By Harry McCracken | Monday, September 14, 2009 at 9:38 pm
We’re a little over a month away from the launch of Windows 7–which means that a lot of new PCs are also imminent. Tonight, HP is announcing a bunch of new laptops, along with one desktop. I had a chance to see them recently; herewith, some thoughts.
I was most taken with two new notebooks called the Envy13 and Envy15. These 13- and 15-inch models are the successors to the Envy 133, an extremely slick machine from HP subsidiary Voodoo PC, and their appearance presumably marks the end of Voodoo as a separate brand. The new Envys are unquestionably aimed at the sort of well-heeled, style-conscious computer buyers who might otherwise buy MacBook Pros–they’ve got cases that combine aluminum and magnesium (which HP says provides a better balance of lightness and strength than Apple’s all-aluminum unibody design), touchpads with integrated buttons (yes, like Apple’s), bright screens, function keys that (unlike most on Windows PCs) don’t make you press the Fn key, and “slice” extended batteries that make them a bit thicker . (HP says that the Envy13′s extended battery will power it for 18 hours.)
Judging from the examples HP showed me, the Envys are every bit as Lexus-like in build quality as MacBook Pros. The Envy13 weighs 3.74lbs and is .8″ thick; it has a Core 2 Duo CPU and switchable ATI graphics (integrated or discrete, selectable on the fly). The 15 weighs 5.18lbs and is an inch thick, and packs a Core i7 CPU and discrete ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4830 graphics.
Nobody in Microsoft’s “Laptop Hunters” ads will be buying the Envys–they start at $1699 (13-inch) and $1799 (15-inch), prices which are higher than the low-end configurations of the Apple models they’ll compete with. Here’s the 15-inch version, and here’s a gallery of images of the 13-inch model.
At a very different price point, I also liked the new Mini 311, an 11.6-inch netbook, and one of the few on the market with a screen that’s bigger than 10.1 inches. The PC industry may have mixed feelings at best about netbooks, but I know a lot of folks who like them, and the big screen and comfy keyboard on this one eliminate two of the downsides of smaller ones. The 311 will compete with new thin-and-light notebooks that carry more powerful Intel ultra-low voltage CPUs and higher prices, but it uses an Intel Atom CPU (and Nvidia’s Ion chipset) and costs a thrifty $399, so it’s definitely a netbook. Here it is–and here’s a gallery with more images.
HP is also announcing the MS200 All-in-One PC, a basic and straightforward model in an iMac-like case. It’s no high-end TouchSmart–it’s got an AMD Athlon-X2 CPU, 2GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive, and an 18.5-inch screen, and both the mouse and keyboard are wired. But the starting price is right at $599.
If the Envy13 is too rich for your blood, you might take a look at the ProBook 5310m, which starts at $699. It’s another 13-inch model that still has an upscale aluminum case and a Core 2 Duo CPU, weighs in at 3.9 pounds and is .9″ thick (HP calls it the world’s thinnest “full performance” notebook).
The Pavilion DM3 is a new consumer thin-and-light in an aluminum case with a 13.3: screen: It’s 4.2lbs and less than an inch thick, comes in AMD Athlon-X2 and Intel Pentium variants, and starts at $699.
Lastly, there’s a new version of HP’s Mini 110 netbook in a case designed by Tord Boontje using a process HP calls Imprint 3D. The ornate animal pattern is indeed in 3D, layered in clear plastic. I’m not a big fan of elaborately-patterned laptop cases myself, but this one has a kinda hypnotic effect–the longer you gaze at it, the more details you notice. Unlike HP’s pricey Vivienne Tam Minis, this one isn’t a limited edition and costs a netbookishly affordable $399.
This photo doesn’t do it justice:
Whew–that’s a lot of PCs. Look for all of them to be widely available once Windows 7 ships–and I hope to get hands-on review time with at least a couple of them.