HP's 2005 notebook range: a first look

HP's notebook range, incorporating Intel's recently launched Sonoma platform, has been revamped from the ground up. Here's our initial report.
Written by Charles McLellan, Senior Editor

Hewlett-Packard (HP) has taken the opportunity provided by the launch of Intel's new Sonoma platform to completely revamp its range of business notebooks. Introducing the new seven-strong line-up, HP's Steven Gales (Senior Category Manager, Personal Systems Group) said that the company had taken a 'clean sheet' approach to the design, which includes a completely new set of options and accessories. HP says it has simplified the notebook offering for small businesses and corporates -- especially those targeted at the 'all important' mid-market. Special attention has also been paid to key factors such as battery life, docking solutions and usability.

HP's notebook enhancments
The number one requirement for mobile professionals, says HP, is battery life, and the company is claiming some impressive-sounding advances in this area. All of the new notebooks except the entry-level model have an ambient light sensor, for example, which dims the screen in dull lighting conditions, resulting in a battery life boost of approximately 20 percent. The use of the Sonoma platform's improved integrated graphics in several models typically adds 30 minutes to mains-free uptime, according to HP. However, the most notable component is the new HP Common Travel Battery, which -- as the name suggests -- fits all new models: this can boost a single-battery system's life by up to 4.5 hours, says HP. The new battery option, which costs around £60, clips onto the bottom of the notebook, yet still allows the system to be docked. Usefully, the travel battery recharges both when attached to a notebook and when docked.

Other enhancements aimed at improving daily mobile life include a new shock protection system for the hard disk. HP doesn't go as far as IBM with its airbag-like Active Protection System for the ThinkPad range, but aims to guard against everyday bumps and jolts with a lower-cost solution. HP's ProtectTools suite, which provides local data proection, adds Credential Manager for single sign-on functionality and multiple password storage, while SmartCard readers will add hardware security to high-end models, complementing the built-in HP TPM Embedded Security Module.

HP's new range of docking stations support hot docking and can release the notebook at the touch of a single button. There are also new adjustable stands that allow a notebook's screen to be positioned ergonomically at eye level.


HP's new range of docking stations and notebook stands.
New models
The new notebooks fall into two classes: 'essential' (value models, denoted by 'nx') and 'enterprise' (corporate models, mostly denoted by 'nc').
Customers requiring larger 15.4in. screens and discrete graphics solutions are steered towards the 82xx series: the nx8220 and nc8230 come with ATI Radeon X600 graphics, while the nw8240 features high-end ATI Mobility FireGLV5000 graphics ('nw' signifies a 'workstation' model). The 82xx will start to ship in March 2005.
In the mainstream two-spindle segment is the 6xxx series, with 14.1in. or 15in. screens and weights in the 2-3kg range: the nx6110, which lacks the ambient light sensor, supplies the value option, while the nc6120 and nc6220 serve the corporate market. An entry level nc6120 with a 1.6GHz Pentium M 730, 15in. screen, 256MB RAM, 40GB hard disk, DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive and 802.11b/g wireless networking will cost £849 (ex. VAT).

HP's mainstream 15in.-screen nc6120 will start at £850 (ex. VAT).
HP's new 'ultraportable' model is the nc4200, which will feature a regular 533MHz-bus Pentium M processor rather than one of the 400MHz-bus low-voltage or ultra-low-voltage chips. The nc4200 won't be the smallest or lightest notebook around, but it should deliver good performance and battery life: for the latter, HP claims over 5 hours with a single battery and around 11 hours with the travel battery added. The nc4200 will be available in early April 2005.
We will be testing several of HP's new notebooks in the coming weeks and months, so keep checking back.

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