Multimedia and Desktop Replacements

Laptops in this category pack the most complete feature set. They won't match a high-end desktop in terms of performance, but they can deliver enough computing power for many different productivity uses. Desktop replacements usually offer large screens from 15 inches and up, as well as comfortable full-sized keyboards with a separate number pad. As you might expect, however, they aren't the easiest to carry around.

The average desktop replacement weighs around 6 pounds or more, sports a Core i7 quad-core chip, at least 4GB of RAM and 500GB of storage, and tons of connectivity. 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 three hours of autonomy or even less. Laptops in this category start around $1,000 but fully-loaded models can easily fetch upwards of $1,500.

HP Envy 17

Equipped with the latest Intel Sandy Bridge processor options and AMD graphics, the new Envy 17 is a very serious multimedia machine. The base model starts at $1,250 and has a Core i7-2410QM CPU clocked at 2.3GHz, 6GB DDR3 RAM, 1TB HDD and Radeon HD 6850M graphics.

Throw in an extra $300 and you'll get a full HD (1920x1080), 3D capable display as well as a Blu-ray disc drive. Not much has changed in terms of design, and that's a good thing. The Envy still features a laser-etched aluminum finish that covers a lightweight but strong magnesium alloy chassis, which is both stylish and elegant.

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Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $1,250 ($1,550 3D model)
Processor: Intel Core i7-2410QM 2.3GHz Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 6850M 1GB
Memory: 6GB DDR3 Storage: 1TB 5,400RPM HDD
Display size: 17.3" (1600x900) Optical: Blu-ray disc combo
Weight: ~7.35 lb Battery: 6-cell (~2.5 hours)

Dell XPS 15

Dell has upgraded its premium XPS 15 with Intel's second-generation Core processors and Nvidia GeForce GT 500 series graphics, promising even better performance than before. The $1,260 configuration sports a 15.6-inch (1366x768) display and loud JBL speakers, a 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-2620M processor and Nvidia GeForce GT540M graphics, 8GB DDR3 memory, a Skype-certified 2.0MP HD webcam, and a Blu-ray drive.

There's no shortage of ports and media features with HDMI 1.4, a pair of USB 3.0 and a USB 2.0/eSATA combo port, and support for Intel's Wireless Display technology which lets you wirelessly stream content to an HDTV. Although the XPS 15 doesn't have a 3D display like its 17-inch sibling, it can stream stereoscopic video to a 3D-enabled TV using Nvidia's 3DTV Play.

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Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $1,260 ($1,410 with display upgrade)
Processor: Intel Core i7-2620M 2.7GHz Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GT540M 2GB
Memory: 8GB DDR3-1333 Storage: 640GB 7,200RPM
Display size: 15.6" (1920×1080) Optical: BD Combo
Weight: 6.4lbs Battery: ~4 hours

Sony Vaio F (VPCF2190X)

The newest Sony Vaio F Series laptop features a top-of-the line premium LED backlit display capable of transmitting both 2D and 3D content in Full HD (1080p). It's also equipped with a Core i7-2630QM processor, Nvidia GeForce GT 540M graphics, and a Blu-ray disc drive as standard.

Along with the requisite ports and media slots, the new F Series has two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI 1.4-out and an HD web camera. The keyboard features LED illumination for easier handling in low light situations and overall the notebook's design is as sleek as you'd expect from a Sony system.

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Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $1,660
Processor: Intel Core i7-2630QM 2.0GHz Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GT 540M 1GB
Memory: 4GB DDR3-1333 (2 DIMMs) Storage: 500GB 7,200RPM HDD
Display size: 16" 2D/3D Full HD (1920x1080) Optical: Blu-ray / DVD combo
Weight: 7.1lbs Battery: 6-cell (~3 hours)
Other noteworthy options in this category

Toshiba Qosmio X500-Q930X

A feature-packed multimedia behemoth sporting a large 18-inch display and Intel's latest Sandy Bridge-based processors. The Qosmio X505 delivers solid gaming performance and a great multimedia experience but has an equally impressive price tag.

Price range: $1,899

Asus N53JF-XE1

The Asus N53JF-XE1 offers a well-rounded combination of features for a multimedia-centric laptop, with a full HD display, Bang & Olufsen speakers, Optimus-enabled Nvidia graphics, and a good selection of ports including USB 3.0, HDMI 1.4 and eSATA.

Price: $1,009