HP unveils low-cost mini-laptop for education market

It's also hoping business travelers will like the rugged little notebook

Hewlett-Packard Co. today unveiled a low-cost mini-laptop that's aimed at the education market.

The HP 2133 Mini-Note PC, which has a starting price of less than $500, is a rugged machine with an 8.9-in. diagonal WXGA display -- three inches smaller than HP's next-smallest laptop screen. The full-featured laptop is designed for the education markets in North America, Europe and parts of Asia; it's also aimed at low-end business travelers, according to HP spokeswoman Carol Hess-Nickels.

At slightly more than two and a half pounds, the HP 2133 weighs less than a lot of textbooks, said Hess-Nickels. Instead of using a processor from Intel Corp. or Advanced Micro Devices Inc., it has a single-core C7-M microprocessor from Taiwan-based Via Technologies Inc. (See Computerworld's review of the HP 2133.)

Since HP is the top PC and laptop maker, releasing a product for the education market is a strong move for the company, said Richard Shim, an analyst at Framingham, Mass.-based research firm IDC.

"HP has been riding a wave of growth. They're No. 1 in notebooks and No. 1 in PCs," added Shim. "This isn't the type of product that you establish market share with. They're putting a product out there because they don't want to be left on the sidelines if there's tremendous growth in this category. Everybody is hedging their bets by coming out with a product. HP is going after a segment they know exists by going after education."

Intel just last week unveiled a line of newly architected low-power processors called Atom chips, which are designed specifically for mobile Internet devices, but HP didn't pick Atom processors for its new little PC. The HP 2133 is interesting "because of the price it's at, the processor it uses and the form factor it's in," said Shim.

The laptop has a nearly full-size keyboard that is spill resistant. The keyboard features HP DuraKeys, which have a clear coating to protect the finish and the printed letters and characters. Other features designed to improve the machine's durability include an all-aluminum casing with a magnesium alloy structure, along with a scratch-resistant acrylic covering.

"This is for K-12," said Hess-Nickels. "They're going to be rough on the units, so we needed to make them durable, while retaining the price point."

The HP 2133 also has several optional features, such as a webcam and Bluetooth wireless technologies.

HP will begin shipping the mini-laptop on April 15.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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