These powerhouses are on the heavy side but have large screens (16 inches or higher) that make them ideal replacements for desktop PCs
Toshiba Qosmio X505-Q850
CPU: Intel Core i7; CPU speed: 1.6MHz; Display size: 19 inches; Hard drive size: 350GB; Weight (min): 10 pounds
Heavy duty hardware
Great LCD panel
Poorly laid out drive image
Heavyweight hardware (over 10 pounds)
Bottom Line: Toshiba builds a solid midrange gaming PC that also happens to be a superb platform for HD video and digital media.
This laptop, equipped with at least 3GB of memory, will run all of your programs quickly (paired with a high-end CPU, that much memory will make things especially speedy). You'll be able to multitask to your heart's content, too, so go ahead--you can back up the entire contents of your hard drive to a DVD while watching YouTube videos and experimenting with textures on the 2MB photo of your client's art gallery in Photoshop. The main drawback is the extra expense: Loading up with more than the standard amount of RAM (2GB, these days) can add hundreds of dollars to a laptop's price, though it boosts performance by only about 10 percent. Also bear in mind that if you hope to use more than 3GB of RAM effectively, your PC must have a 64-bit installation of Windows.
With its expansive screen and keyboard, large hard drive, and fast processor, this portable qualifies as a desktop replacement. As the moniker suggests, this laptop could take the place of your desktop PC, as it offers most of the features that people look for in a computer. The screen is spacious enough for you to work on it all day without eyestrain, and the keyboard's roominess rivals that of a desktop's. It has only one optical drive, but ports aplenty. Even so, this machine is still portable, light enough to unplug from the wall and easily move to another room--or to a meeting across the country on your next business trip.
Blu-ray, named after the short, blue laser beam used to read and write discs (as opposed to the longer red laser in DVD and CD burners), recently emerged as the reigning high-definition standard for optical discs. Not only does Blu-ray video look good at 1080p on a laptop display, but the discs are roomy, too: One Blu-ray disc can store 50GB of video or data, almost six times the capacity of a dual-layer DVD. Blu-ray is backward-compatible, as well, so you can use DVDs and CDs in this drive. Just like CDs and DVDs, Blu-ray comes in prerecorded (BD-ROM), recordable (BD-R), and rewritable (BD-RE) versions to suit all your needs, whether you want to watch the latest movie, record your own videos or music discs to share, or reuse a backup disc.
This laptop is equipped with a DVD burner, a slightly older type of optical drive. If you don't need the ultrahigh recording capacity of a new Blu-ray optical drive, and you don't care about watching high-definition movies on your laptop, a DVD burner should suit you fine. It can read and burn data, music, or video discs up to 8.5GB in capacity. A DVD burner is, of course, backward-compatible with CDs, but it cannot play the newer Blu-ray media because the two types of optical-disc technology use different lasers. In a couple of years, Blu-ray will completely replace the DVD disc format.
Usually, a multiformat card reader, such as the one in this laptop, can accept several different types of flash memory cards, including Memory Sticks. A compact proprietary flash memory card, Memory Stick is a Sony and SanDisk product intended chiefly for Sony devices, including its laptops, digital cameras, camcorders, PDAs, and cell phones, as well as the PlayStation Portable. Five variations have been released since its introduction in 1998--each faster, smaller, and more capacious than the last. Check this laptop's specs to see how many variations of Memory Stick it can read without an adapter. Not much bigger than a thumbnail, the Memory Stick Micro (aka M2) is the one of the smallest flash memory cards in existence; only the competing microSD, a type of SD Card, is tinier. The 16GB Memory Stick Pro Duo stores the most data.
If you own a Fujifilm or Olympus digital camera, or an Olympus digital voice recorder, this laptop might be appropriate for you since it can read the xD-Picture Card format. xD is a niche product, not as popular or ubiquitous as other types of flash memory cards. Small and thin, and about the size of a quarter, it's comparable in size to Memory Sticks and SD Cards--but it doesn't hold as much, topping out at a mere 2GB. If you own (or are thinking of buying) a Fujifilm or Olympus digital device and need xD compatibility, that won't matter. This laptop will make sharing xD data a breeze.
Like most new laptops, this one has either a multiformat card reader or a dedicated slot that accepts an SD (Secure Digital) Card. More popular than Memory Stick, CompactFlash, and xD-Picture Card, SD is found in a large number of digital cameras, PDAs, printers, and other devices. SD Cards have built-in security functions to protect data, including music copyright protection. (The cards have a small write-protection switch on the side similar to that of a floppy disk.) The latest SD card, the microSDHC, is the tiniest flash memory card to date, measuring only 11mm across. It's also the fastest and roomiest, capable of holding up to 16GB of data.
This story, "Top 10 desktop replacement laptops" was originally published by PCWorld.
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