How We Tested
On top of the usual array of benchmarks, I added several tests to gauge the multimedia and entertainment abilities of these notebooks. After measuring, weighing and examining every nook and cranny of each system, each was given a thorough workout.
Overall performance: PassMark Performance Test 6.1 exercises every major component.
Battery life: With the system's Wi-Fi radio tuned to an Internet radio station and the audio set to three-fourths of full volume, each system was run down as PassMark's BatteryMon software charted the battery's capacity and recorded the time it shut down.
TV: I watched a lot of TV (someone had to), movies, online videos and several presentations, as well as high-resolution graphics, animation and CAD drawings. After measuring the remote control's range, I timed how long it took to go from the desktop to a TV station. For the Aspire and HDX, it's a two-step process that stops at the Media Center interface, so I timed both. Then, I timed how long it took to move up 10 channels; I divided this figure by 10 to get the average time it takes to go one channel.
Wi-Fi: Using a Linksys WRT54GS router and the PassMark Advanced Network Test, I measured each notebook's wireless throughput with a Dell server via a Wi-Fi wireless link at 15 feet. Next, I started up an Internet radio station and walked away from the Wi-Fi router while holding the laptop. I measured the spot farthest from the router where it still remained connected.
Power use: Finally, I measured the electrical current draw for each system as it performed typical business tasks and showed a TV show. Using the assumption that the typical system will be used for work eight hours a day and for watching TV four hours a day, I calculated how much power is required over a year. I used the Energy Information Administration's national average of 10 cents per kilowatt hour to estimate the system's power bill.
As good as they are at crossing over between work and play, each of these notebook monsters fell short in one area or another. I'd love to make a dream machine out of the best qualities of each: the size and weight of the Aspire 8920, the sound system and control panel of the HDX 9203, and the ports and connections of the M590KE.
If I needed to get one right away, I'd have no problem buying the HDX as my entertainment PC. It offers a great many features, has excellent performance and battery life, and -- most of all -- doesn't break the bank.
This story, "Large-Screen Notebooks: Bigger Really Can Be Better" was originally published by Computerworld.