If there’s one thing we took away from our jaunt at CES, it’s this: consumers’ appetites for mainstream laptops haven’t waned all that much. Even in the Ultrabook category, Intel expects half of the models to go on sale this year will have 14- and 15-inch screens — as strong an indicator as any that lots of folks aren’t yet ready to give up their slightly larger screens, their discrete graphics, their (gasp!) optical drives. While HP recently announced its first Ultrabook for the consumer market, the Envy 14 Spectre, it’s fully fleshed out its premium Envy series to include two additional models for people who crave more oomph.
The Envy 15 is the medium-sized member of the crew, with a 15.6-inch screen and the same overhauled design you’ll find across the Envy lineup. Delightfully, too, it marks the return of HP’s eye-popping Radiance display, and also comes with a generous two-year warranty and full copies of Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements. And with a starting price of $1,100, it sharply undercuts the 15-inch MacBook Pro, while taking direct aim at other high-end 15-inchers, like the Dell XPS 15z and Samsung Series 7 Chronos. So how does it stack up? Meet us after the break to find out.
Not content to stop at a netbook and a pair of Ultrabooks, Lenovo just a slew of mainstream laptops (and even a desktop replacement) to fill out its consumer IdeaPad line. Starting at the high end, the Y480 and Y580 are both multimedia machines with brushed metal lids and palm rests, JBL speakers, an optional Blu-ray burner and Intel’s Wireless Display technology. With either model, you can get up to 8GB of RAM and a Core i7 processor, though the two start to look a lot different when you take screen resolution and graphics muscle into account. While the 14-inch Y480 has a 1366 x 768 panel and NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M graphics, the 15.6-inch Y580 steps up to a 1080p pixel count and a 2GB GTX660M card with DirectX 11. Look for these in April, starting at $899.
Give up that metal design and high-res screen, and you’re left with the mid-range Z series. The IdeaPad Z380 (pictured), Z480 and Z580 are also available with a Core i7 processor, optional Blu-ray player, WiDi, up to 8GB of RAM and up to 1TB in storage. Whether you choose the 13.3-, 14- or 15.6-inch version, the pixel count is fixed at 1366 x 768, though you at least don’t have to settle for Intel GMA graphics: NVIDIA’s 2GB GeForce GT640M card is also an option. Expect these to hit shelves in April for $599 and up. Even at the supposed low end the specs aren’t too shabby: the G480, G580 and G780 will also be offered with up to 1TB of storage, up to 8GB of RAM and an optional Blu-ray drive, along with a 2GB NVIDIA GeForce GT630M card in tricked-out models. These will go on sale in June for $399-plus.
Lenovo’s IdeaPad U310 and U410 Ultrabooks start at an inexpensive $699, weigh a little more than the competition
If there’s one thing we don’t like about the Lenovo IdeaPad U300s, it’s that it’s missing an SD slot, and starts at $1,200 — a steep price when you can find many an Ultrabook for under $1,000. (Okay, that’s two things.) And while the company isn’t ready for a complete do-over just yet, it’s clearly trying to fill some gaps in its lineup: the outfit just introduced the 13-inch IdeaPad U310 and the 14-inch U410, which will start at a relatively inexpensive $699. On paper, the IdeaPad U310 bears a strong resemblance to the U300s we reviewed two months ago, with 4GB of RAM, 1366 x 768 resolution, an eight-hour battery, Intel Wireless Display and a choice of Intel Core processors. But, it adds an extra USB 3.0 port, along with that all-important memory card slot. In exchange, you’ll have to make some tougher choices regarding storage: you can opt for a 500GB hard drive or an SSD that tops out at 64GB of space.
The 14-inch IdeaPad U410 offers more of the same, though instead of Intel’s integrated graphics offering, it packs an NVIDIA GeForce 610M card with 1GB of video memory — unsurprising, given that the new ThinkPad T430u Ultrabook also has discrete graphics at a similar price. All in all, not too shabby for $700, though the trade-off for the extra ports and lower price is some extra padding: the 13-inch version tips the scales at 3.7 pounds, versus 2.95 for the U300s. (The U410 weights 4.2.) Then again, when these go on sale in May, we suspect they’ll be plenty light for students looking to get a jump on back-to-school shopping. For now, we’ve got hands-on shots below and some impressions after the break.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen HP and Toshiba freshen up their all-in-ones, while Samsung made a belated jump into the market just last week. Today, it’s Dell’s turn — the company just announced an addition to its all-in-one lineup, the 23-inch Inspiron One 2320. Funnily enough, the new design reminds us somewhat of the PCs HP trotted out last month in that it has an easel-like display with enough space underneath to stow the keyboard, although this one doesn’t have a tilting screen. Spec-wise, it’s well-matched against the competition, with a 1080p touchscreen, Intel Wireless Display capability, optional NVIDIA GeForce GT525M graphics, six USB 2.0 ports, HDMI-in, a Blu-ray option and up to 2TB in storage. (For whatever reason, USB 3.0 didn’t make the cut.) That starting price of $950 will get you a Core i5-2400S CPU and 6GB of RAM, but if you have an extra $450 lying around you can step up to a Core i7-2600S processor with 8GB of memory. Wrapping it all up, the 2320 runs Dell’s touch-friendly Stage UI, the latest version of which lets you sync photos and other media across different devices. We’ve rounded up a few glossy press shots below, but hit the source link if you’re curious enough for the full spill.
Meanwhile, Toshiba streamlined its consumer laptops for those non-gamers in the back-to-school crowd, axing the A and M lines, and leaving just the P series, for “premium.” It’ll include 14-, 15.6-, and 17.3-inch models, all decked out in a textured, two-tone Fuxion X2 finish and featuring USB sleep-and-charge ports, HDMI-out, Harman Kardon speakers, and that same MaxxAudio 3 utility. Depending on the configuration, you can also score NVIDIA GeForce GT540M graphics, Intel Wireless Display, a 4G radio, a Blu-ray drive, and a 3D screen (only on the 15-incher). On the inside, you’ve got your choice of Intel Core i3, i5, and i7 CPUs or a spankin’ new A6-3400M accelerated processing unit from AMD. Look for the 14-inch P745 with a starting price of $699, and 15-inch P755 and the 17-inch P775 for $629 and up.
And, rounding out its portfolio, Toshiba refreshed its budget Satellite L700 series with Core 2011 processors and new AMD A4 and A6 APUs, while the entry-level Satellite C800 gets AMD Fusion C-50 and E-350 APU options. None of these laptops go on sale until later this month, so for now you can content yourself with those up-close-and-personal hands-on shots below.
Toshiba Qosmio X770
Intel's convertible Keeley Lake concept laptop shows off Cedar Trail, we go hands-on (update: video)
Just before Intel’s keynote at Computex, we decided to stop by at the chip maker’s busy booth to see what it has up its sleeves. Luckily, we spotted a couple of Keeley Lake proof-of-concept convertible laptops, which are here to demonstrate what can be achieved using Cedar Trail processors. As you can see, the 12.1-inch screen sits on a swivel hinge, thus allowing users transform this fairly slim laptop into a tablet within seconds. Oh, you can also use the built-in Wireless Display technology to stream some sweet HD action over the air, provided that you have compatible devices. Alas, Intel says there are no commercial plans for this particular device, so hopefully someone will pick up this design.
Now in its third year, Best Buy’s Blue Label program is something of a time capsule for fickle consumer tastes. Being the behemoth that it is, the retail giant hands PC makers a wishlist of specs, design flourishes, and aggressive price points — all with the promise of selling the finished product exclusively. The 14-inch Toshiba Satellite E305 has had more than a few facelifts since we reviewed the E205 last year, and reminds us that nowadays, shoppers prefer metal to glossy plastic, and seamless touchpads to large mouse buttons. The E305′s got all that, along with a Sandy Bridge processor, USB 3.0, a Blu-ray drive, a 4G radio, and the second generation of Intel’s Wireless Display technology. For $899, that all sounds dandy, but as we know, a laptop doesn’t always equal the sum of its parts. Is it as much of a steal as you’d imagine it to be? Head on past the break and see for yourself.