07 Jan 2016
HP Inc's ultra-slimline EliteBook Folio we wrote about recently seems like an attempt to create as tiny a 12.5in laptop as is humanly possible, but the EliteBook 1040 G3, due for release in late January, is a more balanced machine. It's still thin, but not to the extent that it's missing a load of ports or can't make room for an Intel Core i5.
We had the chance to try out the EliteBook 1040 G3 at CES 2016, and found that this balance between portability and capability could well see it outshine its more stylish stablemate.
There's only one major aesthetic difference between this laptop and its EliteBook Folio 1040 G2 predecessor: the trackpad, which keeps its large footprint while rounding out the bottom corners. There's been a more functional update underneath, namely new mechanisms for the left- and right-click buttons which provide a nicely tactile click when pressed.
We also like the laptop's portability; at 1.3kg it's on a par with other high-end machines like the Lenovo Yoga 900 and the Toshiba Satellite Radius 12, both of which we've been happy to carry about town over our shoulders. Even so, the EliteBook 1040 G3 still manages to squeeze in a great selection of ports, including one USB-C, one HDMI, two USB 3.0, an SD card reader and even a SIM slot for 4G LTE connectivity.
Another welcome bonus is the optional fingerprint scanner, which appears to use the same fast, reliable and discreet design as that of the Elite x2 1011 G1. This works in tandem with HP's Client Security software to guard the laptop's stored data with biometrically-backed encryption.
All of this is housed in a diamond-cut aluminium chassis which has an elegantly understated look and a reassuring rigidity.
Our first complaint does, sadly, need to be directed at the display - not so much the 14.1in screen itself but the anti-glare coating, which hampers the EliteBook 1040 G3's respectable colour balance with a nasty, grainy overlay effect. We appreciate the effort to reduce reflectivity, especially when the EliteBook Folio suffers from it so much, but it's a measure that could easily irk anyone who needs their screen to look crystal clear.
Fortunately, the actual detailing is pretty good; we tested the FHD version, which runs at a respectable 156ppi, and we had to squint to make out any individual pixels. A touch-enabled QHD resolution option will also be available, which we're in two minds about. More pixels is always good, but an always-on touchscreen seems a little unnecessary for a non-convertible laptop. In our experience, this feature doesn't add much besides a drain on battery life.
Operating system and software
The EliteBook 1040 G3 will launch with Windows 10 Pro pre-installed, and with Windows 7 Professional and Windows 8.1 Pro available through downgrade rights.
This offers a commendable amount of flexibility to firms that might use one of the older operating systems exclusively, and thus would want any new devices to conform. We're most fond of Windows 10 Pro for its UI improvements as well as what looks to be a more frequent and longer-running update schedule. Windows 7, by contrast, will reach end-of-life in 2020.
Adding to Windows 10 Pro's BitLocker encryption and Windows Hello authentication is HP Client Security, HP Inc's excellent mix of anti-malware and encryption tools. It's one of the better inclusions in a smattering of pre-installed applications, ranging from the useful - like Client Security and HP Touchpoint Manager - to the questionable, like HP Image Assistant.
Our time with the EliteBook 1040 G3 was limited so we couldn't run benchmarks, but there was little to fault about its general speed and responsiveness when multitasking. It has strong specs to thank for this, at least in the case of the unit we used, which featured an Intel Skylake Core i5-6300U vPro plus 8GB of RAM. For reference, that's the same 2.4GHz dual-core chip and RAM set-up found in the Surface Pro 4 we tested, which produced great benchmark scores of 256.0ms in Sunspider and 1,303.7ms in Kraken.
The full range of processors is yet to be confirmed but we're sure that the EliteBook 1040 G3 can be even more powerful, considering that memory options go up to an ample 16GB.
One shared characteristic between the EliteBook 1040 G3 and the EliteBook Folio is their good but not great cameras. Like the smaller laptop, the EliteBook 1040 G3's webcam suffers from noisy stills and video, but can still act as an adequate conferencing tool with slick, fuzz-free capturing.
The EliteBook 1040 G3 already looks like the wiser choice of HP Inc's two new business laptops. Better specs, more hardware features and even a longer predicted battery life - 11 hours to the EliteBook Folio's 10, though such estimates are often extremely optimistic - easily outweigh the benefits of the EliteBook Folio's slimmer profile.
The EliteBook 1040 G3 is far from cheap with a starting cost of £1,000, but from what we've seen it goes a long way towards earning that price tag.
05 Jan 2016
We saw a lot of impressively slim and light laptops over the past 12 months, but the upcoming HP EliteBook Folio, revealed at CES 2016 in Las Vegas, is something else. It's a wafer-thin 12.4mm deep and weighs just 1kg, lighter than the smallest 11.6in MacBook Air but boasting nearly an entire inch of extra diagonal screen space.
The EliteBook Folio won't find itself on the folding seat-back trays of commuters until it launches in March, but we were invited by HP Inc to try it out first-hand.
The silvery aluminium construction contrasting with a black plastic keyboard certainly evokes the rest of the EliteBook range, leaving the EliteBook Folio's thinness and narrowness to make it stand out. The left and right screen bezels are tiny and there's hardly any chassis between the keyboard and the edges. It's clear that HP Inc has trimmed off as much as it feasibly could to increase the device's extreme portability.
This comes at a cost, however: there's no room for a full-size USB port, just two USB-C slots. These are Thunderbolt 3-equipped, so they'll be able to connect to an external display with the appropriate cables, but anyone hoping to use a mouse or even a common USB stick will need to invest in an adapter. It's also a bit disappointing to see no SD card reader or mini HDMI port.
At least HP Inc has made other improvements. The surprisingly spacious touchpad, for instance, has new mechanical left- and right-click buttons. These add a pleasantly deep, forceful action as well as a premium feel broadly similar to that of a mechanical switch keyboard. The EliteBook Folio's keyboard is fairly standard in design and operation, with the exception of specialised calendar and conference call controls on the function keys. HP Inc sees this laptop as a device that can multitask as a business laptop and a conference phone, hence the inclusion of quick calling and voice-muting controls.
This also seems to be the idea behind the EliteBook Folio's 180-degree hinge, which allows it to lie completely flat on a table - presumably so that everyone sitting around it can see what's on-screen.
As we'd expect from something that will cost a minimum of €999, the EliteBook Folio's screen is of a suitably high quality. It's a 12.5in IPS panel that shows off some beautifully bright, bold colours, and even on a base FHD model we tested - that's 176ppi - text and images look fine. A UHD model which runs at a 352ppi will also be available, although we haven't seen it in action.
The screen is protected by Gorilla Glass 4, which provides some good scratch resistance but is just as reflective here as it is on a smartphone, so those planning to take advantage of the flattening hinge should beware of any pesky overhead lights.
Operating system and software
Windows 10 Home will be the EliteBook Folio's standard issue OS. HP Inc will offer Windows 7 Professional or Windows 8.1 Pro through downgrade rights, which might prove useful for firms with a strictly controlled IT environment based on the older operating systems, but we feel that Windows 10 Pro would be a better choice for sheer usability. The UI is much improved for laptop use since Windows 8.1, and it's hard to dislike features such as Universal Apps or the versatile Action Centre menu.
Windows 10 Pro also features handy tools like BitLocker encryption and built-in IT policy deployment, considerable advantages over the Windows 10 Home version that appears on cheaper laptops.
As with all EliteBooks, there's a handful of HP Inc's pre-installed programs onboard. A lot of these can be ignored or deleted for extra SSD space, although there are some genuinely good inclusions. HP Touchpoint Manager, for instance, allows admins to streamline software inventory and patch deployment, while HP Client Security is an expansive collection of anti-malware, authentication and drive encryption tools.
HP Inc is staying tight-lipped on the specific CPU and RAM specs the various EliteBook Folio models will include, other than the fact that all processors will come from Intel's 6th-generation Skylake Core M line. That's to be expected, since the laptop's fanless design wouldn't be able to cope with a full-on Core i5 or i7, although the Core Ms will all be vPro-enabled.
For now, we can get an idea from the test unit we were given, which ran a 1.1GHz Core M5-6Y57 dual-core chip with 8GB of RAM. On paper, that's an adequate if hardly spectacular amount of power for everyday tasks.
Indeed, we didn't notice any stuttering or sluggishness when web browsing and text editing on the EliteBook Folio, but we couldn't run benchmarks or download more demanding photo and video editing software to test. We're still curious as to how it will fare under intensive working use, and have requested a unit we can test in full for a later review.
The EliteBook Folio may be custom built for conference calls, but its webcam isn't quite as clear as those of high-end competitors like the Dell XPS 13 or Microsoft's Surface Pro 4, mainly due to a large amount of visual noise. That said, videos appear bright and smooth with blurring kept to a minimum.
Some good software and a sleek design means that the EliteBook Folio scores points for style and functionality. Even without the somewhat niche conferencing focus, that's enough for us to keep an eye on it ahead of its launch later this year.
Nonetheless, we can't shake the feeling that the few available ports may cause headaches, and EliteBooks typically don't have the best battery life, something in which the EliteBook Folio remains untested. A more in-depth look is required before we can fully judge its suitability as a real mobile productivity machine.
28 Oct 2015
The newly refreshed HP Envy 15 is a big, chunky clamshell laptop that was utterly overshadowed by the flashy Spectre X2 hybrid when they were announced earlier this month.
But the two devices have more in common than one might think, as both are Windows 10-powered productivity machines with a CPU taken from Intel's latest 6th-generation Skylake range. Business tablets are on the rise, so can the revamped Envy 15 prove an exemplar of what traditional laptops can do? We got our hands on one to find out.
The problem with laptops as vast, thick and heavy as the 2.36kg Envy 15 is that they're usually better parked on a desk than carried around for lap use. Indeed, having picked up this demo unit, we certainly wouldn't want to lug it over our shoulders for more than a few minutes at a time.
That heft does come with benefits, though. There's enough room for an optical drive (a DVD/RW in this case), that oft-forgotten but frequently useful casualty of the shift towards tablets and ultrabooks, as well as four USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, an SD card reader and an Ethernet port for plugging into a wired LAN connection.
There's even enough room for a full-size keyboard, with numeric keypad. It makes for very comfortable typing, but we almost immediately managed to jam the ‘O' key, leaving it permanently pressed in. It's not a good sign of a product's build quality, and disappointing from a veteran manufacturer like HP.
To be fair, the rest of machine seems fairly sturdy, with a solid case and a firm screen hinge. We also appreciate the inclusion of a fingerprint sensor for an extra layer of security. It looks very much like the same design as that of the HP Elite x2 1011 G1 hybrid so, although we didn't get to try it out ourselves, it should be suitably fast and accurate.
As the name suggests, the Envy 15 features a 15.6in display at 1920x1080 resolution and 141ppi. This is far from the crispest display on the market, but it looks fine in practice and we had no problems reading small text or admiring the details in images and videos. An anti-glare coating dealt capably with overhead lighting, reducing reflections without suffering a grainy or oily effect overlaid on the screen - a sadly common problem with such coatings.
That said, colours generally looked a bit flat and washed out, even on a high brightness setting. This is an interesting, if somewhat annoying, contrat with the many convertible and 2-in-1 devices which have brilliantly vibrant colours but are problematically reflective.
Operating system and software
Fans of the Start menu will be pleased to know that the new Envy 15 runs Windows 10 Home, which brings back the famed UI element after Microsoft ditched it in Windows 8.
It would also have been nice to have, say, the BitLocker encryption features of Windows 10 Pro, but the Home version is still a very good all-round OS. Plus, Microsoft has committed to releasing more frequent content updates for Windows 10 than with previous versions, so it could get even better over time.
HP isn't as bad as others in loading its products with bloatware, but there were still a few pieces of trivial or useless software on the Envy 15 when we checked. These are mostly redundant utilities, but since the Envy 15 includes a fingerprint scanner it's a shame that it doesn't also ship with HP Client Security.
This has shown itself to be a very powerful and versatile tool on other scanner-equipped HP machines, like the Elite x2 1011 G1, and we'd definitely liked to have seen it here as well. True, it's designed for enterprise use, but it's also user friendly enough for most consumers to get to grips with it.
The combination of an Intel Skylake Core i5-6500U processor, dedicated Nvidia GeForce graphics and a huge 12GB of RAM sounds like HP has equipped the Envy 15 for intensive design and creative work. We were able to test video editing on it, and the good news is that the Envy 15 copes with this task cleanly and smoothly.
It's hard to beat the colossal 2TB hard drive in the Envy 15. This doesn't offer the speed of an SSD, but should provide plenty of space for working with big image and video files even if only 1.75TB is available to use after accounting for the OS and pre-installed software.
We suspect that some large applications and files were loaded onto the HDD for the benefit of a demonstration, rather than because they're included at launch, so it's likely that 250GB won't have entirely gone missing on the final product.
Our mishap with the ‘O' key has us eyeing the Envy 15 with a certain suspicion and, although it isn't quite as bulky as a lot of budget notebooks, our ultrabook-softened shoulders would still prefer it on a desk rather than in our bag.
Nonetheless, this big beast has the power to serve as a respectable pseudo-mobile workstation. Until we see tablets of which we can say the same, laptops will continue to find a home - and deservedly so.
02 Mar 2015
BARCELONA: When reports broke that Lenovo had installed the Superfish adware on a number of its laptops, HP gleefully pointed out that its line of Windows laptops never feature adware or bloatware.
So when HP unveiled its latest Spectre x360 convertible at MWC, some tech fans wondered whether the device could be the bloatware-free Windows 8.1 laptop hybrid we've all been waiting for.
Design and build
The Spectre x360 is very similar to Lenovo's Yoga line of devices in that it features a hinge mechanism that lets users set it in notebook, stand, tent or tablet configurations.
HP made a big deal about the hinge mechanism, claiming its use of three spiral gears makes it the most robust and smooth mechanism on the market.
Testing the mechanism we found it was indeed smooth to use and felt reasonably sturdy. When converting the Spectre X360 from a laptop into a tablet, the hinge never locked up and felt noticeably stronger than those seen on competing devices.
Built out of CNC aluminium, the rest of the Spectre x30 feels as robust as the hinge. Measuring 15.9mm thick and weighing 1.49kg, the Spectre is also reasonably travel friendly.
The 1.5mm travel keyboard and "extra wide" touchpad are also impressive. The keys have a nice snap that makes typing on the Spectre x30 a pleasant experience. The Spectre is also reasonably well stocked for ports, boasting full-size HDMI and DisplayPort 1.2 inputs and three USB 3.0 ports.
HP's loaded the Spectre x360 with a quad HD display complete with Panel Self Refresh (PSR) technology. The screen is "optically bonded" to the Spectre x360.
HP claims the bond radically improves display quality and increases brightness levels by "pulling each pixel up to the surface of the display".
The PSR tech is designed to improve the Spectre x360's battery life and has no noticeable impact on display quality.
Testing the display on the brightly lit MWC showroom floor we found that while colour balance and contrast levels were great, it was prone to picking up stray light and regularly became reflective - though to be fair to HP the showroom conditions were very harsh.
It's also worth noting that unlike many other convertables, the Spectre x360's display features active stylus support.
The demo unit we tested came with Windows 8.1 pre-installed. The enterprise Pro version of the Spectre x30 is also available with Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 Pro.
Putting aside the inherent benefits of Windows 8.1 for business and the incoming free upgrade to Windows 10, we were impressed how free of bloatware the device is: the only pre-installed non-Microsoft app we could find installed was a McAfee anti-virus tool that comes with a free one-year subscription and can easily be uninstalled.
HP is offering the Spectre x360 with Intel Core i5 and i7 processor options and up to 8GB of memory. The HP Spectre Pro x360 features optional vPro support for enterprise customers.
As an added layer of security, HP's loaded both the standard and pro Spectre x360 models with trusted platform module (TPM) chips.
Sadly we didn't get a chance to benchmark the Spectre x360 or see how it coped with demanding tasks during our hands-on. However, during basic tasks like word processing and web browsing it performed well and we didn't notice any performance issues.
Battery and storage
The Spectre x360 is powered by a 56-watt hour battery HP claims will last up to 12.5 hours off one charge. Hopefully the claim is accurate as the Spectre x360's battery is non-removable.
The demo unit we tested featured a 512GB SSD, which HP told us is the top storage option available.
Price, release date and conclusion
The HP Spectre x360 is "expected" to arrive in the UK in mid-March 2015 with a starting price of £849. An HP spokesperson declined our request for further details about its UK price and release date.
Overall, while the Spectre x360 isn't terribly original, from what we've seen it is a fairly impressive convertible.
Featuring a solid metal design, wealth of processor options and active stylus support, the Spectre x360, on paper, is one of the most flexible hinged convertibles we've seen.
Hopefully it'll make good on its opening promise when we really put it through its paces for our full review.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
11 Mar 2014
PC maker HP unveiled the Slate Voicetab 6 earlier this year, and at last month's Mobile World Congress (MWC) the firm announced that it will release the device in the UK.
HP is touting the Slate Voicetab 6 as a "voice-enabled" tablet to market the device to those looking for more than a smartphone. However, during our time with the device, it became clear that the Slate Voicetab 6 is really a phablet, offering little more than the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and Sony Xperia Z Ultra, for example.
However, with a price set at £199, the HP Slate Voicetab 6 is much cheaper than the competition, so we spent a little hands-on time with the device to see how it stacks up against its rivals.
The design of the HP Slate Voicetab 6 certainly stands out from the crowd, with HP making the device available in six different colours - pink, purple, green, blue, white and grey. We got our hands on the bright pink model, which although unlikely to appeal to many, will definitely get heads turning.
Despite HP marketing the device as a tablet, the Slate Voicetab 6 isn't bulky, measuring 8.6mm thick and weighing 160g. While we did struggle to operate the device comfortably with one hand, the Slate Voicetab 6 is a pleasant device to use and is much lighter than similarly sized devices such as the Nokia Lumia 1320.
The HP Slate Voicetab 6 does feel a little cheap, however, which is perhaps not surprising when its price is considered. It is built predominantly out of plastic with metal trim around the edges, and it feels like it might not withstand many accidental drops and tumbles.
The HP Slate Voicetab 6 features a 6in 720x1280 resolution IPS display, and we were pleasantly surprised by its quality. When compared to the HD 1080p screen on the HTC One Max, for example, it's clear that text isn't quite as sharp and images are slightly less crisp. However, we have no major complaints. The IPS technology means it offers wide viewing angles, and the handset also coped well under the bright lights of MWC.
Performance and software
Under the hood, the HP Slate Voicetab 6 has a quad-core 1.2GHz processor, and while this means it's not the highest specification phablet on the market, we were impressed by its overall performance. We opened a game on the device, and gameplay was smooth without any stuttering, while flicking through menus and opening apps was also smooth.
We were slightly let down by the fact that the Slate Voicetab 6 runs Google's Android 4.3 Jelly Bean mobile operating system, with HP unable to commit to an update to Android 4.4 Kitkat. However, HP has barely put its mark on Google's mobile operating system, which means that the device offers a thoroughly vanilla Android experience, without a custom skin or a lot of unnecessary apps.
HP has added a few of its own apps, though. These include HP Connected Photo, which allows users to sync photos to the cloud, HP's WiFi printer service and HP Datapass - a bonus that offers 250MB of free 3G every month.
The HP Slate Voicetab 6 features an HD webcam on the front, along with a 5MP rear-facing camera with autofocus and LED flash.
We gave the camera a quick spin at MWC, and we weren't overly impressed. With HP defining the device as a tablet, it seems to have cut back on the camera, no doubt to keep the price of the device low. We found it lacking when compared to the competition, struggling to handle the bright lights of the showroom and taking images that were often fuzzy and lacking in detail.
While its camera is somewhat lacking, the Slate Voicetab 6 delivers smooth performance, a good screen and a largely vanilla Android user interface. There's also 16GB of internal storage expandable via microSD card, support for HSDPA and WiFi connectivity and a 3,000mAh battery, which we'll be sure to test in our full review.
All in all, the HP Slate Voicetab 6 is somewhat of a confused device, but we think that at £199 it could help HP re-enter the mobile device market.
26 Feb 2014
BARCELONA: Since Microsoft released its latest touch-focused Windows 8 operating system, hardware manufacturers have been wrestling to find the best way to showcase its finer points and create a truly usable laptop-tablet hybrid.
Some firms, such as Asus, have tried to solve the problem by creating dockable keyboard attachments for Windows 8 tablets. Others such as Lenovo have been a little more creative, making IdeaPad Yoga devices with flexible hinges that let users turn the laptop into a tablet by rotating its keyboard round to go behind the screen.
HP has traditionally chosen the same route as Asus, creating standalone tablets that can be turned into laptop replacements with optional dock attachments. But all that changed at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2014, where the company chose to quite literally go back on itself and unveil its IdeaPad Yoga-like Pavilion x360 laptop.
Design and build
HP has worked hard to make sure the Pavilion x360 looks as eye catching as possible, releasing it in a variety of colours. The red version we saw looked particularly striking and set the Pavilion apart from HP's other more enterprise-focused hybrids.
The Pavilion x360 is fairly light by large tablet standards, weighing in at 1.4kg, and doesn't feel overly heavy. We also found the slightly rubbery plastic outer coating felt suitably robust and offered little to no flex with pressure.
The keyboard and trackpad also proved fairly pleasant to use and were suitably responsive to the touch.
Checking the Pavilion x360's sides and back we were also pleased to see that HP has equipped it with a healthy selection of connectivity options. The system features a SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, Ethernet and a headphone-out/mic-in combo jack.
It was only when we attempted to change the Pavilion x360 into a tablet that we noticed any issues. Attempting to rotate the keyboard to go behind the screen, the hinge was very stiff. It felt fairly delicate and on a few occasions we were concerned that we'd actually snap the hinge – though an HP spokesman told us this is because the model we looked at was pre-production and that this will be fixed on the final versions.
The Pavilion x360 was also slightly difficult to use, firstly, because by having the keyboard on its back, it's fairly hard to get a good grip on the Pavilion x360. Secondly, while it's reasonably light for a laptop, as a tablet, the machine is far too heavy to comfortably hold in one hand.
The Pavilion x360 comes with a 11.6in HD LED-backlit, 1366x768 touchscreen, and seemed very responsive to gesture input. Our only regret in this regard is that the Pavilion x360 doesn't come with a digital stylus, which meant taht using it as a standalone tablet could at times be fiddly – especially if trying to use a desktop application.
The display also offered reasonable picture quality. While nowhere near as good as the in-plane switching (IPS) displays seen in other tablets, the Pavilion's is reasonably good. Colours were suitably vibrant and text, while sometimes a little hazy, was always readable.
The only issue we noticed was that the Pavilion x360's screen was fairly prone to picking up stray light. When this happened the Pavilion x360 became all but unusable – though we were testing it in a very bright showroom.
The Pavilion x360 comes with Microsoft Windows 8.1 pre-installed. There is no Windows 8.1 Professional option for businesses, meaning the device is more suited for BYOD than dedicated corporate use.
The use of Windows 8.1 is still reasonably good from a productivity perspective. The device comes with Microsoft's core Office and OneDrive document-editing and storage services. The use of Windows 8.1, as opposed to the less impressive Windows RT also means users can load and run legacy software on the Pavilion x360.
HP offers the Pavilion x360 with either an Intel Pentium N3520 2.17GHz processor or an Intel Pentium N2820 2.13GHz processor. The demo device we tested featured 8GB of RAM. All versions feature Intel HD graphics.
This means high-power tasks, such as digital painting, video editing and 3D modelling and gaming, will be beyond the Pavilion x360. Considering it is priced from £350, though, this is no surprise.
Testing it for productivity tasks, such as web-browsing and document-editing, the Pavilion x360 purred along nicely and we didn't experience any performance issues during our hands on.
Storage and camera
The Pavilion x360 we tested had 500GB of built-in storage, but it also comes in 320GB and 750GB options. It also has an HP TrueVision HD Webcam with an integrated digital microphone for video-calling. Powering up Skype and making a video call to a smartphone, the camera was more than good enough for making video calls.
HP is remaining hazy as to how long the Pavilion's two-cell battery should last off one charge and a spokesman at the company's MWC stand declined to answer queries regarding battery life. We will test this properly in a full review.
While the HP Pavilion x360 doesn't feel terribly original, looking a little too much like a Lenovo Yoga for our liking, our initial impressions are fairly positive. While it is heavy as a tablet, the Pavilion x360 did feel like a reasonable netbook replacement.
But its ability to deliver will largely be determined by key details that HP is remaining quiet about, such as battery life.
The HP Pavilion x360 is due for release in Europe in March, with prices starting at £350. Check back with V3 then for a full review.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
11 Dec 2013
BARCELONA: HP unveiled a series of new devices on Tuesday at its annual Discover conference and the most notable of these new units was the EliteBook Folio 1040 G1.
It was unveiled on stage by senior vice president of HP Business Personal Systems, Enrique Lores, who touted its military-grade build quality to withstand dust, extreme temperatures and drops, at which point he let it fall from his hand to the floor with a resounding clang. It seemed to be ok.
Enterprise buyers were also targeted with the inclusion of a fingerprint scanner and a smart card reader for extra security, and a docking connector to link to printers and other peripherals.
The firm also touted several other aspects of the device that have been upgraded from its earlier EliteBook Folio 9470M, saying it is lighter, thinner and faster thanks to the inclusion of Intel's Haswell processor. It will ship with Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.
We went to see the laptop in the giant Discover hall and had a quick play around on the new device and, as HP claimed, it certainly is a swish looking unit with rounded edges, a grey metallic design and an overall feel of quality that is not too dissimilar to a MacBook.
One other notable feature of the new device that HP touted is the use of a new type of control pad called ForcePad (pictured below). Rather than the traditional style control pads on a laptop that require two fingers to select and drag items, this can be done with one as it recognises different pressure sensitivities.
It also has the ability to recognise five-touch inputs so touch-style controls such as pinch-to-zoom can be used on applications or web services that support this functionality. This would be useful if you choose to have Windows 7 shipped with the unit.
However, those wanting a touchscreen can get a Windows 8.1 model, which will now support touch, a major let down of the older model. However, the unit we saw was running Windows 7, so we didn't get a chance to test out the new touchscreen mode.
Another improvement is in size and weight, with the device weighing 1.49kg, down from 1.63kg, and the thickness is down from 18.9mm to 15.9mm on the previous model. We certainly found the device light and comfortable to hold, and it could easily slip into a shoulder bag or suitcase without adding much weight.
Overall, after a quick first glance and play, the EliteBook Folio 1040 seems a nice device with a focus on enterprises users that should appeal to many firms and staffers buying their own laptops. The option of Windows 7 or 8.1 means both tastes are catered for and the ForcePad shows that HP is trying to innovate on the otherwise fairly standard laptop model.
The HP EliteBook Folio 1040 will be available in the UK from the middle of December with a starting price of £1,380. Check back on V3 in the future for our full review of the device.
09 Oct 2013
Google's been enjoying a boom in Android sales for the last year or so, at least in smartphones. However, this success hasn't been replicated so far with Google's other mobile platform, the Chrome OS aimed at low-end laptop-style devices.
For this reason, Google seems to be stepping up its strategy of working with key hardware partners, resulting in devices like the newly unveiled HP-built Chromebook 11.
Design and build
HP and Google have both made a big deal about the Chromebook 11's build quality - one Google spokesman went so far as to describe the device as the "Wolverine of Chromebooks". On paper there's certainly a lot of merit to these claims, with the system boasting a metallic reinforced magnesium frame despite its low weight of 1.04kg.
Google claims the 297x192x17.6mm reinforced chassis is capable of taking more than the average wear and tear and should be able to survive the odd accidental bump or drop hassle free. While we didn't get a chance to actually drop test the Chromebook 11 during our hands-on, we were very impressed how robust the device felt.
Despite the slightly cheap feeling shiny plastic finish, the chassis has little give to it and feels much better built than any laptop we've experienced in the same £229 price-bracket.
During our hands-on we were also impressed how comfortable the keyboard was to type on. While, like any laptop in the same 11in size bracket, the keyboard did feel slightly squashed, the keys were suitable snappy and responsive and the Chromebook's slightly rounded frame made it comfortable to type on.
In terms of ports, the Chromebook 11 is sparsely equipped, featuring just two USB 2.0 ports and a SlimPort video output, which uses a microUSB style connector.
The Chromebook 11 comes with an 11.6in in-plane switching (IPS) display boasting a 300-nit brightness and 176-degree viewing angle. Using the Chromebook 11 in regular office lighting conditions we were fairly impressed with this screen. While far from the crispest we've ever used, the display was bright and colours looked rich and vibrant.
It also proved to have fairly decent viewing angles, with the display remaining legible even when viewing at an awkward angle. However, usersmay struggle to read itin in more adverse lighting conditions, like direct sunlight out of doors.
Software and performance
The Chromebook 11 comes with the latest version of Google's Chrome OS preinstalled. Whether this is a positive or negative is largely determined by which desktop and mobile ecosystem you're already accustomed to.
For those familiar with it, Chrome OS has a lot of benefits. Being largely cloud based, Chrome OS offers decent performance even on modest hardware. It does this by offloading a lot of the heavy lifting, traditionally tasked to the device's processor, into the cloud. This lets it do things like instant start and run demanding game applications traditionally beyond its Exynos 5250 processor and 2GB of RAM.
The OS also features built-in multiple security layers designed to ward off malware. This, combined with its low market share which makes it an unpopular target with cyber criminals, means the Chromebook 11 is on a paper a very secure choice for businesses.
Chrome OS also makes setting up the device a doddle for people with a Google account, as it can transfer and setting up all their apps, shortcuts, calendar and email services with one simple login. Even better, the latest version of Chrome OS goes beyond the traditional set of online-only services, featuring support for a number of applications that can run offline, including Google Docs and Gmail.
However, to those more accustomed to Apple or Microsoft platforms, the OS can seem fairly constricting. Considering how embedded most businesses are in the Windows or Mac ecosystems and services, this could be a massive sticking point for many buyers.
Storage and battery
Storage-wise the Chromebook 11 comes with a modest 16GB of solid state storage built in, which cannot be upgraded. Luckily, for those with an active internet connection Google's bundled the Chromebook 11 with 100GB of Drive cloud storage free for the first two years after purchase.
The Chromebook 11 is quoted as capable of six hours active use off one charge. We didn't get a chance to test the projected life during our hands on but will be sure to test it properly come our full review.
One plus point we did notice is that the Chromebook 11 charges using a generic microUSB cable, not a bespoke input. While this sounds small it does make the Chromebook 11 far more travel friendly, removing the need for you to pack an extra charger when away on a business trip.
Our initial impressions of the HP Chromebook 11 are positive. The Chromebook 11 appears to be a robustly built, yet lightweight and travel friendly netbook replacement.
Our only real concerns regard the nature of Chrome OS itself. Despite having a significantly better offline app offering than previous Chromebooks, a lack of inbuilt storage could still prove a problem for those regularly out of range of a network connection and the central focus on Google products and services will remain an issue for businesses already invested in alternative ecosystems.
The Chromebook is available in the US now and is confirmed to launch on Amazon, Google Play, HP Shopping, Currys and PC World on 21 October. Check back with V3 later for a full review of the Google Chromebook 11.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson