I've taken meetings with HP and Toshiba (their press release is impending) in sunny San Francisco, California to see what they have in store for us when Windows 8 launches. Where Windows 7 seemed in many ways to be an effort to perfect the desktop computing operating system, Windows 8 aims to look forward and change user interface paradigms. At the same time, Intel's ultrabook initiative is pushing vendors towards producing thinner, lighter notebooks, a task aided in the very efficient Ivy Bridge technology. The way these two factors are coming together is radically shaking up the way our portables are being designed.

HP's big announcement is the Envy x2, which is their convertible ultrabook in much the same vein as the Asus Eee Pad series. The Envy x2 features the bulk of the system in the 1.5" tablet lid, which features an 11.6", 400-nit IPS display and Intel's Clover Trail SoC. Clover Trail is essentially an Atom-based SoC, meaning "good enough" CPU performance but extremely low power consumption, making it a solid choice for the Envy x2 if a little underwhelming. When plugged into the keyboard base, additional connectivity (USB 3.0, HDMI) is added along with additional battery life for a total of 3.1 pounds of computing. HP is also including NFC, and you're going to find this fairly common with their new releases moving forward. They expect the Envy x2 to be available in time for the holidays, but pricing is not yet set.

The next announcement is their premium Spectre XT TouchSmart Ultrabook. At $1,399 it won't be cheap, but the big selling points here are inclusion of ThunderBolt connectivity and a 15.6", 1080p, IPS, touchscreen display. It also features an mSATA SSD, USB 3.0, and gigabit ethernet, and impressively comes in at 4.77 pounds and just 17.9 millimeters thick. HP's also shipping the Spectre XT with Adobe Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements standard; I'm not a big fan of Premiere Elements, but Photoshop Elements is a pretty killer deal. The Spectre XT is expected to be available in December.

Finally, HP is releasing a more entry level ultrabook, the Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4. This is a more traditional 14" ultrabook, with a 14" multitouch display, 4.77 pound chassis, and 23mm thick frame. What you do gain from the added bulk is the option for AMD dedicated graphics, though. This one is expected to be available during the holidays with pricing to be determined later on.

Of course, all of these are just the tip of the iceberg. HP has a lot more in the pipe beyond just these notebooks, and will be parsing out releases over the next month or so. In the meantime, each of these notebooks are ready for Windows 8.

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  • Visual - Thursday, August 30, 2012 - link

    What is wrong with these people...
    It takes a special kind of brain damage to try and sell anything with less than Intel's HD4000 as a GPU these days. Here I am, waiting and wondering when some new tablet or convertible with even some dedicated GPU might come to market, and manufacturers are not even going for the minimal of the sensible integrated options. And then they wonder why tablets were not succeeding?
  • lowlymarine - Thursday, August 30, 2012 - link

    The Atom Z2580 SoC in use here utilizes the Imagination Technologies PowerVR SGX 544MP2 for the GPU, giving it about the same graphics power as the "new" iPad, in less die area, driving a lower-resolution display. Sounds like a perfectly reasonable solution for a tablet to me.
  • Visual - Thursday, August 30, 2012 - link

    No, it is not reasonable at all.
    It might be enough for an ARM device that will never be expected to run any real program anyway, but for a x86 device running windows it is a disaster.
  • CSMR - Friday, August 31, 2012 - link

    Actually it will outperform ARM devices, which themselves are capable of running a lot of real programs. People have not spent billions on (ARM-based) tablets to draw on them with crayons.
  • Visual - Monday, September 3, 2012 - link

    OK, name ONE game whose ARM port runs with even a hint of the visual details and effects of its Windows counterpart. How about an image or video processing program? 3d modeling and rendering program? CAD/CAM?

    I have been using Windows tablets 2 years before the iPad and been able to do things that today's ARM tablets still can not do.

    I don't know why people have spent billions on ARM-based tablets, but I know how I will be spending my own money - not on ARM, and not on ATOM as well.
  • bull2760 - Monday, September 3, 2012 - link

    Good thing your not running these companies you'd be out as CEO in less than a year. It's not about what YOU want it's what the bazillions of consumers want. They want a mobile device to check email, surface the web, look at pictures, make/edit docs, and play an accasional game. Unlike like yourself who probably plays games 24/7 tablets were never meant to be a console replacement. Stop complaint you fucking geek!
  • MrSpadge - Friday, August 31, 2012 - link

    HD4000 is still far too slow for any real games, yet slower solutions are totally fine for desktop & video.
  • Visual - Monday, September 3, 2012 - link

    My HP tm2 has a discrete GPU that is a bit slower than HD4000. I have played WoW, Eve Online, Civ V, Starcraft 2, Diablo 3, LoL, Dragon Age 1 and 2 on it. So it is ok for a good amount of real games.

    But yes, it is showing its age in more modern games and I would be happy if there were tablets or convertibles with something even better.

    As to if "slower solutions are totally fine for desktop & video", Intel has been getting away with this excuse far too long now. It has finally made a somewhat good GPU though, so it is time this excuse dies and we as customers start demanding at least that level of performance in all its future CPUs.

    Even the desktop demands a good GPU these days... well, Microsoft kinda ruined this point with removing Aero from Windows 8. But I expect they will come around in a service pack.

    And even if you're not into games yourself, think about your kids, man! ;)
  • Beenthere - Thursday, August 30, 2012 - link

    ...means you'll be blooded if you are foolish enough to purchase this half-baked crap. As we see once again, HP has lost the plot. It's no wonder they are going out of business.
  • boobot - Thursday, August 30, 2012 - link

    Last time I checked HP was #1 in PC unit, #1 in Printer units, #1 in Server units and Top 5 in Enterprise service and software and still profiting 7-8 billion a year. Stop listening to arm chair finance and tech bloggers.

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