So this whole thin and light philosophy is really in swing now, and manufacturers have begun to update their Ultrabook lineups with Intel’s Ivy Bridge chips as well as bring the rest of their lineup to design spec to match their thinner brothers. HP today revamped nearly its entire consumer lineup, so this will take some going through.
On the consumer side, the Pavilion series gets a major design switch to a very stylish range of colours and new brushed aluminium panels for various parts of the chassis. HP calls the new lid design “Mosaic”, and HP says that it combines rich colours, premium materials and purposeful shapes to create a work of art. Speaking of art, if you had to put all the lids from the newly-design laptops together, you’d be able to lay them out to complete a much bigger mosaic.
The Pavilion M6 is the first up which comes close to Ultrabook slimness, but includes a DVD drive, 15.6″ LED HD LCD (yes, that’s right, an HD screen, not this 1360 x 768 crap), a choice of AMD or Intel processors and up to eight hours of battery life. There’s also an optional backlit keyboard, Beats Audio by Dr. Dre with a subwoofer and a discrete graphics card (think Nvidia GT640M) for light gaming, video and photo editing. Note the tapered end of the lid, allowing the screen a much larger angel of tilt than most laptops. Pricing is yet to be determined, but it’ll compete favourably compared to the high price tags of Ultrabook devices. This might not land on our shores as I’m told its exclusive to Best Buy and Amazon, but anything’s possible.
The rest of the Pavilion series gets a revamp as well. The DV6, DV7 and DV4 get the new brushed aluminium chassis, with the DV4 coming in black, white and red colour options. There are soft-touch plastics at the bottom of the lid to improve grip when carrying the notebook and Beats-approved speakers integrated into the display’s bezel at the top and sides. The DV range offers Intel processors at the moment, but AMD options will become available throughout the year. Standard is an HD Webcam and HP’s ProtectSmart technology, as well as discrete graphics options. Pricing starts at $549.99 for the DV4 and DV6, (approx R4415.29 before import taxes and levies) and $799.99 for the DV7 (approx R6422.28). It doesn’t help adoption rates here in S.A. though, as the current retail price of the entry-level DV7 stands at R14,000, quite high for most buyers and easily within range of the Alienware M14x.
The Pavilion G6 and G7 get a new touch as well, upgrading the plastic chassis with more shiny options and a range of colours to choose from. The G6 range is more popular with home users and professionals who don’t have the cash for the DV range of laptops, yet still need some decent power to get work done. The G-series follows the same basic cues of the M6 with the tapered bottom and of the laptop and the slimmer DVD drive, bringing the laptop’s design closer to 2012-esque ideas. It might not compete with the Ultrabooks, but its a great choice in its own right. Some are even practical gaming options. The other optional colours are black, white, purple and pink. The G6 starts at a retail price of $449.99 (approx R3612.50) while the G7 starts at $499.99 (approx R4013.89) for the lowest-spec version.
In the Ultrabook segment, HP’s Envy range is geared towards both high-powered home users and business professionals. The Envy range has been selling so well for business-use that HP can’t keep up with demand, and this revamp will hopefully make the brand more prominent in the market that’s getting very slowly swamped with Ultrabook options. The Envy SpectreXT tops out the range with a 13.3″ HD LED LCD, eight hours of battery life, a range of Intel Ivy Bridge chips, 128GB solid state storage, USB3.0 and HDMI-out.
In a way, the Ultrabook market is shaping up a lot like the current state of the Windows Phone offerings – same OS, same basic hardware design inside, with the OEMs allowed to customise their designs as long as they’re within specific limitations. Like the M6 and the Pavilion range, the SpectreXT features Beats Audio, an HD webcam and an all-aluminium chassis. The SpectreXT also comes with free editions of Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 and Premiere Elements for video and photo editing on the go, as well as a dedicated support line for SpectreXT buyers. The SpectreXT will begin retailing for $999 (approx – oh just sell my kidney, okay? Seriously, R8019.92) from the 8th June in the U.S. There’s also the XT Pro, designed for businesses (but essentially the same thing).
The rest of the Envy lineup for consumers comes in 14″ and 15.6″ flavours (take that, Macbook Pro 15!) and comes with all the upgrades seen today along with mSATA, up to nine hours battery life, Intel’s Rapid-Start Technology and a different finish on the lid, further taking the Mosaic concept through HP’s entire lineup. If you’re an eager Apple fan waiting to see what the new Macbooks will offer this year, this is roughly what you can expect Apple to bring to the table. One crucial difference – these both have DVD drives, slot-loading ones, on the top left side of the notebook. The Envy 14t starts from $749.99 (approx R6020.88) and the 15t (pictured below) will retail for $799.99 (approx R6422.28).
Also in the works is a new model, the Sleekbook. Now while it may come with Intel processors and for all intents and purposes look and feel like the regular Envy range, the Sleekbook family will also offer AMD’s Brazos 2.0 and Trinity APUs as options for buyers. It includes the updates from the rest of the family, but comes in two paint jobs – the boring grey steel and the undoubtedly sexy Hero Black and Red. There’s just something about that colour scheme that leaves me at a loss for words. Laptops and Ultrabooks of late have looked very boring, but this could be a sleeper hit. No mention is made of which processors or APUs will be available, but its going to end up as the spiritual replacement for the Alienware M11x anyway thanks to Trinity’s promised graphics prowess. Prices start at $699.99 (approx R5619.48 and I’m so hoping local pricing is similar) for the 14-incher, while the 15.6″ model will hit U.S. stores in mid-June at $599.99 (approx R4816.69).
Finally, for those whose IT departments haven’t gone crazy over the Dell XPS13, have them look at the HP Folio 9470m. Yes, its an Ultrabook again, but HP is creeping up on Dell’s market share in the business and enterprise segment with their “Software as a Service” motto. The Folio range (yes, there’ll be more) comes with optional 4G modems, VGA and Displayport connectors, new docking stations, a nine-hour battery life and the option for a second extended battery to fit under the Ultrabook, giving it up to twelve hours of operating time. Its different because the battery is user-replaceable and the back panel can be opened, a must-have for businesses who have to support multiple devices which need fixing in a short period of time. Ordinarily Ultrabooks have to be sent back for repair by the manufacturer due to their high level of complexity and extreme price.
The Folio range also comes with HP-approved Enterprise management and tracking apps, and also comes with Smart Card and TPM security measures, as well as HP Bios Protection and HP’s Business set of Antivirus software which doesn’t require CD keys and auto-manages all viruses and potential threats to provide peace of mind. Price? If you’re asking, you can’t afford it, period. You have to be an enterprise-level business to even get prices quoted for you.