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HP ups the notebook ante

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At HP’s Global Influencer Summit in Shanghai last week, SEAN BACHER was overwhelmed with new products ‚ led by the new range of Ultrabooks and Sleekbooks.

At last week’s HP Global Influencer Summit in Shanghai, China, no less than 80 new products were unveiled. However, HP’s new Ultrabook and Sleekbook ranges were the showstoppers.

First up was HP’s flagship Ultrabook, the HP Envy Spectre XT. An upgrade on HP’s original Ultrabook contender – the HP Envy 14 Spectre ‚ it offers a 13‚ display, 128GB or 256GB Solid State Drive (SSD) and is powered by an Intel Core i5 processor with 4GB of RAM. According to HP, the Spectre XT is positioned as a business Ultrabook and therefore does not lack any of the functions or features found on its Elite family of notebooks. For example, it includes two full-sized USB 3.0 and an HDMI port. ‚ and a fold-out Ethernet jack: the first time I have seen one on an Ultrabook. These additional ports do however compromise the Ultrabook in terms of size, as it measures 14.5mm thick and weighs 1.4 kg.

The Spectre XT appears to perform well on the multimedia side. As with all new HP Envy notebooks, this one pumps Beats Audio, which is complemented by four speakers, a high-definition 1366X768 display and a high-definition web camera. HP says the Spectre XT will last up to eight hours on a single battery charge. At a starting price of around R10 000, it will make a great top-of-the-line Ultrabook.

Potentially its biggest marketing drawback will be the association of the term ‚XT‚ with the original Intel processors for mass-market computers. It was also associated with slow, entry-level computers. The Spectre is anything but.

Realising that consumers want an ultra-portable notebook choice, HP also unveiled a range of Envy Sleekbooks last week. The major difference is that the Sleekbooks use AMD’s Trinity Architecture with A-10 or A-8 APUs (Accelerated Processing Unit), compared to the Intel i5 or i3 processors found in its Ultrabooks. In other words, closer to a tablet battery than a PC battery.

The first two Sleekbooks to show off the new AMD architecture were the HP Envy 4 and Envy 6. The former uses a 14‚ display with a resolution of 1366X768 and powered by the AMD A-10 APU. Added to this is a Radeon HD 7620G graphics chip which, says HP, makes it great for work and for play.

The Envy 6 is the Envy 4’s bigger brother and sports a 15,6‚ display with the same resolution. It uses the same AMD APU and graphics chip. Both machines offer superior multimedia, with Beats Audio, quad speakers and a sub-woofer to boot.

One drawback is the Sleekbook’s size. It measuries19.8 millimetres thick, making it substantially thicker than an Ultrabook. That said, the Sleekbooks do offer two USB 3.0, a USB 2.0, HDMI and fold out Ethernet port.

An entry-level HP Sleekbook will retail for R8 000 and will be available in June.

HP did not forget its mainstream Pavilion notebooks. These now fall under its Mosaic design philosophy, which HP says means that they not only perform better, but look more appealing.

For example, the upgraded Pavilion dv4, dv6 and dv7 feature a curvier chassis, a brushed aluminium casing and a more comfortable palm rest. All the new Pavilions also include Beats Audio.

The upgraded Pavilion dv4 and dv6 notebook will cost R4 400, while the dv7 will retail for R6 000.

HP ended off its notebook announcements with the unveiling of the Pavilion m6. When you first look at it, you may think that it is an Ultrabook or Sleekbook, but in fact is neither. Thanks to clever design, the Pavilion m6 is an ultra slim notebook with a 15.6‚ screen. It features Beats Audio, a backlit keyboard and is available with either an AMD or Intel processor.

The HP Pavilion m6 is expected to be available in June for a price of around R6 000.

On the evidence presented in Shanghai, HP’s notebook legacy is not about to disappear.

* Follow Sean on Twitter on @seanbacher

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