HP reveals first Win8 laptops for Australia


news The first tranche of new laptop models slated to land in Australia and fuelled by Windows 8 have been announced by Hewlett Packard, with three new models due to launch locally later this year, all featuring touchscreens that take advantage of the new touch features of the new Microsoft operating system.

Almost all current laptops available in Australia are modelled along traditional lines — featuring a keyboard, trackpad and monitor which does not feature any touchscreen capability. However, Windows 8 has been redesigned from the ground up to integrate touchscreen features, in a design approach which commentators have said is designed by Microsoft to keep ahead of the growing appetite for tablets led by Apple’s iPad. In the US today HP announced three new laptops which the company said would also launch in Australia later in 2012, which are designed to take advantage of this feature. No local pricing or concrete launch dates are available yet.

The most visibly different of the three, the HP ENVY x2 model, is effectively a laptop which doubles as a tablet as its screen can be separated from its keyboard through a “seamless” magnetic latch. In a statement, HP said that the total unit weighed 3.1 pounds (1.4 kilograms), while the tablet unit alone weighed 1.5 pounds (680g). These weights are a little heavier in general, but broadly comparable to current tablet and laptop weights.

The ENVY x2 features a 11.6″ screen, with an IPS display pan with a brightness of 400 nits. An eight megapixel camera on the back and a HD webcam on the front (for videoconferencing) are included, and HP has integrated audio from Beats with a view to providing quality sound on the unit. The company has not provided any other specifications for the unit, or pricing.

A second unit, the Spectre XT TouchSmart Ultrabook, features a 15.6″ touchscreen, and weighs 4.77 pounds (2.16kg). This model is designed more as a traditional laptop, with its screen not able to be disconnected. It will feature Intel’s latest Ivy Bridge processors, and a SSD drive in several sizes, and it comes with a number of new features, such as a Thunderbolt port. The Elements versions of Adobe’s Photoshop and Premiere editing suites will also come bundled in. It will sell in the US in December for a price starting from US$1,399.99.

Lastly, HP has also introduced the ENVY TouchSmart Ultrabook 4, a 14″ laptop weighing 4.77 pounds (2.16kg). It features similar specifications to the Spectre XT, but can also feature an optional AMD dedicated video card, and will also go on sale later this year, although prices have not yet been announced.

“Consumers want the flexibility to move between creating rich documents and losing themselves in a great movie,” said James Mouton, senior vice president and general manager, Personal Computer Global Business Unit, HP. “With the HP ENVY x2, customers can have it all, and the touch experience on these three new notebooks brings out the best of Windows 8.” HP will also be announcing additional notebooks, desktops and tablets “later in 2012”.

It is with mixed feelings that I begin reporting on the first batch of Windows 8 laptops, PCs and quasi-tablets to begin entering the Australian marketplace.

On the one hand, it is apparent that every major Windows OEM is about to start flooding Australia with Windows 8 gear. Dell, Lenovo, ASUS, Samsung, HP, Acer and so on — all of these companies right now feel that they must have new Windows 8 gear to launch when Microsoft’s latest opus goes on sale shortly. They’re all excited about it, and all in competition with each other.

However, on the other hand, it’s hard not to agree with the vast number of commentators who have pointed out recently how much of a trainwreck Windows 8 is, and how it is destined to fail and frustrate millions of people along the way.

If you’ve tried Windows 8 at all (as I have), you’ll know that not only is this an operating system which is very much still half-baked (for example, it doesn’t correctly handle many games installed through Valve’s dominant Steam platform), but that even if you’ve been a Windows user for several decades, you still will take weeks, possibly months to get used to Microsoft’s new user interface paradigm. There are countless articles online devoted to bagging Windows 8, and we find it hard to disagree with any of them. Windows 8 is truly awful; breaking decades of user experience training and trying to enforce a new tablet UI paradigm on users who don’t want their desktop to be a touchscreen device.

In addition, to be honest, there really isn’t anything wrong with Windows 7, which we rely on every day, and many people still haven’t upgraded to it from Windows XP.

We’ve been here before; about two years ago, most of these same OEMs started flooding Australia with Android tablets. Again, almost universally, these devices were quite mediocre and not yet ready for mainstream consumption. As a consequence, Australians virtually ignored all of the devices and went for the iPad instead, which was a quality device and not half-baked.

It’s taken two years for a tablet to come along to challenge that dynamic — Google’s Nexus 7 — and I very much suspect that it will take another two years before we start to see decent Windows 8 machines, if ever — given the fact that Windows 8 on the desktop looks a lot worse than old versions of Android did on tablets. I suspect that what we’re seeing here from HP is a quick attempt to slap Windows 8 into hardware which hasn’t really been optimised for it, and I suspect we’ll see this approach from almost all of the other manufacturers as well.

Microsoft’s own Surface tablet is possibly the only really promising Windows 8 device we’ve seen so far — and that’s because it seems designed to appeal primarily to the enterprise, which so far seems vaguely enthusiastic about an easier to manage tablet as an iPad alternative. In any case, although I’m not optimistic at this point, it will certainly be interesting to get some of these new Windows 8 models in for testing. Perhaps they will be surprisingly good. But I’m not holding my breath.

Image credit: HP


  1. Which Steam games have you been having compatibility troubles with?

    I installed the RTM build of Win8 on a 2 year old laptop, and it seems *really* fast on older hardware. It was confusing for the first day of use (definately built for tablets), but when you learn the Windows Key shortcuts (i.e. Win+D to toggle traditional desktop to and from the StartMetroTilesThing), I’ve found it decently easy to use.

    That being said, I’ll be sticking with Win7 on my desktop for a while yet.

    • Yeah, I’ll be swapping in a heartbeat Renai.

      I can see some issues with the removal of the Start Menu. I can see how this may be difficult to change.
      However dont get stuck in the trap of just ‘assuming’ that windows will be the same during every iteration. For instance, Server 2012 isnt the same as the desktop model. Not only this, given theres been a couple of manufacters already that have devised apps to get around the new mosaic interface (see samsung as a start) I dont see this an OEM issue. Microsoft has definitely taken a different path – already they’ve forced OEMs to change their products and include touch panels when they wouldnt have otherwise. Thats a big change in the industry, purely because Microsoft forced their hand. Its unreasonable to expect every version of windows will be the same. Just because they’re the incumbent (so to speak) doesnt mean they cant innovate.

      Many moons ago when you reviewed the original beta preview and some expected W8 changes, they were drastic yes – but noone would have expected them to all follow Microsoft forcibly. Touch panels as mainstream will benefit us all into the future.

      I highly doubt this OS will fail, frankly I think anyone with that opinion needs their head read. This is a radical shift from Microsoft, one which has already made industry wide changes. Everyone’s waiting with baited breath to see how good W8 is on phone and tablet – the desktop ? not so much. Seeing transformer type devices is a good indication that the desktop’s eventual demise (in a consumer home sense) may be closer than we realise. The netbook was first, then a shift away from PC in gaming and development for media. With the white wash of Samsung by Apple, OEMs will be looking for the safe haven;

      Apparently its not Google for the moment.

      • “Touch panels as mainstream will benefit us all into the future.”
        Seriously? Touch panels are a horrible input device, they’ve been around in desktop form since the 90s, and there’s a reason they’ve never caught on anywhere except on mobile devices.

          • Server space. I can’t wait to roll out some new touch-interface DL380s, it’ll make scripting a much more immersive experience!

        • @Karl

          Touchscreens have moved SIGNIFICANTLY beyond the 90’s resistive ones….

          I love touchscreens. Sure, for typing, there’s nothing like a keyboard. But then, Win 8 Laptops will have keyboards…

          For everything else, the natural movement of touch works well.

          • It’s not about how good they are, it’s about how you use them. Hands in front of the screen = not useful.

          • @Karl

            Well, we’ll have to agree to disagree. Cause I find myself constantly reaching out on the laptops I use. Particularly after using my phone or tablet….

  2. I gotta disagree Renai. Sure for strict desktop requirements, it’s a bit of a pain. But it’s far from a “train-wreck”.

    On laptops, the touchscreen makes perfect sense. And if you don’t like it, one click and you’re into the ordinary Desktop and you can stay there.

    I think Win 8 will probably take about 30-40% market share from Win 7, mainly in the portable area. This is what Microsoft are looking at- tablets and hybrids. It’s what Win 8 is built for.

    Sure Win 7 is just as legitimate, but perhaps Microsoft know that already and aren’t expecting everyone to jump straight onto Win 8 and instead patiently wait for Win 9 with a perfectly good OS in the meantime. In the interim, many business and portable users I think will find Win 8 extremely usable and useful.

    If I get a Laptop later this year, it’ll certainly be a Win 8 one. Apart from anything, I always find myself reaching to swipe or tap on the laptops I use at work right now….

    • I gotta disagree Renai. Sure for strict desktop requirements, it’s a bit of a pain. But it’s far from a “train-wreck”.

      I was enjoying this article until I came to that bit of journalistic hyperbole. This is not the sort of thing I’ve come to expect from Delimiter. Come on Renai, I get that you don’t personally like it, but a trainwreck, really?

      I’ve been using Windows 8 for a few weeks on a touch device (Samsung series 7 slate PC) and a non-touch desktop. I’m really enjoying it on the former, and after a period of adjustment on the latter I’m finding it works well enough. Yes it’s a pain at first but so was Windows 95 when it came out, and I remember how much everyone bitched and moaned about it back then. People don’t like different, even if it is a genuine leap forward.

      I’m putting it out there: in another year you will look back on these comments and be embarrassed you wrote them. Ditto for almost all of the Windows 8 haters. I’m putting a reminder in my calendar as we speak. :)

  3. This looks too much like the MacBook Pro. What is up with companies ripping off Apple products? HP should hope they do not sell good or they will face the same lawsuits Samsung is facing and paying today.
    On a personal note, I’m starting to get disappointed with the Apple competition today. Instead of promoting innovation and originality, they begin to design their products more and more like Apple products, themselves. I know Windows PCs or laptops would never be able to take over the niche Apple has occupied for years already, but this is just sad.

    • I’m sorry Vidar but I couldn’t disagree more. The only thing that is similar between this and the MacBook is its thinness. Apart from that, is is a different colour, has different lines, different touchpad design and a completely different shaped chassis. Oh and a touchscreen….

      I hate to say this, but I’d you believe ‘all these products’ just look like MacBooks….I think you might have an issue with Apple love. I’ve not seen many Ultrabooks that look like MacBooks and those that do I find boring. Because the MacBook IS boring its design hasn’t changed in 5 years….

      The innovation in the marketplace is strong. Apple have had a static share of the PC market of LESS than 15% for years. They are not a huge threat to any of the larger market share competitors.

      • So just to clarify seven_tech, I was pointing out to the Spectre XT ultrabook, you know the silver aluminum plated one? Look familiar?

        The ecological niche I was talking about was the inherent market share of Apple among the middle to upper class. Have you watched movies or series lately? Or have you watched movies or series at all? MBPs and iMacs have been widely used by executives, parents, teen-agers, and even geek and techies like in Big Bang Theory that are supposedly accustomed to the more gaming-friendly system of Windows. Macs have always been that symbol of high culture and the imitation of HP through the Spectre XT is what I see as a misguided attempt.

        On a side note, why do you reply to every comment you disagree to, anyway? Don’t you have anything better to do? You go about ranting about your argument without even seeing the scope of my claims as your rebuttals are clearly misinformed.

    • I dont mean to offend but…

      Is that actually your opinion? Im not sure if you’re trolling or what.

      I definitely dont agree with your opinion that they all look like Apple products, given Apple’s ‘invented’ almost nothing. Their products are using ingredients of other products to make a better experiece and newer product. The Ultrabook is a patented design by Intel, before the MBA.

      • Don’t worry, I’m not trolling Master_T. The issue here is that the Spectre XT looks too much like the MBP, not that Apple products are not “invented”. Patenting does not disprove the similarity between the Spectre XT and the MBP since my argument is purely visual, not legal.

        Please do not digress from the topic at hand. Comment only when your opinions or rebuttals have proper direction. Thank you.

  4. I have only used 8 on a desktop (and then its only the “release candidate” you could download). If you could just wipe the “zomg squares” bit away completely, it wouldn’t be so bad. Feels kinda responsive UI wise, seems fairly robust. But yeah…

    Don’t like the “mouse to side of screen, then to the other side, then to the other side again” stuff they have done. Its as thought they have invested heavily in some RSI treatment, then designed the UI to inflict as much mouse hand pain as possible. Am sure its ok on a touch screen, widescreen desktop.. not so much.

    The less said about their “apps” the better too, at least for a desktop. Just so awful as to be beyond belief.

    Maybe they should have followed the KDE line and had a checkbox for “I want the tablet / netbook UI”, and keep the entire windows 7 / xp / whatever type desktop for everyone else?

    • Thats my point that I made. If you had a touchscreen monitor, you wouldnt be concerned with getting rid of the mosaic interface at all. You’d be able to use it as intended. Because its now forced OEM and Monitor manufacturers to change their tune, w8’s dominant interface becomes a null issue.

  5. I agree that there has to be at some point a step forward in the user interface for Windows, but it should be a) intuitive and b) gradually introduced over a couple of versions so people can get used to it.

    Windows 8 has done neither – they’ve ripped out the old way people have been doing things since Win95, enforced a new touch/hot spot regime and expect their users to deal with it. All it’s going to do is alienate a bunch of users who will more than likely give a Mac a lot more consideration than they every would have done in the past.

    I’m not sure I’m going to be able to convince my elderly parents that Win8 with all its gestures and hidden hot spots is a step forward – so for me and plenty of other people solutions like Classic Shell will become a standard addition for all Win8 installs, along with the usual Java, Adobe Reader, FireFox/Chrome etc etc.

    • I have to agree with you on your point about preferring Macbooks, Daniel996. I have been a long-time user of Windows and have gotten used to it. I’ve always hated the Macs because of the complicated interface they had before, especially the absence of the right-click.

      Throughout the years, the Mac OS has addressed their UI problems like the right-click and control button and worked on innovations of their own like the App Expose, Mission Control and the Gestures. Over the years, they have experimented on various improvements and removed those that posed complexity and discomfort for the users. I have to admit Apple did imitate some UI tweaks from Windows, but they covered it up with innovations themselves.

      The way the Win8 OS has been following the standards set by Macbooks by implementing new features like Apps and a Launchpad-esque Start Screen is definitely an experiment to improvement, but what problem did they address in the first place? The desktop interface of Windows XP was already outstanding. I found a hard time with Windows 7 because of all the extra animations that slowed the progress of my matters and this radical shift to the Shell shows that Microsoft is trying too hard to veer away from the staple XP UI that has given Windows its identity throughout the years.

      It will be great for tablets but desktops and laptops w/o touchscreens are a different story. This will cause a big blow to Win8 sales until they give users the choice to staying with the original Start button interface or shifting to the Shell Start Screen.

      I can see this analogous to the Facebook Timeline implementation where we see posts on the web of people cheering for their triumph of being able to stick to the classic Facebook interface.

  6. Touch is Old hat, any OEM with some vision should be bangind down Leap Motion’s door to incorporate their technology into their HW!


    I’ve personally pre-ordered mine a while back but if these where incorporated into Laptops and PC keyboards they would be imo revolutionary!

  7. HP laptops and Win8… what could possibly go wrong?

    People buying new machines from 4Q will get Win8 whether they want it or not… these illegal bundling deals are still around to irk us. I won’t be buying anything without a test drive on a Linux live USB stick.

  8. I still can’t see how Windows 8 will be a train wreck given it hasn’t been released yet. Only nerds with RTM versions are complaining – not my mum or dad who finds Windows clunky and the simplicity of iOS appealing.

    Furthermore, the myth that Windows 7 is perfect is in fact wrong.

    Windows 7 still has issues with things like USB 3.0 mass storage compatibility that have been resolved in Windows 8.

    As a Windows Phone user for the past two years, I also am used to large tiles with lots of info. My desktop on Windows 7 is an empty void. I only use programs. I will give it a go, and I’m sure in my first world life I’ll suck it up and get used to it.

    The main inconvenience I can see, having not used it, is not having taskbar multitasking in the new UI. Otherwise I say give it time.

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