Dear Giampaulo (and Microsoft): You Had $1,500 and Blew It

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 (s msft) is getting a few bucks on the side for featuring HP (s hpq) 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:


  • 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 (s aapl) 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.