HP Pavilion dv7t Laptop
HP's powerhouse laptop sails through performance tests and whips the current competition. If speed is what matters to you, the Pavilion dv7t has it in spades. Beyond the 17-inch screen and under the cool "liquid metal" exterior lies Intel's new Centrino 2 processor. The result: high-octane performance in an extremely shiny package. The dv7t, with its 2.53-GHz Core 2 Duo T9400 processor and 3GB of RAM, turned in a blazing score of 98 in our WorldBench 6 tests. Interestingly, MicroExpress's identically stacked all-purpose machine, the JFL9226, earned a mark of 103. The dv7t is a handsome, fast unit. For our review it was nicely configured with a 400GB hard drive, a Blu-ray drive, and Windows Vista Home Premium. And if you're looking to replace a desktop, it's a better candidate than most other big notebooks because of its proprietary left-side connection for HP's xb3000 expansion base. Though the base is an expensive add-on, it incorporates a screen stand, a third hard-drive bay, far better speakers, and a wireless keyboard and mouse for a complete desktop experience.
Gateway P-172X FX Laptop
The Gateway's glossy exterior almost makes you feel like you're slipping into a race car. Well, one that revs a 2.4-GHz Core 2 Duo T8300 Intel CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive, and nVidia's GeForce Go 8800M GTS graphics board. From the font choices on the keys and color scheme to the glowing, backlit shortcuts atop the keyboard, this model is obviously targeted at those who attempt to "pimp their rigs." This laptop also hosts a slew of useful outputs, including a FireWire port, three USB ports, and eSATA and HDMI outputs. The trayless optical drive lets you feed the disc into the slot, but that's nothing that we haven't already seen in a MacBook Pro. Still, the feature is nice to see in a relatively affordable gaming machine.
Dell Inspiron 1720 Laptop
Superbly crafted for a demanding home office, the Dell 1720 has a full-size keyboard with a separate number pad. Our test machine had a single 160GB hard drive, as well as a complete contingent of connections--five USB ports, an ExpressCard/54 slot, and a memory card slot. The 1720's weight (8.7 pounds) makes it a less-than-ideal notebook for the road.
When you're ready to kick back, Dell's DirectMedia button provides instant access to the full panoply of entertainment choices: DVD movies, music, photo slide shows, and videos. The stereo sound is good; a Blu-ray Disc drive is an option, albeit a costly one ($660 on top of our test unit's $2409 price).
Apple MacBook Pro Laptop
Sleek, powerful, and able to run Windows as well as the Mac operating system, the MacBook Pro makes a strong case for becoming anyone's ultimate laptop.
Equipped with a 2.4-GHz Core 2 Duo T7700 processor, the maximum 4GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive, and nVidia's new top-of-the-line laptop graphics card, the nVidia GeForce 8600M GT, our $2949 test unit outran other laptops that claim Windows as their primary--nay, their only--operating system. We loaded Windows Vista Home Premium on the Apple notebook, and it snagged a WorldBench 6 Beta 2 score of 88. In games it achieved a blazing frame rate of 141 frames per second in Far Cry (with antialiasing turned off).
Battery life was disappointing: Apple pegs it at 5.7 hours on one charge, but in our tests we got less than 2 hours, 45 minutes.
Toshiba Satellite X205-S9359 Laptop
Whether your pursuit is gaming or work, the big screen and twin hard drives on this big multimedia Toshiba laptop make for very comfortable desktop computing. Just don't count on long battery life.
The X205-S9359 has a swirly red and black "carmine flare" lid that for a gaming laptop is downright tasteful. A very similar-looking model, the X205-S9349, is $500 less but has only half the video memory and storage. That configuration might be fine for multimedia dabblers, but for full-throttle entertainment, opt for the X205-S9359.
The design is good overall. Even though Toshiba makes thin-and-light models, the X205-S9359 is typically heavy at 8.7 pounds (the average among currently tested desktop replacements is 8.8 pounds), but it has two 160GB hard drives and four built-in Harman/Kardon speakers backed by a bottom subwoofer for rich, satisfying sound. The Toshiba USB HDTV Tuner and bricklike power adapter bring the weight to a chunky 11 pounds.
This laptop might be too much bang for too many bucks for some. But if a strong gaming laptop that can also feed your TV addiction and comes with Microsoft Word and Excel sounds like the ideal portable to you, look no further.