HP EliteBook, Business Laptops Aim for Style, Power, Speed

Hewlett-Packard's EliteBook p-series, and ProBook b- and s-series, add a shiny layer of style onto the typical enterprise-laptop package.

For a long time, it seemed, your typical enterprise PC lacked the stylishness-not to mention, in some cases, the processing power-of its sleek consumer cousins.

Over past few years, though, manufacturers began injecting a little more chic into their business offerings. This could have been a response to Apple, whose laptops' and desktops' sleek lines and aluminum bodies captured the imagination of many employees-particularly the younger ones flooding into the enterprise and small businesses. It could have also stemmed from designers' growing realization that a cool-looking laptop, unleashed in a boardroom, can give a user a certain cachet that translates, however indirectly, into better business.

Whatever the case, Hewlett-Packard seems to be the latest company to place style front-and-center, with a new line of business laptops that unite streamlined design, upscale materials, such as aluminum, and more powerful processors.

First up is HP's EliteBook p-series, whose stamped-aluminum shell is meant to appeal to younger users while remaining rugged enough for even those road warriors with a tendency to smash their laptop bags into the nearest wall. The chemically strengthened glass touch-pad allows for gesture control, including pinch and rotate. Available in either a 14- or 15.6-inch model (price points start at $999), the laptop includes security features such as a fingerprint reader and facial-recognition software.

HP's commitment to redesign extended to the underside of the EliteBook, which features a single access door to the device's inner workings. IT administrators can install a security screw here, physically preventing more curious employees from accessing the hardware.

As with the EliteBook p-series, HP's ProBook s-series and ProBook b-series offer the full range of Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 processors, with the latter two laptop lines also available with Intel Celeron processors.

The ProBook s-series (whose display sizes range from 13.3 to 17.3 inches) embraces the same aluminum-centric design language, with a brushed-metal exterior designed not only for durability, but to resist fingerprint smudging. The s-series, with a starting price point of $579, is aimed at small and midsize business users whose shops manage their own IT, and who may want a laptop that straddles the line between professional and personal use. Certainly the Premium SRS sound system could help not only enhance multimedia presentations, but also with blasting a playlist at the end of the workday. As with the EliteBook, the s-series features security tools such as HP Face Recognition.

HP intends the ProBook b-series as more of an enterprise workhorse, a spec-balanced "fleetbox" that can be issued to a wide variety of users. Features include a high-definition webcam, SRS premium sound, and an HP Power Assistant for longer battery life.

A SSD (solid-state drive) option and a "QuickWeb" button for fast (less than 10 seconds) access to e-mail and Web widgets are two of HP's nods to the need for speed currently gripping the enterprise mobility world. Combined with the latest Intel processors and features such as HP Power Assistant for extended battery run-time, that could make HP offerings more appealing in the crowded field of enterprise computing-for those potential users not instantly enraptured by brushed aluminum.