CES: HP gets touchy with new touch-enabled netbooks, notebooks

It’s time to start touching your netbook, and reports of the death of the desktop computer have been greatly exaggerated. Those are among the themes emerging from PC vendor Hewlett Packard (NYSE: HPQ) as it debuted a host of new product offerings this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

In a busy product launch on Wednesday, HP lifted the curtain on three netbooks, seven notebooks, four desktops, a workstation, four displays and a notebook projector companion. HP held a preview briefing for members of the media late in 2009.

Highlighting the launch is a new generation of netbooks from HP that, for the first time, integrate touch screen capability. That’s the HP Mini 5102, the vendor’s first touch-enabled netboook designed for both students and mobile professionals. It features a metal base available in black, blue or red, and comes with features that include face-recognition log-in and a 95-per cent-sized QWERTY keyboard and touchpad. It boasts a 10.1” LED screen available in WSVGA or HD and is powered by an Intel Atom N450 processor. A student edition will also include special protection for backpack bumps and scrapes, and an optional handle for easy carrying. The 5102 weighs-in at 2.6 lbs, with US pricing starting at $399 and Canadian pricing still to be announced.

Kyle Thornton, worldwide category manager, ultra-lights and minis for HP, said the 5201 is the successor to HP’s Mini 5101 launched in July, and should prove popular with the education market. A GPS option is also available, and options such as Novell Suse Linux and Sled are supported as well as Microsoft Windows.

HP also has two new non-touch netbooks for 2010: the Mini 210 for consumers and the Mini 2102 for business. The minis are available in a range of colour and design options, and optional feature sinclude HD video playback, GPS and mobile broadband.

“They use the latest Intel Atom processor (the N450 1.766 GHz) and are the thinnest netbooks we’ve introduced yet, with battery life of five hours standard and 10-hours extended,” said Gabriel Mendoza, product manager, consumer notebooks with HP. “We’ve listened to feedback and designed a much more useable keyboard, with a more useable clickpad and buttons at the bottom.”

The new models weigh-in starting at 2.69 lbs and measure less than one-inch thin. They boast a 10.1” display with either standard or Brightview Infinity LED HD widescreen displaty, as well as a 92 per cent-size “island-style” keyboard. WLAN, a web cam and microphone are integrated. They support up to 1GB of RAM and 320 GB of storage. Pricing for both begins at $349 for Canada.

Several multimedia and cloud software options were also launched, including a storage service, one for media streaming, a content synching tool.

On the laptop front, HP launched seven new models at CES, highlighted by the HP TouchSmart tm2. The convertible, touch-enabled tm2 features an aluminum design with engraved illustration and converts to a slate for note-taking or sketching with a digital pen.

“It’s an elegant design that’s minimal but fully functional,” said Chuck Schalm, product manager, consumer PCs with HP. The tm2 weights 2.8 lbs and features a flat design that’s smaller and more light-weight than the previous generation. It’s powered by Intel Core 2 Duo processors and offers ATI Mobility Radeon discrete graphics as an option.

“Despite all this performance in a smaller chassis, this unit still runs quieter and cooler than previous generations,” said Schalm.

Canadian availability for the tm2 is expected in mid-February, with pricing starting at $1099.99.

Canadian availability has yet to be announced for the six other notebooks launched by HP at CES this week. The HP ProBook 6440b and 6540b over 14” and 15.6” HD LED-backlit screens respectively, along with a magnesium alloy support structure and metal alloy hinges. Weighing-in at 5lbs and 5.5lbs respectively, they’re powered by the Intel Core i7 platform. They’re available now in the US with pricing starting at US$949.

HP has also launched four new EliteBook notebook models. They all feature metal hinges with steel pin axels and reinforced display latches, are preloaded with HP’s SkyRoom video conferencing tool, and are configurable with Intel or Nvidia graphics. They’re also BFR and PVC free.

The EliteBook 8440w and 8540w mobile workstations are 14” and 15” models powered by Intel Core i7 processors, and are available now in the US starting at US$1,299 and US$1,499 respectively.

Also new is the HP Notebook Projector Companion. The compact projector measures four inches by three inches and weighs less than one pound, and is capable of projecting an image up to 60 inches from a distance of 8.5 feet. Available in the US on January 15, its priced starting at US$499.

On the desktop front, HP unveiled one new high performance consumer model and three new business models, as well as a new workstation model. John Gleason, worldwide product manager for consumer PCs with HP, said the desktop model has a lot of legs left in it yet.

“A lot of people still ask me, with all the different form factors available, why is the desktop PC still important,” said Gleason. “There clearly are a lot of advantages to owning a desktop, especially since we’ve seen consumers driving more towards large format photo and video, needing to be able to manage very large files. You need a desktop to drive these higher-level functions.”

HP is refreshing its desktops to reflect this evolving use case, with faster processors, more memory, and larger hard drives to handle multimedia, and Gleason said the high performance evolution of its product line is doing well in the market.

The HP Pavilion Elite HPE is HP’s new high performance consumer desktop. It offers a choice of processors, including future Intel Core processors, combined with high-speed graphics cards from NVIDIA and ATI. Pricing information was not available but availability was expected in early January in the US.

On the business front, HP boasts the HP Compaq 8100f Elite Business PC is its most environmentally-friendly business desktop, and is the industry’s first Windows-based desktop PC to be free of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). It’s equipped with Intel Core 2 Duo processors and Intel Q45 Express chipset supporting vPro technology and supports DDR3 memory. It will be available in Canada in mid-February starting at $939.

Also new are the HP Compaq 8100 and 8000 Elite Business PCs. The 8100 will be available on Feb. 1 starting at US$849, while the 8000 is available now starting at $799.

HP’s new workstation is the HP Z200. The vendor calls it an entry-level workstation that rivals desktop PCs in price, but opens up new performance capabilities for users in the government, education and SMB segments. It features future Intel Core dual-core processors and quad-core options based on the enterprise-class Intel® Xeon 3400 series with integrated memory controller. It will be available in February starting at $769.

Finally, HP also unveiled several new displays at CES. The HP ZR22w and ZR24w Performance Displays boast a new a new brushed aluminum industrial design, and will be available in Canada in late-February starting at $319.

The HP Compaq LE19f and HP Compaq LA22f Widescreen LCD Monitors are available in 19” and 22” diagonal sizes, are BFR/PVC-free and contain no mercury, and are HP‘s first to feature WLED low-power-consumption backlit panels. They will be available in Canada in late-February starting at $199.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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