Five fast notebooks to kick your desktop's ass £1250
7th Nov 2008 | 14:14
Uber-quick systems that even hardcore gamers will love
While laptops have historically trailed far behind desktop PCs in terms of power and performance, the growth of Intel's dual-core Centrino technology has ensured the divide is growing smaller all the time and you no longer need to pay a fortune to enjoy the benefits.
With even reasonably priced laptops now sporting multi-core processors and as much as 4GB of memory as standard, it's easy to run your home office or keep your family connected and entertained with the latest high-definition content, all from the comfort of your couch.
Some laptops will always be better than others, however, and a few key systems stand out from the crowd, so if you're looking for the maximum bang for your buck and the most stunning performance around, we've got five of the most powerful laptops money can buy.
Acer Aspire 8920G
Acer is known for its huge range of both consumer and corporate laptops and regularly offers the latest components at competitive prices.
The Aspire 8920G is its high-end media centre, and provides great high-definition usability alongside some truly stunning performance.
The large 4.1kg chassis is best suited to desktop use, but the three-hour battery life lets you move around the home when necessary. The large keyboard has a very comfortable typing action even for long-term work, but the glossy keys quickly highlight fingerprints during use.
The Intel Core 2 Duo P9300 processor runs at 2.5GHz, with 4096MB of DDR2 memory in support. Along with the powerful nVidia GeForce 9650M GS graphics card, resource-hungry software runs quickly and you can easily play games and edit music, photos and HD video.
The 18.4-inch screen is stunningly bright and vibrant and uses a 16:9 aspect ratio. It is ideal for HD entertainment, as DVD and Blu-ray movies fit the screen perfectly with the usual black borders at the top and bottom of the screen being reduced or completely removed.
The Blu-ray optical drive lets you playback the latest high-definition releases, but is read-only so you can't write data to recordable Blu-ray discs. It supports standard recordable DVDs and CDs however, so you can still create your own multimedia discs and perform data back-ups.
With such outstanding performance at this reasonable price, the Aspire 8920G-934G64Bn is a great entry-level HD media centre.
The omission of a recordable Blu-ray drive may put some buyers off, but this is still a great laptop for multimedia creation and consumption. Read full review
Asus provides a truly comprehensive range of laptops and is currently best known for the Eee PC mini-laptop that launched the current Netbook market.
The F8Vr is a portable offering, which uses Intel's Centrino 2 technology for near market-leading dual-core power.
The slim black and silver chassis carries Asus trademark style, and looks great for home and business use. It weighs just 2.7kg, so is very easy to carry, but its battery life, at just over two hours, is less impressive and only suited to short commutes and use around the home.
The Intel Centrino 2 chipset delivers outstanding dual-core power for complex multi-tasking. When running several applications simultaneously, performance stays smooth and fast, so you can feel confidant that you'll always have enough power, whatever your needs.
The ATi Mobility Radeon HD graphics card is built to directly process high-definition video without needing to rely on the primary CPU. This allows far smoother HD playback and also lets you keep working at your own pace even with HD content playing in the background.
The 14.1-inch screen is also fantastic, and both bright and sharp. Its 1440 x 900 pixel WXGA+ resolution isn't as high as on rival laptops, but is more than enough for most uses. It also lets you comfortably work across multiple windows and is well suited to spreadsheet use.
Although it has minor flaws in some areas, the high-performance and HD support make the F8Vr a true bargain at this price.
For basic HD video editing and high powered home use, this is another Asus system that's still very hard to beat. Read full review
Dell XPS M1530
Dell's XPS series is its high-end consumer range and combines style and power with a stunning screen and great usability.
The XPS M1530 is its 15.4-inch model and uses a powerhouse specification to deliver outstanding home office and gaming performance.
The sleek black and silver design looks great and is just as suited to the office as it is the home desktop. Its 2.7kg weight isn't ideal for frequent travellers, but the three-hour battery life means you can work on the daily commute or around your home when necessary.
The 2.6GHz Core 2 Duo T9500 processor is one of Intel's most powerful chips and is combined with an impressive 4096MB of memory. Even the most demanding office and media editing software run flawlessly, making this an ideal choice for professional use.
The 15.4-inch screen uses a glossy coating to improve colour and contrast, and image quality is truly stunning. The 1920 x 1200 pixel WUXGA resolution is also pin-sharp and allows full HD playback of the latest movie release via the included slot-loading Blu-ray drive.
Finally, the nVidia GeForce 8600M GT graphics card allows multimedia applications to run quickly. You can also play latest games, although optimum performance comes from using basic 3D settings. The built-in HDMI-out port also lets you easily connect to larger HDTVs.
With its flawless combination of power, features, style and usability, the XPS M1530 is by far one of the best consumer laptops on the market.
Even the price is reasonable considering what you get for your money, and whatever your needs, you're sure to find the Dell delivers. Read full review
Novatech is a UK-based manufacturer and was one of the first to offer Intel's Centrino 2 technology.
While the X50 uses a powerful yet unexceptional specification, its effective internal design helps it deliver the most impressive performance of any laptop so far.
The 3.2kg chassis uses glossy plastic throughout and features a faux-metallic finish, which users will either love or hate. Its weight makes it more suited to home use than any kind of travel use, and the two-hour battery life equally limits mobility to short journeys.
The high-powered 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P9500 processor and 4096MB of DDR2 memory combine to make this the most powerful laptop on the market. With performance to match most home PCs, the X50 can easily be used as a full desktop replacement.
The 15.4-inch screen is bright and sharp, and provides accurate colour and contrast. 3D performance is also very strong, thanks to the nVidia GeForce 9600M GT graphics card, so gamers and graphics and video professionals are also well catered for.
A final touch is the Microsoft SideShow screen featured on the lid. Used in conjunction with the Windows Vista operating system, it allows you to check the status of the laptop without switching it on, and you can also easily check email and Wi-Fi connectivity.
While the design and mobility divide opinion, the market-leading power of the Novatech X50 makes it an easy laptop to recommend.
And the fact that it's sold by a UK manufacturer is also sure to encourage buyers that prefer after-sales service on their doorstep. Read full review
Toshiba Qosmio G50-10H
Toshiba's Qosmio range is its high-end multimedia brand, and the Qosmio G50-10H is its top-of-the-range system.
With its unique design, high-powered performance and Quad-Core HD video processing, this is easily the best multimedia laptop you can currently buy.
The large black and silver chassis has a stunning design scheme but its 5kg weight removes any chance of comfortable portability. Its nearly four hours of battery power is fantastic however, so you can easily work away from a power socket, as long as you're feeling strong.
The Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 processor runs at 2.53GHz and although it's only backed by 3072MB of memory, performance is as impressive as you'd expect from a home media centre. Even when editing high-definition content, the Qosmio stays fast and stable.
The 18.4-inch screen delivers stunning brightness, colour and contrast, and shows HD movies in their native resolution. A set of Harman Kardon speakers are also built into the chassis and provide great sound, adding to the all-in-one media centre design.
Although there is no Blu-ray drive, a built-in Quad-Core HD video processor lets you upscale standard DVDs to replicate HD video. It works well but can't truly replace full HD content. There are currently no plans to offer a Blu-ray drive however, as it is rival technology to Toshiba's own HD DVD format.
The impressive style, performance and features of the Qosmio G50-10H make it easy to recommend as the best multimedia laptop on the market.
The lack of Blu-ray compatibility is worth bearing in mind however, if you're planning to upgrade your DVD collection anytime soon. Read full review