Hewlett-Packard is announcing today a new family of laptops for business users with new industrial designs and one very interesting feature: a battery life of up to 32 hours.

The battery life number is getting interesting because most laptops range in battery life from four to eight hours. The higher battery life is a big milestone because it’s very hard to balance great performance with power consumption. The more powerful a device is, the more power it consumes. But this device crosses the one-day threshold in battery life, and that takes a lot of advanced technology.

Most computer makers are striving to get to 24-hour battery life. But by packing in a heavy battery, HP was able to get to 32 hours for its HP EliteBook 8460p laptop (pictured right)  for business users. It shows that the newest generation of chips, hard drives, batteries and other technologies is starting to yield considerable benefits for consumers. The p-series laptops from HP start at $999 and will be available on March 15.

To get to 32 hours, you have to buy the HP BB09 ultra-extended life notebook battery and download the latest Intel graphics driver and HP BIOS (or startup software). The notebook can get to 32 hours if you use Intel graphics, a 160-gigabyte Intel flash memory SSD drive, an HP LED HD display and Windows 7. So it costs more and it adds one pound to the overall weight, but in case you’re using your computer on the battlefield and can’t get back to your base, it could come in handy. (I’m only partly joking there, since the machine is up to military specifications for durability).

HP is launching its new line-up now because it is using the newest Sandy Bridge microprocessors from Intel. It’s also the first time in a couple of years that HP has revamped its industrial design for business laptops. The new machines use a common “design language,” which goes by the acronym FORGE (see picture at bottom), with a focus on “form, optimized, richness, green and enduring.” That means HP is trying to design cool, nice-looking products that last a long time and are environmentally friendly. It’s the kind of design philosophy that HP hopes will help it compete with Apple in industrial design.

Each of the new p-series, b-series (pictured above), and s-series laptops  (pictured below) share the same design language. HP’s new laptops use precision aluminum-alloy hinges so that it isn’t easy to snap the laptop in two. It also has cast titanium-alloy latches and a strong magnesium-aluminum chassis. There’s a “double-shot” rubber frame that acts as a shock-absorbing barrier to protect the display panel from scuffs and scratches. There are quick access buttons on the keyboard that let you access functions such as wireless networking, mute, and a calculator.

The back of the EliteBooks are interesting because you can remove the back plate by flipping a switch. You can thus swap out a hard drive, change the memory, or do other things to it without using a screwdriver or any other tool. Compare that approach to Apple’s which goes so far as to change screws so that people can’t get inside their machines.

The p-series machines (8460p and 8560p) weigh 4.56 pounds and 6.1 pounds respectively. They have 14-inch and 15.6-inch diagonal LED-backlit displays and run the latest Intel second-generation Core microprocessors (code-named Sandy Bridge, with graphics and microprocessor on a single chip).

The HP ProBook b-series laptops are more configurable and have a 13.3-inch display. They start at $799 and will be available on March 15. They use the Sandy Bridge processors or Intel Celeron processors. They also have a smudge-resistant and wear-resistant tungsten-colored design.

The HP ProBook s-series machines have a wide variety of sizes, from smaller ultralight machines to desktop replacements. They’re targeted at small businesses. The displays range from 13.3 inches to 17.3 inches. The starting weight is 3.79 pounds and the machines use Intel Sandy Bridge processors or Celerons. The prices start at $579 and machines will be available on March 15.

The s-series machines have HP’s ProtectTools security suite, including HP’s fingerprint sensor and HP face recognition. Check out our video below of the face recognition technology, which can be used to identify you quickly when the computer boots up.


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