More details on HP's new Core i7 business laptops

HP's latest business laptops include thinner and lighter ultraportables with the latest Core i5 and Core i7 chips and the company's first multi-touch convertible tablet for professionals.

HP announced today new updates to its business laptops including thinner and lighter systems with the latest Core i5 and Core i7 chips and the company's first multi-touch convertible tablet for professionals.

The EliteBook 2540p, an update to the 12.1-inch 2530p, is HP's most portable EliteBook with a starting weight of 3.4 pounds and measuring juts more than an inch thick. The big change here is the introduction of newer Intel processors that operate at standard voltages. The 2540p can be configured with the 2.40GHz Core i5-520M, 2.53GHz Core i5-540M or 2.6GHz Core i7-620M (the lower voltage 2.13GHz Core i7-640LM is also an option). This is a big advantage because the newer processors deliver significantly better performance than the low-voltage and ultra low-voltage Core 2 Duos in the current 2530p. Dell currently does not offer a 12-inch or smaller Inspiron or Vostro laptop with Core i5 and Core i7 processors. Lenovo does offer them on the ThinkPad X201 and X201s, though the latter is only available with the lower voltage Core i7-620LM and 640LM. Both models are a bit lighter than the 2540p.

There are a couple possible drawbacks to the 2540p. The first is battery life with the standard voltage chips. HP is offering lots of different battery options and it claims battery life will range from four hours with a 3-cell battery to eight hours with a six-cell and more than 10 hours with a nine-cell. That sounds reasonable, but I'll wait to see actual numbers from reviews. The second drawback is that you can only configure it with an internal optical drive if you choose a slower 1.8-inch hard drive, rather than the 2.5-inch 7,200rpm 250GB hard drive. Though to be fair, the ThinkPad X201 and X201s don't offer an internal optical drive at all; for that you need to step up to the more expensive 13.3-inch ThinkPad X301, which is still only available with the low-voltage Core 2 Duos. HP also offers 80- and 160GB solid-state drives (SSDs) on the 2540p. Finally the 2540p is available only with Intel integrated graphics, though that's typical for a business ultraportable. The EliteBook 2540p starts at $1,099 and will be available in April.

An update to the 2730p, the EliteBook 2740p is convertible tablet PC that now supports multi-touch. The specs are similar to the new 2540p--it is based on a 12.1-inch LED-backlit display, and offers Core i5 and Core i7 processors paired with Intel graphics. But it is thicker (1.3 inches) and heavier (starting at 3.8 pounds), and it can't be configured with an internal DVD drive. HP says it will also offer an optional display for outdoor viewing that is less reflective and has higher contrast. Lenovo has a similar 12.1-inch SuperBright Outdoor WXGA display on its ThinkPad X201 Tablet, which is a direct competitor. The 2740p's six-cell battery is good for five hours, according to HP, while an optional HP 2700 Ultra-Slim battery (the same one used on the 2730p and HP Compaq 2710p) brings rated battery life up to 11 hours. The EliteBook 2740p starts at $1,599 and will also be available in April.

In addition to these two new models, HP redesigned its ProBook s series for small businesses. The four new models include the 13.3-ProBook 4320s, 14-inch ProBook 4420s, 15.6-inch ProBook 4520s and 17.3-inch ProBook 4720s. The new models have a brushed-aluminum metal case that comes in two colors. Like the new EliteBooks, the ProBook is available with the latest Core processors (Core i3, i5 and i7), but on the 15.6- and 17.3-inch models you can also choose between Intel integrated graphics or ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4350 graphics. The ProBook s series will be available this month starting at $719.

I'm still waiting for a 12-inch business ultraportable with Core i7 and powerful discrete graphics (I can live without the internal DVD drive), but the new EliteBooks are a big step in the right direction and I'm looking forward to taking them for a test drive.


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