By Harry McCracken | Monday, May 9, 2011 at 1:23 am
PC manufacturers like to draw sharp lines between their machines aimed at consumers and the ones built for business. In the real world, things aren’t that simple. I know consumers who like to buy business computers, since they’re often built at least a bit sturdier, aim for reliability rather than bleeding edge-components, feature industrial design that avoids the trendy, and typically come with better warranties. And I also know worker bees who like to get their hands on cool stuff fast and therefore buy consumer systems.
Lately, computer makers seem to be acknowledging that the line between consumery and businessy design is increasingly blurry. HP’s new ProBook 5330m notebook is a case in point: it’s HP’s first business notebook to come with Beats audio, the sound system endorsed by Dr. Dre. The 5330m also features HP’s “Forge” brushed-aluminum industrial design, whose basically philosphy is “Let’s try to make a business notebook that has a bit of style to it, without getting so splashy that it’ll turn off conservative buyers at big companies.” And it’s got a 13.3″ display and no optical drive, a form factor that was pretty darn scarce among corporate machines until recently.
The 5330m can be custom-configured with built-in 3G broadband, and if you get it you can opt for a new feature I think a lot of folks will like: DataPass, which lets you pay for access to broadband as you need it, rather than signing up for a contract. Options range from $5 for 75MB or five hours, whichever comes first to $30 for 1GB or 30 days. If you use the Internet incessantly (like I do), these choices offer too little capacity to make sense. But if you just need on-the-go access here and there–such as on the occasional business trip–they could be a cost-effective alternative to monthly plans or hotel Wi-Fi.
The new ProBook starts at $799, is available in Intel Core i3 and i5 versions, and is less than an inch thick and weighs 3.9 pounds. It’s available starting today.
High-quality sound on business notebooks, incidentally, seems to be a new trend: Lenovo recently announced new ThinkPads which are the first corporate-aimed laptops from any manufacturer to incorporate Dolby’s Home Theater 4 technology, which improves audio quality and can add a pretty effective virtual surround-sound effect.