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The hottest business notebooks for fall

We look at the new models from Dell, HP, Toshiba and Eurocom

Dell, HP and Toshiba have all announced new business-class notebooks for the fall season, and <a href="http://www.itbusiness.ca/it/client/en/Home/News.asp?id=49871&bSearch=True"the focus is on battery life, weight, durability and security.

Dell’s campaign addresses mobile professionals who need to be always connected, everywhere they go. The company announced two breakthrough features for the fall – Latitude mainstream E6400 and E6500 models can support an extended 19-hour battery life, while the E4200 and E4300 ultra-portables are equipped for the upcoming instant-access-to-email-and-Web feature (no booting into main OS necessary) called Latitude On.

HP is focusing on faster hard drives, more processor options and increased durability for its new ultra-portable Elitebooks. The company made specific adjustments to the new 2730p and 2530p based on feedback from customers using the models’ predecessors. The new S-series Compaq will be available to Canadian business users who shop at retail in October. HP is also preparing for mobile broadband with an optional module that supports multiple networks.

Toshiba’s big feature for the new Satellite Pro and Tecra series is Intel’s fifth-generation Centrino 2 processor, which also enhances battery life.

Increases to sound and security are also taking place in the form of high definition audio and Webcam facial recognition. Addressing durability, Tecra’s come equipped with shock absorbers and spill-resistant keyboards.

Feature check

Weight and battery remain top user concerns. How Dell, HP and Toshiba are holding up.

Battery Dell currently leads the race in longest battery life. With a nine-cell battery plus the optional 12-cell battery slice (a $410 add-on), the Latitude Mainstream models provide up to 19 hours on a single charge.

Extended battery attachments from HP can provide a full day’s worth of battery – up to 11 hours, according to Leroux.

The standard two to three hour battery life is “unacceptable at this point,” said Kudera. By incorporating Intel’s new Centrino 2 platform, which provides a 15 to 20 per cent increase in battery life just by the design of the chipset, Toshiba offers an advantage without touching a thing. With 6- and 9-cell batteries standard on most machines, users can now expect a battery life of four to eight hours.

If you go to extreme high-end performance notebooks, you’re not going to get six or seven hours of battery life, said Eurocom CTO Mark Bialic. Battery expectations for Eurocom’s customizable high-performance notebooks are roughly 2 to 2.5 hours. When you buy a race car, you don’t expect a fuel consumption of five litres for 100 kilometres, he pointed out.

Weight By adding more magnesium to the design and getting rid of heavier metals, Toshiba is shifting to an average four-pound weight barrier for most notebooks, said Kudera. Opting for a solid state drive instead of a bulky mechanical drive also helps.

HP’s Illumi-Lite LED display panel has a lighter weight, consumes less battery power and provides brighter screens and better resolution, said Leroux.

Go further: Efforts to increase mobility are in progress

Toshiba is planning to increase screen visibility in bright sunlight. The indoor/outdoor transflective display technology is expected to launch on the Protégé notebook line, said Kudera. A timeframe was not provided.

HP is gearing up for wireless broadband connectivity by featuring embedded broadband around the Nov/Dec timeframe. Developed by Qualcomm, the modules use Gobi technology and rely on one global SKU that will work on any carrier’s network, explained Leroux.

Specifically targeting the next-generation mobile professional, Dell promises its upcoming Latitude On feature will provide “always on, instant access” to e-mail, calendars, attachments, contacts and the Web using a dedicated low-voltage sub-processor. Operating like a smart phone, Latitude On notebooks will let users bypass booting into the main OS, keeping them connected to the online world.

The models in detail.

Toshiba Tecra A10-00Q

$1349 15” 6.38 lbs

The user: Sales managers

The specs: Intel Core2Duo P8400 2.26GHz; 2GB DDR2; 160GB 5400RPM; Mobile Intel GMA X4500; 1280 x 800; DVD+/-RW; 802.11 a/g/draft-n 1.3MP

The extras: Webcam with business card reader; Fingerprint reader; Spill-resistant keyboard; Dual mouse; Sleep ‘n Charge

Toshiba’s theme for fall is the CPU upgrade to Intel’s Centrino 2, according to Toshiba Canada’s product manager Jerome Kudera.

The touchpad and Accupoint “eraserhead” have been incorporated as a dual-mouse feature, so users no longer have to choose between one or the other.

USB Sleep ‘n Charge ports allow users to power devices such as mobile phones, provided the machine is either plugged in or has battery life remaining.

A new security feature takes advantage of the Webcam for facial recognition log on. “We’ve always had fingerprint readers and multiple-level passwords,” said Kudera.

The Webcam also comes with business card reader software that uses Optical Character Recognition to translate a snapshot into an address book entry.

The spill-resistant keyboard provides additional durability, as does the shock-absorbing design.

Battery life: 6-cell battery lasts up to four hours, 90 per cent recharge in one hour.

Environmental credentials: EPEAT Silver, Energy Star 4.0, RoHS.

Dell Latitude E6500

$2056 15” 6.1 lbs

The user: Consultants Freelancers

The specs: Intel Core2Duo P8400 2.4GHz; 2GB DDR2; 160GB 5400RPM; Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD; 1280×800; 8X; DVD+/_RW; 802.11 a/b/g/-draft-n; Bluetooth 2.1

The extras: Extended battery slice; 2MP Webcam; Smart Card reader; Backlit keyboard; USB charging

Watch the videoInside Dell’s all-day laptop (approx. 4 min)Pricing starts at $1,281, but optional upgrades are necessary to make this machine truly suitable for that on-the-go mobile professional who doesn’t rely on office space. This includes the 9-cell battery plus 12-cell extended battery slice, draft-n wireless speeds, backlit keyboard, Webcam for videoconferencing, DVD writer, 2GB RAM upgrade and 160GB hard drive.

The big splash is the 19-hour extended battery life, but the backlit keyboard with auto-adjust capabilities, contact-less Smart Card reader and FIPS-certified fingerprint reader are also new to the Latitude Mainstream line. Several hard drive options are also available, such as a 120GB encrypted hard drive, a 64GB solid state drive and 7200RPM drives with protective free fall sensors.

Tracking and remote data delete services are provided by subscription. Users can also charge external peripherals through the notebook’s USB port. Dell also introduced colour to the enterprise space and will offer Mainstream models in Regatta Blue, Regal Red and Mica-Brushed Metal starting in September.

Battery life: 9-cell battery with 12-cell battery slice lasts up to 19 hours.

Environmental credentials: EPEAT Gold, Energy Star 4.0.

HP Elitebook 2530p

$2154 12” 3.19 lbs

The user: Senior Management

The specs: Intel Core2Duo; 3GB DDR2; 120GB 5400RPM; Mobile Intel GMA X4500; 1280 x 800; DVD+/-RW; 802.11 a/b/g/ draft-n; HP un2400 EV-DO/ HSPA mobile broadband module; Bluetooth

The extras: 2.0 2MP Webcam with business card reader; Smart; Card reader; Fingerprint reader; Encrypted hard drive; Touchpad plus pointstick; Nightlight

In response to customer feedback, HP revved up performance by switching from an ultra-low voltage processor with 4200RPM to 5400RPM hard drives with the option of low- or ultra-low voltage, said HP Canada’s notebook product manager Darren Leroux. A top-of-the-line 80GB solid state drive is also available, but wasn’t included in our executive-class specs as pricing and availability is scheduled for October. Intel processor details were also not available at press time.

The 2530p’s compact 12-inch size and light 3-pound weight increases the comfort level of frequent business travel. Designed to meet MIL-STD 810F military standards for dust, temperature and humidity, this business-rugged machine will also hold its own against the rigors of travel. It features the HP DuraCase anodized aluminum exterior with a magnesium alloy chassis and HP DuraKeys to protect the keyboard.

Strong security features safeguard corporate data in the form of a Smart Card reader, fingerprint reader and drive encryption. FileSanitizer provides disk erase and shred tools that meet U.S. DoD standards by re-writing the hard drive up to 10 passes. An embedded TPM security chip will provide remote wipe and search capabilities through a Computrace subscription from Absolute Software. If users forget their password, the new StairKey security feature will ask three pre-set personal questions instead – a good alternative to wasting a half hour in an unlock-and-reset password procedure with the IT department, Leroux pointed out.

The QuickLook shortcut button allows users to bypass the OS and view calendar, e-mail, tasks and contracts in roughly 10 seconds. (Unlike Dell’s upcoming Latitude On, you can’t edit info or connect to a network.)

The 2530p will be available to resellers by the end of this month.

Battery life: 9-cell battery lasts up to 11 hours.

Environmental credentials: EPEAT Gold, eStar.

Eurocom Montebello M570U

$3948 17” 8.6 lbs

The user: Production Engineering/R&D

The specs: Intel QX9300 Quad Core Extreme; 4GB DDR3-1333; 320GB 7200RPM (128GB Solid State available); NVIDIA 9800GTX 1GB; WUXGA 1920 x 1200; 8X DVD+/-RW

The extras: 2MP webcam; 2GB turbo memory; HDMI, eSATA and DVI ports

This is a gaming machine, but still worth checking out. Extreme high-performance notebooks provide a glimpse into the future of enterprise-class lines. Eurocom’s fully upgradeable desktop replacement technology lengthens the lifespan of their high-end notebook products in more ways than one, suggested Eurocom CTO Mark Bialic. “We have the latest stuff. This is going to come from other vendors…in maybe six months or so.”

According to Bialic, Eurocom’s technology is one year ahead of commercialized technology, which results in an extra year of lifespan on the technology side. The extreme high-performance notebooks also boast superior strength in their physical design, he said. But the key to extended lifespan is maintenance, said Bialic. Removing dust build-up within the machine will prevent the danger of overheating – a major cause of electronic component failure, he explained. Likening notebooks to cars, Bialic reminds users to perform their oil changes. Eurocom clients can receive a yearly tune-up service.

Eurocom’s latest notebook, the M570TU Montebello, is built for ultimate gaming and application performance.