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Most Impressive Laptops of 2008 Part2

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Acer Aspire One

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Acer's first Aspire One mini-notebook was a Linux-based model that impressed us despite its modest components. Now the Windows XP Home version of the Aspire One is here, equipped with a larger hard drive and more RAM. Though it isn't superswift, the latest Aspire One is a fine netbook at a fantastic price of $349. That's $100 less than the next-most-affordable XP-based model, the Lenovo IdeaPad S10.

The XP-based Aspire One retains the physical profile, excellent keyboard, and small but crisp 8.9-inch screen of the Linux model. Significant changes lie beneath, however: A 120GB hard drive replaces the Linux model's paltry 8GB flash drive. An SD Card slot for additional storage supplements the unit's five-in-one card reader. The system also bulks up to 1GB of RAM (the Linux model had 512MB). Yet the price is virtually unchanged. Unfortunately, this Aspire One produced a mark of just 34 on the PC World Test Center's WorldBench 6 tests, landing toward the back of the pack of Atom-based netbooks we've evaulated (whose scores have averaged around 36).

Even worse, the Aspire One's three-cell battery lasted for just 2 hours, 16 minutes. As a result, you'll probably want to spring for the six-cell battery, which costs an extra $100--thereby negating the Aspire One's price advantage.

Asus N10Jc

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Is it an ultraportable laptop or a jumbo netbook? That's the question surrounding the Asus N10Jc. At first glance the N10Jc seems like a do-over of Asus's Eee 1000H 80G XP netbook, albeit with some superior components and design. At the same time, it strays very close to ultraportable-laptop territory, despite bearing a price ($650) that's inexpensive for an ultraportable but steep for a mini-notebook.

What primarily differentiates this model from rank-and-file netbooks is its inclusion of a discrete graphics processing unit, nVidia's GeForce 9300M GS. That GPU isn't the fastest graphics option on the block, but the N10Jc is the first netbook I've seen that lets users toggle between the discrete GPU and the integrated graphics chip on the motherboard.

Also under the hood are the same 1.6-GHz Intel Atom processor and 1GB of RAM that just about every other mainstream netbook offers. The N10Jc has a 160GB hard drive, too, like the one that the Lenovo IdeaPad S10 carries. We evaluated the N10Jc in high-performance mode; at that setting it earned a WorldBench 6 mark of 36--middle-of-the-pack among current netbooks.

HP Mini 1000


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The Mini 1000 is HP's second-generation foray into the netbook market, and it has a couple of advantages over its predecessor (the HP 2133).

Gone is the older model's Via C-7M processor; gone, too, is the pipe dream that any current netbook could handle Windows Vista. The Mini 1000 that we received for testing runs Windows XP, and contains Intel's 1.6-GHz Atom processor, 1GB of RAM, and a 4200-rpm, 60GB PATA hard drive. With that configuration, it falls in with the rest of the current netbook pack. In spite of its Atom processor, however, the Mini 1000 slipped a little toward the back of the group in our WorldBench 6 tests, eking out a score of 30.

With the Mini 1000, HP does a good job keeping most of the things that worked on the 2133, while upping the performance and managing to cut prices in the process (well, not counting the beautiful, fashionista-oriented Vivienne Tam edition).

Thankfully still present in this model is the fantastic keyboard. The oversize, square keys look like they belong on a full-size laptop. In fact, the main QWERTY and number buttons are large enough to fit your entire fingertip--no need to carefully hunt-and-peck on this keyboard.

The Mini 1000 starts at $399; the configuration we reviewed will set you back $549.

Lenovo ThinkPad W700

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The Lenovo ThinkPad W700 is not only a desktop replacement; it's also a desktop-size machine. This laptop incorporates many of the latest mobile workstation features while also packing in a few unusual--and very welcome--goodies for the graphic artist or CAD designer.

Our test system (normally priced at $3963) was equipped with a 2.8-GHz Core 2 Duo T9600 CPU, 4GB of RAM, and 64-bit Windows Vista Ultimate. You can also choose either a 3.06-GHz Core 2 Extreme ($600 extra) or a 2.53-GHz Core 2 Quad Extreme QX9300 (a mere $1000 extra). In our WorldBench 6 tests the W700 earned a score of 99, only a few points shy of the best mark we've seen from a laptop.

The ThinkPad W700 isn't exactly stylish: It's a huge and functional business box. For the most part it looks and acts like a ThinkPad. That means you get excellent keys with lots of travel, a logical layout (with a separate number keypad located to the right of the main keys), and both eraserhead and trackpad pointing devices. Typing doesn't get much better than this.

And high-end graphics pros may think mobile computing doesn't get much better than this, too. The W700 includes a ton of graphics memory, which proves useful in applications like Photoshop, and you can specify a 17-inch wide-screen display with either 1440 by 900 resolution or the 1920 by 1200 resolution of our test system. Graphics users also will appreciate the W700's unusual add-ons: a built-in color calibrator and a built-in Wacom drawing tablet.

The ThinkPad W700 may seem understated, but it's a top-flight laptop. For on-the-go graphics artists or anyone looking for the ultimate mobile workstation, it's hard to beat.

Apple MacBook Pro A1286

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At first glance Apple's updated MacBook Pro appears nearly identical to its predecessor. But it's not. Inside and out, the new 15-inch MacBook Pro has been remodeled, redesigned, and reengineered. Instead of assembling the laptops piecemeal and splicing the components together, Apple has introduced a unibody architecture that constructs the entire machine out of a single piece of recyclable aluminum.

The unibody composition makes the new laptops easier to service and fix, and great for do-it-yourself types who, in the past, have lamented how difficult it was to swap out the hard drive or battery. The redesigned MacBook Pro makes accessing those particular components easy--just push the lever on the bottom of the case, and you're in.

The MacBook Pro's bright, glossy, 15.4-inch, wide-screen, LED-backlit monitor is pure joy to behold. The 1440-by-900-pixel screen is no longer encased in a metal bezel, but rather seems to float on its own, ringed by a deep black frame. You no longer have a choice of screen finishes, unfortunately, and many users will grumble about the glossy surface. But our reviewer found it striking, showing grayscale gradations that are virtually undetectable on matte screens. The results also have a 3D quality that makes everything on screen burst with energy and vivid color.

HP HDX18

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With an 18.4-inch display, an ample keyboard, and a host of plugs and ports, the HP HDX18 is a desktop replacement that may actually make your desk look snazzier. It's not quite a desktop-PC destroyer, but its multimedia-mindedness proves that HP is ready to put up a fight.

In our WorldBench 6 tests, the HDX18 produced a commanding score of 102. That isn't the fastest we've seen, but it's close--and it's more than powerful enough to play some games as well as video. A 2.8-GHz Core2 Duo CPU (T9600), 4GB of RAM, and nVidia's 512MB GeForce 9600M GT graphics processor fueled our review unit.

The HDX18 is huge--the first tipoff is the 8.9-pound, 17-by-11.26-by-1.72-inch case. And the 18.4-inch display is capable of showcasing full high-definition video in all its glory; everything from Blu-ray movies to the newest games comes across looking great.

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1 Response to "Most Impressive Laptops of 2008 Part2"

tony Says :
January 14, 2009 at 1:29 AM

Looking for more small notebook reviews? take a look for my netbook review http://www.thelaptopadvice.com

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