Conclusion: Back, in Style

If this preview seems like a bit of a puff piece, I apologize. Having had the chance to sit down and actually see and play with these notebooks in person was a treat, if for no other reason than seeing what might hopefully become a minor sea change in enterprise hardware.

Simply put, HP's new EliteBook and ProBook machines are the kinds of smart, appealing designs that consumers even outside of the business world may want, and HP seems to have achieved to an extent the kind of crossover success in styling that Apple's MacBook Pro enjoys. They're so nice, in fact, that they make me wonder why anyone would bother with HP's warmed over consumer models—that is until I realize that for many users, the price tag is the bottom line. To each their own, but it looks like you'll get what you pay for if you spend up on one of these.

It would be remiss not to mention that all of these notebooks come equipped with USB 3.0 and Sandy Bridge processors, and the EliteBook and ProBook b-series also support integrated WAN. When HP first told me they had chosen to go with AMD Radeons for the line, I was confused: at this juncture, NVIDIA's 500M series with Optimus technology seemed like a clear win and a no-brainer. But AMD seems to have an ace up their sleeve with Power Express switchable graphics, a feature you can actually find on notebooks on retail shelves right now. It's perplexing as to why AMD isn't promoting this more since it puts them back on parity with NVIDIA in the mobile sector, but we'll have to get a Power Express-equipped notebook in house before we can say more.

HP is expecting to have their new lines available on March 15 and we've been told to expect to have review hardware in hand. Hopefully it won't be long until we can give one of these notebooks a more thorough investigation.

The EliteBook, ProBook b-series, and ProBook s-series
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  • GeorgeH - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    They got rid of the middle mouse buttons!? It probably sounds silly, but for that reason alone I won't even be considering upgrading my current EliteBook to a new one. I've gotten used to the idea that 16x9 is inevitably in my future, but you can have my middle mouse button when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

    Kudos to them for making the fan easily accessible for cleaning, though; cleaning it is a major PITA in the older models. Also the "p" EliteBooks have always had lousy graphics; the main selling point of the "w" models is the much better GPU.
  • oshogg - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    My first thoughts exactly. No middle mouse buttons!!! How am I supposed to paste when I VNC into a remote X server session?
  • vol7ron - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    For my setup, I think it's a double, double-click (pressing the L/R mouse button synchronously, twice).

    I think people that really rely on this feature might consider getting an actual mouse (corded or bluetooth).
  • quiksilvr - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    See there's this thing, I'm not sure if you heard of it. Called a mouse? It must be difficult, so I will post a link for you:
  • GeorgeH - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    Gosh, I never knew that. How silly of me to expect a premium laptop marketed for business and power users to be fully featured when you can plug in an external device that'll provide the same functionality.

    You can also get external keyboards, hard drives, optical drives, screens, and networking cards. So let's do away with the 'ctrl' and 'alt' keys, more than 8GB HDDs, optical drives (OK, I actually agree with that one,) color screens, and anything faster than 802.11g. All of those deficiencies can be trivially fixed with external accessories, so what's the big deal?
  • ionis - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    Even if it did have a middle mouse button, I don't see why you wouldn't use an external mouse. They are extremely cumbersome to use. The only time you can't use one is if you're using your laptop while standing. Otherwise, plug in any laser mouse and you can use just about anything that isn't glass as a mousepad.
  • GeorgeH - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    I do use external mice; I've actually got 3 (1 fullsize USB, 1 fullsize BT, 1 travel size BT) that I use regularly with my laptop.

    The thing is my laptop spends a lot of its time being used as a laptop, not a portable desktop. If I'm using the laptop away from a convenient desk-like area with lots of room or am just not going to be somewhere for very long, breaking out a mouse can be impractical and annoying. Even when I'm at a desk with a mouse plugged in, I still sometimes use the touchpad simply because it's closer to the keyboard, which means I can select whatever I need to and get back to typing more quickly.

    I understand that many people can't use touchpads effectively, but if you've been forced to use one regularly for years they can be almost as good as real mice. For example, I can play Mass Effect on the hardest difficulty using a touchpad with no issues at all. I'm a little better with a mouse and twitchier (or MP) games widen the touchpad/mouse gulf considerably, but with enough practice touchpads can be very useful.

    That should at least give you some idea why I'd be upset at losing a valuable button on a touchpad, especially when there's absolutely no good reason for it not to be there. HP might be saving a couple of dollars by omitting it, but when I pay a premium for a laptop I expect premium design features, not cost-cutting ones.
  • DanaG - Friday, February 25, 2011 - link

    Here's why I actually 100% prefer touchpad: mice and trackballs give me repetitive strai, and make my hand hurt.

    These new EliteBooks are no longer worthy of being called Elite -- they're fugly, have weaksauce GPUs, and have lost the middle button.
    Apparently their designers must have fingers > 1.5 inches wide.
  • DanaG - Friday, February 25, 2011 - link

    Repetitive strain injury... Carpal tunnel is what you get when that gets too severe.
    God, HP, why do you need (what looks like) 2-inch wide buttons? The 3/4 inch wide buttons on my 8530w are wide enough!
  • MrSpadge - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    I too love the middle mouse button for "open in new tab" and "close tab".


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