Hang The Stockings, Crack The Lid: Notebooks
The notebook category is extraordinarily vast. From desktop replacements to mid-range notebooks to netbooks (and everything in between), there are hundreds upon hundreds of options here. We've listed a few of our favorites from 2009 below, but feel free to suggest any gems that we miss in comments. And we should also point you to our 2009 Netbook and Notebook Buyer's Guide for an even more in-depth look at the sector.Asus Eee PC 1005HA - $288
Many credit Asus with the invention of the netbook, and while that's definitely debatable, what's not is that the company makes some exceptional machines at the low-end. The 1005HE is amongst our favorites, boasting a beautiful Seashell design, a removable battery that'll last for hours on end and all the hardware for taking care of basic tasks. If that special someone needs a secondary PC (or just an on-the-go notebook), look no further.
Asus UL80Vt - $820
With a 14" LCD display, incredible battery life and a multi-touch trackpad, it's hard to not recommend the UL80Vt in the thin-and-light space. Unlike most notebooks of this size, this machine has both an integrated GPU and a discrete one, enabling users to switch on/off the latter depending on the task at hand. It's stylish, sleek and capable of handling most everything outside of hardcore gaming.
Dell Studio XPS 16 - $999 (and up)
Straddling the line between the ultra-heavy 17" and 18" machines at one extreme and the 15" mainstream notebook that sits squarely in the middle is the 16" Studio XPS 16. We admired the styling and design of this machine when we reviewed it a few months back, but now that Windows 7 is loaded on, we'd say it's an even safer bet. Half multimedia beast, half fashion accessory.
Apple's MacBook Pro - $1149 (and up)
It's the only notebook on our list that'll run both Windows 7 and OS X at the same time, making this a perfect choice for those who can't decide which OS suits them the best. It's a sleek, all-aluminum ultraportable with a 7-hour battery life and and a knack for "just working," though the fact that users can't carry around a spare battery may concern some.
Asus G51J - $1465 (and up)
It's the nicest hybrid between a gaming laptop and a mid-range notebook that we've seen to date, with a traditional 15.4" shell and an atypical Core i7 within. During our testing, we found this rig to scream through every benchmark it faced, and while it's not light or long-lasting, it's about as great as it gets for anyone wanting a gaming laptop under 17 inches.
Lenovo ThinkPad T400s - $1599 (and up)
It's normal, but it's not. It's all business, but it's a lot of fun. The T400s Multi-Touch edition acts like a standard Lenovo machine, which is to say that it's sturdy, thin, reliable and quick. But the multi-touch display takes it to a new level, and during our testing we found it to be one of the nicest mid-range notebooks that we've had the pleasure of using. It won't handle hardcore gaming, but it's plenty capable of handling multimedia.
Alienware M17x - $1799 (and up)
It ain't cheap, but it'll rip any modern 3D game to shreds. The M17x is Alienware's most potent laptop currently available, and while the battery life is downright pathetic, the twin GPUs within will help you forget all about it. If you absolutely need a mobile gaming rig, you'll be hard pressed to find one that's more well-equipped than this. Trust us, whoever you give this to will love/owe you forever.
Lenovo ThinkPad W700ds - $2149 (and up)
Only for friends who have committed to taking you with them on their next vacation, the dual-screen W700ds remains one of the few notebooks available today with two panels in one machine. The slide out LCD provides a boost of screen real estate when necessary, which is next to impossible to find elsewhere. But trust us, you'll pay dearly for those extra pixels.
Bonus Stocking Stuffer! Atlona's Wireless USB To HDMI/VGA Adapter - $219
Need something to toss in with that laptop? How about a 2-piece dongle set that enables whatever is playing on your notebook to be viewed on any HDMI/DVI panel without any wires? Atlona's newest wireless adapter now also supports audio, so you can wirelessly view Hulu videos (with sound) on your HDTV without having to wire an HTPC up. Handy!