There’s something about the laptop that encourages experimentation--and competition. Manufacturers start trying to figure out how thin they can make their latest model, and pretty soon they’re in a full-scale, enter-the-Octagon battle for the title of World’s Slimmest Laptop. Or biggest. Or most powerful. Or even most expensive.
Unfortunately, tech devices don't have their own Guinness Book of World Records. But I’ve done my best to compile the laptops section. After searching far and wide, I've found notebooks with the most extreme specs and the most surprising features. Best of all, most of these laptops are available online, or around the corner at your friendly neighborhood computer shop.
Name: Dell Adamo XPS
Price: To be announced
Availability: Coming soon
Extreme spec: 0.40-inch thickness
Reasons to love it: As it did with the original Adamo, Dell is keeping information about the new Adamo XPS locked down. All we know is that the machine is thinner than the 0.76-inch MacBook and the 0.65-inch Adamo. The XPS is supposed to have a 13-inch screen just like the original Adamo, and will likely continue the Adamo trend of having an equally ridiculous price tag (the original Adamo will set you back $1999 to $2699).
Note, however, that Dell describes the XPS as a concept machine that’s not ready for production. It's hard to know when (or if) the XPS will see the light of day, but my money is on this supermodel-thin beauty becoming available in the next few months.
How long the new Adamo will remain the thinnest is another question. Notebooks are slimming down faster than a Weight Watchers spokesperson. In 2005, Asus was bragging about its ultrathin 0.9-inch laptop--but in a post-MacBook Air world, that's practically obese.
Name: Sony VAIO X
Price: $1300 and up
Availability: November 2009
Extreme spec: Weighs only 1.6 pounds (with a standard battery)
Reasons to love it: Some of the most fashionable ultraportables--like the Dell Adamo and the MacBook Air--tip the scales at about 3 pounds, but those laptops feel as if they could anchor a cruise ship compared with this featherweight computer. Though the VAIO X carries an 11-inch screen, you can't get much lighter than this slimmed-down beauty's 1.6 pounds even if you move to a netbook with a 9- or 10-inch display.
The VAIO X comes loaded with Windows 7, 2GB of DDR2 RAM, a 64GB solid-state drive, a multitouch trackpad, Memory Stick Duo and SD Card slots, GPS, ethernet, Wi-Fi (802.11n) and Bluetooth connectivity, two USB 2.0 ports, and a Motion Eye Webcam.
The Largest Screen
Name: HP Pavilion HDX "Dragon"
Price: about $2500
Availability: Discontinued; check eBay and Amazon
Extreme spec: 20.1-inch screen
Reasons to love it: There are big-screen laptops, and then there are televisions fastened to a clamshell case. At 20.1 inches, this gargantuan PC can double as a mobile DVD player--if you don't mind having 15 pounds of computing power sitting on your lap.
Specs include a 2.6GHz Core 2 Duo Extreme X7800 processor, 4GB RAM, two 160GB hard drives, Wi-Fi, and HDMI and eSATA ports. HP has discontinued the Dragon, so you'll have to scour Amazon, eBay, and online thrift shops to find it.
Though HP had designed the Dragon to compete with Dell's XPS M2010, another 20-inch-screen behemoth, this size of laptop turned out to be a little too crazy for most people.
If more screen space is what you need, keep in mind that manufacturers have been showing off some multiple-screen laptop ideas that may be coming soon, including Asus's Dual-Panel E-reader/Netbook, gScreen's concept with two slide-out 15.4-inch LCD screens, and Intel's Tangent Bay prototype with a regular display plus three OLED touchscreens right above the keyboard.
If you're looking for something more traditional, PC World has reviewed a number of laptops with 16- or 17-inch screens, such as the MacBook Pro, the Alienware M17X, and the Lenovo ThinkPad W700 DS, the last of which has a second 10.6-inch monitor hiding behind its 17-inch main screen.
Name: Dell XPS M2010
Price: $969 and up
Availability: Limited; refurbished computers only
Extreme spec: 18.30 pounds
Reasons to love it: If you're a fitness freak, this just might be the laptop for you. Put the 18.3-pound Dell XPS M2010 into your backpack, and you have a handy training weight for hiking sessions or impromptu bicep curls.
Dell is discontinuing the M2010, and only refurbished models are available now, so you'll have to act fast if you want an electronic anvil to call your very own. The M2010 rocks an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, up to 4GB of DDR2 memory, a 20.1-inch screen, eight speakers and a subwoofer, and a maximum 500GB hard drive.
The M2010 is so big that you might mistake it for a desktop all-in-one machine. It is technically a portable--but if you’re planning on toting it around, remember to use your knees when lifting.
Name: Eurocom D901C Phantom-X
Extreme spec: 133 score in WorldBench 6
Reasons to love it: The Eurocom D901C Phantom-X is the Frankenstein's monster of the laptop world. Looking at the specs, you can almost imagine Eurocom's engineers scurrying around in a darkened, secluded laboratory somewhere, plunging a processor fit for a high-end desktop into the heart of this clamshell chassis, and then screaming, "It's alive! It's alive!" as the machine starts up for the first time, and the lights in the neighborhood dim.
This beast may not turn against its master or declare war on humanity, but it will scare even the most experienced laptop user with its $5950 price tag ($3000 for the not-so-frightening base model). Under the hood it has 8GB of RAM, two 80GB solid-state drives with Windows Vista, one 320GB traditional hard drive running at 7200 rpm for file storage, an nVidia GeForce Go 9800M GTX graphics processor, and a 3GHz Xeon Quad Core X3370 processor running the show. The Eurocom is currently the WorldBench 6 speed champion in the laptop division, with a score of 133. Translation: It's fast--very, very fast.
If you want a speedy machine that won’t drain your bank account so quickly, consider Dell's Alienware M15X with Intel's new Core i7 processor. The M15x isn’t cheap ($1499 just for the no-frills base model), but it is a little more portable at 9 pounds, and it still delivers an impressive punch.
The Biggest Traditional Hard Drive
Name: Alienware M17X (European model)
Price: about $3272 and up
Availability: Now, in Europe
Extreme spec: Two 500GB drives
Reasons to love it: Though Western Digital's Scorpio Blue 1TB 2.5-inch hard drive is available, so far it hasn't surfaced in a machine that you can buy off store shelves. Until then, a pair of two 500GB hard drives remains the biggest storage option you can get in a retail laptop.
The Alienware M17X has a lot more than storage to love. You get a killer gaming experience on its 17-inch LCD, courtesy of a maximum 2GB of dedicated video memory. In addition, the M17X sports a 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme Mobile processor, an nVidia GeForce GTX 260 graphics card, an eight-in-one card reader, up to 8GB of RAM, and a battery with an average life of just over 3 hours. Optional features include a TV tuner and a Blu-ray drive.
When PC World put this desktop replacement through its paces, Senior Writer Darren Gladstone said that the M17X had "blistering gamer-approved performance" thanks to its high-resolution display and amazing graphics capability. The downside is that the 1TB storage option is available only in the Alienware M17X European model. Unless you plan to travel across the pond, you'll have to make do with a maximum 640GB of space in the form of a 5400-rpm traditional hard drive, or 512GB of storage from two 256GB solid-state drives.
The Biggest Solid-State Drive
Extreme spec: 512GB solid-state drive
Reasons to love it: Since solid-state drives don't have any moving parts, they're faster and more durable than conventional hard disks. With an SSD, you'll be able to save videos and music faster than a speeding bullet. You'll also like the Portege's 12.1-inch screen, 3GB DDR2 RAM, Intel 4500MHD mobile graphics, ExpressCard slot, and built-in Webcam--all in a sleek package that weighs just under 3 pounds.
A drive like this doesn't come cheap: $3500 is a high price to pay for a laptop with fancy file storage. Even so, the SSD you get here is probably a better bargain than OCZ's upcoming 3.5-inch 1TB SSD--that drive alone will retail for $2200.
The Best Laptop for a Sunny Day
Price: about $220
Availability: Now, in Europe
Extreme spec: First solar-powered laptop
Reasons to love it: Committed environmentalists say that sometimes you have to suffer for Mother Earth. In the case of the GYY, your suffering will likely take the form of waiting endlessly. With a paltry 128MB of RAM and a 400MHz MIPS processor, this laptop is less powerful than some smartphones. And its 8-inch screen is puny even by netbook standards.
But you can do all that waiting outside, while the power of the sun replenishes the GYY’s battery and you reflect on all the good you’re doing for the planet. Plus, once you finally can’t take it anymore and you decide to buy a more powerful notebook, you’ll sleep well knowing that the GYY’s casing is made from biodegradable materials such as starch, cellulose, or corn flour. That’s a look we've seen before in laptops from Fujitsu. And at least a clear conscience won’t cost you too much: Spanish manufacturer iUnika offers the GYY in Europe for about $220. We've heard no word, however, on when it will be coming to the United States.
The Longest-Lasting Battery
Name: Lenovo ThinkPad X200
Price: $999 (sale price as of 9/20/09)
Extreme spec: 8-hour, 54-minute battery life
Reasons to love it: If you looked only at manufacturers’ claims about battery life, this title would have to go to Dell's Latitude E6400 with its stated maximum battery life of 19 hours. Unfortunately, what manufacturers claim and what you see in real life aren’t always equal.
So for now, I’ll just go with the longest-lasting laptop that the PC World Labs has actually tested: Lenovo's ThinkPad X200, which at 8 hours, 54 minutes is our current marathon champion among laptops. (We hope to test the E6400 soon.)
Other specs to love in the X200 include its 12.1-inch 1280-by-800 LCD screen, 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Mobile processor, maximum 4GB RAM, fingerprint reader, Intel X4500 graphics, and 160GB hard drive. With incredible battery life, a full-size keyboard, and a sub-3-pound weight, the X200 is a great ultraportable choice.
Name: UMID M1
Availability: Now, overseas
Extreme spec: 6.1 by 3.7 by 0.6 inches
Reasons to love it: Is this tiny powerhouse hot? No, it's just UMID. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) This mighty mini has a 4.8-inch single-point touchscreen with 1024 by 600 resolution, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, a mini-USB port, a nonstandard headphone jack, and a 1.3-megapixel camera. You can order one with a solid-state drive as large as 64GB. With its 1.33GHz Intel Atom processor, the M1 mini-notebook runs Windows XP Home. Unfortunately, the M1 isn't for sale in U.S. stores, but you can pick one up from sites that specialize in imported tech gear, such as Dynamism.com.
Check out Senior Writer Darren Gladstone's brief demo of the M1 at the 2009 edition of the Intel Developer's Forum in San Francisco. You'll find the M1 around the 2-minute mark.
Name: Eee PC 900HD
Extreme spec: The tiny price tag
Reasons to love it: Forget about $130 laptops from China that have to be bought in bulk, and the $220 GYY (which is available only in Europe for now). The cheapest machine for American tightwads has to be Asus's Eee PC 900HD. The computer typically sells for $250. But be warned: It's appropriately stripped down.
The 900HD features an Intel Celeron processor, 1GB of RAM (2GB if you buy the Linux model), a 160GB hard drive, 10GB of online storage, an 8.9-inch screen, and Wi-Fi connectivity. Weighing in at only 2.5 pounds, the 900HD is light on both your wallet and your carry-on bag. If you really like it, buy two--they're cheap!
The Most Expensive
Name: Ego Bentley
Extreme spec: The killer price tag
Reasons to love it: Two years ago we heard about the so-called million-dollar laptop from Luvaglio. But my choice for laptop extravagance is the Ego Bentley because, unlike the Luvaglio, it seems to exist--and that gets high points in my book.
For only $19,943, you could be the owner of a fashionable laptop encased in a handbag, made especially by Ego Lifestyle for car manufacturer Bentley. Each Bentley laptop is handmade and features titanium chrome detailing, fine leather, crossover hand stitching, and the "classic Bentley knurling effect on the handle." (Translation: The handle is bumpy instead of smooth.) If you don't like what you see on the sales floor, you can have your Bentley crafted to suit your own ego.
The Bentley has a 12-inch screen, a 160GB hard drive, 2GB of RAM, a Mobile AMD Turion 64 processor, three USB ports, S-Video out, a VGA port, a Webcam, a DVD-RW drive, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi; its total weight is nearly 6 pounds.
For the money, you would think that the Bentley's specs would be a little flashier, and that it might weigh a little less. But hey, nearly 20 grand is a small price to pay for classic knurling, right?
The Most Beautiful
Name: MacBook Air
Price: $1499 and up
Extreme spec: Droolicious
Reasons to love it: Ever since the MacBook Air debuted in 2008, this computer has been the superhot ultraportable to beat.
The Air, featuring a sleek aluminum unibody enclosure that's just 0.76 inch at its thickest point, has a full-size backlit keyboard, multitouch gesture support, and a crisp 13.3-inch LED-backlit display. Other specs include the option of a 1.86GHz or 2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, a 120GB hard-drive or 128GB solid-state drive, 2GB DDR3 RAM, an nVidia GeForce 9400M graphics processor, an iSight Webcam, and both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.
On the downside, the Air is the slowest MacBook available, it has no optical drive, and it's a little stingy with USB and FireWire ports. But whenever you're out in public with this silver beauty, the Air is guaranteed to turn heads and make the other laptops jealous.
That's just my opinion, though. You might want to check out the Air's ultraslim and (almost) equally gorgeous competitors, such as the Samsung X360 and Dell Adamo. Hewlett Packard has also been developing a hot line of ultraportables, starting with last year's Voodoo Envy 133 and the new 13- and 15-inch Envy laptops available October 18.