HP unleashes a series of new low-cost computers at CES

Hewlett-Packard is launching a bevy of new products today that show it is designing its products to take into account the lighter pocketbooks and energy usage concerns of consumers.

These products being unveiled this week at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas reflect a more focused HP.

The company isn’t throwing spaghetti at the wall anymore. It quietly pulled out of the TV market in 2008, but is staying in markets such as digital photo frames where it feels it can differentiate itself.

One of the products that reflects this attitude is the company’s newest gaming computer, the HP Firebird desktop with Voodoo DNA (left).

Before HP bought Voodoo in 2006, the small Canadian PC maker specialized in custom-designed computers with hand-painted cases. Gaming freaks happily bought these for as much as $10,000. But the company will sell this machine for under $2,100. ($1,799 for basic version and $2,099 for advanced) The system is more power efficient than typical gaming computers of the past as well.

Gone are the days when the Voodoo division designed products without regard to energy efficiency or cost, said Rahul Sood, the chief technology officer for the HP Global Voodoo Business Unit. This machine strikes a balance between performance, style, cost, energy efficiency and small size. Sood says the design still reflects Voodoo’s style and penchant for cool tech, dubbed Voodoo DNA.

“We consider this a high-performance hybrid machine,” Sood said. “The big desktops of the past are not sustainable designs. The economy has changed, and this segment of the market is changing.”

As gaming computers go, this one is powerful but it’s also geared toward people who want to do other things with their computers. The HP computer has Intel’s fastest consumer-oriented processor, the Intel Core 2 Quad Processor Q9400, and dual Nvidia GeForce 9800S graphics cards in SLI mode. It has a 350-watt power supply but it also has liquid cooling that keeps the machine fanless and quiet. The machine uses about a quarter of the power of last year’s HP Blackbird 02 gaming desktop. For video, go to http://www.youtube.com/HPVoodooPC.

HP is also introducing several models of business laptops in the ultralight notebook category. Among the bargains is the HP Pavilion dv2, which has a 12.1-inch screen and weighs 3.8 pounds. It’s less than an inch thick, has a 500-gigabyte hard drive, and has a new single-core Advanced Micro Devices Neo processor and Yukon platform. It also has ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3410 graphics. The machines cost $600 to $800 and come in Espresso Black or Moonlight white. They’ll go on sale in March.

HP is also introducing a larger HP Pavilion dv3 notebook model with a 13.3-inch screen, a 2.3-gigahertz AMD Turion dual-core processor, ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics, a magnesium case and a price ranging from $800 to $1,200.

There are more variations on these themes, as well as a new HP MediaSmart home server (for storing and backing up lots of data in the home) and a new version of HP’s Netbook, the thinnest and lightest portable computer, dubbed the HP Mini 2140. The designs are good and HP is being realistic about what it can charge for these machines in a tough economy.

In digital photo frames, HP will launch a new line of 3.5-inch to 10-inch frames in March. These LCD displays have Wi-Fi connections so that they can download pictures from Internet sites such as Picassa, Flickr, Facebook and MySpace. You can use the Wi-Fi connection to display widgets, such as traffic information, news and sports scores, or listen to web radio stations. You can also stream content from an HP MediaSmart home server, get photos from camera phones via MMS messaging, and otherwise use the frame to stay in communications with a distant loved one.

The amount of memory included, which is a key determinant of the value for people who want to store large collections, is yet to be decided. An eight-inch frame will sell for $179.99.

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