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9/14/2009
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HP Launches Slick New Laptops -- And Some Desktops, Too

HP's new Envy luxury laptops add style to the category, but the SMB-oriented ProBook 5310m offers decent looks at a much more affordable price. The Mini 311 straddles the line between netbook and notebook, while new All-in-One and traditional desktops round out the company's introductions.

The 13.3-inch addition to HP's SMB-oriented ProBook line of notebooks announced today would look slick in almost any environment, but when stacked up against HP's new Envy line of high-priced luxury laptops, it comes off as a dowdy relic.

The new notebooks are part of a wide ranging group of HP product introductions announced today, including the new Mini 311 netbook, MS200 All-in-One desktop, and the Compaq 6000 and 6005 Pro desktops.

For HP, though, the Envy 13 and Envy 15 were clearly the stars of the show -- with everything that entails.

Designed in cooperation with the folks from HP's Voodoo PC unit for style-conscious traveling execs, the Envy machines boast high-end features like aluminum and magnesium construction, switchable graphics for performance or power management, Radiance screens claimed to be twice as bright as competing models, and a Slim Fit "slice" format battery said to be good for up to 18 hours of power. Seriously, HP is claiming 18 hours of battery life for this thing, though it does add a bit of bloat to the Envy 13's svelte .8-inch thinness and 3.74 pound weight. Like most thin and light notebooks, the Envy 13 doesn't come with an optical drive, but it doesn't even have an Ethernet connection -- you need a USB adapter for that.

HP Envy 13_left facing open on white The HP Envy 13 is luxurious... and expensive!

At 1-inch thick and just over 5 pounds, the Envy 15 should have enough room for everything you need to make it your primary machine. And it packs in 16 GB of 1,066-MHz RAM, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4830 graphics with 1 GB of dedicated RAM, up to two RAID-0 SSD drives, and full versions of Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 and Corel VideoStudio Pro X2. Oddly, though, the designers couldn't seem to find space for an optical drive.

For me, the Envy machines seemed a little over the top, with metal etching for needless decoration helping to drive prices to a whopping $1700 for the Envy 13 and $1800 for the Envy 15! After all, have you been concerned that your notebook's screen isn't bright enough? And do you really need a "Beats by Dr. Dre" sound system -- on your laptop? On the other hand, the lack of "crapware" and the tiny AC power adapter are laptop luxuries I could learn to love -- when the Envy ships next month.

A More Reasonable Alternative
The Envy machines look great, but they are priced out of the reasonable range for most SMBs. But that doesn't mean small and midsize companies don't need powerful, mobile laptops that won't embarrass them on the plane or in a client meeting.

That's where HP's ProBook line comes in, and the new ProBook 5310m represents a significant upgrade from the ProBook 4510s I reviewed recently.


Don't Miss -- Review: HP ProBook 4510s Takes SMB Notebooks In A New Direction


As the first in the new ProBook M series, anodized aluminum replaces the older model's smudge-attracting plastic case, and the good-looking and spill-resistant chiclet keyboard gets a new "Duralex" coating. It's got 802.11n Wi-Fi, and optional Gobi 3G wireless broadband. A 320GB hard drive and 2GB RAM are standard.

With a 13.3-inch (1366 x 768) screen, the 5310m is less than an inch thick and weighs 3.7 pounds - and the standard 4-cell battery promises 6.5 hours of operation. A separate Linux partition -- for HP QuickWeb and QuickLook-- allows quick booting of a Web browser and the ability to access (read and write) Outlook calendar and contacts

The flip side of the smaller size -- once again -- is lack of an optical drive, which may disqualify it from use as a full desktop replacement.

ProBook 5310m frontright
The HP ProBook 5310 is small, stylish, and affordable.

While much sleeker than the ProBook 4510s, the 5310m looks like an ugly stepchild compared to the Envy models. On the other hand, it starts at $699 with an Intel Celeron dual-core low-voltage processor or $899 with a full-power Intel Core 2 Duo SP9300 chip.

Let's Get Small
If those machines are still too big for your needs, HP also announced a new netbook with an 11.6-inch screen and 92%-of-normal-size keyboard that pushes the size boundaries of the category. In other ways, though, the $399 device is a typical netbook, with Windows XP, 1GB of RAM, 160GB hard drive, and Intel N270 Atom processor.

HP Mini 311 - front facing open The HP Mini 311 is small for a notebook, but big for a netbook.

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