Gadling Gear Review: HP EliteBook Folio 9470m Laptop

HP EliteBook Folio 9470mOver the past few years our expectations of what our laptops are capable of have changed dramatically. Not all that long ago we were content with simply having a reasonably fast portable computer that could help us get our work done and stay in contact with friends, family and coworkers while on the road. But now, that same laptop needs to be a mobile workstation with full multimedia capabilities, fast wireless Internet and a bright, clear, high-resolution screen. It should also come in a lightweight, thin – yet durable – package that looks good too. That seems to be the exact blueprint that HP used when designing the new EliteBook Folio 9470m, an ultrabook that meets all of those requirements while delivering a few nice surprises of its own.

The Folio 9470m is the kind of laptop that starts making an impression before you ever turn it on. Its casing is made out of a durable and lightweight, yet very attractive, magnesium alloy that conveys a sense of quality that isn’t always found in a notebook of this size. The laptop has been built to military grade specifications, which means it is capable of surviving all manner of abuse. HP tells me that in order to gain military spec certification the EliteBook had to go through a battery of tests, including surviving drops from a variety of heights, being able to withstand a wide range of temperatures and environmental conditions and withstanding vibrations, changes in atmospheric pressure and so on. The Folio 9470m passed every one of those tests with flying colors, which means it should be able to shrug off the typical wear and tear associated with day-to-day use both at home and on the road.

HP builds this notebook in a variety of configurations, offering something for just about every budget. The model I tested came with 4GB of RAM, a 2 GHz Intel i5 processor and a 14-inch backlit LED screen with a resolution of 1366 x 768. Each of those components can be upgraded further if you need higher performance, but I found that this standard config provides enough power for the average user. A higher quality screen capable of a resolution of 1600 x 900 is a tempting upgrade though.Putting this laptop through its paces I was continually impressed by the overall excellent performances. For standard, day-to-day tasks such as email, browsing the web and listening to music, the EliteBook won’t even break a sweat. More demanding tasks such as photo editing, video conferencing and watching streaming movies went off without a hitch as well. Those processor intensive activities were more likely to activate the laptop’s internal fan however, which was a bit jarring at times, especially considering how quiet this machine is most of the time.

I was impressed with how much I liked both the keyboard and touchpad that HP uses on the Folio 9470m. Both are very responsive and have a high quality feel to them. The keyboard is very easy to adapt to and I liked the “clicky” nature of its movement. The backlit keys, with two levels of lighting, are a very nice touch too. The fact that it is also spill resistant will be much appreciated by anyone who has ever managed to knock over their morning coffee as well.

HP EliteBook Folio 9470mSimilarly, the touchpad is highly sensitive and easy to use and while it’s not quite on par with the brilliant trackpad on Apple’s MacBook line, it’s about as close as I’ve found on a Windows notebook. It seemed to have some issues recognizing Windows 8 gestures however, which was a bit confounding considering how well it performed otherwise. For those who aren’t fans of the touchpad, HP has also included a pointing stick as an alternate method of interacting with the EliteBook. I’ve never been a big fan of that type of input device, but this one was accurate and easy to use.

HP has wisely gives users the opportunity to purchase the Folio 9470m with either Windows 7 or 8 installed. Many have resisted upgrading to Microsoft’s newer operating system and I’m sure this laptop delivers an excellent Win 7 experience should you choose to go that route. My test model came with Win 8 and unlike many other peope, I have actually enjoyed Microsoft’s new OS for the most part. As I’ve said in the past however, the Windows 8 interface is best used in a touch environment and since this laptop doesn’t use a touch screen, it can feel a bit clunky at times. The excellent touchpad helps to alleviate this to a degree, but there was more than one occasion when I found myself tapping on an unresponsive screen, before I reminded myself that this laptop didn’t feature that technology. If Windows 8 is truly the future of the operating system, the ultrabook reference design should mandate touch screens in my opinion.

The EliteBook Folio 9470m was designed with the business traveler in mind and as a result it has some nice touches that aren’t always found on other ultra-thin laptops. For instance, it has a built-in VGA port as well as a Displayport which provides a great deal of flexibility when connecting to external monitors, television sets or LCD projectors. The laptop also features an Ethernet port, two very fast USB 3.0 ports and an SD/MMC card reader. Finally, it also has a docking port that allows it to quickly and easily connect to HP’s new universal docking station which works across the entire EliteBook line. That comes in very handy for quickly and easily connecting to external monitors, keyboards and networks when at a desk.

One of the key elements to how useful any laptop is to a traveler is how well its battery performs. The Folio 9470m doesn’t disappoint in this area either as its standard 52w battery is good for a solid 6+ hours of performance. For $200, road warriors can add a slice battery that adds a little bulk to the notebook but provides an additional 10 hours of battery life. Imagine being able to cross the Pacific using your computer for the entire flight. That’s the kind of performance we’re talking about here and I’m not sure how you could possibly ask for anything more.

This notebook isn’t without a few quibbles however. For instance, the built-in webcam doesn’t perform all that well in low light conditions and as mentioned the trackpad wasn’t as accurate as I would like when using Windows 8 gestures. The standard display is a bit on the lackluster side as well, particularly for a laptop in the EliteBook’s price range. But those minor issues aside, it’s hard not to like everything that this notebook brings to the table.

If you’re a business traveler who needs a lightweight and rugged laptop that can handle your entire workload while on the road, it’s tough to beat the Elitebook Folio 9470m. It weighs in at just 3.6 pounds and is just .75 inches thick. Despite those svelte figure however, it packs quite a bit of power under the hood. Base configurations start at $1049 and go up from there depending on added features. That puts it at the top end of the ultrabook line, but considering the performance and military grade durability displayed by this laptop, I think it is an excellent choice for the on-the-go business traveler.

[Photo Credit: HP]

Gadling Gear Review: HP EliteBook 2570p Laptop

HP EliteBook 2570p laptopOver the past few years the trend in laptops has been to get thinner and lighter, often at the expense of power and features. The result has been a host of ultra-portable notebook computers that are sleek and stylish but don’t necessarily meet the needs of travelers who require a full-featured option when hitting the road. Fortunately, HP hasn’t abandoned those road warriors who require more from their laptops than just a pretty exterior. Their new EliteBook 2570p provides a great combination of performance and functionality in a package that still manages to remain relatively thin and lightweight.

While the EliteBook 2570p doesn’t fall into the category of an ultrabook, I was still very impressed with how thin and lightweight it is for such a full-featured laptop. Most ultrabooks achieve their diminutive stature by making compromises to the internal chipset and by omitting an optical drive altogether. HP hasn’t made those same compromises with this computer, however, delivering a system that includes a DVD drive, 12.5″ widescreen display, 500 GB of internal storage, 4 GB of RAM and an Intel Core i5 processor (i7 available as an upgrade) while still managing to keep the weight and bulk to a minimum. The EliteBook tips the scale at just 3.6 pounds and is a little more than an inch thick, which are pretty impressive dimensions for a computer that includes this much hardware.

Of course, all of that internal technology doesn’t mean much if you don’t have the battery power to keep it up and running for very long. But HP has managed to deliver in that department as well, giving the laptop plenty of juice. Out of the box, the EliteBook 2570p comes with a standard 6-cell battery that delivers more than nine hours of life. The unit I tested came with an extended 9-cell battery, which brought that time up to an astounding 15 hours. That’s enough to keep travelers productive and entertained for an entire trans-Pacific flight without needing a recharge, something that isn’t possible on most ultrabooks.
HP EliteBook 2570p laptopBuilt from the ground up to withstand the rigors of the road, the EliteBook 2570p is rugged and durable. It isn’t in the same class as something like the Panasonic Toughbook series of laptops, but then again HP’s offering isn’t nearly as big or as bulky as those machines either. This is a computer that will hold up well to the challenges of travel and you’ll never have to worry that it is too fragile to accompany you on a trip to just about anywhere.

This laptop implements a nice mix of legacy technology and new features. In addition to the aforementioned DVD drive and a fingerprint scanner, it also includes gigabit Ethernet, USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, an SD card reader and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. It even has an option for a 56k modem, something that is seldom found on any computer these days. Business users will appreciate the ability to dock the computer while seated at their desks and everyone will enjoy the SRS premium sound package, which provides clear audio for watching videos, listening to music or chatting via Skype.

Since this laptop is aimed primarily at business-oriented travelers, HP has added some impressive levels of security to protect the contents on the hard drive. In addition to the usual password protection that comes standard on any Windows PC, the EliteBook 2570p’s included fingerprint scanner provides a slick way to authenticate as well. But this system also has a third option that combines Bluetooth technology and facial recognition to provide unprecedented protection for those that need it. When the laptop is paired with a mobile phone via Bluetooth it then takes a snapshot of the users face through the built-in webcam. When the computer’s owner attempts to log in using this system, the EliteBook first checks to see if the user’s phone is within range and then activates the camera to compare his or her face with the image on file. If they match, the system grants entry. This security option sounds complicated, but once it is configured, it works flawlessly and provides a measure of protection that goes well beyond what is found on most notebooks.

While overall I found the EliteBook 2570p to be an excellent full-featured laptop for travelers, there were a few areas that I wouldn’t mind seeing improved. For instance, I wasn’t overly impressed with the touch pad, which was smaller, and sometimes less responsive, then I would have liked. The laptop does come with a track stick, however, which helps to mitigate this issue for those that prefer that option. The integrated Intel graphics chip will be a bit disappointing for some as well, although if you don’t play 3D games or edit video, you’ll probably find it adequate for your day to day needs.

HP offers the EliteBook with your choice of either Windows 7 or Windows 8, and my test model came preloaded with the latest version of Microsoft’s iconic operating system. After putting it through its paces for several weeks, I’d have to say that if I were ordering one of these laptops for myself, I would probably prefer Windows 7. That isn’t to say that Windows 8 doesn’t bring some new and interesting things to the table, but its interface seems to work better on a touchscreen device, something that this laptop most assuredly is not. Windows 8 runs flawlessly on the 2570p, but I found it a bit awkward to use at times, especially with the smaller touch pad.

If you’re the kind of traveler that needs to carry a laptop that doesn’t compromise features and performance in favor of a slim design, then the EliteBook 2570p is a great option for you. The computer provides everything that business travelers need to stay connected and productive while on the road, while still managing to remain relatively lightweight and thin. Yes, HP could have pulled out the DVD drive and a few other features to cut weight and bulk, but that would be completely missing the point. Some of us still need those options while on the road, and those are the types of travelers who are going to appreciate what this laptop brings to the table. Those same users are also likely to appreciate the EliteBook’s price tag, which starts at just $949. That’s an excellent price for a computer that delivers this much versatility and performance in such a small package.

[Photo Credit: HP]

HP Mini 5102 netbook review

Last year, we reviewed the HP Mini 5101 – what I then considered to be one of the best netbook options on the market. Earlier this year, HP refreshed their lineup, and the 5101 became the 5102. Not that much has changed on the new version, but it is enough of an upgrade to warrant a fresh look.

First the basics – thankfully, the outside is the same, as is the the keyboard – which is just as well, because the “near full size” keyboard of the 5101 was quite simply the best on any netbook. As you can see in the photo above, the keys reach the entire width of the machine, making them a real pleasure to type on.
More power

The majority of changes are on the inside – the first major change is a new processor lineup. You can now order the Mini 5102 with a 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450 or a beefier 1.83GHz Atom N470. New operating system options have also been added, and you can order the 5102 with Windows 7 starter (in addition to the previous options of Windows XP, SUSE Linux and FreeDOS).

I have to say that Windows 7 really does feel at home on the 5102 – the faster processor obviously makes a slight difference, but the entire experience just feels faster.

More options

The list of available options on the 5102 has increased considerably – the most notable being a touch panel display. This multi touch display supports a variety of gestures, including pinch and rotate. The touch option is an additional $51.

Other options include a GOBI enabled broadband adapter with GPS (additional $125), the Broadcom Crystal HD decoder ($45) and a really cool carrying handle ($30). I played with this carrying handle at the HP booth at CES earlier this year, and found it to be one of the coolest innovations I’ve seen on a computer in ages. The handle is primarily designed for the educational market, but travelers will really love it.

Sadly, the broadband adapter and HD decoder can’t both be added together – there is only one slot for add-on cards.

And finally – the Mini 5102 is now also available in red and blue, in addition to black (additional $28).

Same high end protection

When it comes to “never changing a winning team”, HP did well here. On the new Mini 5102, you still get the HP DriveGuard 3D hard drive protection system, spill resistant keyboard with DuraKey coating, which prevents the letters from rubbing off the keys after prolonged use.

Included software suite

The Mini 5102 comes with an impressive array of free software – including Corel Home Office, PDF Complete, Skype, HP QuickSync (for netbook to desktop data syncing), HP QuickLook 3 and QuickWeb (for instant data access without booting) as well as several trial versions of popular software packages (McAfeeTotal Protection and Microsoft Office Professional 2007).

On Windows 7, you also get the newest version of the HP Support Assistant, which helps with driver and OS updates as well as basic computer health checks. HP also added an array of security features, making the Mini 5102 a great choice for business users.

Battery life

With the basic 4 cell battery, the Mini 5102 will stay powered for up to 4 hours and 30 minutes – an upgrade to the 6 cell pack brings that up to ten hours, though it will add a little bulk. With the 4 cell pack, HP’s Fast Charge system can recharge the battery to 90% in just 90 minutes – perfect for those short layovers at the airport.

Prices

A good computer does not come cheap, but with a starting price of $415, you do get a lot of computer for your money. The price does go up quickly once you start adding options, and a fully spec’d HP Mini 5102 can easily climb to $770 – but for that money, you essentially get a broadband enabled touch-screen computer – and the final price is still lower than the top of the line iPad…

The HP Mini 5102 for travelers

For travel, the advantages of the Mini 5102 over other netbooks are easy to spot:

  • A near full size keyboard
  • Spill protection on the keyboard
  • Optional worldwide compatible mobile broadband
  • Optional carrying handle (making it very easy to lift the machine out of a bag at the checkpoint)
  • Good battery life
  • Excellent array of pre-loaded software
  • Drop protection on the hard drive
  • The Mini 5102 uses the same charger found on almost every HP – making it easy to shop for a replacement or spare charger


The bottom line…

With its all metal frame, drive and keyboard protection and extensive options, this is not a budget computer. But if you travel, and need a computer that won’t let you down, the extra investment won’t disappoint you.

Personally, I find the extra options to add a little too much to the price, especially once you start adding Bluetooth, the touch screen and HD video decoder – I would have preferred to see some of those features included in the base price.

But you can’t argue with the quality – I have several netbooks here, and the HP is by far the best built, and most sturdy. There are no squeaks or creaks, and the keyboard doesn’t have the “flex” you’ll often find on cheaper machines.

Justifying the investment is as simple as answering a question – how inconvenient will it be if your computer breaks in the middle of a trip?

You’ll find the lineup of ready-to-ship HP Mini 5102 models here, where you can also start customizing your own machine.

The HP Envy 13 – The ultimate in notebook style, speed and specifications?

If you have ever seen those obnoxious TV commercials, then you’ll know that there are apparently people who consider themselves “a Mac”, and those that are a “PC”. Me? I’m a PC. I’ve got a lot of reasons to be a PC, but the main one is that I always want the best my money can get me, without having to compromise. Despite being a longtime PC user, one aspect of the Mac world always makes me jealous – Mac’s are gorgeous computers. Sure, they come with a matching price tag, but you always pay for style.

Thankfully, there are similar good looking options out there for PC users – and one of the best available, is the HP Envy 13.

The Envy line of machines is the top of the line in consumer laptops from HP – they sell them in 13″ and 15″ models, and this review will focus on the travel friendly 13″ version.

Lets get one thing out of the way – this is a not a budget computer. With an opening price of $1,499, you are well into Mac territory, and once you start adding options and other accessories, you can easily bring the final price towards $2,500. Obviously, this is not the computer you buy if you just want to do some simple browsing on the road.

Inside the machine Gadling got to review, is an Intel Core2Duo SL9600 running at 2.13GHz with Intel Integrated graphics and ATI Radeon HD 4330 graphics (more on that later).

The machine has 5GB or ram, a 250GB hard drive, Bluetooth, a 13.1″ HD LED screen (1600×900) and comes with an external Blu-Ray drive.

But enough about the insides – the real treat of the Envy 13 is on the outside. Built around a gorgeous aluminum and magnesium frame, the Envy is quite simply stunning. The screen features edge-to-edge glass, and the chiclet keyboard is one of the best I have ever tested.

On the sides are an HDMI video port, power port, 2 USB ports, a memory card reader and a combined audio input/output jack. Included in the box is an HDMI to VGA (D-SUB) adapter, which I found to be a nice touch. There is no built in Ethernet port, but a 10/100/1000 USB adapter was included in the box. WiFi access comes from an Intel Wireless-N adapter.

Performance is what you’d expect from a notebook in this price range – stunning. The machine blazed through everything I threw at it. It’ll be perfectly at home with some basic office tasks, but also very content with photo and video editing and even some of the more advanced games (though this is by no means a “gaming machine”). As delivered, the Envy 13 comes with Windows 7 professional 64-bit and a suite of image and video software from Corel. In addition to this, it also comes with the HP MediaSmart multimedia interface.

If you need quick access to basic applications, you can boot into the “Full web access” without having to start the main OS – which shaves a good 45 seconds off boot times.

The webcam in the HP is also very impressive – a 1.3 megapixel camera with HP’s awesome webcam software. Audio may have been my favorite part of this machine – the speakers and audio circuitry come from the Beats brand – and performance was great. Once you add a pair of Beats headphones (by Dr. Dre), you end up with an amazing combo.

The Envy 13 for travelers

All this metal and high performance makes for a fairly heavy machine, in fact – at 3.68 lbs, this may appear to be a very unfriendly machine for travelers. However, I’ve taken it on four trips now, and actually find the performance and battery life to be more important to me than the weight. One of the best options for the Envy 13 (and something not found anywhere else) is the optional “Slice Battery” – a super thin extra battery pack that slots onto the bottom of the machine.

The Slice Battery blends in perfectly, and with the exception of a tiny gap, the 2 merge together nicely. Best part of this $249 battery? It’ll bring the Envy 13 to a little over 11 hours of battery life (with a bunch of optimizations and screen brightness turned down). Bottom line is that the Envy 13 with its Slice battery make for a very powerful machine, with plenty of weight, but enough performance to get work done without any compromises. Yes – there are netbook computers that’ll outlast the Envy when it comes to battery life, but none of them have the same performance and specifications.

Sadly, the Envy 13 uses a non-standard HP charger, and none of my universal chargers worked on it – the machine obviously comes with its own (compact) charger, but if you need a spare or a car/air compatible charger you may be in trouble.

The trackpad

The Trackpad on the Envy 13 deserves special attention – not because of how well it performs, but because how horrible it is. Button presses are often missed, and despite a bunch of integrated multi-touch gesture features, it fails at the most basic of tasks. Very disappointing, and something that usually just forced me to use a travel Bluetooth mouse instead.

Final thoughts?

Thankfully for HP, the bad trackpad is quickly forgotten when compared to the rest of the machine. Fantastic looks, super performance, a stunning screen and optional Blu-Ray player make for what I consider to be one of the best notebook computers on the market.

The “Envy Experience” is equally impressive – which starts with the box. HP clearly spent some time designing the computer, but also put a lot of effort into making the unboxing something that makes the steep purchase price a little easier to accept.

As I mentioned earlier – this is not the computer you’ll be considering if you just want basic – this is what you buy if you need performance, without settling for a laptop made entirely of plastic with lots of squeaks.

You’ll find the HP over at the Envy store, where you’ll also find exact prices and available accessories.

Create the ultimate lightweight mobile office with this trio of HP gear

With a little over three pounds of electronics, you can create the perfect mobile office for living the “Up In The Air” lifestyle. The kit we will be reviewing next week consists of the new HP Mini 5102 netbook, the HP Notebook Projection Companion and the HP slim travel adapter.

We’ll be taking this trio on a real business trip to determine whether it really can replace your bulky laptop and massive video projector – and whether you’ll actually be able to show up at an office and fire all the staff without them laughing at you.

So, check back next week to see if this good looking kit can become your new office, and whether lighter really is better when it comes to mobile electronics.