Today’s laptop computers are as powerful as they are portable, capable of anything a desktop PC can manage and often a whole lot more besides. They’re great for gaming and ideal for editing photos or managing music, plus built-in Wi-Fi connectivity lets you unwire your life. Key features are screen size, processing power and battery life.
Despite its entry-level price, this friendly notebook computer uses Microsoft’s latest Windows Vista operating system and has a spacious 15.4-inch screen. There’s a full gigabyte of RAM inside, plus a DVD-RW drive for burning CDs and DVDs on the move. A great choice for students on a budget.
Apple computers use a different operating system to PCs, but can share most types of office and entertainment files, and are less prone to viruses. The MacBook is small, tough and home to a webcam and useful six-hour battery. It comes with a range of free, easy-to-use programs for making and organising music, photos, websites and more.
Samsung R20 ---- BEST BUY
If you’re after elegance on a budget, look no further. The R20 weighs a modest 2.3kg but packs a glossy 14-inch screen and has a multi-tasking Intel Core 2 Duo processor inside. The keyboard is large and responsive, and there’s a 6-in-1 card reader to make downloading digital camera photos a breeze.
HP Pavilion DV6317EU
This 3kg notebook represents good value for money for basic school and home office duties. It has a sharp 15.4-inch screen, a substantial 120Gb hard drive and a clever multi-functional DVD drive. The glossy ‘piano black’ finish looks classy – but does attract fingerprints.
Acer Aspire Gemstone 5920
Acer takes on Apple with this subtly rounded and ever-so-strokable designer notebook, arriving in the UK in July. The emphasis is on usability rather than sheer power, but virtual Dolby Surround sound and easy multimedia access are joined by a very respectable 2Gb of RAM and a large 160Gb hard drive.
Sony Vaio VGN-TX5XN ---- BEST BUY
Forget fancy processors and tons of memory – for computing on the move you really want just three things: a great screen, a real keyboard and a good optical drive. The 1.1kg Sony has a stunning 11-inch display, a finger-friendly keyboard and a fast DVD rewriter. It’s efficient too, squeezing nearly six hours of life from its battery.
Priced like a real computer but more reminiscent of a pumped-up PDA organiser, the Q1 has a 7-inch touch-screen that’s fine for watching movies. If you don’t like the weird, split keyboard, you can tap away on a virtual keyboard on-screen, although this lightweight (780g) device isn’t really for anyone who writes a lot of emails and documents.
With its luxurious leather-bound palm rest and high-tech fingerprint security, the U1F is headed straight to the boardroom. Directors will love its no-nonsense black styling and 1kg portability, although stressed-out underlings might question the cramped keyboard and lack of a built-in DVD drive.
Sony VAIO VGN-UX1
They used to say you couldn’t be too skinny or too rich. Now the ‘size zero’ backlash may be heading for computers, as the miniscule 480g UX1 has a keyboard proportioned for small children and a 4.5-inch touch-screen that struggles to cope with full Vista programs. The ‘too rich’ bit still comes in handy for its stratospheric price-tag, though.
Fujitsu-Siemens Lifebook P1610
Don’t worry – the screen is meant to do that. The 8.9-inch rotating display is touch-sensitive, letting you enter data directly when you get fed up with pecking out words on the tiny keyboard. The P1610’s modest processor is fine for web surfing and emails but chokes on anything more demanding. It weighs 1kg.
Toshiba Qosmio G30-201
The Q30’s built-in HD-DVD drive provides playback of High Definition video discs on a luxurious 17-inch display. You’ve also got twin hard discs giving a massive 400Gb of storage, with matching Intel Core Duo 2 chips to power it all. The only drawback is that it’s too heavy (4.8kg) to carry around easily.
Dell XPS M1710
An anonymous exterior conceals a lightning fast gaming specialist fast enough to keep up with the latest 3D games. It has a bright 17-inch screen, an advanced Intel chip and a dedicated GeForce graphics card, all housed within a magnesium alloy chassis tough enough to absorb the bumps that frustrated gamers inevitably dish out.
Sony VAIO VGN-AR31
Sony brings its flat screen TV expertise to the world of computing with a 17-inch X-Black delivering some of the brightest, punchiest colours ever seen on a laptop. It’s great for High Def households, with a Blu-ray drive that can play movies and even record its own High Definition discs from the latest HD camcorders.
Apple MacBook Pro --- BEST BUY
This metal marvel now uses Intel chips, letting it run either Apple or Windows software. Build quality is superb, from a keyboard with a light sensor that controls its backlight to a 15-inch screen that’s so good Apple includes a mini remote control for watching movies across the room.
Alienware Aurora m9700 SLI
There’s nothing subtle about this dedicated games machine. If the extraterrestrial colour scheme doesn’t blow you away, its dual graphics cards will – they mean that even the most complex games look smooth and detailed. It’s festooned with slots and ports for all the joysticks, speakers and accessories you could want to add.
HP Compaq nc6400 --- BEST BUY
You’ll be the envy of the departure lounge with this top-flight business laptop. Not only does it have nippy Intel Core 2 Duo processors, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections, but also a built-in SIM slot for a 3G data card. This means you can surf the web at near-broadband speeds using Vodafone’s 3G phone network.
Acer Ferrari 1005WTMi
Modern Formula 1 cars need electronics almost as much as they need petrol, but here’s one Ferrari that doesn’t use a drop of fossil fuels. As you’d expect, it’s built for speed rather than comfort, with blisteringly fast AMD Turion processors, bags of memory and a huge 160Gb hard drive.
Microsoft’s new Windows Vista software enables SideShow: a 2.8-inch screen on the outside of the Asus that lets you play music and check email without turning on the main computer. When you do flip it open, you’ll find a functional business machine with a 12-inch screen, huge 160Gb hard drive and – sadly – a disappointing 70-minute battery life.
Rock Pegasus 665-T56
Many of the more powerful laptops need noisy fans to keep them cool. Not this Rock. Its Silent Mode activates fanless operation, so the only sounds you’ll hear will be the tap of keys or DVD movies playing back on its high contrast 15.4-inch display. A solid, all-round performer.
Panasonic Toughbook CF-19
A moment’s inattention or clumsy child can turn today’s high tech laptop into tomorrow’s blank-screened paperweight. Panasonic’s Toughbooks aren’t the fastest laptops around but they are fully weather- and shock-proofed against everything from spilt coffee cups and sticky fingers to concrete floors and torrential rain.
Yoggie Gatekeeper Pro
Don’t let horror stories of cyber-fraud and stolen data deter you from venturing online. This handy all-in-one device plugs into a USB port and consists of firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware solutions to let you surf the web in safety. After the first 12 months, software updates cost a reasonable £21 per year.
Epson PhotoMate 280
Add a battery pack (£35) to this portable photo printer and you need never work indoors again. It can preview photos on its 2.5-inch LCD screen and creates stunning 6x4-inch prints from as little as 20p each. Plug in a Bluetooth adaptor (£25) and you can even print wirelessly, from Bluetooth laptops and mobile phones.
This stylish leather case will cocoon your computer in comfort, with room for plenty of documents and accessories besides. A bundle bag keeps cables tidily tucked away and each bag ships with a unique tracker number, on the off chance you can leave something this beautiful alone for a moment.
Crumpler The Gimp
This protective ‘skin’ simply slips over your laptop, letting you transport it in any bag you want. It’s made from the wetsuit material neoprene, so absorbs splashes and raindrops as easily as it does knocks and scrapes, although it can’t offer the same drop protection as a fully fledged case.
Belkin Cush Top
Nearly half of all laptops never the house, so pamper your processor with this cosy cushion. Not only does it protect your lap from a hot computer, it provides a stable platform for working on your couch, bed or floor. It has a handy storage pocket for a power adapter, headphones or mouse, too.