HP Announces New Envy TouchSmart 15 Notebook to Replace dv6

HP today announced the new ENVY TouchSmart 15 premium 15” screen notebook that will replace it’s long running Pavilion/Envy dv6 model.  The Envy TouchSmart 15 will feature a selection of AMD or Intel processors, the Intel lineup will include the upcoming code named “Haswell” processors 4th generation Core i3/i5/i7 lineup.  No specific processor models are mentioned as Intel is still yet to officially announce the release.  No specifics have been mentioned in regards to graphics cards, but it’s expected we will see the Graphics will be powered by up to an Nvidia 750M on the Intel models and AMD Radeon 8750M on AMD models.

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One nice feature that seems will be standard is a 1920 x 1080 Full HD touchscreen display, this isn’t completely confirmed, but it was the only type of screen mentioned for the ENVY 15 in the announcement from HP.

The new ENVY 15-jxxx series is quite obviously a throwback to the older ENVY 15 that was mysteriously removed last year despite being one of the most premium and popular notebooks HP sold.  It features the same orange accents around the keyboard, but the jog dial volume button is gone and this model is thinner with a tapering towards the front.  Room has also been made for a number pad on the right side, something we did not see in the older ENVY 15.  Also, no optical drive will come with this ENVY 15, the previous generation had a slot loading drive on the right side.  As far as port selection, you’ll get HDMI, four USB 3.0 ports, Ethernet, headphone out /microphone in and a media card reader.  Here are the full specs on the updated ENVY 15-jxxx model laptop:

  • Processors: Intel 4th Generation (Haswell) or latest AMD
  • Display: 15.6” 1920 x 1080 with touchscreen
  • Graphics: up to Nvidia 750M on Intel models, Radeon 8750M on AMD models
  • Memory: 6GB – 16GB
  • Storage: 750GB HD and higher capacity or SSD options
  • Thickness: 1.0”
  • Ports: 1 HDMI, 1 headphone-out/microphone-in combo, 4 USB 3.0 (1 Boost), 1 RJ45 (10/100/1000) Ethernet
  • HP TrueVision HD Webcam with integrated dual array digital microphone
  • Beats Audio with 4 speakers and two HP Triple Bass Reflex Subwoofer
  • HP Clickpad supporting multi-touch gestures
  • Full-size, island-style, backlit with numeric keypad
  • Weight: 4.82lbs

The ENVY TouchSmart 15 will go on sale via HP.com starting June 5th with a starting price of $529 and once available we’ll update you with more specs and first impressions.

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Deal: Dell Inspiron 15R Special Edition with Full HD Screen $649.99

Dell is running a pretty good deal on its popular Inspiron 15R Special Edition laptop right now.  For $649.99 you can get a decent configuration that includes the standard Full HD screen (very nice) and dedicated AMD HD 7730M graphics.  To get the deal you have to visit this link and then apply coupon code $MXRD3N?Z?4RM0 at checkout to knock the price down $250, which drops the total from $899.99 to $649.99.  The specs on the version of the Inspiron 15R for sale are as follows:

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  • Processor: Intel Core i5-3210M 2.5GHz Processor
  • Memory: 8GB DDR3 Memory
  • Storage: 1TB Hard Drive (5400 RPM)
  • Screen: 15.6″ 1080p LED Display
  • Graphics: 2GB AMD Radeon HD 7730M
  • Optical Drive: DVD-RW Drive
  • Wireless: WiFi N , Bluetooth
  • 1MP Webcam
  • 6-cell Battery
  • Windows 8
  • Ports :  4 x USB 3.0 , 1x HDMI, 1x VGA, Media card reader

The Inspiron 15R SE is a great value for what you get.  I recently did a video review here on LaptopReviews.com and a written review over on NotebookReview.com if you want to get detailed information on this laptop.  The cliff notes summary of the review is that the Inspiron 15R SE has powerful enough components for a decent gaming experience and a great screen, it’s build quality is very good featuring an aluminum lid cover and keyboard area, the design is appealing though nothing exciting and the port selection provides everything you need.  The two major knocks are that the Inspiron 15R SE is heavy at over 6lbs and it’s battery life is poor at around 3 hours – for a desktop replacement, not surprising though.  On the whole, a good deal for what you get with the current pricing.

Link to Deal: Dell Inspiron 15R SE $649.99 after coupon $MXRD3N?Z?4RM0 (through 5/30/13)

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ThinkPad Helix now Available on Lenovo.com for $1,679

Lenovo-ThinkPad-Helix-alternateThe ThinkPad Helix has finally become available on Lenovo.com, after many delays, but as you would expect there are no bargain prices to be found for this premium notebook to tablet convertible.  The starting price is $1,679, and Lenovo isn’t even pretending that’s a sale price, you pay full sticker for new.  At the base level configuration you get an Intel Core i5 ULV processor, 4GB RAM,  and 128GB SSD.  You of course get the standard features that are so drool worthy with the Helix.  These features include the 11.6” IPS screen with 1920 x 1080 Full HD resolution and bright 400 nit display, up to 10 hours of battery life, digitizer pen input or touchscreen, 2MP front camera + 5MP rear camera, “rip & flip” detachable keyboard so that in tablet mode the weight is only 1.84lbs and in notebook mode it’s still a respectable 3.75lbs.  In terms of ports you get 1 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, 1 mini DisplayPort and a SIM card slot.  And of course you still get all the typical features you’d expect in a ThinkPad such as the Precision keyboard with pointing stick, security management tools geared towards large companies.  The downsides to the Helix?  High price, no Ethernet port and the verdict is still out on the new touchpad that has integrated track point and mouse buttons.  For early adopters with a little extra change (or hundred dollar bills) in the jam jar, the Helix surely has to tempt that itchy finger to hit the Buy button…

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix Product Tour

 

Link: Lenovo ThinkPad Helix for $1,679 at Lenovo.com

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Students who Buy a Touch Screen Laptop at Staples get a $100 Prepaid Visa Card

If you’re a student looking for a laptop, either as a graduation gift or maybe early back to school shopping (if you’ve even finished this year yet), is of course touchscreen.  It’s one of those features that can help make the Windows 8 OS more usable and the younger generation are simply more used to using touchscreens as a method of computer interaction.  Well, Staples knows this and is teasing a free $100 Visa card for any student that whips out their ID at the counter when making a purchase of a touchscreen laptop in the store.  To see the entire list of laptops that qualify for this promotion you can just go to this page on Staples

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Some notable deals that already feature low prices include the Acer Aspire V5 Ultrabook with touchscreen for $499 and Dell Inspiron 14R for $549.99, so on top of those low prices you get a $100 gift card thrown in.  The prepaid Visa card can be used anywhere a regular Visa credit card is accepted and just acts like a debit card, so it’s as good as cash.   The deal lasts through June 15 and starts today (5/19) so plenty of time to keep an eye on other deals that might combine with this, or recruit your son / daughter / niece / nephew that’s a student to act as a buyer on your behalf to score the free $100 Visa card Open-mouthed smile

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Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11s Convertible now Available for $799.99

The much anticipated IdeaPad Yoga 11s is now selling via Lenovo.com for the reasonable starting price of $799.99.  The Yoga 11s is a convertible notebook to tablet Windows 8 device, unlike the earlier released Yoga 11 this model has the full version of Windows 8 so you’re not limited to just Windows apps, you can use any Windows OS desktop software.  The Yoga 11s uses the same form factor as the earlier released Yoga 13, it converts to a tablet by way of the screen being able to swivel all the way around so that the keyboard becomes the back of the tablet.  It can also be placed in “tent mode”, a sort of in between mode of notebook and tablet that can serve well for movie watching.  The weight of the Yoga 11 comes in at 3.10lbs, making it heavier than a dedicated slate tablet but not uncomfortable to carry for at least a few minutes in tablet mode, though it would be easier to use on a table. 

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The specs on the base model that starts at $799.99 on Lenovo.com include the following:

  • Intel Core i3 1.40GHz processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 11.6” 1366 x 768 resolution IPS display
  • 128GB SSD
  • 802.11 b/g/n + Bluetooth 4.0
  • Ports: HDMI,
  • Dimensions: 13.1 x 8.9 x 0.67″
  • Ports: 1 USB 2.0 port, 1 USB 3.0 port, Headphone / Microphone Combo jack, 2-in-1 card reader (SD/MMC)
  • Weight: 3.10lbs

One key feature to note there is the fact the Yoga 11s has an IPS display that provides great screen viewing from any angle.  Claimed battery life is 6 hours, certainly not bad.  You can spend more money to upgrade to a larger 256GB SSD, 8GB of RAM and faster Intel Core i5 or i7 processor.   If you prefer to make purchases in store rather than online or just want a chance to try out this new machine then you can wait until June 23rd when the Yoga 11s will be available in U.S. Best Buy stores.

Link: Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11s for $799.99 at Lenovo.com

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Toshiba KIRABook Reviews Trickle Onto the Web, the Conclusion? Overpriced.

KIRA-Ultrabook-600-01Toshiba recently announced the KIRABook, a premium Windows 8 UltraBook with Ultra HD display, and now the verdict on this notebook from a few major publishers have been appearing on the web.  Unfortunately we don’t have the same $2,000 machine on hand other reviews have received to give you our own verdict (waves to Toshiba) but a summary of the best reviews to have been published so far can give you a good idea of what you do and don’t get for such a steep starting price of $1,599:

The Verge“Finally, a flagship Windows 8 laptop”

The title of The Verge’s review is somewhat misleading and you’d think the review would be 100% glowing, but in fact it is not.  The reviewer takes issue with the fact that, despite having a gorgeous display, many of the applications look horribly blurred or have tiny controls because Windows software developers did not design their software with a 2560 x 1440 resolution display in mind.  For instance, the Chrome Browser displays text so blurry it’s almost impossible to use.  The hardware is ahead of the software in this case.

Another complaint comes due to the lid having horrible flex.  Though Toshiba touts the KIRABook’s Mag-Alloy material as being stronger than the aluminum on the MacBook Pro, it apparently is layered so thinly in the lid area that it flexes like a trampoline.

Battery life was found to be quite good, at around five hours.  Performance was decent with fast bootup of 7 seconds, but sometimes multi-tasking slowed the machine down, likely a symptom of the high-resolution display and extra pixel pushing that requires.

AnandTech“It’s a good product that has a questionable price and poor timing, and that’s ultimately where things go south.”

Dustin over at Anandtech is a great reviewer and really knows his stuff.  He makes the very valid point that the timing of the KIRABook release just two months ahead of Intel’s Haswell release is somewhat tragic.  Who wants to pay nearly $2K for a notebook that you know will be out of date and outperformed in just two months?  Now is not a good time to be spending a huge chunk of change on a laptop, for those buying budget machines it doesn’t matter so much, but we’d advise against spending more than a week’s worth of salary for something that will depreciate a few hundred bucks the moment Toshiba releases an Intel Haswell equipped version of the KIRABook.

Dustin also took issue with the cheap Intel wireless chip used inside the KIRABook as it is not WiFi 5GHz capable, a head scratching design decision on a premium machine when even budget friendly notebooks often have this feature.  Either Toshiba design engineers had to find a way to save $5 – $10 on parts or something about a 5GHz capable wireless chip caused concern.  The unsettling lid flex was also noted in the review.

Negatives aside, AnandTech felt the 2560 x 1440 Ultra HD screen was everything Toshiba had promised it to be, with a bright display and vibrant and true colors.  The keyboard and mouse input were very good by Ultrabook standards and battery life of around 5 hours under light usage conditions was right where you’d expect it to be.  Premium offerings such as the touchscreen and faster Core i7 are nice to see, but way overpriced in the reviewer’s opinion.

CNET “High end specs, and a price to match”

CNET Editor Dan Ackerman seems to like the Toshiba KIRABook, but can’t understand the pricing of $1,999 for the system reviewed and believes that the design falls short given the price.  CNET likes the keyboard, mouse and display – all very important aspects of laptop usability.  However, the reviewer keeps coming back to the point that the system doesn’t feel all that more special than other notebooks that are half the price, including Toshiba’s own Satellite U845T Ultrabook that retails for $800 and gets well reviewed.  Bottom line, nice machine, but not worth the price.

 

The common theme amongst all of these reviews are that it was a nice effort on Toshiba’s part and the high quality display is appreciated, but given some software incompatibilities with the display the hardware may be a bit ahead of its time for the Windows platform.  Toshiba has priced the KIRABook system above that of the Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display that starts at $1,499, and it’s hard to swallow paying more for a Windows machine with very similar hardware to a Mac OS X machine when people expect Windows machines to not have the “Apple tax” (extra margin Apple can charge simply due to their branding).  Still, good luck to Toshiba with at least trying this more premium approach.  Ironically Sony, the other company willing to make premium products and charge more, just ended offering their $1,500+ VAIO Z line and is focusing more on laptops under $1,000 so Toshiba may end up learning the same lesson Sony just got the message on, extremely high priced Windows machines don’t sell all that well.

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Deal: Lenovo Y500 with Nvidia 750M and Full HD Screen for $809

The deals just keep getting better on the powerful Lenovo IdeaPad Y500, this time around you can get a fully loaded configuration for $809 when using coupon code HOMEPCDEAL via the Barnes & Noble Affinity store.  The B&N exclusive offer store is open to anyone to create an account, you don’t have to have a special membership card or anything.  To get the deal, go here, then login (after registering if necessary) and then in the search bar type “59371972” (without quotes) and you will find the following Y500 product listing as the result:

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Click on the link you see for the Y500 and you’ll see the full specs for this Y500 that’s on sale:

  • Processor: 3rd Generation Intel Core i7-3630QM Processor( 2.40GHz 1600MHz 6MB)001Y500_Hero_04_copy_large_verge_medium_landscape
  • OS: Windows 8 64-bit
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GT750M GDDR5 2GB
  • Memory: 8.0GB
  • Display:  15.6″ FHD LED Glossy Wedge 1920×1080
  • Storage: 1TB 5400 RPM+16GB SSD
  • Optical Drive: DVD Recordable (Dual Layer)
  • Network Card: Intel Centrino Wireless N-2230

Note that this is a new Nvidia graphics card that’s around 10% faster than the older GT650M older models of the Y500 came with.  You also get a fast Intel Core i7 Quad Core processor, an ample 8.0GB (as much as most anyone will need) and the Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution screen.  The only downside to this configuration is the slow 5400RPM spinning hard drive, though at 1TB you’ll certainly be swimming in storage capacity and you do get a 16GB SSD cache to help speed up the loading of programs and the OS. 

Make sure once in the cart you apply the coupon code “HOMEPCDEAL” to get the advertised price of $809.  This is the best price seen yet on the Y500 that’s powerful enough to satisfy gamers, any other user that needs a little extra power under the hood, or someone that just likes to know they’re computer is probably more powerful than the next guys…

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Microsoft Windows 8 Update “Blue” Coming, Start Button Likely to Return

windowsbluestock_large_extra_largeMicrosoft officially announced that there is an update coming to Windows 8 later this year, likely September, in the form of “Windows Blue” (a.k.a Windows 8.1).  According to a Microsoft blog, a public preview of Windows 8 will be shown in June at the BUILD developer conference.  There are high expectations that the Windows 8.1 release will fix some of the major issues users have experienced with Win 8, namely the lack of a Start Button and the ability to boot straight to desktop instead of the tiled tablet friendly interface.  Many people simply cannot get used to the new UI or find that tasks that used to take a couple of clicks now take several more, or worse, involve non-intuitive right mouse button clicks and positioning of the mouse cursor in a specific location.  However, that said, Microsoft has neither confirmed nor denied that the Start button and boot to desktop are coming back, these are based on leaked comments from internal Microsoft employees, there is no official word from Microsoft on what the exact changes will be.

Also, to be clear, this update will not be a simple service pack or “free” to Windows 8 users, there will be some cost involved and new retail packaging for shelf versions.  Microsoft will reveal pricing and more details in June, it’s expected that anyone that purchases a laptop or tablet ahead of the Windows 8.1 release will be offered a free upgrade upon release so that there’s no deterrent to making a back to school laptop purchase in the June/July/August time frame ahead of Windows Blue.

Stay tuned for more information about this upcoming OS and changes, hopefully for the better, that might be involved!

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New Sony VAIO Fit Lineup for Back to School Buyers Arrives

In an effort to clear up its somewhat confusing array of alphabet naming for the VAIO lineup (VAIO E, VAIO T, VAIO F, VAIO S…) Sony is refreshing and then rebranding its budget lineup, formerly known as the VAIO E, to simply just the VAIO Fit.  There will be a VAIO Fit 14E and Fit 15E  in this new lineup offering that’s targeted at budget oriented back to school buyers and home users and then also a more premium VAIO Fit 14 and Fit 15 that offer better specs.  Pricing will start at $550 on the budget friendly Fit 14E and 15E, but even though pricing starts out low you still get nice specs with the base models. 

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Sony has committed to lifting their base line standards for laptops and the lowest resolution they’ll offer going forward is a 1600 x 900 resolution – the 1366 x 768 720p is out.  And in most cases 1080p screens will be offered as at least an option, if not the standard.  Furthermore, a backlit keyboards and an enhanced “Exmor R” web camera will provide good video quality in low light situations for any notebook Sony sells. 

Internally the Fit 14E/15E and Fit 14/15 will be similar, both offering a range of Core i3, i5 and i7 processors.  They will also offer the option of an Nvidia 740M graphics card, touchscreens, optical drive and hybrid storage solutions.  The main difference between the Fit 14E/15E and the more premium Fit 14/15 is that you get a thinner aluminum chassis with the Fit while the Fit E is made of mostly plastic and is slightly thicker.  Availability for these new machines starts at the end of May via the Sony Store, well in time for the Back to School buying crowd.

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HP Updates ProBook Business Lineup Design and Processors with Intel Haswell

HP is giving their ProBook budget friendly business lineup of notebooks a makeover this summer by making them slimmer and lighter just in time for the beach season (36% thinner and 18% lighter than the previous year to be precise).  But that’s not all, they’ll also be more muscular with newer and faster Intel and AMD processors under the hood, allowing them to kick sand in the face of competition.  Beach analogies aside, the new ProBook does look pretty attractive and the lineup includes the following systems:

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  • ProBook 430 – 13.3” screen, Intel Processor
  • ProBook 440 – 13.3” screen, Intel Processor
  • ProBook 445 – 13.3” screen,  AMD Processor
  • ProBook 450 – 15.6” screen, Intel Processor
  • ProBook 455 – 15.6” screen, AMD Processor
  • ProBook 470 – 17” screen, Intel Processor

In case you didn’t deduce yourself, you can see that any model ending in “0” is an Intel based system, while any model ending in “5” is an AMD based system.  All of the systems have what HP calls a “meteorite grey” color and some aluminum accents.  These are ProBooks and as such won’t be entirely clad in aluminum like the more expensive EliteBooks.  The new ProBook models will hit the shelves starting this month at $499, though the ProBook 430 will be delayed until June.  Initially the processors offered will be the current Intel 3rd generation, but come June / July the new Intel 4th generation “Haswell” processors will be included in the mix.   AMD’s new “Richland” chips will be included in the AMD based machines.  All will include an optional optical drive, standard as a DVD burner, except for the smaller 13.3” ProBook 430.    Screen resolution will start with a standard 1366 x 768 resolution, except the 17” ProBook 470 that will have a 1600 x 900 resolution.

Once these systems are ready to ship later this month you will find them on HP’s Business site here.

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