HP shows off new netbook, ultra-light PCs

SAN FRANCISCO Wed Jan 7, 2009 1:20pm EST

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Hewlett-Packard Co is unveiling a host of cost-conscious PC products, including a new netbook targeted at professionals, a pair of ultra-light notebooks, and a new gaming and multimedia PC.

The products were announced on Tuesday ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show, which begins on Thursday in Las Vegas.

HP's new offerings are continuing the trend seen all over the PC world for smaller, more efficient and more affordable products.

Although global computer sales have been slumping, HP, the world's no. 1 PC maker, has so far weathered the downturn better than some of its rivals. Its diversified business has provided it with some measure of insulation from lower corporate and consumer technology spending.

The company's new netbook, the $499 HP Mini 2140, features a 10.1-inch screen and a keyboard that is 92 percent of the size of a full-size model.

The 2140 weighs 2.6 pounds with a four-hour-plus battery. It will run on Intel Corp's low-power Atom processor.

HP was late to catch on to the netbook phenomenon, which has been dominated by Acer Inc and Asustek. HP spokesman Mike Hockey was clear that HP views the ultra-portable device as a "companion" PC, not a substitute.

There is plenty of concern in the industry that netbooks will cannibalize the segment and pressure margins.

HP also will use CES to launch a pair of new ultra-light consumer laptops, an area that is seeing increased focus from PC makers. The new models will be less expensive than Apple Inc's $1,799 MacBook Air, but they will be heavier.

The cheaper model, the Pavilion dv2, has a 12.2-inch screen, runs AMD's Athlon processor, and weighs 3.8 pounds. Like many ultra-lights, it has no optical drive. The dv2 will start at $699 and will be available in April.

It's more expensive cousin, the $799, 13.3-inch dv3, will run on AMD's Turion processor, and weighs 4.3 pounds. The dv3 will ship immediately.

HP also unveiled a new gaming and multimedia PC, the Firebird, a more compact and affordable version of its high-end system, the Blackbird 002. It builds on technology HP acquired in its 2006 purchase of Voodoo PC, a specialty gaming operation. The Blackbird launched in September of 2007.

Voodoo Chief Technology Officer Rahul Sood said the Firebird aims to be the "Tesla of high-performance computing," referring to the electric car maker. The Firebird features an external 350-watt power supply, which allows the box's innards to run cooler and more efficiently.

The Firebird 802 starts at $1,800, while the 803 starts at $2,100. Both feature the Intel Core 2 Quad processor and a pair of Nvidia GeForce 9800S graphics cards.

(Reporting by Gabriel Madway; editing by Carol Bishopric)

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