Following in the footsteps of rivals, Hewlett-Packard Co., the world's second-largest computer maker, unveiled laptops with spiffier designs as well as more powerful processors.
Six of seven new HP notebooks announced Tuesday will run on dual-core chips from either Intel Corp. or Advanced Micro Devices Inc., and a business-targeted model allows users to swap the cellular broadband module if they switch carriers.
The offerings include two consumer lines that come in a glossy, piano-black finish with inlaid patterns, a departure from plain black exteriors. Some models have a built-in webcam or more powerful graphics cards.
"They're making technology much more personal," said analyst Rob Enderle of The Enderle Group research firm.
Others in the PC industry have already turned up the notch in notebook design — No. 1 computer maker Dell Inc. with its brushed metal accents on its high-end gamer-oriented machines, and Acer Inc., the world's No. 4 PC maker, with its bright red notebook covers.
Also, smaller, boutique PC makers such as Voodoo PC, or Alienware Corp., which has been acquired by Dell, have long offered customizable products, carving out profitable niches doing so.
Now the larger PC companies are looking to follow suit, Enderle said.
"In the second half of the year, there'll be a race by vendors to bring consumers more of what they want," he predicted.
HP's new mobile computers will have starting prices ranging from $749 to $1,649. They will be available starting in mid-May, the company said.