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HP just built 3M’s privacy screens directly into its new laptops

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Now you see me, now you … stop looking at my damn screen.

Ever feel like the guy in the seat next to you is studying your spreadsheets a little too closely? Or maybe you’re writing a passionate billet doux to your amour, and want to keep prying eyes from your letter? Whatever the situation — maybe you just don’t want the world to know about your infatuation with The Bachelor — 3M’s privacy screens have been a go-to for laptop users for years. Today, HP is unveiling the first laptop with a built-in privacy screen.

“Designed with more than 20 years of 3M optical films technology experience incorporated into the privacy screen, HP Sure View helps address the concern of protecting sensitive information through a world-class solution tailor-made for open work environments and for the mobile worker,” said Makoto Ishii, vice president and general manager of 3M’s display materials and systems division.

The transition was instantaneous, and the filter works as well as the over-the-screen models.

At a press preview in New York City last week, I had the opportunity to see the HP EliteBook 1040 and EliteBook 840 in person, and try out what the company calls “Sure View.” And if you’re into privacy, it’s pretty awesome.

3M’s physical privacy screens have been the businessman’s best friend for years. The flexible, paper-thin filters slip easily over your laptop screen and prevent anyone 35 degrees off the center of your screen from seeing what’s on your monitor. But they darken the screen, and they get smudgey and dirty, and keeping them in place on your screen often requires more work than some might think the privacy is worth.

By building the technology into the laptop itself, HP ensures that the screen will never get smudgey, nor will it ever slip. Darker? Well, that was still the case.

To use HP Sure View, you press a dedicated key on the laptop; just hit F2 to transition into privacy mode, a special backlight and a special filter inside of the laptop that shunts light in such a way that 95 percent of it can’t be seen from an angle. It works, surprisingly well in fact. The transition was instantaneous, and the filter works as well as the over-the-screen models I’ve seen over the years.

Anyone who’s used a privacy filter will readily acknowledge that even immediately in front of the screen, light output is reduced and the screen quality is affected — that’s the trade-off for privacy, and still the case here, though to a lesser degree. The screens on the EliteBook 1040 and 840 didn’t look as dark as a similar screen might through a physical filter, but I could tell something was preventing them from hitting maximum vibrancy. HP argues that the need for this type of privacy protection is growing, and I do agree.

“Today’s millennial workforce is increasingly mobile, creating new data security challenges for businesses as confidential information can be more easily hacked from a user’s screen — a process called visual hacking,” said Alex Cho, HP’s vice president and general manager for commercial PCs. “The addition of HP Sure View to our PC security solutions helps address the risks associated with visual hacking and gives customers the freedom to work more confidently and productively in public spaces with the touch of a button.”

HP’s Sure View technology is a sub-$100 add-on to the HP EliteBook 1040 and 840, and will be available in September. In some models the cost of the screen will be absorbed entirely, HP says — making it as invisible as your screen to someone right next to you.

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