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 most 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, they aren't the easiest to carry around however.

The average desktop replacement weighs 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 assets due to the large display and powerful hardware, so most of the time you'll be looking at three hours of autonomy or even less. Laptops in this category start around $1,000 but fully-loaded models can easily fetch upwards of $2,000.

HP Pavilion dv6t

The 15.6-inch dv6t is aimed at business users and media enthusiasts. It offers up to six hours of runtime with a six-cell battery or 10 hours with a hefty nine-cell battery, an optional backlit keyboard and touchscreen with HP's touch-optimized apps, up to 1TB of mechanical or 160GB of flash storage and comes standard with a one-year warranty.

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Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $600 ($1,110 as configured)
Processor: Intel Core i5-2410M 2.3GHz Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 6490M 1GB
Memory: 6GB DDR3 (2 DIMMs) Storage: 750GB 7,200 RPM HDD
Display size: 15.6" (1920x1080) Optical: Blu-ray disc player
Weight: 5.8 lb Battery: ~5 hours

HP Envy 17

Equipped with the latest Intel Sandy Bridge processor options and AMD graphics, the new Envy 17 is a serious multimedia machine. The base model starts at $1,300 and has a Core i5-2410M CPU clocked at 2.3GHz, 6GB DDR3 RAM, 750GB HDD and Radeon HD 6850M graphics.

Throw in an extra $250 and you'll get a full HD (1920x1080) 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. If portability is a concern the 14-inch Envy was recently updated with Sandy Bridge processors and is definitely worth a look.

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Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $1,300 ($1,600 3D model)
Processor: Intel Core i5-2410M 2.3GHz Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 6850M 1GB
Memory: 6GB DDR3 Storage: 750GB 7,200RPM HDD
Display size: 17.3" (1600x900) Optical: DVD drive
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 $1,300 configuration sports a 15.6-inch (1920x1080) display and loud JBL speakers, a 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-2620M processor and Nvidia GeForce GT540M graphics, 6GB 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: $799 ($1,300 as configured)
Processor: Intel Core i7-2620M 2.7GHz Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GT540M 2GB
Memory: 6GB DDR3-1333 Storage: 750GB 7,200RPM
Display size: 15.6" (1920×1080) Optical: BD Combo
Weight: 6.14lbs Battery: ~4 hours
Other noteworthy desktop replacement options

Toshiba Qosmio X500-Q930X

A feature-packed multimedia behemoth sporting a large 18-inch display and Intel's 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 N53 Series

Asus N53 Series notebooks offer a well-rounded combination of features for a multimedia-centric machine, with a full HD display, Bang & Olufsen speakers, Optimus-enabled Nvidia graphics, and a good selection of ports including USB 3.0 and HDMI 1.4.

Price: $900 - $1,070