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Summary:

The latest Laptop Hunter ad is out, and it went where it had no business going. The first ad featured Lauren, and setting aside that she was cute, the best thing about her was that she was enthusiastic and a non-techie. Her purchase was as much […]

hphdx16_priceThe latest Laptop Hunter ad is out, and it went where it had no business going. The first ad featured Lauren, and setting aside that she was cute, the best thing about her was that she was enthusiastic and a non-techie. Her purchase was as much emotional as anything else. While I’d disagree with that kind of computer purchasing logic, there’s a certain truth to it.

Giampaulo: Technically Impaired

The star of the new ad, Giampaulo, claims to be “technically savvy,” and then spends the rest of ad proving he’s not. Apparently, his (and Microsoft’s) definition of “technically savvy” means buying a machine with Windows on it. By that definition, Lauren was “technically savvy” as well.

Near as I can tell, the primary reason Giampaulo got a machine one could argue was “better” than Lauren’s was simply because he had a higher budget, which was something he didn’t even control! And though the guts of the machine are better than Lauren’s, that huge 16 inch screen has less vertical resolution than a 13 inch MacBook. I mentioned in my write up of the Lauren ad that the way PC makers market screen sizes is a joke, and for Giampaulo to swallow it whole totally refutes any claim he had to being “technically savvy.”

The strangest thing about the ad is that Giampaulo’s machine choice (this HP HDX16) could be a nice machine — albeit with compromises — for $1,500 if he was as “picky” or “savvy” as he claimed.

Why didn’t Giampaulo simply go online and configure a machine to the maximum budget amount? Well, partially because he’s not “technically savvy,” but also maybe because Microsoft is getting a few bucks on the side for featuring HP and brick and mortar stores in their ads. This is comical because, for all the chest-beating Microsoft does about PC “choice”, these people just go into a local retailer and walk out with whatever they have on hand. That may have washed with Lauren, but it’s ridiculous when featuring someone who’s supposed to know the drill.

What I’d Get

As for me, I went online and configured an HDX16 as shown below:

hphdx16_configure1

  • The 2.53 GHz P8700 processor is what shipped on the high-end 15 inch MacBook Pro until a couple months ago. While Apple’s moved on to something better, it’s still nothing to sneeze at.
  • It sucks that DDR2 memory is used, but the machine’s designed to a price, and at least there’s 4GB.
  • The graphics chip is what ships on the MacBook Pro.
  • I’ve turned that 16-inch screen into something other than a portable IMAX. Ultra bright and 1920 x 1080 resolution.
  • Got Bluetooth.
  • Got a backlit keyboard.

Biggest change from Giampaulo’s is the vastly improved screen. To me, with a sprawling 16-inch display it’s a night and day difference. There’s a better processor (clock speed increase is small, but cache doubles from 3 to 6MB). There’s also a Blu-ray drive. Oh, and I love backlit keyboards, so I consider that a nice improvement as well.

As configured above, this is a very nice machine, though there are some weaknesses.

What I’d Miss

At only $1,500, some things had to get left behind:

  • No software. I’ll need to spend money on productivity, AV, and other software.
  • No extra or improved battery (see below for more detail on this).
  • Not particularly impressive build quality.

It should be noted that PC makers in this economy are racing to the bottom in terms of pricing, since there’s nothing else to differentiate them. Notice that there’s a $200 instant rebate, the 4GB RAM upgrade was free, a 320GB drive upgrade was free, and so was the Blu-ray drive. In a better economy, and if not a “me too” product, this machine would be more expensive than it is right now.

There are other weaknesses. First, while the footprint is about what you’d expect for a 16-inch screen (between most 15 and 17 inch models), it’s really thick. From 1.3 to 1.7 inches. I think PC designers suck at handling a laptop’s heat, and they compensate by making the thing huge. I hate that. That also makes it a relatively heavy 7.37 pounds.

And the biggest weakness is battery life. Put simply, it has none. According to AppleInsider, “HP rates its built-in battery for less than 3 hours, but reviewers gave it less than two.” And that was at the “base” configuration. With the more powerful processor, ultra bright screen, and backlit keyboard, you’d be lucky to pull 1.5 hours on the thing. That’s worthless.

hp_battery So why not get a better battery? Because the 12-cell battery is $50, and adds to the weight and size of the machine. Further, it would likely not even get three hours, so I’d have to be close to an outlet anyway. (PC makers seem to have problems with battery life; perhaps Vista’s a pig?) You might want to spend $50 on a battery and skip the backlit keyboard, but for me it’s not enough improvement, so I opted for the keyboard.

What It Boils Down To

Weaknesses aside, the machine I configured could be a very nice portable office. Yes, you’d need to be near a power outlet, but if you can live with that (and the size/weight), the machine has big screen resolution and brightness, very good power (both CPU and GPU), plenty of memory, and good hard drive storage.

Yes, I’ve set aside the Mac OS vs. Windows Vista argument so far. This is a Microsoft ad, so that question has already been addressed as far as the ad is concerned. Personally, there’s no way I’d trade my high-end unibody 13-inch MacBook for the HP I configured (let alone Giampaulo’s), and it was only $100 more. The HP has the larger screen and a bit more speed, but it’s huge, heavy, and plastic, with no software or battery life and, of course, runs Windows Vista.

I’m not sure why a “technically savvy” guy like Giampaulo didn’t understand what he could do with HP’s machine. In fact, the only thing he got right in the entire ad was to declare the MacBook “sexy.” I actually feel a little sorry for HP in the ad; it’s not presenting their product in the light I think it deserves. I chastised Lauren for getting a 17-inch screen and only having 1440 x 900 resolution, but she looks like a freakin’ genius compared to Giampaulo’s 16-inch model with 1366 x 768.

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  1. oh my god. enough already. WE GET IT. Apple computers are better than most other computers, but they cost more. END OF STORY.

  2. @Victor Umm.. I thought the point of this article is that the Microsoft add was dumb? He almost didn’t mentioned anything about apple until the last two paragraph… Tom almost sounded like he is praising HP…

    Great article anyways.

  3. @Victor I mean, if you point is we have seen enough articles about this/these ad(s) lately, then I sort of agree. It’s plain stupid and simply doesn’t deserve to be taken that seriously. But still, I think this article is one of the best one among its kind.

  4. Jeff Whitfield Monday, April 6, 2009

    Victor, I think you’re missing the point. Yes, a MacBook Pro would cost $500 more than the HP laptop. But what you get for that extra $500 is much more than just a pretty laptop with a cool logo. You get what you pay for.

    I’ve talked about this very thing on my blog (http://tr.im/ijU5) and used the Dyson vacuum as an example. While a Dyson vacuum may cost as much as five times more than other competitor bagless vacuums, there’s simply no comparison. The Dyson has better technology, has a 5 year warranty, and is simply a better quality product that the competition. It’s a vacuum that’ll last a lot longer than most other vacuums so the cost is justified. Now, you may dismiss it and say, “There’s no way I’m going to pay $500 for a vacuum!” If that’s the case then so be it. Go ahead and buy the $150 vacuum. Dyson doesn’t care. There’s plenty of people who understand the value in quality products and are willing to pay a little more for a good vacuum and Dyson knows this. The thing is that you’re never going to know just how good a Dyson vacuum is till you use one. Me telling you that it’s good isn’t going to do anything. You have to get over your fear of spending $500 for a vacuum, take the plunge, and see for yourself. Hell, if you’re not happy with it and still think it’s not worth $500 then simply take it back for a refund. No loss.

    The same applies to an Apple computer. Till you actually use an Apple computer for a given length of time you’re never going to understand what the fuss is all about. Go buy a Mac Mini and use one for three months without using Windows. Then, after you’re done, go back and start using Windows Vista again. After all that, come back to us and tell us whether you would be more willing to switch to a Mac. I rarely, if ever, have seen anyone who decided to switch back to a Windows machine after using a Mac for a while. And, out of the ones I have seen switch back, it’s usually due to the Mac not being much of a PC game platform.

    So just saying “Apple computers are better than most other computers, but they cost more” isn’t the end of the story. There’s a lot more to it. You get what you pay for.

  5. Wow, you guys (and the Apple faithful community at large) seem so put off by these ads, it’s really impressive. It seems with this one and your discussion of the first one, that you’re angry at them. Why? Surely it’s not technical accuracy, as you claim, because — correct me if I’m wrong — I don’t see the posts tearing apart the Apple vs PC ads for their rather … unique … take on reality.

    “Apparently, his (and Microsoft’s) definition of “technically savvy” means buying a machine with Windows on it.”

    Yes, that’s a perfect definition for a LOT of people, including a wide array of programmers and IT pros, all of whom are very technically savvy.

    I find it interesting, also, that you’re attacking their battery claims. While, sure, the battery in the laptop seems to be crap, are Apple’s offerings any better? I’ve got a 15″ MBP, and I’m lucky if I get 2 hours on my battery at nominal usage; the implication that we Mac owners have it easy or even any different from PC users is kind of crazy, especially considering we all use the same batteries.

    I think this dissection, much like the first, misses the point: sure, they could’ve gone online and spent a lot of time looking for the exact right computer (which is something that the Mac faithful seem not to, as they just buy whatever’s newest on the shelf), but these people who don’t want some new piece of tech to worship just go into a store when they need a laptop, and get one that fits their needs.

    Giampaulo said is explicitly at the end of the commercial, too: it’ll work for him, and that’s all that matters. And that’s all that SHOULD matter, isn’t it? Criticizing the commercial for not doing more than it set out to seems to miss the point.

  6. The Legend of Vincent Tremblay Monday, April 6, 2009

    The graphics chip is one of the two that ships on the MacBook Pro.

    Fixed.

    If Giampaulo was “technically savvy”, he’d recognize the value of having two GPUs. Today, the value is in power consumption, as he could have switched to the integrated GPU when on battery. Tomorrow, he’ll have an unused GPU with stream processors to spare for Photoshop or whatever OpenCL-powered goodness comes with Snow Leopard.

    At least he wasn’t as condescending as Lauren was.

  7. @Jeff Whitefield,

    very well said.

    It really boils down to “you get what you pay for”. It’s so true.

  8. @Brian Hogg

    You say that your MBP 15in only gets about 2 hours of nominal use?? Then I say you have a bad battery or you don’t charge it like you are suppose to. My MBP 15in is 3 years old and I STILL get about 4.5 hours out of it. This is not just with nominal use, I also use it to do all my admin tasks, and resource intensive tasks.

  9. Very nice article. You have some how read my mind and applied it to this post :)

  10. @Beau I’m jealous of your battery then, sir, as I’ve NEVER gotten anywhere near to that. Now, the current batter is about a year old, but my previous battery wasn’t any better. I suppose I could have gotten two bad batteries in a row, but I wonder how likely it is.

    Normal use, not nominal. If I have it sitting there literally doing nothing but background tasks, I probably get more, but even just doing typing (am a programmer, so that’s a good chunk of my computer use) kills it.

    I go to work in a Starbucks sometimes, and go without my plug, and I’m ALWAYS there for about exactly two hours.

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