HP's new laptops provide easy self-repair

The new business laptops include a single panel at the bottom to swap memory, hard drive or networking components

Hewlett-Packard on Wednesday announced Intel-based business laptops with features that could make it easier to swap components or fix the PCs.

The new EliteBook and Probook laptops will come with Intel's latest Core i3, i5 and i7 ship and will worldwide in March. The laptops feature one panel at the bottom that can be easily removed to replace the fan, hard drive, memory and networking modules, said Sarah Bussell, manager for HP's business notebook product marketing.

In the earlier HP models, users had to take screws and open up separate panels to replace different modules, Bussell said. Users can now pull out the panel to easily swap components to keep laptops up to date.

"For an IT manager that's got hundreds of notebooks, they want to upgrade the memory, add a wireless WAN card, swap out the hard drive, it just gives them easy access to get in there. It's very ,very simple," Bussell said.

For example, in earlier models, it was difficult to manually remove the fan, and a keyboard would need to be removed to upgrade memory. Now all the replaceable components are sitting at the bottom, which doesn't put other components at risk, Bussell said.

PC makers worry more about squeezing components into laptops than accessibility, said Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates.

But with components getting smaller in size, HP has realized the benefits and cost savings customers could achieve through quick accessibility, Kay said.

"That kind of access was standard for desktops, but it was rare for laptops," Kay said.

Instructions to fix laptops or swap components could be provided over the phone, which could save the time and money involved in delivering laptops to IT departments, Kay said. IT managers could also look to buy cheaper third-party components for use in the PCs.

HP has also redesigned the laptops to be more rugged. The top-of-the-line EliteBook laptops now include an additional layer of protection around the screen, which adds to the weight of the laptop, but it's a trade-off to ensure laptops last longer, said Kyle Thornton, manager of emerging products at HP.

End-users may protest the extra weight, but IT departments want laptops to last at least three to five years, Thornton said.

The laptops also include an upgraded version of QuickWeb, a quick-boot environment that allows users to start laptops in a matter of seconds for simple tasks like checking e-mail. The upgraded software features Skype videoconferencing software and a redesigned user interface.

The Elitebook p-series lineup includes two new laptops. The 8460p includes a 14-inch screen, weighs 4.56 pounds (2.07 kilograms), and is priced starting at US$999. The 8560p comes with a 15.6-inch and is priced starting at $1,099. The laptops provide up to eight hours of battery on a nine-cell battery, Thornton said.

The ProBook b-series 6360b, 6460b and 6560b laptops come with 13.3-inch, 14-inch and 15.6-inch screens respectively, and are priced starting at $799. Depending on screen size, the weight of the laptops starts at 4.19 pounds. The laptops will be offered with Intel's upcoming Celeron processor in the future.

The ProBook p-series budget laptops comes in four models with screen sizes ranging from 13.3-inches to 17.3-inches. Laptop prices start at $579, with weight starting at 3.79 pounds.

The laptops include USB 3.0 and an HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) ports. The PCs support up to 750GB of storage and 16GB of RAM. Graphics cards from Advanced Micro Devices are also offered as an option.

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