Multimedia and Desktop Replacements

Laptops in this category usually pack the most complete set of features. They won't match a high-end desktop in terms of performance, but they can deliver enough computing power for things like multimedia authoring and gaming. Desktop replacements also offer large screens from 16-inches and up, as well as comfortable full-sized keyboards with a separate number pad. As you might expect, however, they are not the easiest to carry around.

The average desktop replacement weighs around 6.5 pounds or more, sports a dual or quad-core processor, at least 4GB of RAM and 500GB of storage, and plenty of connectivity. Unfortunately battery life is not one of their strong points due to the large display and powerful hardware, so most of the time you'll be looking at around 3 hours of autonomy. Laptops in this category start at around $1,000 but fully-loaded models can easily fetch upwards of $1,500.

HP Envy 17

HP’s Envy laptops earned some praise and criticism when they debuted last year for their similarity to Apple's MacBook Pro lineup. Indeed, the keyboard design, quality aluminum construction and glossy full size display are all reminiscent of an Apple product, but unfortunately so where the sky-high prices. The new 17-inch variant builds on some of the strong points of this upscale line while also bringing several new hardware options to the table and more reasonable price points.

This feature-packed multimedia monster includes a Blu-ray drive, HDMI and DisplayPort outputs, a 1920x1080-resolution 17.3-inch display, an Intel Core i7 720QM, a 1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5850, a massive 8GB of memory, USB 3.0 support, and a triple bass subwoofer. With a starting price of $1,299, the Envy 17 is one impressive machine.

Additional views:

Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $1,299 ($1,599 as configured)
Processor: Intel Core i7 720QM 1.6GHz Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5850 1GB
Memory: 8GB DDR3-1066 (2 DIMMs) Storage: 640GB 7,200RPM HDD
Display size: 17.3" (1920x1080) Optical: Slot-loading Blu-ray / DVD combo
Weight: 7.5 lbs Battery: ~2 hours

Toshiba Qosmio X505

Powered by Intel's latest Quad Core processors and Nvidia GeForce graphics, the Qosmio X505 delivers solid gaming performance and a respectable multimedia experience. The series starts at $1,199 featuring a 2.26GHz Core i5 430M processor, GeForce GTS 360M graphics and 4GB of RAM. But if you truly want to enjoy a full HD 1920×1080 resolution on its large 18.4-inch LCD panel, which is the best feature of this multimedia powerhouse, it'll cost you upwards of $1,600.

The X505-Q890 has all the high-end specs you can imagine, including a 1.73GHz Core i7 740QM processor, 6GB of RAM, Blu-ray drive, the same Nvidia GeForce GTS 360M graphics, and a fast 64GB solid state drive to complement the large 500GB hard drive. This model will set you back $1,700, but you can save a few bucks with the X505-Q888, which sells for around $1,550 and basically drops the SSD drive and offers 4GB of RAM instead of 6GB. Otherwise you'll find plenty of connectivity options on all of them and speakers by audio specialists Harman Kardon.

Additional views:

Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $1,700 (X505-Q890)
Processor: Intel Core i7 740QM 1.73GHz (quad-core) Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTS 360M 1GB
Memory: 6GB DDR3-1066 (3 DIMMs) Storage: 500GB 7,200RPM HDD + 64GB SSD
Display size: 18.4" (1920×1080) Optical: BD Combo
Weight: 9.7 lbs (12-cell) Battery: 12-cell (~3 hours)

Dell XPS 17

Dell recently overhauled its XPS notebooks with Nvidia's new GeForce 400M series of graphics cards that come standard with Nvidia's Optimus technology. Sporting a brushed aluminum casing and HD WLED display, the Dell XPS 17 is a desktop replacement notebook that's primed for use as a gaming laptop, a media center or a mobile workstation. You get Core i3/i5/i7 processor options, a DVD or Blu-ray drive, support for up to 16GB of RAM, a Skype-certified 720p webcam, JBL designed and certified speakers, a 9-in-1 card reader and a few other niceties.

Dell has done away with many older connectivity options, such as VGA, but included both Mini DisplayPort and HDMI, as well as USB 3.0 ports and an optional TV tuner. Overall the machine feels well built; it has a large multi-touch trackpad and a sturdy backlit keyboard. The 17-inch model starts at $949, but as usual, you can configure it to your liking on the manufacturer's website.

Additional views:

Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $950 ($1,250 as configured)
Processor: Intel Core i5 560M 2.66GHz Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GT 435 1GB
Memory: 6GB DDR3-1066 Storage: 640GB 7,200RPM HDD
Display size: 17.3" (1600x900) Optical: Blu-ray disc combo
Weight: ~8 lb Battery: ~2.5 hours
Other noteworthy options in this category

Asus N61JQ-XV1

The Asus N61JQ-XV1 has a bit of everything for multimedia junkies looking for a new notebook that won't break the bank, including a 16-inch LED-backlit widescreen driven by ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5730 graphics and a couple of USB 3.0 ports.

Price range: $1,000

Sony Vaio VPC-F136FM/B

The F Series VPC-F136FM/B looks uncharacteristically plain for a Vaio system but packs plenty of punch to make up for it. That includes a 16.4-inch display, Blu-ray drive, a couple of USB 3.0 ports, discrete Nvidia graphics, and even WiMAX on-board.

Price: $1,300 (at Best Buy only)