HP builds an ultra-thin that can take a beating

Phones tend to take the brunt of most of the damage we inflict from drops, but a new machine on the way from HP could pose a threat to the MacBook Air, delivering a slim machine that won’t break when it falls.

The computer that could end up surviving a chance encounter with your kids and the floor or a spilled drink mid-flight is an Ultrabook from HP, with two variants heading to store shelves shortly designed to handle the work you throw their way, as well as the chance encounters with gravity you don’t necessarily want to happen.

They’re part of HP’s EliteBook 1020 series, and are made from a combination of aluminium and magnesium alloy, with an internal design that has been tested to military standards (MILSPEC), able to survive tests that mean it is highly drop-resistance, shock-resistant, vibration-resistant, and well built enough that you can even stand on it.

The keyboard has been designed to be spill-resistant with a drain gutter, while the touchpad — which HP calls a “ForcePad” — is glass and should take a bit of a beating from your fingers.

Inside the computer, you’ll find Intel’s Core M processors from the fifth-generation (Core M 5Y51) working alongside 8GB RAM and between 128 and 512GB solid-state storage depending on the configuration, with connectivity options including 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, and a microSD slot.

And then there’s the screen which will come in two options, with a 12.5 inch Full HD (1920×1080) touch-less display appearing in variant one, the Elitebook 1020, while the EliteBook 1020 Special Edition — we’re serious about that name will get a 12.5 inch QuadHD display (2560×1440) without touch, though we’re told a touch-based version is available.

The weight also makes up some of the difference between the models, with the regular 1020 managing a 1.18 kilogram weight, while the special edition sheds some grams and pulls it down to one kilogram even, thanks to a slight material change in its design that forgoes the aluminium and replaces it with the even lighter carbon fibre. Neat.

Light enough to hold in one hand comfortably.

“The HP EliteBook1020 represents game-changing innovation in both materials and mechanical engineering,” said Paul Gracey, Business Manager for HP’s Personal Systems Category in the South Pacific. “We have created the world’s thinnest and lightest business notebook in a form factor that enables our customers to be more productive in more places.”

“Customers demand a stylish, thin and light notebook, as well as a device that delivers advanced security and can withstand the rigorous demands that come with a highly mobile lifestyle,” he said, adding that “the HP EliteBook 1020 delivers this complete solution.”

Playing with the EliteBook 1020 today, we can see why this will attract attention, as it’s just so thin and light. The machine feels solid in the hands, and there’s clearly some attention to the design here, with a metal look and soft curved edges.

HP is also talking up its “Premium Keyboard” which it says features a “remarkable balance of comfort and feedback allowing users to concentrate on the task at hand.” Spending a few seconds with the keyboard obviously isn’t enough, but for that little amount of time, we were treated to a set of keys that felt like we could (and should) spend more time with them.

Pricing for the HP EliteBook 1020 chimes in at $2299 with availability now, though the special edition carbon fibre model doesn’t currently have a price, and won’t until its likely release date of April.

HP's G3 EliteBook Revolve.

These two computers won’t be the only entries from HP this year, though, and will be joined by several carrying the “EliteBook” name, including a new generation of last year’s EliteBook Revolve G2 hybrid tablet that will be called the G3.

The G3 model of the Revolve will see a military tested design incorporating magnesium and the spill resistant keyboard, with Intel’s fifth-gen processors (Broadwell), up to 512GB storage, and an 11 inch HD (1366×768) display with optional pen support. Pricing of the HP EliteBook Revolve 810 G3 will start at $2099.

HP's pen-equipped Pro Slate 8, running Android.

Two Android tablets will also be included, providing either a 8 or 12 inch slate with resolutions higher than the high-definition 720p standard we’re used to seeing on so many slates, and coming with Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processors, 2GB RAM, 16 to 32GB storage, and a microSD slot for expanding that.

You’ve probably seen all of this before on an Android tablet, but where HP plans to shake it up a bit is by including a special pen called the “Duet” which will automatically digitise any scribbling and notes you take on real paper, sending it to the HP Android tablet.

From the demo HP showed, this won’t work with any old scrap paper found on your desk, and you’ll need to take notes on paper that sits in a small folio next to the tablet, but it’s a cool idea when it works, doing what Livescribe has been trying, but without the specific dot paper.

HP's Pro Slate 12

This will be found in HP’s Pro Slate 8 and Pro Slate 12, though prices of each have not yet been announced.

Finally, there will be two models that could be destined for schools, arriving in the form of the HP Pro Tablet 10 EE and the HP Pro Slate 10 EE.

Pen for your troubles? It works on the HP Pro Tablet 10 EE with Windows 8.1

HP showed these today, and from the look and feel, as well as that “EE” moniker which we suspect translates to “Education Edition”, these seem focused squarely on kids at school, with Intel Atom-based tablets similar to the HP Stream 8 we checked out recently, albeit with a 10.1 inch display and the ability to dock with a keyboard base.

Windows will run on one, the Pro Tablet variant, while Android will see itself on the Pro Slate version, with each including a solid plastic shell around the edges to give the tablet a little more resistance to the rigours of every day life.

The Android variant of the HP Pro Tablet 10 EE is basically the same, but called the HP Pro Slate 10 EE and works with a keyboard.

Unfortunately, there two don’t have prices as of yet, but we’re checking, and will let you know as soon as they arrive.