Laptops to die for

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Jon Wilcox
Technology Correspondent
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Laptops may be seen as a dull slab of plastic and circuitry thanks to years of executive or business class designs; you know the sort of thing I mean (you may even be reading this on such a boring looking device right now). Believe it or not, there are more desirable looking machines out there, if you’re willing to part with some extra cash. Such laptops are offer high-end performance and outlandish design details, and are truly some of the most unique looking bits of technology on the market.

And here are some of the ones that have caught my eye.

Alienware M17x
Top of the tree has to be the Alienware M17x. Alienware has always been known for its high-end performance and unique designs, and the M17x is no different. The brand was purchased by Dell back in 2006, but that hasn’t stopped the subsidiary from continuing its heritage. The base price for this extraterrestrial machine is a shade under £1,700 – but by the time you max out the customisable parts under the casing, it ramps up to an eye-watering £4,500+. Put simply, the M17x could probably eradicate humanity if it ever became sentient, whilst its red LED lit keyboard harks back to the 1982 flick, Tron.

Apple Macbook Pro
Let’s not forget that Apple does more than just iPods and iPhones. Having a received an update earlier in the year, the Macbook Pro once again offers the very best from the House of Jobs. Design and high-level form factors have dominated Apple’s approach to computing for years – certainly since the company’s resurgence in 1997 – and the Macbook Pro is no different. There’s an argument the natural habitat for Macbook owners is a Starbucks (as they type away on a debut novel), but that’s not fair...I’m pretty sure they’re found in equal measure at Costa too!

Sony Vaio AW series
Perhaps the closest series of Windows PCs to Apple’s output (as far as the premium price is concerned), the AW series of Vaio notebooks from Sony is a behemoth. The notebook has a gigantic 18” screen, comes with Blu-ray, and Dolby sound – it’s practically a walking cinema, which makes it a little impractical for users on the move. Thankfully this is a dream list and not a selection of the most portable PCs on the market. Anyway, back to the Vaio. Perhaps the closest looking model to the standard executive laptop, the AW nevertheless has enough detailing to lift it out of the glum boxes normally found on trains during the commute.

Asus UX50
Ok, so it may not have the Apple chic (and associated smugness) and Asus may be better known for its range of netbooks, but the Taiwanese company’s UX50 laptop is quite possibly one of the slickest we’ve seen for quite some time. Glossy and shiny to the point it may actually slip out of your hands, the UX50 follows a form factor that will appeal to many. Ambient lighting for comfortable typing, a spaced out keyboard similar to Apple and Sony Vaio, and a case that would give most size zero models a run for their money, means the laptop packs a lot of style into its feature set.

Toshiba Qosimo X300-14U
No doubt a close college buddy of Alienware’s M17x, the Qosimo X300-14U from Toshiba is another high-end laptop that could rival Skynet. Its red case (with flaming detail), smooth lines, and rude-boy Harman Kardon speakers would make the cover of ‘Max Power: Laptops’ magazine regularly - and that’s before you take a look what’s hiding under the chassis. Like its Dell counterpart, the Qosimo isn’t cheap (£2,700), but it’s geared up to be a heavyweight rig and PC gaming machine (and we’re talking more Crysis than Solitaire).

Despite the fact that some of the notebooks in our list require a mortgage (we’re looking at you, M17x and Qosimo), sometimes that little extra investment makes all the difference. Plus, any accountant carrying one of the five models would help tear down the stereotypical perceptions of the sector!

-- Jon


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30th Sep 2009 08:15

Yet more to choose from

I find it strange that while the rapidly growing netbook sector offers the best hope of recovery for the hard-pressed PC industry, manufacturers are falling over themselves to introduce portable PCs boasting reality-defying specs and price tags.

Launching Dell’s sleek new 16in Latitude Z laptop, the Cherry-coloured cousin to the even more flashy Adamo laptop, Dell small business field product manager Lisa Holmes commented, “While there may be a large portion of the market feeling the recession, not every user is looking for a cost-conscious model. There are still plenty of users out there who are looking for what the Latitude Z can deliver.”

That may well be so. But as Jon points out, if you’re going to gratify your laptop lust[***] this Christmas, be ready to dig deep into your pockets. The Latitude Z comes with an unfashionably low starting price of £1,319. So here are other premium portables that will set you back even more:

Toshiba Satellite P500 - If Toshiba’s Satellite P500 multimedia laptop was a car, it would be a 1950s Cadillac; This glossy black beast comes with chrome trim and neon-like lighting highlights for the logo and trackpad. With its retro feel and Cinemascope-like 18in screen, you half expect the P500 to be topped off with go-faster fins. This consumer-oriented machine has 4GB RAM as standard, a Blu-ray optical disk drive, an ATI Radeon HD 4600 graphics controller and the microchip equivalent of a V8 engine - an Intel Core 2 Duo P8700 processor tuned up to 2.5GHz. (Astonishingly, while looking for suitable images of the P500, I saw it listed at just over $1,000 on Toshiba's US site, and saw a passing reference to an £859 UK price. If that turns out to be accurate when the P500 shows up in October, you'll be gettting a lot of PC for that money. Whether or not you'll be happy to lug it around is another matter).Sony X-Series - an even more overt strike at Macbook territory from the Japanese consumer electronics giant, the carbon fibre X Series is just 13mm thick and weighs 680g. It’s expected to be launched on October 22 to coincide with Windows 7, and is likely to cost between £1,500 and £2,000. But with an Intel Atom processor at its heart, a 120GB hard drive and just 2MB of RAM for that price, the X Series is going to be stronger on looks than performance or value for money.Not forgetting this year’s crop of motorsport-inspired laptops including Toshiba’s Satellite U500 Ducati and the Asus Lamborghini VX5 (covered in Jon’s previous blog Mid-life crisis comes to laptops) and the rest of this month’s laptop cavalcade - the HP Envy, Dell Adamo and the growing host of smaller netbooks such as the Asus 1000HA Seashell.

Explaining the rationale behind Toshiba’s 18in home cinema beast, Thomas Teckentrup, Toshiba European general manager, said it gave multimedia enthusiasts a lot of features such as good sound, Blu-ray compatibility and near HD-quality presentation of other media in a package that delivered “a very profitable proposition” for the manufacturer.

He added that these envelope-pushing consumer devices were “spilling over” into the business market. “Business spec products are triggered by consumers learning about them and asking why they don’t use similar features in business. They also want to see the same design on the business side as in the consumer products.” Teckentrup said.

So, is your IT department (which, of course, might also be you) planning a Christmas laptop surprise? And if so, which of the amazing selection of new machines would you want most?

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