a real dock. But their actual laptops are crap, performance wise. So I suppose we're still looking for their replacement.
    Reply
  • nbrenner72 - Friday, February 25, 2011 - link

    I just started a new job and got a shiny aluminum lid HP EliteBook with a Core i7, so I was thinking I had one these refreshed models that is referenced in the article. Although, I don't have a single piece underbelly and it would appear I only have USB2 based on looking up the Intel 3400 Series chipset info. My model is the 2540p. Hard drive is slow as dirt and graphics are rather poor (Intel HD - or so running dxdiag tells me). Anywho, the article just confused me a bit because it sounded excited to talk about these shiny new aluminum models that are coming out soon (and yes I have the rubber bumpers under the lid too) with Core i7s and what not, and that is what I've had for a month or so now, but without some of the other bells and whistles mentioned (i.e. USB3) Reply
  • HMTK - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    Is nobody bothered by the numeric keypad on the 15" models? IMO a 15" notebook is not wide enough to include such a thing. A decent keyboard isn't even available as an option it seems. Guess it'll be a Vostro or Latitude E5510 for me then even though I can have HP's at resellers price.

    Besides that, I hate most recent laptops because for some idiotic reason, suppliers have switched to 16:9 displays of questionable resolution. As if 16:10 wasn't bad enough...

    As for the article, I can't seem to find any specific model numbers which make the article rather useless. "And in further news, BMW has a announced a new car. It features 4 wheels, an engine and some pedals. A roof is optional."
    Reply
  • jigglywiggly - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    can't wait till the review, I may get one of these. Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Saturday, March 05, 2011 - link

    What is business? Webpages, code, and documents. All of which are portrait. 1050 vertical, whether it's 14.1" 1400x1050 or 15.4" 1680x1050, is a must. (btw, Apple still sells the latter) And look at all that wasted bezel on these HPs. Reply
  • beginner99 - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    Is there any more info available if the graphics are switchable? The 6470m isn't exactly a powerhouse and if I lose QuickSync for it, I would say I don't really need it. Also how much faster is it than HD-graphics? not much I would say? Reply

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