Snarky bloggers (ahem) could easily dismiss the HP Envy 13 as a <a href="http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/product/117907/overview/macbook_pro_a1278_13inch.html">MacBook Pro</a> plus $300, say so in a tweet, and call it a day. Hell, I was certainly tempted. (The Envy 13 starts at $1699. As configured, our review unit would cost you $1799.) This handsome laptop isn't so much a tribute as it is a poke in Apple's eye saying, "We can design similarly sleek, sexy machines...and maybe charge people a little more." But the HP story here--and my review--has a bit more to it than that.
Stories by Darren Gladstone
We've already reviewed Lenovo's <a href="http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/product/101013/review/thinkpad_t400s.html">ThinkPad T400s</a> laptop, a reasonably slim and powerful corporate raider. We love it, it works, and it's riding high atop our chart for the <a href="http://www.pcworld.com/article/123678/top_10_allpurpose_laptops.html">best all-purpose laptops</a> currently kicking around. So how could Lenovo improve on that? By adding a multitouch panel. Today, Lenovo is bringing touchscreens to the T400s and to the X200; the new feature adds $250 to each machine's price, making them $1999 and $1654, respectively. The company was able to send us an early production unit so that we could check out its backlit, WXGA+, 1440-by-900-pixel LED panel.
HP pioneered the notion of transforming a netbook into a corporate raider. The idea seems like a budget-conscious no-brainer now, but 18 months ago the HP 2133 Mini-Note was a wolf pack of one. Since then, the netbook market has evolved - and so have HP's entries in it. The HP Mini 5101 is a smart update, with slickly styled lines, a batch of business-ready apps, and finally a serviceable touchpad.
One screen wasn't enough for Fujitsu. The company just had to tack on a second, smaller screen and create a sort of odd mashup with its LifeBook N7010 laptop. The main screen is a fairly crisp 16-inch, 16:9 aspect-ratio screen (new for the LifeBook maker). The other panel is a 4-inch touch screen that serves as a shortcut-heavy zone. Interesting, yes--but does that tiny secondary screen make this machine worth the US$1500 asking price (as of 3/10/2009)?
The streamlined and redesigned Asus Eee PC 1000HE takes no prisoners. While the previous <a href="http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/product/32086/review/eeepc_1000h_80g_xp.html">Asus Eee PC 1000</a>offered a solid netbook, <a href="http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/product/34874/review/acer_aspire_one.html">Acer's Aspire One</a> stole all the attention with its lean and incredibly affordable approach. With the latest incarnation of the Eee PC 1000, the "HE" might as well stand for "Holy Enhancement!" This model bears only a passing resemblance to last year's Eee PC, and improves upon just about everything from the keyboard to the CPU. Better yet, in addition to losing some unsightly girth, Asus also trimmed the price to $400.
The HP Mini 2140, the latest entry in Hewlett-Packard's 2100 series of netbooks, is what the company's <a href=" http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/product/43062/review/mini_1000.html">Mini 1000</a> aspires to be when it grows up. But it carries a grown-up price as well: $529 for our test unit's midlevel configuration.
The lightweight, ultraportable Sony VAIO VGN-Z598U has a base price of US$1499, but our review unit--packed to the gills with high-quality components--ballooned to $4450. Primary responsibility for the sticker shock goes to a pair of 128GB solid-state drives, which jacked up the original price by roughly two grand. But our test unit also jams a 2.53-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P9500 CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a dedicated nVidia GeForce 9300M GS GPU into its tiny 12.4- by 1.3- by 8.3-inch frame.
Welcome back, Samsung. <a href=" http://www.pcworld.com/article/152208/samsung_x360_notebook.html?tk=rss_news">You've been laying low in the U.S. market when it comes to notebooks</a>, but after kicking the tires on the X460, I can honestly say you were missed. I mean, you manage to craft a 14.1-inch thin-and-light all-purpose notebook that's perfectly road-ready and goes toe-to-toe with <a href=" http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/product/31371/review/thinkpad_x300.html">Lenovo's ThinkPad X300</a>--even though the X300 is an ultraportable-class machine.
In recent months, Samsung has <a href=" http://www.pcworld.com/article/152208/samsung_x360_notebook.html?tk=rss_news"> been lying low in the U.S. notebook market</a>. But its new X360 is an interesting contender among ultraportable models--sleek enough to take on the <a href=" http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/product/31371/review/thinkpad_x300.html">Lenovo ThinkPad X300</a> or even the <a href=" http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/product/31944/review/thinkpad_x200.html">ThinkPad X200</a>. Though its sex appeal can't match that of the <a href=" http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/product/31260/review/macbook_air.html">Apple MacBook Air</a> or the <a href=" http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/product/43907/review/hp_voodoo_envy133.html">HP Voodoo Envy 133</a>, this slim little machine may have enough positives to win you away from Lenovo's competing models--if you have a spare US$2500.
That strange sensation you may be feeling while reading this review is deja vu. That's because several months back, I looked at Gateway's bargain laptop gaming solution, <a href=" http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/product/31578/overview/p172x_fx.html">the P-172XFX</a>. The P-7811FX is its equally value-centric successor as a gaming PC (those with some money to burn will want to look at <a href=" http://www.pcworld.com/article/134752/top_5_gaming_desktop_pcs.html">desktop gaming rigs</a>), and it offers many of the same great features -- and, sadly, some of the same annoying flaws -- as its predecessor. The main differences lie under the hood, so let's get to those first.
Asus calls its N10Jc mini-notebook a "corporate netbook"--which presumably has better connotations than "corporate slaptop." The question is: When does a jumbo mini-notebook officially become an ultraportable laptop?
Japan retailers get the jump on the U.S. market Sunday as they get to sell Dell's new laptop, the Inspiron Mini 12, before anyone here in the U.S. even gets to lay eyes upon it. While built-to-order models will be available in the states by mid-November, three retail chains in Japan (Bic Camera, Kujima, and Sofmap) get the first crack at selling preconfigured versions of Dell's 12.1-inch take on the mini-note space.
HP's second-generation foray into the mini-laptop space, also known as netbooks--the HP Mini 1000--has a couple of advantages over its predecessor (the HP 2133, which we reviewed back in early April). Gone is the Via C-7M processor; gone, too, is the pipe dream that any current netbook could handle Windows Vista (the Mini 1000 runs Windows XP). The Mini 1000 that we received for testing packs Intel's 1.6-GHz Atom processor; 1GB of RAM; a 4200-rpm, 60GB PATA hard disk; and Windows XP. Translation: It falls in place with the rest of the current mini-notebook pack.
Ever since the <a href=" http://www.pcworld.com/article/139017/review_miniature_laptop_that_makes_sense.html">Eee PC 4G</a> opened up the mini-notebook market last year, Asus has been pumping out different flavors of the Eee, including versions of <a href=" http://blogs.pcworld.com/staffblog/archives/006762.html">the original with XP</a> and models sporting <a href=" http://www.pcworld.com/article/146369/asus_eee_pc_900_mininotebook.html">slightly larger screens and a multitouch pad</a>. With the US$460 Eee 1000H 80G XP, though, Asus addresses many of the previous problems we've had with earlier mini-notebook models--and it creates a solid second-gen machine in the process.
At first glance, the Inspiron Mini 9, Dell's entry into <a href=" http://www.pcworld.com/article/146984/the_minilaptops_of_summer.html">the mini-notebook category</a>, looks like what you might get if you left a notebook from Dell's full-size <a href=" http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/147581/dell_launches_studio_laptop_line_for_consumers.html">Studio line of laptops</a> in the dryer too long. But the sub-US$500 Mini 9 carries a 1.6-GHz Intel Atom CPU, 1GB of RAM, and a solid-state drive, making it a good starter machine for basic computing at a reasonable price.