Greatest PCs: 25-23
25. Non-Linear Systems Kaypro II (1982)
Non-Linear Systems' Kaypro II didn't break new ground when it appeared toward the end of 1982, but it was a classic case of the right product at the right time. Even more than the Osborne (which had pioneered the concept of the luggable microcomputer), it appealed to a growing group of nongeeks who were awakening to the productivity benefits of personal computers but couldn't afford (or didn't want to spend) several thousand dollars for an Apple or IBM PC along with the necessary software and peripherals (such as a printer).
Named for NLS founder (and digital voltmeter inventor) Andrew Kay, the Kaypro II--and its series of successors over the ensuing years, including the 4 and the 2x--was a moderately priced alternative. When first released, the Kaypro II cost $1795 and, like the Osborne, came with all the productivity software (word processor, spreadsheet) most people would need. Encased in grey and blue metal, the Kaypro was rugged and utilitarian in design: You could latch the keyboard over the 9-inch monochrome display (far roomier than the Osborne's stingy 5-incher) and carry it like a suitcase. But at 26 pounds, it was a heavy piece of luggage. The Kaypro line also represented the last gasp of the CP/M operating system: By the mid-1980s, MS-DOS was already becoming the lingua franca of non-Apple personal computing.
24. Toshiba Qosmio G35-AV650 (2006)
Increasingly, PCs have evolved into sophisticated entertainment devices. And the first truly entertainment-centric notebook to catch our attention was Toshiba's Qosmio, which continues to innovate as a portable entertainment PC two years after its introduction. (Oh, that name? Toshiba says it derived Qosmio, pronounced "kozmio," from cosmos, as in universe, and the Italian word mio, meaning "my.") The latest iteration not only improves on the thoughtful design of its predecessors but is also the first notebook to integrate a blue-laser-based optical drive--in this case, HD DVD--for playback of high-definition entertainment content.
The current, third-generation Qosmio G35-AV650 packs a slew of features that will make it as at home in your living room as in your home office. A stylish 10.1-pound notebook, this $2999 model's HDMI port supports HDCP and 1080i output, so you can connect it to an HDTV. It also runs Windows XP Media Center and comes with a TV tuner and remote control, so it can serve as a DVR. The 17-inch wide-screen LCD gets its power from two lamps instead of one, which we found generated greater brightness than competing models. The system features an integrated 1-bit digital amplifier, Harman/Kardon speakers, and Dolby Home Theater enhancements, as well.
23. Apple eMate 300 (1997)
Over the past three decades, Apple Computer has released a bunch of great PCs that had a huge impact on the marketplace. Here's one that had almost no impact during its short life--aside from its cameo in the film Batman & Robin as Batgirl's (Alicia Silverstone's) PC--but we love it anyway.
The $799 eMate was idiosyncratic in virtually every way a computer can be idiosyncratic, starting with its target audience: schoolkids. It ran an operating system designed for PDAs (Apple's Newton OS). It didn't have a hard drive, but it did have pen input. It looked vaguely like a notebook, but its industrial design--with a green, curvy case that looked like it had sprung from the mind of science-fiction illustrator H.R. Giger--was utterly unique.
The eMate attracted a cult audience among business users. But Steve Jobs, who returned to Apple soon after its launch, wasn't a believer: Less than a year after the eMate shipped, he killed it, along with the rest of the Newton line. The cult continues, though--you can even find hacks to overclock the eMate at Stephanie's Newton Web Site.
Almost a decade later, the eMate feels like an early pass at the kind of innovative, affordable educational PC that the world is still trying to create. Too bad it turned out to be a dead end.