If shopping for a laptop computer this Christmas, there are many very good choices available. Three that have received excellent reviews are the Apple MacBook Pro Spring 2010, the HP Envy 17, and the Toshiba Portégé R705-P25. They vary considerably in price, but they’re all good value relative to their cost.
* Apple MacBook Pro Spring 2010
The bad news about this 2010 Mac laptop is cost-it starts at $1,700, and can run much higher if you add any extras-and the fact that it doesn’t come with the HDMI, Blu-ray, or 3G you might expect from a high end computer.
But just about everything else you can say about this laptop is positive. It has a thin, light, yet strong and substantial unibody aluminum construction. The large glass multitouch trackpad gives you excellent maneuverability and flexibility, especially once you get used to it and all the tricks you can do with it-e.g., if you sweep upward with four fingers it hides all active windows.
There are internal changes that make this Mac a significant upgrade from its predecessors. The 15- and 17-inch models have the improved Intel Core-i CPUs, which provide a noticeable performance boost, as well as longer battery life. They also have a feature called “automatic graphics switching” which allows the unit to seamlessly switch back and forth from the default Intel graphics to the Nvidia GeForce when an app needs it.
* HP Envy 17
Though Hewlett Packard’s HP Envy 17 is not cheap ($1,400 starting price), it’s still several hundred to a thousand dollars less expensive than a 17-inch Mac with roughly comparable specifications.
Unlike the high-end Macs, it does not have the automatic graphics switching between GPUs. Nor does it have a touchpad that allows you to do as much as easily as that of the Mac. Furthermore, the battery life is worse than for most decent laptops.
There’s not much else to criticize about this unit, though. It comes with a Blu-ray drive, HDMI output, DisplayPort output, and a USB 3.0 port (which isn’t of as much use now as it will be shortly, as more hardware becomes available to take advantage of USB 3.0).
It has a slim, solid aluminum and magnesium chassis. Especially impressive is the 1,920×1,080-pixel display, which is perfect for Blu-ray and other HD. With it’s bass-boosting software, it has superior audio to the vast majority of laptops.
The performance speed of the Envy 17 is very good; you’ll have more than enough power for just about anything you want to do with this laptop.
* Toshiba Portégé R705-P25
This Toshiba laptop isn’t going to quite match up in certain respects with the two units discussed above, but given its much more modest price ($800), it’s arguably an even better computer relative to what you’re paying.
It’s light even for an ultraportable (3.1 pounds), with a redesigned keyboard that’s more user-friendly than previous models. Its 13.3-inch widescreen with 1,366×768 pixel resolution is very good for its price range. It has an internal optical drive, an internal DVD burner, 3 USB ports, an HDMI port, an SD slot, and a 500GB hard drive. Battery life is very good.
It will not reach the performance level of top end laptops with Core i5 and i7 processors, but will have plenty of power and speed for most users for most purposes, certainly compared to competitors in, or even a little above, its price range.
One of the weaker aspects of this Portégé is the tinny, poor quality audio, and the Intel integrated graphics are nothing to write home about. So, again, you won’t be getting everything you’d want from a $2,000 laptop. But you’ll be getting more than you’d expect from a unit that costs well under half that.
Other solid laptop choices for the holidays this year, depending on your budget, include the Acer Aspire TimelineX AS5820T-5951 ($700), the Asus U45Jc-A1 ($900), and the Sony Vaio VPCZ128GX ($3,400). Remember also that with all of these, you want to shop around and keep your eyes open for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other holiday sales, as the prices are sure to vary.
Dan Ackerman and Scott Stein, “Best 5 Laptops.” CNET.
Laarni Almendrala Ragaza, “The Top 10 Best Laptops.” PCMag.