A closer look at HP's new laptop lines

This week the world's largest PC company revamped much of its laptop line. Though several of these new models offer Intel processors, the new lineup is also a win for competitor AMD.
Written by John Morris, Contributor

This week the world's largest PC company revamped much of its laptop line. In all, there are 15 new laptops, plus some tweaks to its Mini netbooks. Mostly these new models bring HP up to date with the latest processors and graphics, but they include some changes on the outside as well such as optional brushed metal cases on most Pavilion laptops.

Though several of these new models offer Core i3/i5 and Core i7 processors, the new lineup is also a win for competitor AMD. More than a dozen of the new laptops will also offer the AMD Vision and Vision Pro platforms, which will combine upcoming AMD processors, including some branded Phenom II, with ATI Mobility Radeon graphics.

The Envy line, HP's answer to the MacBook and MacBook Pro, with its high-performance components such as discrete graphics and a relatively thin metal alloy case, already includes 13- and 15.6-inch models. Now HP is rounding out the line with the Envy 14 and Envy 17. Both can be configured with either 32nm Arrandale dual-core Core i5 or 45nm Clarksfield quad-core Core i7 processors (the Envy 14 is also available with the Core i3). The Envy 14 has switchable graphics combining Intel's HD graphics with AMD's ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 with 1GB of graphics memory; the desktop replacement Envy 17 uses the more powerful Radeon 5850 with 1GB. Like other Envy models, the new ones have a magnesium/aluminum alloy case with an etched design.

HP claims the Envy 14 is "one of the thinnest and lightest quad-core notebooks available in the world." It measures 14.0 by 9.3 by 1.1 inches and weighs 5.3 pounds. Apple doesn't have a 14-inch laptop, but the new 15.4-inch MacBook Pro, which also offers the quad-core Core i7, is one inch thick and weighs 5.6 pounds. Based on a bright 14.5-inch display (1600x900), the Envy 14 has up 8GB of system memory, a standard hard drive or SSD, and a slot-loading DVD burner. It starts at $1,000 and will be available in the U.S. beginning June 27.

The Envy 17 will offer two different 17.3-inch displays: a 1600x900 and Full HD (1920x1080). It can also be configured with up to two 1TB hard drives (a hard drive and a 160GB SSD is also an option), as well as up to 8GB of system memory. The Envy 17 will start at $1,400 and will be available in the U.S beginning May 19.

The more mainstream Pavilion also received a refresh. Like the pricier Envy laptops, three models-the Pavilion dm4, dv6 and dv7-are now available with a metallic finish. The dv5, dv6 and dv7 are still available with the standard Imprint finish as well. The dm4 is a 14-inch laptop designed for the road-it's less than an inch thick at the front (thicker at the back) and weighs only 4.4 pounds. It will start at $730. The new Pavilion dv5 has a 14.5-inch display--like the Envy 14--and will start at $649.99. The 15.6-inch dv6 is HP's first Pavilion consumer notebook with a touchscreen, typically an option on ultraportables like the TouchSmart tm2t and EliteBook 2740p. The dv6 will start at $700. Finally the desktop replacement dv7, which has the 1600x900 17.3-inch display, will start at $850. The dv5, dv6 and dv7 are also available with upcoming AMD processors and Radeon 5000 series graphics. All of these will be available beginning May 19.

On the business side, HP announced nine new models in the ProBook-s series, ProBook-b series, as well as the budget HP 425 and HP 625. The three ProBook-s models-with 13.3-, 14- and 15.6-inch displays-are based on AMD processors with integrated or discrete graphics. The 14-inch ProBook 4425s will start at $620; HP hasn't announced pricing or availability for the other two models. The higher-priced ProBook-b series, which includes 14- and 15.6-inch models, is available with either Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 or AMD processors. The Intel-based configurations will start at $860 while models with AMD chips will start $780. Most of these new models will be available in June, though the 14-inch ProBook 4425s will be available earlier. Finally the 14-inch HP 425 and 15.6-inch HP 625, which are AMD-based, will start at $550.

Other HP models that use AMD processors include the Pavilion dm1, dm3 and several HP Compaq-branded models. This week AMD sent an e-mail to tech journalists outlining its recent graphics wins, not only with HP, but also with Acer, Asus, Dell, Gateway, Sony and others. It does seem like AMD is starting to get some traction with its combination of lower-priced processors and very good graphics. But we'll need to wait until AMD launches it new mainstream and ultra-thin laptop platforms to really see how competitive it will be with Intel's current generation.

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