First Impressions: The New HP Laptops

by Reads (32,631)

This week HP launched plenty of new notebooks, including models in the dv, dm, and ENVY series, but the debuts might have left you wondering what’s changed or what happened behind the scenes to spur the decisions. We talked with many product managers in New York City last month to find out how they updated many of their new models.

ENVY 14 and 17
The new ENVY 14 and 17 keep the same look and feel as previous ENVY models, but they have been bumped up in size. Users and reviewers told HP that ENVY models should be cheaper and more powerful, and HP listened. The HP ENVY 14 and 17 now have more powerful Intel processors and ATI discrete graphics.

To increase performance levels of the smaller ENVY model without breaking the bank, HP slightly increased the size of the notebook, allowing the ENVY 14 to fit a Core i7 processor and more powerful ATI graphics. The previous ENVY 13 used the low-voltage SL9600 Core 2 Duo and Mobility Radeon 4330 graphics, which pales in comparison to what the ENVY 14 now offers.

ENVY 14 Specifications:
• 14.5-inch HD Radiance display with up to 1600 x 900 resolution
• Intel Core i5 and Core i7 processors
• ATI Mobility Radeon 5650
• Optional WWAN/3G
• Size: 1.1-inches thin and weighs 5.25 pounds
• Starting price: $999

The new ENVY 17 enters the world as a very powerful gaming notebook. With a $1,399 starting price, HP was able to bump the stock graphics card from the ATI Mobility Radeon 5830 to the Radeon 5850. HP showed off the performance of the new ENVY 17 with a “DiRT 2” demo playing across three 1920 x 1200 monitors. Not only was the ENVY 17 able to render the game across three monitors, it was at a fluid and playable framerate.

Studio-quality Beats Audio sound system

The sound system was the next area HP improved. Partnering with Beats Audio, they worked from the ground up on recreating studio quality music from a notebook. With redesigned circuitry combined with equalizer tweaks, they greatly improved sound output, akin to hearing music in a studio. For the average user, this means more accurate sound and cleaner audio output without interference from noisy electronic components.

ENVY 17 Specifications:
• 17.3-inch Ultra BrightView display with up to 1080p resolution
• Intel Core i5 and Core i7 processors
• ATI Mobility Radeon 5850 with 1GB GDDR5
• Dual-hard drive support
• Beats Audio System with HP Triple Bass Reflex Subwoofer
• Starting price: $1,399

Pavilion dv5, dv6 and dv7: Less is More
I talked with some product managers who were working on the new dv-series models. The new theme from the designers falls under the mantra “less is more.” The previous dv-series was loaded with glitzy features like touch-sensitive media buttons with LED-lighting, high-megapixel Web cameras, and cramped keyboards with full number pads. The number pad was a feature a lot of people thought they wanted at the time of purchase, but after the “cool purchase feeling” wore off they found themselves with a case of buyer’s remorse. The keyboard was difficult and uncomfortable to type on. On the next generation of dv-series notebooks, only the 17-inch model will be getting a numberpad.

Fingerprints are annoying
After years of shipping laptops with glossy screen covers and palm rests, HP has admitted that while the finishes are attractive when clean, they’re also a fingerprint magnet. The improved HP Imprint finishes use a combination of both matte and glossy textures, providing a stylish look without showing fingerprints. I had the chance to play with one of these models up close at a recent press event. Despite being handled repeatedly, the notebook maintained a much cleaner look.  The new designs won’t prevent all fingerprints from appearing, but you won’t have to worry about carrying around a cleaning cloth, either.

Button-less touchpads

The Synaptics ClickPad is another cool feature that was inherited from the last generation ENVY-series. To keep the flow of clean lines and maximize the multi-touch space, HP went with the ClickPad and removed the physical touchpad buttons. In the past, we haven’t had the best luck with the all-in-one touchpads outside of Apple’s MacBook, so it will be interesting to see how well the newest generation works out.

Touch-sensitive buttons hit the chopping block and new low-light webcams

Quick-access media keys and high-megapixel webcams were the next items on the chopping block. It turns out those large touch-sensitive buttons with LED lights actually draw power. By removing touch-sensitive features and LED lights, HP was able to increase battery life. The commonly used buttons were left on the keyboard function row as quick-access buttons taking over the older function keys. It also has the added side effect of improving tactile feel while also giving physical feedback so you know which command has been pressed.

High megapixel webcams look great on spec sheets, but low-light performance is poor. Users complained that video looked choppy or grainy, so HP now uses lower resolution webcams that are much more sensitive to light. In fact, the new cameras can function well only using light emitted by the screen in a pitch black room!

HP Mini 210: Eye-popping 3D finish

The HP Mini 210 has two design elements that are going to change the way users look at modern notebooks. While I can’t say I am a huge fan of the color – it’s “preppy” pink and I prefer matte black – the method HP used to create the plaid design blows me away. The new paint scheme is 3-D, but not gimmicky like you might expect. HP used a multilayer process to create the pink finish, where you can actually see depth. Top layers cast shadows on lower layers, giving the finish a life of its own. I really hope the 3-D finish makes its way into the larger HP notebooks.

Screwdriver-less upgrades

Once you pick your jaw up off the floor from drooling over the innovative design, you find another cool feature HP incorporated into the Mini 210: the entire back cover can be removed without tools. With the cover removed, you have access to the hard drive, wireless cards, and memory for easy upgrades. If you are nervous about dealing with a pile of small screws when upgrading a notebook, you will love the design.

 

AMD Processors now in more notebooks than ever

On its May 5 notebook refresh, HP launched 14 consumer and business notebooks that can now be configured with a wide range of AMD processors. AMD is making a huge push in the notebook space where it has otherwise been the ugly stepchild for the past few years. Previously, most AMD-based notebooks were generally low-end and had slow configurations. This gave the consumer the impression that AMD was slow and Intel is what you had to pick if you wanted a high-performance system. Finally, that is going to change.

Consumers will now be able to pick from a wide range of AMD processors, including the AMD Phenom II, Turion II, Athlon, and V-series processors in most notebooks. On the business notebook side, HP made a huge deal out of the new AMD chipsets being more powerful and way more power efficient than the previous generation, claiming up to 69% higher performance and 72% longer battery life.

Stay tuned for more coverage on these exciting new HP notebooks, including upcoming reviews on many of these redesigned models.

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