2008 Notebook Holiday Buyer’s Guide: Gaming and Multimedia

by Reads (15,315)

Netbooks | Ultraportables | General Use/Mainstream | GAMING AND MULTIMEDIA | Business

Gaming and Multimedia notebooks are high-performance desktop replacement notebooks powerful enough to handle 3D games or your entire high-definition video library. These notebooks are portable enough to carry around in a backpack from time to time, but heavy enough to make it cumbersome to do so on a daily basis. These computers tend to offer faster performance than mainstream notebooks, and although some of the notebooks in this category can be configured with integrated graphics, all “gaming” or “multimedia” notebooks should be configured with a high-performance dedicated graphics card. Some of these notebooks can be large enough to fill up a small desk, truly replacing your full-size desktop and monitor. Display sizes range from 15″ and up, with prices that start around $900 and can exceed $3,000.

$900-$1,300

Dell Studio 15


The Dell Studio 15 is a 15.4″ screen multimedia laptop offered in multiple colors and configurations. The Studio 15 can be equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo and dedicated ATI graphics. It comes with a slot-loading DVD drive or Blu-ray player, backlit keyboard, sleek drop-hinge design, widescreen glossy display and touch sensitive buttons.

Software wise the Dell Studio 15 also includes a unique “Dell Dock” that is similar to the Apple Mac OS X launch dock for easy access to your favorite applications and easy control over various notebook settings.

OUR REVIEW | USER OPINIONS | WHERE TO BUY

 

Dell Studio 17


As the winner of our Editor’s Choice award in June 2008, the 17″ Studio notebook is the latest creation from Dell. This stylish notebook offers an impressively stylish design, backlit keyboard, and Blu-ray drive for making use of its beautiful WUXGA screen.

Backing up the awesome design is a durable chassis and high quality feel that lets you know the notebook will live through years of abuse. Performance is very good (depending on configuration) and for the occasional trip to the classroom, the notebook managed 2 hours and 39 minutes of battery life. Prices start at $899 for this 17″ model but expect to pay at least $1,100 for a particularly nice configuration.

 

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HP HDX 16t


HP recently unveiled their latest additions to the “HDX” family of notebooks with the all new HDX 16 and HDX 18 multimedia notebooks. These notebooks feature large displays with a 16:9 screen ratio, impressive speakers with an integrated subwoofer, and an innovative touch-sensitive media control panel.

The HDX 16t starts at around $1,100 and features a 16-inch display, NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT graphics, and is available with a Blu-ray drive and a variety of Intel Core 2 Duo processors.

WEB REVIEWS | USER OPINIONS | WHERE TO BUY

 

$1,300-$2,000

Sony VAIO FW


The VAIO FW is a great step forward for Sony, and a worthy competitor to the Dell Studio 15 or Toshiba A305. The design is great, but more importantly the build quality is excellent. It feels solid, with a reasonably firm screen cover and keyboard that feels as if a child could walk across it.

Performance was more than adequate in every area except high-end gaming performance, but this notebook has more than enough power for HD video.

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Gateway P-7811 FX


 

The Gateway P-7811 FX is easily the best bang for the buck gaming notebook sold right now. For a hair under $1,400 you have a portable gaming rig that can play Crysis at 30FPS at a decent resolution, and play nearly all other modern games with decent frame rates. On top of that you get a great glossy WUXGA display and reasonable battery life.

For the above reasons, this notebook easily won an Editor’s Choice award for September 2008. While it might not have the highest performance out of any gaming notebook we have tested, it easily wins out at the much lower price point. Gateway sure has a knack for building affordable gaming rigs, and being sold in lot of retail locations such as Best Buy is just the icing on the cake.

 

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Dell XPS M1530


Although available in less expensive configurations, the more powerful multimedia and gaming configurations of the XPS M1530 start at more than $1,300.

The 15.4″ Dell M1530 has been sitting in the top 10 of our most popular list since it was released. With styling that makes any head turn, and 3 colors to chose from you can bet it won’t just blend in with the crowd. This feature packed notebook can be loaded with a slot loading Blu-Ray drive, NVIDIA 8600M-GT graphics card with GDDR3 memory, and LED backlit display.

When not taking typing up a research paper you can play the latest games or output your favorite HD movie through HDMI to your big screen TV.

 

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More Than $2,000

 

Alienware Area-51 m15x


The Alienware Area-51 m15x is the best-rounded gaming machine tested in March of 2008. The fact that Alienware managed to pack ultra high-performance components typically only found in the largest of desktop replacements into a 15.4-inch, 1.3-inch thin, 7-lb package and still manage good battery life is amazing.

The m15x is both a fabulous gaming machine and a practical machine on the go. It can score almost 9,500 points in 3DMark06 yet get almost three hours of battery life with the standard battery. Throw a second battery in the Smart Bay and it gets nearly five.

Unless price is a barrier, we won’t hesitate to recommend the m15x to anyone looking for a near-perfect blend of reasonable portability and powerful performance. This machine is in a class of its own. Alienware unquestionably has a winner on their hands with the m15x.

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Alienware Area-51 m17x


The m17x is Alienware’s highest-end gaming notebook. Notable features of this all-black monster include an Intel Core 2 Extreme processor, dual Nvidia GeForce 9800M-GT graphics cards, and a 500GB RAID 0 array. It is one of the most powerful machines we have tested here at NotebookReview.com.

To those who do have the cash for a system like this, you are getting an awesome machine that will get envious looks anywhere you go, but be prepared to sign a mortgage for it.

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Lenovo ThinkPad W700


Lenovo’s reputation for building ultra-reliable business notebooks clearly carries over to their new high-end mobile graphics workstation: the ThinkPad W700. If Lenovo is targeting a single market with this notebook, it’s unquestionably photographers.

The W700 packs many photographer-friendly features such as tons of storage space, an excellent screen with built-in color calibration, a built-in digitizer tablet on the palmrest, and enough graphics horsepower to handle video editing, 3D graphics or just some fun games. Prices start around $2,500 but full-featured configurations can easily increase the price above $4,000.

OUR REVIEW | USER OPINIONS | WHERE TO BUY

 

Keep in mind this list doesn’t represent every great notebook currently on the market. Our holiday buyer’s guide is designed to highlight a few laptops we believe appeal to a wide range of people.

Remember, to get advice on which notebook to buy don’t just go with what’s popular, visit our What Notebook Should I Buy forum to ask what everyone else thinks you should buy based on your needs.

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