HP $399 touchscreen laptop breaks price barrier

HP wants to bring touch to price-conscious laptop buyers with the $399 Pavilion TouchSmart

Hewlett-Packard has introduced a new wave of Envy and Pavilion thin and light laptops, including an 11.6-inch touchscreen model priced aggressively at US$399.

The lineup includes three TouchSmart laptops with touchscreens and two non-touch laptops. The less expensive touch models, the $399 Pavilion TouchSmart with an 11.6-inch screen and the $529 Envy TouchSmart 15 with a 15.6-inch screen, have Advanced Micro Devices' latest chips. New AMD chips code-named Kabini, Temash and Richland were announced on Thursday.

"We want to be aggressive with value touch notebooks," said Kevin Wentzel, technical marketing manager for HP.

One touch model, the Envy TouchSmart 14 ultrabook, has Intel's upcoming Core chips code-named Haswell. It has a 3200 x 1800-pixel display and starts at $699. The ultrabook category was initially criticized for its high prices, but the TouchSmart 14 may be a sign that the issue has been neutralized.

HP has felt the brunt of slowing PC shipments with buyers moving to tablets and smartphones for their computing needs. HP's PC shipments dropped by 23.7 percent year over year during the first quarter, and Lenovo is catching up with the company in market share.

But HP is committed to PCs, and there are many users waiting to upgrade, HP executives said in interviews.

"We will choose the best processor and the best screen to meet that price point and size," Wentzel said.

At $399, the 11.6-inch Pavilion TouchSmart offers a new, low price point on touch laptops, which have mostly been selling for more than $599 due to high processor prices and limited touchscreen supply.

"This would by far be the most affordable touchscreen [laptop]," Wentzel said.

HP may have been able to reach the $399 price thanks to low-cost AMD processors and a more reliable supply of touchscreens, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

AMD's processors are considered less expensive than chips from Intel, which are still being used in most touch laptops. The demand for touchscreens has increased due to Windows 8, and panel prices are coming down, McCarron said.

Now that HP has proven it can make a touchscreen laptop priced under $400, other PC vendors may follow suit, McCarron said.

The Pavilion TouchSmart has a removable battery, though Wentzel could not immediately provide the runtime on a single charge. The battery life largely depends on usage, resolution of the screen, processor and storage configurations.

HP did not immediately provide more hardware specifications for the laptop. The laptop comes with Windows 8 and will start shipping in the U.S. on June 26. HP did not provide information on worldwide availability.

The $529 Envy TouchSmart 15 has a 1920 x 1080 pixel touchscreen. It has four speakers and is designed for entertainment, and AMD's processors have fast graphics processors that will allow for high-definition gaming. The laptop will be available on June 5 in the U.S.

The Intel-only Envy TouchSmart 14 ultrabook offers storage capabilities of up to 1TB, and will start shipping on June 26.

The ultrabook screen comes close to, but doesn't touch the 4K resolution, in which images are displayed at 3840 x 2160 pixels. But it beats Google's Chromebook Pixel, which has a resolution of 2560 x 1700 pixels. With Intel's Haswell processors, the laptop will offer improved graphics and better application performance than the current third-generation Core processors called Ivy Bridge.

HP also announced the Envy 17 non-touch laptop, which has a 17.3-inch screen. It is offered with Intel or AMD processors, and Nvidia's graphics card is optional. The desktop replacement has a thin and light design, and offers up to 2TB of storage. The laptop starts at $699 and will ship on June 5.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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