Pricing research is an important part of our laptop reviews. We always price out the laptops we receive on the website of the manufacturer and popular e-tailers, such as Amazon and Newegg. We also look at similarly priced laptops to judge how well a product’s value stacks up against the competition.
Still, mistakes happen. HP altered us to one such error in our recent HP dm4 review. In that review we discovered that the HP dm4 Beats Edition cost $1169 if customized with the hardware we received, which was far too much given the laptop’s entry-level roots. However, we missed a quick-ship option that configures the laptop as it was received for just $899. That’s $270 less.
HP also told us that Wal-Mart is selling the HP dm4 Beats Edition. We looked in to it and found that the review configuration is currently out of stock, but if you don’t mind a slight downgrade in processor performance and the loss of the solid state drive, you can pick up the laptop for $798.
Such a large difference in price would have an impact on any review, but it’s particularly important in this case. We didn’t find anything wrong with the laptop’s performance. We also praised its 1600x900 matte display and decent, though not excellent, user interface. It was the price we could not tolerate – paying HP Envy bucks for a gussied-up dm4 didn’t strike us as a great value.
The correction in pricing has resulted in a change in the review’s conclusion. The laptop now earns a Gold Award. In fact, buying the pre-configured dm4 Beats Edition actually appears less expensive than buying the basic HP dm4 when it is configured to match the hardware found in our review unit. So-so battery life and unexceptional design are now the only traits holding it back from an Editor’s Choice.
Introduction, The Kepler Scoop, Design, User Interface
Join us today at 12pm EST / 9am CST as PC Perspective hosts a Live Review on the new GeForce GTX 680 graphics card. We will discuss the new GPU technology, important features like GPU Boost, talk about performance compared to AMD's lineup and we will also have NVIDIA's own Tom Petersen on hand to run some demos and answer questions from viewers. You can find it all at http://pcper.com/live!!
The Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 is a unique laptop. It was the first product on the market to contain a GPU based of Nvidia’s new Kepler architecture, beating out not only other laptops but also the desktop video cards. It’s also a rare 15.6” ultrabook. Though a lot of companies have talked about them, not many have actually offered them.
You might expect, considering this two facts, that the Acer Aspire M3 would be outrageously expensive. But this is Acer we’re talking about, and if there’s anything the company stands for, it’s value. This laptop, should you find it on store shelves (it is a globe product with limited production, and they don’t seem to have hit North America quite yet), will retail for around $800. Or so we’ve been told - given the so far limited supply, we would not be surprised if prices were a bit higher until more units are made available to quell demand.
So, what’s inside this ultra-sized ultrabook? Besides the GT 640M, nothing surprising.
Though large enough to accommodate a decent discrete GPU, this laptop still has a low-voltage Core i5 processor. That’s going to put some limits on the overall performance of the laptop, but it also should help extend battery life.
This is likely to be the only Kepler based laptop on the market for a month or two. The reason for this is Ivy Bridge - most of the manufacturers are waiting for Intel’s processor update before they go to the trouble of designing new products.
Subject: Mobile | March 19, 2012 - 09:17 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: laptop, Ivy Bridge, Intel, hp, GT650M, GT630M, 22nm
Over the weekend, HP pulled the curtain off of three new Ivy Bridge laptops on their website. What makes the three new DV series consumer laptops interesting is the inclusion of Intel's upcoming Ivy Bridge 22nm CPUs. Let's dive into the specs as we know them now.
First up is the smallest of the bunch, the DV4-5000 series with 14" display at 1366 x 768 resolution and Windows 7 Home Premium x64. Internal hardware includes an Intel Ivy Bridge Core i7-3610QM running at 2.3 GHz, an NVIDIA GT630M graphics card, 4 GB of RAM, and a 1TB 5400rpm SATA hard drive. This model also comes with 802.11 b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth functionality, and a DVD burner. Connectivity options include two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, one HDMI, one VGA, and one RJ45 Ethernet port, along with headphone and microphone jacks.
The HP DV6-7000 follows the same specifications as the previous DV4-5000 except it ups the display to 15.6." The Ivy Bridge i7-3610QM, NVIDIA GT630M, and 4 GB of RAM, DVD burner, and 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi (plus Bluetooth) all stay the same. The DV6-7000 further provides a bit more external connectivity options with an additional USB 3.0 port, and an extra headphone jack. It is also possible to configure it with a total of 8 GB of RAM.
The last new Ivy Bridge powered laptop release from HP is the DV7-7000 (they really need more catch names for these things). It packs an Intel Ivy Bridge Core i7-3720QM running at 2.6 GHz, 8 GB of DDR3 1600 MHz RAM, a total of 2 TB (2 x 1 TB) of 5400rpm mechanical hard drive storage, a NVIDIA GeForce GT650M, and a Blu-ray writer and DVD reader/writer combo drive. On the outside is a 17.3" display at 1920 x 1080 resolution and four Beats Audio speakers. Connectivity options include three USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0, one HDMI, one VGA, one RJ45 Ethernet jack, two headphone jacks, and a single microphone input along with 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
Although the HP website currently lists the laptops as "Ready To Buy," the links are not click-able and word on the web is that the actual launch date will be around April 8th. Further, HP will not begin shipping their Ivy Bridge laptops until April 29th according to Laptop Reviews. More information on the HP laptops can be found here.
Introduction, Design, User Interface
When you think about a company like HP, you probably don’t think about innovation. They’re an old company, one that now has a massive market and lots of customers to worry about losing. Common sense says they are more likely to be slow and cautious.
If you examine HP’s laptop division closely, however, that story starts to fall apart. Over the past several years the company has implemented several innovative strategies to keep it ahead of the competition, and one of them is a bit unusual – a focus on audio quality, via the Beats Audio brand.
HP seems to have confidence in this strategy. The company has tucked Beats Audio into its chest and ran with it, slapping the branding onto a number of different laptops. That brings us to the HP dm4t Beats Edition. Let’s have a look at what is inside.
This laptop starts life as a regular dm4t, HP’s entry-level ultraportable. Then it is given a number of upgrades including a standard Core i5 processor, 6GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. These improvements, along with the Beats Audio branding, bump up the base price of $579 to $899. Our review unit came with an optional 1600x900 display, a slightly quicker Core i5 processor and an 32GB solid state drive which works with a 500GB mechanical drive to enable Intel Smart Response.
These options bump the price to an intimidating $1169.
Update: HP has informed us that the laptop that they've shipped is available as a pre-configured model for $899. Wal-Mart is shipping a version without the solid state drive for $798 after a $100 instant rebate. This pricing has impacted our verdict, which is now reflected in the conclusion.
Introduction, Design, User Interface
As you may already know from my ultrabook editorial, I’m not entirely sold on them. There are disadvantages to being thin.
And as if to remind me of it, a Lenovo ThinkPad T420 suddenly appeared at my doorstep. Okay, that’s exaggerating a bit - I did know it was coming - but the timing of receiving an old-school laptop couldn't have been better. Not only because I wanted to take a closer look at a laptop purposely designed to not be thin, but also because we haven’t had a ThinkPad T series for review in, well, forever.
This is a return to form for me. I owned several ThinkPads during my late teens, my college days, and the years just after college. My favorite was a T42 with a 14-inch display.
Of course, laptops have come a long way since then. The ThinkPad T420 we received for review is a good example of a mid-range model. Let’s look at the hardware specifications.
According to Lenovo’s website, this configuration is the second pre-configured option available. It can be had for about $1000 after an eCoupon provided by Lenovo. All of the features above are standard, even the 1600x900 display and Nvidia graphics. They are standard only for this model, however - some less powerful versions are available at lower prices.
The only option that came with our review unit was a 9-cell battery, which will set you back $50. We received both the 6-cell and the 9-cell batteries, so we will be testing the laptop’s battery life with both.
Introduction, Design, User Interface, Display And Audio Quality
We have a lot of laptop reviews here at PC Perspective. As you’d expect, we generally use the same benchmarks and use the same principles whenever reviewing a laptop.
Yet we’ve never before put all of this down in writing so that our readers could understand exactly what we’re doing. Since this is a new year with new laptops to review, now is a good time introduce new benchmarks and get rid of old ones - which also makes this a good time to share information with our readers.
The first page of any laptop review here at PC Perspective is dominated by some very subjective criteria.
Design comes first, and is also the most subjective. It refers to a laptop’s build quality, general layout and attractiveness. This is where we comment on a laptop’s aesthetics, and it’s also where we comment on a laptop’s perceived durability. We look at details like the display hinges, the chassis, the display lid and overall material quality. An ideal laptop design is attractive to the eye, pleasurable to touch, and feels sturdy in normal use.
Introduction, Design, User Interface
Late in December of 2011 we received the Transformer Prime for review. What we did not recieve, however, was the keyboard dock. High demand by journalists for a look at the company's latest and greatest Transformer had left them short of docks, in turn leaving us short of a dock.
Now we've finally had our hands on one. Since it was shipped to us several weeks after the review Prime, we were able to give it our full attention. As with the original Transformer, the dock is one of the features that help the Prime stand out from the crowd - but that doesn't mean it is automatically destined for greatness. If the Prime wants to act like a laptop, it will have to be able to compete with laptops - and that's a tall order for a system without Windows or an x86 processor.
Besides a keyboard, the dock adds a few other specifications that are worth mentioning. Let's take a look at them.
So, as with the previous dock, you’re not just buying a keyboard. You’re also receiving an extended battery with impressive capacity and some additional connectivity. Given the MSRP of $150, however, you’d kind of expect there to be more than just a keyboard.
Subject: Mobile | January 27, 2012 - 03:48 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: portable, PC, microsoft, laptop, kinect
At CES 2012, Microsoft announced that they would be releasing a Kinect sensor and SDK (software development kit) for Windows. In that same vien, the company is now exploring the idea of integrating a Kinect sensor directly into laptop computers.
Not the actual prototype. Just a mock up I concocted.
The crew over at The Daily managed to get their hands on two such prototype laptops with integrated Kinect sensors. They state tha the two machines resemble Asus laptops that are running Windows 8; however, upon closer inspection, the laptops have removed the typical 1.3 megapixel webcam that is common in today's notebooks and have instead placed a Kinect sensor bar at the top of the display instead. They claim that a source within Microsoft has confirmed that the two laptops are indeed official prototypes.
Unfortunately, there aren't many details beyond that. Whether Microsoft will forge ahead with this idea and license out the Kinect technology to laptop makers or if the prototypes will go into some bunker somewhere and never see the light of day still remains a mystery. Currently at $250 (to end users, OEMs could likely cut a much better deal), it is not likely that we will see a proliferation of Kinect sensors into all manner of displays for notebooks, TVs, and desktops. If Microsoft could get the cost of the technology down far enough that manufacturers could justify adding it, it could definitely catch on. In the end, I don't think we'll be seeing Kinect powered computers any time soon, but in the future when the hardware is cheaper and there are Kinect for Windows applications readily available, it could happen. Would you like to see Kinect in your laptop (insert Xzibit meme here) or desktop monitor, and if so what would you like to do with it?
Subject: Mobile | January 12, 2012 - 04:50 PM | Matt Smith
Tagged: Overclocked, origin, laptop, desktop, cooling, CES
Origin is one of the big names in the boutique custom PC business, and this CES the company is once again striving to prove why it deserves such credentials. I stopped by the company’s suite and saw something cool, something practical, and something jaw-dropping.
Let’s save the best for first: Origin showed a Genesis system powered by a phase change cooling system built into the case. As a result of this system, the company is able to deliver cooling at temperatures nearing -40 degrees Celsius. The system also draws so much power that they could only run one at once – running both the phase change systems in the suite could be more than the room can handle.
With the processor’s thermals taken care of, Origin is able to overclock up to two core of the Core i7 3960X to 5.7 GHz, while the rest can be clocked up to 5.3 GHz. This is well above the base speed of 3.3 GHz and in the realm of speeds you’d expect to see in competitions.
The rest of the system is also technically impressive. Four 3GB GTX580s running in SLI are shoved in next to 12GB of RAM and two Corsair SSDs in RAID0. This impressive hardware allows the system to post a score of 6,613 in PCMark 7 and 23,014 in 3DMark 11 (with the video cards overclocked to 950 MHz).
What I found most interesting about the system, however, was Origin’s extreme attention to detail. They implemented a red-white-black theme that is conveyed not only by the motherboard and the video card but also the cooling tubes, heatsinks and even the numerous PCIe power cables sending juice to the GTX580s. Nothing was overlooked, and the result is a system that is sure to make any hardcore geek salivate.
Pricing is not available yet for this high-end configuration. Availability is expected to be around February or March.
Origin also has their cool new laptop designs on display. Like most boutique PC companies, the laptop chassis used by Origin is a generic design (by Clevo, I believe). However, the new Origin EON15-S and EON17-S will be using custom lid panels with a look that is somewhat reminiscent of muscle car’s hood.
The glossy prototype versions shown by Origin looked a bit cheap, but the company says the final product version will be matte. If so, these could be some sharp looking systems. Of course, the internals are as quick as ever – the EON17-S shown features a Core i7-2960XM overclocked to 4.5 GHz.
The company’s last announcement doesn’t involve a system, but rather a practial feature for customers - support. Origin is now offering free 24/7 lifetime support for its customers. This is retroactive, so previous customers now qualify for this assistance. Better still, the support is entirely US based. You won’t have to worry about your concerns being lost in translation. It is refreshing to encounter a company that is adding customer service and support rather than stripping it away.
PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Mobile | January 11, 2012 - 05:02 PM | Matt Smith
Tagged: tablet, razer, mouse, laptop, keyboard, gaming, CES
Gaming peripheral company Razer is already well known for its gaming mice, keyboards, headsets and other gadgets. But if CES 2012 is any indication, they’re far from content making products that go along with gaming devices.
You’ve probably already heard of the Project Fiona gaming tablet. It made quite a splash at CES when it was announced last night, and today I had a chance to inspect it up close and personal.
Unfortunately they’re keeping the prototype in a glass case to protect it, but handling it would not reveal much information anyway. Razer has made it clear that the device is only a prototype and will be revised significantly before release. Everything from the display resolution to the controllers could change, and the company is encouraging feedback to help them refine the final concept.
The only thing that seems concrete is the pricing. Razer is very confident that the final product will be sold for under $1000. I doubt it will provide amazing hardware at that price, but this was never going to be the system of choice for playing Battlefield 3 regardless of what’s inside. The finalized version of Project Fiona is targeted for release this year.
Another system being built by Razer is the Blade laptop, a product that was announced several months ago but is now finalized and should be on store shelves in February. The Blade is a thin and portable 17-inch laptop built for mobile gaming. Despite the large display it weighs about 6.5 pounds and is less than an inch thick.
Unlike a normal laptop, the blade doesn’t have a touchpad below the keyboard. Instead the Blade replaces the numpad with a multi-touch display and ten programmable LCD keys. Mouse navigation takes place using the multi-touch display, but if you’d like it can also be used for other tasks including web browsing and recording macros. Razer is also working with game developers to make it possible for games to display customized information and controls.
The Blade comes equipped with a Core i7 dual-core processor, Nvidia GeForce GT555M graphics and 8GB of RAM. These specifications are disappointing in light of the $2799 price tag. Razer tried to play down the hardware, insisting that hardcore gamers looking for a mobile machine will be more concerned with the laptop’s portability and customizable mutli-touch display than raw power.
Also shown was a full set of new Star Wars: The Old Republic peripherals. Of these the most notable is the keyboard, which features Star Wars design ques and a multi-touch display identical to the one on the Razer Blade laptop. Players will be able to bind abilities to the customizable LCD keys and see game information via the display. There’s a lot of possibility here, but it doesn’t come cheap – you’ll have to part with $249 to snag this keyboard.
Last is Razer’s new Hex mouse. It is similar to the Razer Naga, but six larger buttons in a hex format have replaced the columns of programmable buttons. Razer says that this design works better with action-RPGs and specifically referenced Diablo 3 as a game they had in mind when designing the mouse. The Hex will use Synapse 2.0, Razer’s cloud device profile service. An unlimited number of custom profiles can be stored on remote servers (hosted by Amazon) and they are automatically downloaded to the Hex when it is plugged in to a new computer. Pricing is set at $79.99 with availability expected in February.
PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!