Top 10 laptops to replace your desktop PC

Bigger, heavier laptops with large screens (16 inches and above) can incorporate powerful hardware you won't find in smaller, lighter models. Most of these laptops are as powerful as a desktop PC

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Rating:

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Pros:
Light for the size
Lots of screen real estate

Cons:
Short battery life
Mediocre performance, especially in 3D graphics

Bottom Line: The L675D-S7106 is an affordable desktop replacement with a nice display and adequate performance.

REVIEW:
If you were to go hands-on with the $700 (as of March 30, 2011) Toshiba Satellite L675D-S7106 before you looked at its test scores, you'd never guess that it was one of the slower desktop replacement laptops we've tried. Subjectively, its performance is agile in standard desktop applications, and its large, 17.3-inch, 1600-by-900-pixel display gives you plenty of screen real estate. The machine even has a Blu-ray drive on board, so you can watch high-def moves. For the price, it's a lot of laptop.

The L670 series is available with a ridiculous number of CPU options--everything from an Intel Pentium or AMD Turion II to an Intel Core i3 to the AMD Phenom II P860 Triple-Core on the L675D-S7106. Joining the Phenom on our test configuration were an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4250 graphics processor, 4GB of memory, a 5400-rpm 500GB hard drive, and the aforementioned Blu-ray player/DVD burner. Just looking at the branding, you might think that it had a discrete graphics card, but you'd be wrong: The HD 4250 is a two-generations-old Radeon graphics offering built into the chipset, sharing RAM with the main system.

The L675D-S7106's WorldBench score of 78 is rather low for a desktop replacement laptop, but subjectively the unit feels very nimble. It also plays 1080p video smoothly, though gaming frame rates don't cut the mustard; it generated only 29.3 frames per second in Unreal Tournament 3 at 800 by 600 with medium detail (the least demanding resolution we test at). Daily desktop tasks such as Web browsing and word processing zip along nicely, but demanding work such as editing or encoding video will be slow for a system of this class.

The keyboard is large, and the feel is decent, if not Lenovo-like. However, the layout could use a little work. Hitting the Caps Lock key accidentally is easy if you're not careful, and the Delete key could be larger. The touchpad is nicely adjusted, but since it isn't recessed into the keyboard deck, unintentionally hitting it with your thumbs or palm and moving the cursor is a bit too easy--another thing you'll have to be careful of.

For its size (16.2 by 10.6 by 1.49 inches), the L657D-S7106 is rather light at 6.6 pounds sans power adapter. You certainly don't feel like you're carrying a brick. With a battery life of only 2 hours, 38 minutes, however, this laptop is really designed for sitting tethered to a wall, removed only for the occasional short foray.

Aside from one possible surprise, the Satellite L675D-S7106 has the usual array of ports for a desktop replacement, including three USB 2.0 ports (one of which also accepts eSATA) and VGA, gigabit ethernet, microphone, headphone, and power connections. The surprise is a phone jack for the modem, something that's fast disappearing from many vendors' laptops. You'll find no Bluetooth on board, but the laptop does have an SD memory card slot.

The bundled software on the L675D-S7106 is plentiful, and the laptop ships with the Windows 7 Home Premium operating system. Toshiba includes a number of "value-added" utilities such as the ReelTime document/media browser and the Google toolbar, but the collection also offers essentials such as the Webcam capture utility and Skype. Microsoft Office 2010 Starter is present, as is a trial of Norton Internet Security; Google's Chrome browser is on hand as a lightweight alternative to Internet Explorer.

Forget the performance numbers: The Toshiba Satellite L675D-S7106 is a great bargain for a desktop replacement, and unless you're a gamer or you perform demanding video- or photo-editing work, you could spend twice as much and not be any happier. You can even get a lesser-configured L675 for about $500 if all you're looking for is a large display. Toshiba could do a tad better with the input ergonomics, but that's a minor complaint--everything else is up to snuff.

This story, "Top 10 laptops to replace your desktop PC" was originally published by PCWorld.

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