HP takes on the MacBook Air with the Spectre x360 hybrid laptop

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What do you think of when you hear the name HP? Laser printers maybe? Office desktops, business laptops? All very worthy but generally dull. Well, it’s time to throw away those preconceptions because HP is putting on the style.

Its latest HP Spectre x360 range of hybrid laptops is slim, stylish and set to take on the MacBook Air. With a machined aluminium chassis that’s just under 16mm thick and weighs only 1.49 Kgs (3.3 lbs) the x360 range features full HD touchscreen displays and a choice of Core i5 and Core i7 processors. A flip over screen means you can use it as a conventional laptop, turn it into a tablet or stand it up in ‘tent mode’ for viewing movies or presentations.

The machine has also been designed in close collaboration with Microsoft to provide a pure Windows user experience with fast performance and long battery life. So far, so impressive, but what do the reviewers think of it?

Trusted Reviews starts with some faint praise, describing the design as “inoffensive” but is impressed by the machine’s construction and quality saying it, “…has the feeling of hard density that we like to get in an Ultrabook.” The 12 hour battery life also made an impression, “If you needed any more convincing that this is the HP take on the MacBook Air, this is it.”

PC Advisor describes the Spectre x360 as a rival to the more expensive Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro,

“Not only is it more affordable, it uses a more premium design. While the Lenovo uses a metal lid, the inside is a soft-touch rubber finish. With aluminium all over, the HP Spectre x360 looks and feels more desirable and stylish.”

The 13.3-inch screen they say, “looks crisp” but it gets some criticism for being highly reflective. However, the overall conclusion is positive,

“…the firm looks to have done a great a job of packing good specs in a desirable aluminium chassis at an affordable price point.”

Describing the Spectre x360 as, “…the Surface Laptop that Microsoft refuses to make.” Slashgear says it’s,

“…a beautifully constructed machine. Sure, there are some elements which are a little MacBook Air-like – the bottom panel, for instance, and the front notch in the lid – but overall the combination of brushed and polished aluminum, the consistently-even keyboard, and the excellent IPS display with broad viewing angles give it a distinct look and feel of its own.”

“The Spectre x360 is one of our new favorite laptops,” says Engadget, singling out the hinge design for particular praise, “This allows the machine to be equally thick regardless of whether the screen is in tablet mode or folded shut, like a regular notebook.” Though it does point out that the machine is less successful when used as a tablet, “What you might find, though, is that a relatively large, 13-inch PC like this, particularly one this heavy, isn’t well-suited for tablet mode.” However, the machine’s size is a double-edged sword,

“Because the x360 is slightly bulkier than its rivals, it can accommodate a cushier keyboard and a bigger battery, allowing for nearly best-in-class runtime. It also makes room for a ton of ports.”

The size is a concern for Laptop Mag  too, “At 3.26 pounds, the x360 is heavier than most other 13-inch ultraportables. Among those whose screens can fold back 360 degrees, the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro is a full pound lighter, as is the nonfolding Dell XPS 13 (2.5 pounds). The MacBook Air weighs 2.9 pounds.” Despite this it concludes,

“With long battery life, good performance and an attractive design, the HP Spectre x360 is one of the best convertible notebooks you can buy.”

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If all this has convinced you that you really need one in your life, the HP Spectre x360 range starts from around £850. But we’ll leave the final word to Notebook Review,

“HP didn’t just make something that ‘looks’ similar to a MacBook … HP made every effort to deliver a product that meets or exceeds what Apple currently offers from the feel of the chassis and performance of the hardware all the way to the intangible elements of the user experience.”

The HP Spectre x360 is available now from $899.99. Visit HP to find out more.

HP Stream preview and first look

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The “netbook” market, or whatever you want to call it, got a bit of a boost when Google launched its Chromebooks . Offering users little more power than they needed to perform such simple but important tasks as browsing the internet and working with documents, they were a popular solution for the low-demand budget-conscious. Google’s stripped-down operating system may not be to everyone’s tastes however, or at least that’s what HP decided when it came up with the HP Stream, a Windows 8.1 touting 14” device that’s also competitively priced and is aimed at the same audience.

As you’d expect you’re not going to get cutting-edge specifications – count yourself lucky if there’s enough here to do a smooth job. The 14” WLED-backlight display offers 1366×768 resolution, there’s a full size keyboard, 1.6GHz AMD A4 chip, 2GB of on board memory and up to 6 and a half hours of battery life. There’s 32GB of storage for your stuff or an alternative model that upgrades this to 64GB, but with 100GB of OneDrive cloud storage for two years as standard this should be plenty if you’re efficient with your data. If you’re a fan of music on the move you’ll also be pleased to hear that it features Beats Audio alongside quad speakers, so should offer far more on this front than your typical Chromebook – this could, in fact, be the last hurrah for the synergy that was Beat and HP.

It sounds fairly appealing so far, but CNET is quick to point out its limitations: “While probably the least expensive Windows 8 clamshell you’re likely to find, the system includes specs that might make even a very casual computer user cringe, at least if you were planning to use it as you would a standard laptop.”

PCWorld calls it a “Chromebook killer”, and starts by highlighting the fact that Microsoft drove out Linux in the netbook market and could be looking to do the same with Chromebooks. The big question, it seems, will be “how well it runs Windows. Low-end PCs are notorious for being deathly slow, although the onboard storage should help the Stream 14 run faster than hard drive-encumbered netbooks from five years ago.” This seems like it could be a deal breaker – after all, Chrome OS was designed to boot quickly and work smoothly on such meagrely specced machines. It also points out that “Chromebook also have an advantage over Windows in terms of security thanks to process sandboxing, verified boot checks, and the Web security features built into Chrome itself” so this is another area in which Microsoft might have to offer some reassurance.

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MobileGeeks has gone hands-on so can offer us a few more specifics. The display seems adequate if uninspiring: “Compared to today’s IPS screens the viewing angles, color and brightness levels are not fantastic, but considering the price point it is in fact totally acceptable and decent TN panel.”  When it comes to performance, the demo model that was tested seemed pretty nippy and capable enough of making it around the OS without unnecessary lag. The SSD undoubtedly helps here, which combined with cloud-oriented storage and a fast enough connection should give you quick enough access to your data. The keyboard also gets a mention, which is nicely sized and doesn’t flex too much under pressure. The lack of a touchscreen is a shame, though understandable at the price point, which we’d better get around to mentioning.

It’s $299, which is a bit of a shame as it was touted at being $100 less when rumours were doing the rounds a few months ago, but it’s still a tidy price and depending on how this gets translated outside the US, we can see the Stream being a popular alternative for Windows users.

Review round up: HP Chromebook 14

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Its “eye-popping” colours are the first thing Engadget mentions in its hands on review of the new HP Chromebook 14. Citing the aesthetical merits (particularly the colour) of a new gadget first and foremost makes one suspiciously dubious about the inner-capabilities of a product’s guts. However, as these “eye-popping” colours include Ocean Turquoise, Coral Peach and Snow White, perhaps we’re being a little cynical.

Despite being described by Engadget as having a “toy-like” exterior, given the storm of attention the Chromebook 14 has ignited, it seems unlikely that its appearance is the only aspect that is worth mentioning.

Being powered by an Intel processor based on the Haswell microarchitecture, the Chromebook 14 offers super-fast internet speeds giving users the ability to tackle multiple tasks while on the go – apparently. What’s more with optional 4G, enhanced connectivity is also achievable.

One common theme the hands on reviewers of the online techno press distinguish as an HP Chromebook 14 asset is the device’s larger than average keys. After all, claim Pocket-lint, “size makes for a decent typing experience.”

Talking about size, owning a 14-inch screen, the Chromebook 14 is large for Chromebook standards. Of course large typically denotes heaviness, although weighing 1.8kgs and being 21mm thick when in closed position, the Chromebook 14 doesn’t seem to be particularly fat and overweight though definitely not slender and lightweight. While Pocket-lint is quick to criticise the HP Chromebook 14 for having a large screen that fails to deliver a resolution beyond its smaller rivals, Broadway World commends it large display as “providing the immersive web experience and superb visual enjoyment that customer’s desire.”

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Chromebook 14 comes in a variety of colours

It has to be said that speed and fluidity are components modern portable computer consumers crave. Due to the high demand for fluidness and fastness, the HP Chromebook 14’s automatic software updates that help maintain fluidity is a component of the product that has been widely picked up on.

Having easy access to content while on the go is another popular requirement of modern computing. With 100GB of free storage on Google Drive for two years, plus users being able to visit the Chrome Web Store in order to customise their Chromebook 14 by installing apps, this device certainly appears to be content accessible-friendly.

As Pocket-lint summarises, the HP Chromebook 14 isn’t a revelation, although its glossy plastic finish in “eye-popping” colours has certainly sparked interest and discussion.

The pricing and timing of its launch is one aspect of the Chromebook 14 that has remains comparatively low-key on the reviews and is a characteristic that more than warrants remark – Starting at £249.00 and being expected to be available in at the HP UK store and at select retailers in the UK in November, this exceptionally colourful and “Toys R Us” resonant gadget is likely to be a popular gift this Christmas.

 

5 Desktop PCs for under £500

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In this smartphone and tablet-powered era, the traditional desktop PC is looking rather antiquated. Moore’s Law continues to facilitate the development of smaller and smaller devices, and even laptops – historically the most functional of business tools – are becoming slimline and cool, with fully rotating screens that can also be detached as standalone devices.

Against this streamlined assault, the time-honoured desk-mounted black box is looking like an endangered species. To investigate whether rumours of the desktop’s demise have been exaggerated, Latest Gadgets has assembled a top five list of PCs that can be purchased for less than £500 – the price of a mid-level tablet – to see whether there’s life in the old warhorse yet.

Acer Aspire XC/TC series
Unveiled last week, Acer’s AMD-powered PCs come in desktop (XC) and micro-tower (TC) guises, with a stylish exterior far removed from the drab boxes of yore. TC models nod to progress by featuring a recess on top where tablets and smartphones can rest, although these computers still pack plenty of punch, with up to 16GB of memory and the ability to get users online in 2.5 seconds.
Price: between £279.99 and £599.99, from stockists including Amazon and John Lewis

Dell Inspiron 660
Let’s be honest, Dell is probably the first name that springs to mind in terms of black-box PC towers, and their Inspiron range of desktops has powered countless homes and offices over the years. The 660 is pretty uninspiring aesthetically, but it retaliates through the sheer brute force of its specifications, including a 1TB hard drive, the newest Intel Core i5 processor, and 4GB of RAM.
Price: £449 when bought from the Dell website

HP Pavilion p6
HP have been keeping pace with the industry trend-setters, and their Pavilion p6 incorporates some features that will attract knowing nods from cognoscenti. For one thing, Beats Audio is installed, with support for 7.1 surround sound, while the p6 can even be controlled remotely via an Android or iOS app from your tablet or smartphone. Two HD ports and 6GB of RAM reinforce its appeal.
Price: £449.99 from PC World (current discounted price)

Lenovo H520
With its brushed-steel-effect frontage and compact dimensions, Lenovo’s H520 series is probably the desktop to choose if you’re going to be looking at it all day, rather than hiding it out of sight. Price is another H520 strength, retailing at less than £430 despite a spec list that encompasses a 3 GHz clock speed, a terabyte hard drive, built-in wifi, and Lenovo’s proprietary content management software.
Price: £429.99 from Currys

ADMI FX-4100
Gamers may be spoiled for choice on tablets nowadays, but complex games require sophisticated hardware, and ADMI’s player-friendly tower fits the bill nicely. That striking red exterior houses a 4 GHz Intel processor, a 2GB graphics card and a 1TB hard drive, as well as full 1080p HDMI output. Uniquely among this round-up, it comes with Windows 7, but the price point is impressive nonetheless.
Price: £414.95 from Amazon (at time of writing)

HP TouchSmart 520: Family friendly All-In-One

HP officially released news of the TouchSmart 520, its updated redesign of the previous TouchSmart all-in-one devices, and a stylish attempt at providing a family-friendly machine primarily used for entertainment within the home. As the worlds leading producer of Windows using machines it would appear to be well placed to position itself as the main opposition to the iMac as the all-singin’, game-playin,’ youtube-blarin’ machine that’ll be just as loved by little Jimmy as it will his Mum and Dad. According to this wonderfully handy press release, 34% of consumer desktop purchases last July were all-in-ones, so they are also very much on-trend.  Hats off to Hp, then.

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As it’s not released in October we haven’t managed to get our hands on a copy or a review yet, so we cannot comment on performance, but from the pictures we’ve seen it is an attractive little thing, with the 21.7 x 58.05 x 45.74 cm  screen hinged onto a frame like an artist’s easel.  This allows the screen to tilt back, forwards and around for supreme ease of sharing when you’ve just got to show that video with the guys on the treadmill to your nearest and dearest across the dinner table.

Users will be able to access all regular Windows applications, as well as a raft of ones built especially for the touch experience.  In a rather nice touch, the machine also harnessed the divine power of the TouchSmart Magic Canvas with HP LinkUp, which means purchasers of the TouchSmart will be able to use programs from their musty old notebook machines on this super-speeded all-round sexier model.

In a sign that it is making a pitch for all those music-lovers that have got thoroughly bored with listening through tinny speakers the music they’ve lovingly trawled halfways across the web to find Hp will also be incorporating the Dr Dre sponsored Beats Audio software.  The technical wizardy at play with this invention is alien to a philistine such as yours truly, but we are assured that its sole purpose in life is to make music sound the way the artist intended which, as far as we’re concerned, is a pretty good thing.

With a dreadfully decent 500GB of storage, the 520 will also have space for you to store all your non Apple-affiliated tunes on, as well as all those videos in that file you keep well hidden for fear of familial reprisal and/or police investigation.  Priced at £599 it’s an affordable price, and it does come with a wireless keyboard so typing long e-mails and documents isn’t a complete faff/impossibility a la iPad.  Time will tell, but from where we’re sitting the TouchSmart looks like a pretty smart (sorry) choice.

HP ‘s New Summer Line Up Of Towering Pavilions

HP is looking forward to a scorching hot summer with its new line up of redesigned Pavilion Desktops culminating in the meaty H8 which it boasts is the ‘most powerful HP computer to date’.

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The redesigned towers incorporate sleek lines and contrasting materials such as a glossy sliding black front panel which hides the integrated ports and drives layered over a metallic base. Some of the models also offer a valet tray integrated into the top of the tower that comes with USB 3.0 ports so you can charge smartphones, and cameras easily enough. There’s also some banging sound promised with Beats Audio, a high-performance sound technology developed by HP and Beats by Dr. Dre.

It is however the HP H8 Series that leads the pack, with its Intel Core i7 processor, high end NVidia or ATI graphics card and up to three monitor multiple display capability.

There are two other models in the Pavilion family range, the HP P7 series that promises ‘generous’ hard drive  space, integrated graphics and multi channel surround sound and the HP P5 Series, a kind of dwarf version of the P7  that still packs a punch but takes up much less space.

Chief Designer Randall Martin comments “HP’s new PCs offer intuitive features and enhanced aesthetics, bridges the gap that sometimes exists between form and function.”

To complete the picture, the HP 2311x is a consumer slim line monitor with HDMI connectivity and mercury free LED backlighting.

HP 2311x Monitor £159

The HP Pavilion Slimline s5 series from £499

The HP Pavilion p7 series from £499

The HP Pavilion h8 series from £799

The Pavilion series is expected to be available from early summer 2011.

HP TouchSmart610: Multitouch All-In-One PC

Since the launch of the iPhone, PCs have been comparatively boring. Their designs are dull, you can’t rotate them around and poking the screen just leaves dirty marks. Not anymore – HP noticed this desktop short-coming and created the TouchSmart610. It’s interesting to look at, moves in two directions and has multi-touch compatibility. But, and this is the big question – why?

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No-one doubts that computer’s stats. The 23-inch, 1920×1080 (Full HD) screen is impressive, especially with the LED backlight. And the screen’s ability to recline 60 degrees, tilt 5 degrees forward and swivel back on itself is unique to the 610.

It’s not let down by poor internals, either. The TouchSmart can be configured with either Intel or AMD processors, RAM runs up to 16GB, a potential terabyte of storage (or a 160GB SSD version) and a Blu-ray drive.

And there’s also plenty-o’-extras, including a 1.3 megapixel camera and Beats Audio speakers, offering possibly the best sound available in a home desktop.

So why are we feeling a little cynical? Well, the problem is application. It’s a bit hard to know what the computer will be used for. The two variations, 610 and 9300 Elite Business, have decidedly different markets – and only one makes much sense.

The 610 aims at home users, with TouchSmart software, some media manager and the inclusion of strategy game R.U.S.E. The problem is that the screen is a bit too small to replace a TV, the touchscreen useless for the majority of games and the swivel function almost pointless. It’ll be great for ergonomics, but we can’t see much regular use otherwise.

For business, however, the purpose of the 9300 is much clearer. In showrooms, for example, an employee could tap away at a computer, then swivel it around for a client to interact with it via touch. PC sharing will be a lot easier and – and this is important – seem much more professional. The 9300 also boosts the webcam to 2 megapixels (why?), but loses Beats Audio (makes sense).

If you’re a home user who needs flexible ergonomics and has trouble with mouse-and-keyboard input, then the HP is the only PC for you. Otherwise, we’re open to comments suggesting other home-uses. Business customers, however, look this way.

HP “double down” on WebOS with Veer, Pre3 and Touchpad

Busy times lie ahead for HP who have just announced the release of three new mobile products onto the market, each running of the on the webOS operating system developed by Pam.   Below we take a look at them and their key features:

HP-WebOS

HP Touchpad

The Touchpad is HP’s tilt at the tablet market, the 7.48×9.53 inch device bing an entertainment and office behemoth and able to be used by itself or in conjunction with the other HP products using the webOS system.  You can answer calls on it, send texts and with it’s HP Synergy capabilities you can sync your Facebook, Linked In, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft accounts to your Touchpad.  All your favourite things in one place is the buzz-phrase, with it being able to surf the internet, play games and, along with Quickoffice, offers the HP Quickoffice suite which allows you to view and edit documents in programs like Microsoft and Excel.

There’s also a 1.3 megapixel front facing camera which makes video calls a synch, and it has compatibility with all HP printers so you can wirelessly print documents, e-mails and photo’s.  Unlike the iPad it also has a USB port so, so you can easily load documents and other bits onto it.  Like the iPad it’s got access to thousands of web apps, including Amazon’s special Kindle application, which will give access to over 810,000 titles from the Kindle store.

Prices and release date are yet to be set, but it should land on these shores over the summer.

HP Pre3

Jon Rubinstein, senior vice-president and general manager of Palm Global Business Unit, HP, says of the Pre3: “It enables professionals to accomplish more of their important workday tasks while easily keeping their fingers on the pulse of their personal lives.”

They’ve fitted it with a vertical slide-out keyboard, the widest and largest keyboard on any webOS phone to date, to make typing texts and e-mails particularly straightforward..  E-mail accounts can be viewed in one place or separately, and business-friendly e-mail protection is offered, so critical and/or sensitive data can be encrypted and stored. Like the Touchpad it also offers the HP Quickoffice suite and Adobe and HTML 5 capabilities.

Aside from these it has all the normal features you’d expect from a smartphone; an Apps Store, social networking access, video calling etc. With it’s 3.58 inch touchscreen it appears to have all the bases covered that a modern day businessman could want.

HP Veer

With dimensions of only 2.1 inches x 3.3 inches x 0.6 inches and weighing only 103 grams, the Veer will be by some way the smallest webOS product on the market.  Like the Touchpad and Pre3 it supports everything you’d expect from a modern day smartphone, if a little more market-friendly than the Pre3.

Like the previous two examples, it has HP Synergy which will enable the user to link all their HP devices in one place.  Keeping things in one place is also the theory behind Just Type, HP’s exclusive text feature which combines all your text messages, picture messages and IM conversations with one person into a single view. You can read and write email with ease and view your email accounts together or easily toggle between them.

Obviously there’s all your social networking doo-dah, Adobe and HP Touchstone (though this is sold separately, unlike with the other two new products).  According to the aforementioned Rubinstein, “Veer bridges the gap for a new generation of smartphone users, proving they really can have it all without sacrificing the size they want.”

Basically, size matters.