Type: Gaming, General Purpose, Media
Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium
Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo T9300
Processor Speed: 2.53 GHz
Weight: 8.7 lb
Screen Size: 17 inches
Screen Size Type: widescreen
Graphics Card: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650
Storage Capacity: 1000 GB
Networking Options: 802.11n
Primary Optical Drive: DVD+R DL

Traditionally, desktop-replacement laptops get little respect: They're often dissed as being overweight, unattractive, and pricey. Lucky for them, things are turning around. Thanks to the proliferation of high-definition screens and multiple hard drives, together with the decline in desktop computer sales, it's the perfect time for a comeback. The ASUS M70Sa-X2 isn't shy about being a plus-size 17-inch laptop. In fact, it makes the most of the extra room by including a terabyte's worth of storage and a Blu-ray burner. In addition, its performance scores rival those of big names like Dell, HP, and Toshiba. Factor in an inexpensive price tag and you have one sweet system.

There's no hiding the fact that the M70Sa-X2 is big. It's not going to win any design awards, but it's not trying to outstyle, say, the Apple MacBook Pro 17-inch (Core 2 Duo T7700), either. At 8.7 pounds, this behemoth is 2 pounds heavier than the Apple. Even the Toshiba Satellite P305-S8825, which looks just as clunky, is significantly lighter, at 7.5 pounds. Keep in mind, though, that the M70Sa-X2's extra bulk goes toward accommodating two whopping 500GB hard drives. Both the Apple and the Toshiba house only single hard drives.

The M70Sa-X2's cover uses inlaid patterns similar to Toshiba's Fusion design, in which linear patterns are topped off by a layer of gloss. The 17-inch widescreen is spectacular. It, along with the Gateway P-7811FX, is among the few systems that offer a 1,920-by-1,200 resolution in this price range. Granted, it's not as awe-inspiring as the 18.4-inch screen on the Acer Aspire 8920G, but it's still classified as 1080p. The 8920G, on the other hand, exemplifies the latest trend in screen sizes with the 16:9 form factor; hence its resolution is 1,920-by-1,080. The dimensions of the M70Sa-X2 are large enough to accommodate a numeric keypad next to a very nice, full-size keyboard.

The feature set and the bargain-basement price will blow you away. It's the only 17-inch laptop that really advertises (in the form of a sticker) a terabyte's worth of storage. Complementing the 1080p screen is a Blu-ray burner that burns BD-REs and DVDs, as well as plays back Blu-ray and SD movies. A BD-ROM, however, would have been a better fit and could have dropped the price even further—hardly anyone is burning Blu-ray discs, as the media is expensive.

The nearly endless offering of A/V ports is a boon for home-theater heads and aspiring video editors. An HDMI port outputs your Blu-ray experience to a larger display, while an eSATA port expands your storage capacity with an external drive—not that you need it. In the back of the system is an audio/video-in port for attaching an included dongle that has RCA jacks and an S-Video-in port. The internal TV tuner, like the one on the HP Pavilion dv5t, receives over-the-air high-definition programming. Of course, the FireWire and four USB ports also come in handy.

The M70Sa-X2 doesn't use the latest Intel Centrino 2 parts (this hints at a refresh coming soon); but what it does come with is more than enough to keep you happily computing. With its combination of a 2.5-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300 processor and 4GB of memory, the M70Sa-X2's score on the SYSmark 2007 Preview Overall test exceeded that of the Acer 8920G by 5 percent. That's not a big difference, but keep in mind that the M70Sa-X2 has a lower-clocked processor. Reality sets in, however, on more processor-intensive tests. Its video-encoding (1 minute 14 seconds) and CineBench R10 (5,142) scores were faster than those of the Toshiba P305-S8825 but slower than the Acer's.

The ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650 is a good graphics card whose most impressive feature is its 1GB of video memory. In the end, however, performance comes down more to the actual graphics chipset than to the video memory it loads. Gaming scores were middle of the road, with the Apple MacBook Pro 17-inch (Core 2 Duo T7700) and the Acer 8920G coming out on top. Battery life, to put it mildly, is awful, which, coming from a huge laptop like this, is expected. At least ASUS went the distance by putting in a big battery, whereas others would have just given up and put in a six-cell one. The M70Sa-X2's score of 2 hours 6 minutes, however, did beat those of the Acer 8920G and the Toshiba P305-S8825.

So what's the downside? The ASUS M70Sa-X2 is hard to track down in stores. Your best bet is to search sites like newegg.com. If you come across one, you'll know that you've got yourself a fantastic system. With all the features and performance you get, the price is simply too sweet to pass up. You have every A/V feature imaginable and a terabyte's worth of storage—unheard of at this price. I would have given it an even higher rating if it were more readily available in online or retail stores. Poor distribution, unfortunately, has always been a problem with ASUS laptops.



Gateway P-7811FX

Price as Tested: $1,499.00 Direct
Type: Gaming, General Purpose, Media
Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium
Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo P8400
Processor Speed: 2.26 GHz
Weight: 8.8 lb
Screen Size: 17 inches
Screen Size Type: widescreen
Graphics Card: nVidia GeForce 8800 GTS
Storage Capacity: 200 GB
Networking Options: 802.11n
Primary Optical Drive: Dual-Layer DVD+/-RW

When Gateway announced the end of its online and phone sales, many people proclaimed it the end of an era. Well, Gateway is kicking off a new era with its first retail-only PC, the P-7811FX ($1,399 list), available, right now, only at Best Buy. This hulking laptop offers a home-theater-quality 17-inch widescreen along with decent gaming capabilities at a competitive price. In addition, the notebook debuts with the latest Centrino 2 processor, making it an all-around solid system.

The first thing I noticed when I sat down in front of the P-7811FX was its impressive 17-inch screen. The laptop offers a 1,920-by-1,200-resolution picture, which, in home-theater terms, means it can display 1080p content. Few systems are able to match that at this price point (the ASUS M70Sa-X2 is a notable exception). For a laptop of this size and with such a gorgeous display, it seems a shame not to offer a Blu-ray drive. I know: Adding Blu-ray would drive up the price, but I was left wanting more than the included dual-layer DVD burner.

Outwardly, the P-7811 is identical to its gaming predecessor in the FX line, the P-171XL. Both systems feature the same understated aesthetic, complete with copper-colored trimmings around the keyboard, polished black exterior, and large FX logo. While this may seem a bit demure for a system like the P-171XL FX (whereas the norm for other high-powered gaming systems is flashy effects, like coordinated LED lighting), it seems to be a better fit for this mainstream laptop. The P-7811 FX takes advantage of its size and incorporates a numeric keypad, as well as one-touch multimedia buttons between the speakers. Unfortunately, it has also inherited the P-171XL FX's springy keyboard and loud mouse buttons.

Because the P-7811FX is a desktop replacement with a 17-inch screen, one would expect a heavy notebook, yet its solid 8.8-pound weight is still surprising. Competitors like our Editors' Choice–winning Acer Aspire 6920G-6071 and the Toshiba Satellite P305-S8825 both weigh less than 8 pounds. Others, like the aforementioned ASUS M70Sa-X2, are comparable in weight but include two hard drives. Needless to say, this isn't a system you'd want to lug far.

In addition to the HDMI port, the P-7811FX includes three USB ports, an eSATA port, a five-in-one card reader (MMC, MS, MS Pro, SD, xD), a 1.3-megapixel webcam, and a fingerprint reader. The feature set doesn't look particularly impressive when compared with the less-expensive Toshiba P305-S8825, which comes with four USB ports, plus FireWire and S-Video-out ports. However, Gateway did focus on performance by choosing a 200GB hard drive that spins at 7,200 rpm, as opposed to Toshiba's larger drive, which spins at only 5,400 rpm.

The P-7811FX's 64-bit Vista operating system could be an issue for some, particularly if you're hoping to load older programs and legacy devices that may have compatibility issues. In general, we recommend doing some research before you pick up a 64-bit system to make sure that your old programs and hardware are compatible. (With hardware, check the manufacturer's site for a 64-bit driver if your Vista 64-bit OS is not recognizing the device. It will be more of a crapshoot with software, but often vendor Web sites will note compatibility problems.) Frequently updated programs like iTunes will probably run without a problem. As 64-bit technology becomes more common, compatibility will be less of an dilemma.

For now, though, the 64-bit OS was an issue in our testing. Neither SYSmark nor MobileMark tests would run, and even though, according to Microsoft, World in Conflict is 64-bit-ready, the game experienced color shifts severe enough that you couldn't read anything on the screen. That may be due to a graphics driver that needs updating. Crysis did run, but we still weren't able to generate performance scores.

At 35 seconds, the P-7811FX's Photoshop score was second only to the 32 seconds that the Acer Aspire 8920G clocked in at. You won't see the benefits of the system's extra memory in the Photoshop scores, but its 64-bit OS means that you can fully utilize all 4GB of DDR3 RAM (and beyond, with an upgrade, given Centrino 2's support of up to 8GB of memory). The P-7811FX was impressive on 3Dmark06, thanks to its top-of-the-line nVidia GeForce 9800M GTS graphics card.

Gateway had to make some tough choices to get the P-7811FX's price down to $1,399, but it made the right ones. The Centrino 2 processor, HDMI port, 4GB DDR3 RAM, and the 17-inch display come together nicely to create a solid notebook package. If you can suffer through the heavy weight and 64-bit incompatibilities, the price point makes this a compelling system to consider.


Fujitsu LifeBook T5010

Price as Tested: $1,869.00
Type: Media, Tablet, Business, Small Business
Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista Business
Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo P8400
Processor Speed:
2.26 GHz
1 GBWeight: 4.8 lb
Screen Size:
13.3 inches
Screen Size Type:

Graphics Card:
Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD
Storage Capacity:
80 GB
Networking Options: 802.11n

Primary Optical Drive:
Dual-Layer DVD+/-RW

Only a handful of convertible tablets are worthy of being called complete. Tablet makers typically make sacrifices to manage the weight, like ditching the optical drive, opting for a smaller screen, or including a low-powered processor. In doing so, manufacturers tend to hamper an important part of the convertible—the laptop part. Fujitsu, however, didn't skimp in outfitting the LifeBook T5010 ($1,869 direct). In addition to a 13-inch widescreen and an integrated optical drive, it's equipped with the latest Intel Centrino 2 parts.

The T5010 straddles the line between portable and "maybe I should leave this at home," but a lot can be forgiven when you put in a 13.3-inch widescreen and an optical drive. At 4.8 pounds, it weighs the same as its predecessor, the LifeBook T4210, which has a smaller 12-inch screen. Not everyone needs an optical drive, which is why Fujitsu offers the LifeBook T2010—you can lose over a pound by eliminating the extra spindle. The "heaviest tablet"award belongs to the 5.1-pound HP Pavilion tx2000z. Meanwhile, the Lenovo ThinkPad X61 Tablet is better suited for those who spend more than 25 percent of their time on the road during the year. With an extended battery (but no optical drive), it weighs 4.4 pounds.

System weights aside, you'll find that the T5010 makes for a terrific mainstream laptop. In keeping up with the times, Toshiba has moved from a 12-inch standard screen to a 13.3-inch widescreen. The 1,280-by-800 resolution is standard for this size, yet the bright display allows for editing home videos and photos and watching the occasional movie. But the keyboard, though full size, isn't at all resistant, and the mouse buttons click a little too loudly. The Lenovo tablets still lead the pack in comfort with their superb keyboards and a superior navigating experience.

The T5010 is the result of generations of improvements in writing capabilities. Its digitizer experience and the pen-on-paper feel are nothing short of impressive. When you pair Wacom's digitizer technology with the tablet functions of Windows Vista Business, the results are generally positive. This is also the case with the Toshiba M700-S7002 and the Lenovo X61 Tablet. The hinge that allows the screen to rotate feels rock solid, although the locking mechanism that keeps the screen in its place seems to be flimsier than that on the Toshiba and the Lenovo. Moving to a widescreen format enables longer portrait views, so vertical scrolling is minimized. An orientation button, arrow keys, and an Enter key can be found on the screen itself, along with a 1.3-megapixel webcam and a fingerprint reader.

A rare find on tablets, the built-in dual-layer DVD burner is one reason why many tablet shoppers will consider buying the T5010. Recognizing that an optical drive adds to the weight, Fujitsu had made the drive modular: You can replace it with a weight-saving piece of plastic or pop in an extra battery. The other features are geared more towards business users. The T5010 has a PC Card slot, unusual as many laptops today come with ExpressCard slots instead. It also has a SmartCard reader, which works in concert with the built-in Trusted Platform Module (TPM). The Fujitsu's 80GB hard drive seems insubstantial when the Toshiba M700-S7002 comes standard with 160GB, but you can upgrade to a 250GB drive for $190. Rounding out the features are three USB ports, a FireWire port, and a four-in-one card reader (SD, xD, MS, MS Pro).

The T5010 is the first tablet I've seen to use Intel's new Centrino 2 platform. Fujitsu has moved away from the T-series processors, even though those processors held a performance edge, in favor of the more energy-efficient, 2.26-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 processor. The P8400 runs cooler because it's a standard-voltage processor, which operates at 25 watts, unlike the T-series processors, which run at 34W. Intel's platform also now supports DDR3 memory, and the T5010 has 2GB worth of it.

Although it didn't quite measure up to the others on SYSmark 2007 tests, it exceeded our expectations in other areas. It was dominant in video encoding, its score besting the Toshiba M700 and the HP tx2000z by 20 percent and 29 percent, respectively. Its CineBench score of 4,296 and a Photoshop CS3 score of 33 seconds were tops among this group, too. (Keep in mind that both the Toshiba and Lenovo tablets have yet to move to the Centrino 2 platform, and the HP tx2000z uses AMD parts.) The battery life score was a little disappointing: Despite a more energy-efficient core, the system managed only 3 hours 7 minutes, less than expected. The small (56-Wh) battery is likely the culprit.

The Fujitsu LifeBook T5010 is the first tablet to get a Centrino 2 makeover. The company's line of convertible tablets has withstood the test of time. The inclusion of an internal optical drive and speedy parts has been Fujitsu's long-standing tradition and will continue to garner Fujitsu a loyal following among tablet users. This time around, however, make sure you buy the modular battery



Lenovo ThinkPad SL400

Type: General Purpose, Business, Small Business
Operating System
: Microsoft Windows Vista
Processor Nam
e: Intel Core 2 Duo P8400
Processor Speed: 2.26 GHz
: 2 GB
: 6 lb
Screen Size
: 14.1 inches
Screen Size Type
: widescreen
Graphics Card
: nVidia GeForce 9300 M GS
Storage Capacity
: 160 GB
Networking Options
: 802.11n Business

Primary Optical Drive
: Dual-Layer DVD+/-RW

The Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 incorporates the ThinkPad keyboard, TrackPoint pointing stick, touchpad, and another set of mouse buttons to provide dual pointing devices. With keyboard and navigation components that are the best in the industry, typing and navigating on a ThinkPad is an experience like no other. There are also physical volume buttons to the left of the keyboard. Though it doesn't say "ThinkVantage," a nameless blue button launches lenovo. Dell 1310 and the Toshiba U400 also offer this type of flexibility. Care—a suite of proprietary applications that you can use to manage power settings, wireless connections, and maintenance. (lenovo Care is a subset of the ThinkVantage suite that's been carried over from the 3000 line). Some might consider this suite bloatware, so lenovo offers the option of leaving this sort of management software and third-party applications off when configuring an "SL" ThinkPad.

Although the Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 succeeds in retaining many of the ThinkPad qualities, lenovo does several things to differentiate it, such as a glossy black top. 'The styling not meant to be cutting-edge—in fact, it's similar to what Dell did with the Vostro 1310, which was to find the line between conservative and chic and hang on to it for dear life. To keep production costs down, the Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 is part plastic, part magnesium alloy, so it's not as sturdy as, say, the lenovo ThinkPad X200 and ThinkPad T61 Widescreen. Even more impressive is the energy efficiency that this processor brings to the table.

The Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 not only produced blazing speeds, it also achieved 4 hours 38 minutes of battery life on MobileMark 2007. Though this battery score doesn't sound as impressive as the X200's 6-hour one, keep in mind that the Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 is running a discrete graphics card—the nVidia GeForce 9300M GS, which eats up more battery resources than the X200's integrated set. Over 4 hours of battery life on a laptop that runs a good graphics card is very impressive. The nVidia card is there not so much for 3D gaming, but for enhancing 3D environments like Windows Vista Business and supporting high-definition video playback.

The predictable demise of lenovo's small-business notebook line—the 3000 series—happened with little or no notice. The gap between the enterprise ThinkPads and the 3000 series was simply too wide for any small-business user to bridge. Yet that ending allowed a new line of lenovo small-business laptops to emerge. The Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 ($1,129 direct) looks as if it's from the same gene pool as its enterprise brothers, and it inherits many of the classic ThinkPad design features, such as the signature keyboard and TrackPoint pointing stick. No slouch, the Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 blazes the performance trails with a variety of processing options.