The scoop: HP EliteBook 840 Notebook PC, starts at A$2,099.
What is it? A business-class Ultrabook aimed at mobile professionals, the EliteBook 840 features a bunch of security features that should make IT happy, with enough bells and whistles to please the mobile employee.
For the IT support team, the EliteBook 840 includes HP's Sure Start offering, which aims to detect and restore the computer's BIOS within 30 seconds if it's attacked or corrupted. The Crisis Recovery Mode is able to replace the corrupted BIOS Boot Block with a clean copy from the secure memory and HP says this can help save IT time by avoiding help desk calls or service ticket requests.
Other security tools include hard drive encryption, a Device Access Manager (control access to ports and storage devices) with Just in Time Authentication support (gives users fast, credentialed permission to use removable drives for a limited time) and HP's Secure Erase.
Why it's cool: The notebook features a lightweight (starts at 1.58kg) yet tough finish (supports the military 810G standard and has Corning's Gorilla Glass), and the latest tech specs (Intel Core i5 or i7 processors; up to 16GB of memory; storage options up to 1TB hard drive or 256GB SSD; 802.11ac Wi-Fi).
The 14-inch display should be large enough to provide enough screen real estate to get work done (I've always been annoyed with 11- or 12-inch displays too small in my opinion). The unit we tested had an Intel Core i5-4200U processor, 4GB of memory and a 180GB SSD.
With the optional UltraSlim Docking Station, employees can connect this quickly at their office or cubicle workstation, connecting to a larger screen. In our tests, we connected the notebook and docking station quite easily to an HP Z24i display (24-inch monitor) via one of the two DisplayPorts on the docking station. A neat feature of this docking station it attaches to the notebook on the side rather than the back.
Other cool features include HD Audio with DTS Studio Sound, two integrated studio speakers, a spill-resistant keyboard (including a drain that lets you wipe up coffee spills a lot quicker) and optional backlit keyboard option. Power options include a 3-cell battery, but you can upgrade to a 6-cell battery for longer life (up to 33 hours with the optional secondary Slice Battery). I was also happy that our unit had Windows 7 on it instead of Windows 8, which helped me appreciate the system a lot more.
Some caveats: While several features are cool enough, some users may still say, "It's not a MacBook Air" or other ultrathin notebook, and for the most part this is meant to be a business notebook and not a super-monster multimedia machine or gaming notebook. Alone, it's a nice notebook, but I'd also recommend looking into the docking station and attaching another display to make it even more valuable for those times when your mobile employee is in the office.
Grade: 4.5 stars (out of five).
The scoop: ConferenceCam CC3000e, by Logitech, about US$1,000.
What is it? This system combines a conference-room quality Webcam with a powerful audio speakerphone base that connects to a computer via USB port. Placed in a conference room that can support up to 10 people, this system lets employees attach their computers and provide telepresence-like scenarios without the expense of a giant video telepresence system.
The webcam and audio speakerphone connect to a central hub via 16-foot PS2 cables, giving you enough room to place them in optimal locations within the conference room. Instead of having a videoconference where people are crowded around a single laptop, an entire room can be seen via this system. A remote control lets you pan, tilt and zoom the webcam (with 10x zoom, 90-degree field of view, 260-degree pan and 130-degree tilt) to highlight the person in the conference room who is speaking. The audio speakerphone base has an omnidirectional microphone with a 20-foot diameter, and can also connect to your cell phone via Bluetooth or NFC for regular audio calls (if you don't want to initiate a VoIP call via your computer or use video chat).
Why it's cool: The CC3000e is part of Logitech's business line of peripherals, and this system is an upgrade from its previous small conference room product, last year's BCC950 (which costs US$250 and is geared for conferencing up to small rooms up to five people). The less-than-a-telepresence-system price tag means that companies can place these units into smaller conference rooms to provide videoconference support without breaking the budget. The system supports both Microsoft Lync, Cisco's Jabber and other basic video chat applications (including Skype and Facetime) since the user is basically plugging in a USB cable for the webcam, microphone and speaker support.
Picture quality via the camera was fantastic, although our experience varied depending on the software we were using regular Skype was the least visually appealing we got better video footage from a Facetime chat, or connecting to our internal Lync system. Webcam and speakerphone controls were easy to navigate, although we preferred moving the camera around on the audio speakerphone base rather than with the remote control.
Some caveats: I found it a bit odd that the speakerphone or central hub didn't support a landline phone port the Bluetooth support for mobile phones is a nice touch, and the system works just fine for audio VoIP calls, but landline phone support would be nice to have.
Grade: 5 stars.