SMB Netbook Mania: New Models From HP, Toshiba, Gateway - InformationWeek

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Government // Mobile & Wireless
04:33 AM
Fredric Paul
Fredric Paul

SMB Netbook Mania: New Models From HP, Toshiba, Gateway

New SMB-focused netbooks and notebooks from HP, Toshiba, and Gateway illustrate the variety of choices available. Choosing wisely for your applications is critical.

There's no recession visible in the parade of new netbooks and notebooks announced this week from three major manufacturers. HP has netbook and 13.3-notebook versions of its stylish ProBook line, Gateway has an 11.6-inch "tweener" netbook, and Gateway debuts a trio of standard 15.4-inch notebooks designed for SMBs and SOHO users.

The HP Mini 5101 takes the style cues from HP's ProBook line, and shrinks them to fit the netbook space. The base model, which starts at $449, has 1 GB RAM and a 4-cell battery rated at 4-5 hours per charge. It also has a spill-resistant keyboard that's 95% of standard size, which can be important, because highly portable netbooks often tend to find themselves in places threatened by coffee cups and beer bottles.

Don't Miss: HP's ProBook Line Brings Some Style To SMB Notebooks

While HP also sells more-standard netbooks -- the Mini 1101 for just $329, for example -- I was intrigued by the performance differences, including the aluminum and magnesium case, larger keyboard, 2 megapixel Web cam, and faster 7200 rpm hard drive (there are even optional 80MB and 128MB solid state drives). But my favorite improvement was the optional HD screen that packs a 1366 x 768 resolution display into the same 10.1-inch screen size. For just $25 more, the extra pixels are a bargain, especially the depth, because the standard 1024 x 600 netbook screens make it hard to see all of an application at once. In Outlook, for instance, you may not be able to see the Inbox and preview pane at the same time. You can also upgrade to a 6-cell battery rated at 8 hours of life.

Other accessories include a $79 matching 5-USB-port expansion tower, which sadly doesn't include a video output -- a separate USB docking station that does have video is also available. A matching external optical drive is $149, while a rather nice neoprene case will be priced at less than $15. (At that price, it might be worth picking one up for whatever netbook you use.)

The only scary part is that if you load up the Mini 5101 with all the slick options, you could end up spending more than $1,000. For a netbook. And oddly, the units ship with Windows Vista, though an XP "downgrade" is available at no extra cost. They're due to be available next month.

HPMini5101 HP Mini 5101

According to Carol Hess-Nickels, director of business notebook marketing in HP's Personal Systems Group, most business people are still buying netbooks as "companion devices," not primary computers. Users typically have a full-sized notebook (or desktop) computer, but they don't want to lug around anything heavy if they don't have to. (In September, HP plans to introduce QuickSync software to speed synchronization with the users' primary computer.)

Netbooks are typically considered adequate for consuming content and lite e-mail tasks, but too underpowered for serious content creation work. Given those limitations, sometimes a company will buy individual netbooks for key executives, or create a loaner pool for workers who travel. But in most cases, it seems that traveling businesspeople are buying buy netbooks for themselves. To help them

For SMB execs who need more than a netbook, but still want to carry as little as possible, HP also announced the ProBook 4310s, 13.3-inch version of the ProBook that will list for about $800. (Hess-Nickels says these smaller models are especially popular in Asia.) You can even accessorize it with a matching "Merlot" colored mouse and carrying case. More usefully, HP is also selling an optional $189 DuraLife battery that comes with a 3-year warranty for maintaining it's battery life. Not cheap, but my laptop battery is only a couple years old and that darn thing only lasts for about an hour these days...

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