Market-leading PC maker Hewlett-Packard has been, but not necessarily for its hardware. That's about to change with this collection of new laptop hardware and related accessories, ranging from 10-inch Netbooks to massive 17-inch desktop replacements that play 3D content.
Mini 210 and Mini 5103 Netbooks
The Netbook scene hasn't seen a lot of upgraded hardware since the start of the 2010, but new Intel dual-core Atom N550 processors are a potential bright spot (we've already seen Netbooks such as the Asus Eee PC 1215N with the current D525 dual-core version). The Atom N550 will be available on the new HP Mini 210 as an upgrade option. Otherwise, the new HP Mini 210 remains similar to what we've seen previously.
Starting at $329, the 10-inch-screened Mini 210 comes in Atom N455, N475 or N550 versions, with optional HD-resolution screens, Broadcom Crystal HD Enhanced Video Accelerators, and GPS. New colors include charcoal, crimson red, lavender frost, luminous rose, and ocean drive. The new HP Mini 210s are immediately.
The higher-end HP Mini 5103 is the successor to the 5102, and shares its ProBook-like looks (both are technically part of HP's business laptop line, but still very popular with consumers). An Intel Atom N550 dual-core processor is the default, along with support for faster DDR3 RAM and 7,200 rpm hard drives.
A spill resistant, more durable keyboard, Espresso-color metal chassis, and optional Gobi broadband and GPS round out the features on this slightly more upscale 10.1-inch Netbook, which also starts a bit higher at $399. The Mini 5103 is available starting September 17.
HP Envy 14 Beats Edition and HP Envy 17 3D
On the larger end of the spectrum, the high-end Envy line of laptops is getting a handful of upgrades, but no brand-new models. This year's Envy 14 gets recast in black (from the original gray) for a new Beats Edition version, named after the Beats Audio hardware and software in every Envy system.
Besides the new paint job, this fixed-configuration special edition includes a pair of Beats by Dre Solo headphones, somewhat offsetting its higher $1,249 price. The regular Envy 14 starts at $999, and we built a close config on HP's Web site for $1,089, although it had a slightly smaller hard drive and slower (still Core i5) CPU, plus the Beats by Dre Solo headphones typically run around $160.
The larger HP Envy 17 also gets an interesting update, adding 3D technology (but not the Nvidia 3D Vision system seen on other PCs, instead this is from a company called XpanD, with the actual GPU from ATI). We've seen 3D laptops before, but this is the first model with a full 1,920x1,080 17.3-inch screen. While 3D gaming is an obvious use for this, HP is emphasizing the more general entertainment possibilities, such as 3D Blu-ray.
The company is also using the HP Envy 17 3D to promote its ongoing partnership with the National Basketball Association -- the laptop will include access to a special 3D feed of the 2010 NBA All-Star Game.
If all that sounds exciting, we're sorry to say that the exact pricing and availability details for the HP Envy 17 3D are still up in the air, with HP saying the system, "is expected to be available this holiday season with pricing to be determined."
Wireless TV Connect
In other news, HP has also announced a new hardware peripheral aimed at rapidly streaming HD video content to a TV. Called HP Wireless TV Connect, the $199 device works with "almost any PC notebook with an HDMI port" and clearly takes aim at Intel Wireless Display, an existing technology available on some laptops.
HP's solution won't lock out protected media such as DVDs or Blu-ray discs, and in our brief hands-on demo, it had very little lag, meaning it could possibly be used for games or even to turn a TV into a workstation monitor, unlike the slightly laggy Intel Wireless Display.
Available starting in October, it could be an interesting alternative for those looking for a wireless video solution--but its high cost and large hardware components, including a sizable box that has to be draped over the back lid of a laptop, and a second box that plugs into your TV, could turn off some.