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HP ProBook laptops cut energy costs

Dedicated hardware measures power usage

HP is bringing new power management features to laptops that can help companies measure and cut energy costs.

The PC maker announced new business laptops - the ProBook 6445b and ProBook 6545b - that include dedicated hardware and software that can estimate energy costs over time. The Power Assistant software tool can help companies meet energy budgets by measuring and managing the power drawn by the laptops and its components, HP said.

The software can estimate power cost of laptops over a day, week or year. That is done by measuring its cost per kilowatt hour based on rates provided by a utility company, which need to be entered manually. That capability can help IT managers set power-saving budgets and goals for a single machine or a fleet of laptops over time.

The software can also change power settings to reduce power drawn by laptops and its components. For example, it could reduce screen brightness, shut off wireless networking features, or reduce the speed of the processor.

Users are also concerned about extending their battery life, an HP spokesperson said. With the customisable power setting features, users can switch power profiles to squeeze out extra battery life.

Many laptops shipped by top PC makers come with basic software tools that can manage power drawn to extend battery life. HP's software tool adds a number of features that make it a useful business tool, the spokesman said.

Power Assistant can identify power hogs by breaking down energy use in the laptop into bar and pie charts. That detailed breakdown, which takes into account power drawn by components and software features, helps more effectively manage laptop energy usage.

Data collected by the software can be fed from the laptop to a power management console used by IT administrators on servers. IT managers, in turn, can remotely customise power profiles of laptops, for example to go into hibernate more often.

Some of the power saving measurements are made possible by a circuit that HP has built on the motherboard. The company is looking to put the circuit and software on more laptops and desktops in the future, the spokesman said.

As companies look to go green, the software can also help measure carbon footprint based a industry-standard calculations established by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

The Probook 6445b comes with a 14-inch screen and weighs 5.3 pounds (2.41 kg). The ProBook 6545b comes with a 15.6-inch screen and weighs 5.9 pounds (2.7 kg). The laptops come with options of AMD's dual-core Turion or Athlon processors running between 2.0GHz and 2.4GHz. Users can also selection AMD's low-end Sempron processor. The laptops come with multiple OS options including Windows 7 and Linux.

The laptops support up to 8GB of memory and come with hard drive or SSD storage options. For wireless connectivity, the come with 802.11b/g/n wireless networking and an optional 3G mobile broadband options. A 6-cell battery gives the laptops up to a 5-hour battery life, or an 8-hour runtime from a 9-cell battery.

The laptops are expected to be available in the US starting October 22 and worldwide in mid-November starting at $799 (£500).

The laptops also have buttons that provide quick access to Web, email or contacts without fully loading Windows. The Quicklook button provides access to features like contacts and email, and the QuickWeb button provides loads a browser in around 10 to 12 seconds.

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