Jayesh MansukhaniDec 29, 2006 15:41:20 IST
As 2007 approaches rapidly, we at Tech2 decided to pause and reminisce about the best products launched in 2006. Here we pick out 5 most outstanding laptops released this year. In some ways this has not been an easy choice, with not one but two platform changes (the jump from Core Solo to Core Duo and then Core2 Duo (Merom )) and the mainstream arrival of wide-screen LCD panels. Ultraportables have come into their own and Desktop replacements have emerged as a serious category. Add to that other considerations, such as the advent of Blu-Ray and HD-DVD (next–gen hi-def storage mediums) and very powerful gaming chipsets... the field just got very muddled. Keeping all this in mind we therefore decided to take a different approach.
Instead of the usual category slotting we would normally do, we decided to pick out the 5 best laptops that we feel represent the best of current and emerging technologies and are outstanding performers.
Here is our list in no particular order.
Dell XPS M2010
Monster category: Dell XPS M2010
The reason we are calling the monster category is simply due to the fact, that machines in this space are ones that signify overkill both in performance and specifications. These are the outrageously expensive machines we all hear about, dream off and can never afford.
Dell makes some of the best VFM laptops money can get and on the other side they make amazing performance machines, such as the Dell XPS M2010. Looking at the pictures of the M2010 we are willing to bet you would be fooled into thinking that this is a desktop. Well that is what we had also initially thought, till we realized it’s actually a laptop! An oversized yet extremely powerful laptop. It features an unrivalled 20-inch LCD panel with a native resolution of 1680x1050. If that is not enough. Dell has equipped this machine with Intel’s most powerful C2D processor the T7600 ( 2.33 GHz), 2 GB System memory, a staggering 240 GB of storage, a Teac based DVD writer with support for all known formats (no Blu-Ray and HD-DVD) and 4 USB Slots, a 5-in-1 card slot DVI and S-Video outputs.
The sound on this powerful laptop is handled by a series of tiny 8 speakers which are enclosed around the LCD panel and a 2 inch subwoofer which makes for some pretty loud music playback. Graphics-wise the laptop is a bit underpowered, as it utilizes an ATI based Radeon X1800 series GPU, which while not as powerful as Nvidia’s offerings can still run games on medium settings at a fair clip. One notable features we left out for last is the keyboard hat ships with this Laptop. The keyboard is a detachable Bluetooth-powered affair, which allows you to work wirelessly in comfort. Putting all things into consideration, this was our first pick for product of the year. We are yet to see a product that so effortlessly scales the categories of mobile computing, Media entertainment PCs and desktop replacement machines.The prices for this oversized multimedia monster starts at US$ 4,500 for the base configuration.
Gaming Laptop: Alienware mALX
Gaming on laptops truly came of age in 2006. The arrival of powerful dual-core processors and mobile GPU brought about this revolution. A lot of firms jumped onto the gaming bandwagon but no one could quite do it justice like Alienware. Alienware which was acquired by Dell earlier this year is a specialized assembler of powerful laptops and desktops for gaming and multimedia solutions. Our choice here from their extensive lineup is the Aurora mALX. This laptop packs in a 2.6GHz AMD Turion 64 ML-44 processor although not as fast as Intel solutions can easily go the distance. The system has 2GB of 400MHz memory and in terms of its graphical system, this monster laptop packs in a pair of Nvidia’s GeForce Go 7900 GS GPUs with 512MB of memory on each card. The graphical cards are run in SLI mode, which is what what makes the laptop so unique. With this kind of graphical power under its hood, serious high-definition gaming is made possible. Games like F.E.A.R which bring other laptops to their knees runs extremely smoothly on this notebook.
In terms of space, the laptop contains two 100GB hard drives which are rated at 7200 RPM. The LCD panel on this laptop is a 19-inch wide-screen WSXGA with a native resolution of 1680 x 1050. The mALX as in keeping a laptop of its stature packs in a Sound Blaster Audigy 2 sound system which delivers rich sound out of the 4.1 speaker system with the integrated subwoofer. With 3 USB 2.0 ports, integrated headphone and microphone jacks, a firewire slot and a 4 in 1 memory card reader the laptop is fully ready for expansion via peripherals. Overall this notebook has virtually no competition in the mobile gaming market. This laptop retails at U.S. $ 4400.
Best Ultraportable: Asus U5F
Asus is a surprise entrant in our list of outstanding laptops. They have made rapid strides in this space in 2006 and richly deserve this award. The U5F is built on the dual-core platform it features a range of processors to choose from the Core Duo T2300 which is clocked at 1.66 GHz to the T7600 Core2Duo processors which are clocked at 2.33 GHz. The LCD panel on the U5F is a 12.1 XGA which is built on the 'Splendid Color Enhancement Engine' technology that Asus is promoting in all its notebooks. This gives the screen increased brightness with vivid color output and depth which is similar to their premium desktop LCD Panel the ASUS PW201. The system offers 512 MB of DDR 2 Ram for system memory (upgradable to 1.5 GB) and an 80 GB HDD for storage space. In terms of peripheral connectivity, this laptop is fairly well equipped with 3 USB 2.0 slots, 1 Express card slot, a Firewire Slot and an 8 in 1 media card reader. Data connectivity is provided by the standard range of a Gigabit Ethernet slot, a modem slot and wireless technologies such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
Weighing in at 1.4 Kg this laptop priced at Rs. 79,000 and is arguably the best ultraportable we have last year.
Best Tablet: Lenovo ThinkPad X60T
The demand for tablets has fallen sharply this year with ultra-portables replacing them in popularity. Due to this fact, there have been fewer tablet releases and most of them have flown under the radar. The most notable release and the pick of tablet connoisseurs this year, has been the Lenovo ThinkPad X60T. The X60T as compared to the previous generation product the X41T, brings significant improvement as it moves to the powerful Core-Duo T2500 (clocked at 1.83 GHz) processor system, gets a screen size upgrade to 12.1 inches with a native resolution of 1400x1050, has been upgraded to a Windows Vista ready graphics chipset (Intel Media accelerator 950) and an extended 8-cell battery that is capable of 8 hours of battery life. These specifications are closer to Ultra-portable levels and not surprisingly so, since the X60T has been built on the X60 ultra-portable.
Priced at $1,700 the Lenovo ThinkPad X60T has no competition in its space.
Best VFM Machine: Dell Inspiron 9400.
This was a simple choice. For deciding on a product that would achieve this tag we not only considered price points, but we considered the value the laptop brings to the table at its price range and how it stacks up against the competition. There was a unanimous winner for this tag. It was yet another Dell –namely the Dell Inspiron 9400, which has been in virtually all of our roundups since early this year. No other Laptop offers this level of performance, features and connectivity options.
Introduced earlier this year this laptop has become standard for others to emulate. It has retained the 17-inch screen which has a native HD capable resolution of 1,920 X1200 (WUXGA) and has upgraded its CPU to a Core2Duo processor—the T7200 (clock speed of 2 GHZ) which is one of the fastest mobile CPUs around. Graphics is still handled by the GeForce 7900 GS Go system. The sound is taken care of by an internal 2.1 with an integrated subwoofer. In terms of expansion options, Dell has made no changes. The Inspiron 9400 offers FireWire, S-Video out and 4 USB 2.0 ports. Storage has been upgraded and now is handled ably by a fast 7200 120 GB HDD. With prices starting at Rs. 78,000 there would be few who will argue with its impeccable credentials.
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