HotHardware Holiday Gift Guide 2010

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 this year, but feel free to suggest any gems that we miss in comments.

Acer Aspire 1551 11.6" Notebook - $484

This 11.6" netbook really stretches the definition of a netbook. For one, it doesn't really have the look and feel of a traditional netbook. The "grid" texture on the top plate, the above average build quality and the enlarged keys on the keyboard just make it feel more like a robust ultraportable than a run-of-the-mill netbook.

Asus Eee PC 1215N Netbook - $484

The 12.1" display means that you'll get a full-size keyboard, and Asus has made the trackpad a bit wider than we're used to seeing. In honesty, the 1215N is an SSD and an integrated optical drive away from being just as full-featured as the average $800-$1000 ultraportable, which makes the $484 price tag look a lot more appealing when you put it in perspective.

Dell XPS 14 Notebook - $899+

The Dell XPS 14 (L401x) has a 14-inch LED screen (1366x768), Intel Core i5 460M processor (2.53GHz), and Nvidia GeForce GT 420M graphics. It's the smallest of the new laptops, but sports many of the same features as the XPS 15 and XPS 17, including Nvidia's 3DTV Play software which allows users to tether their laptop to a 3D HDTV and view games, movies, and photos in stereoscopic 3D (provided you own a pair of 3D glasses).

Asus 14" U43F Bamboo Core i5 Notebook - $999

This machine's 14" display is a good choice, particularly if you simply cannot decide whether to settle for a smaller, less powerful 13" ultraportable or a heavier 15" standard sized notebook. It's not impossible to find 14" notebooks, but the more the merrier we say. Another bonus here is the inclusion of an optical drive. Many machines in the sub-14" category do not have optical drives at all, and for those who frequently need to watch DVDs, read from physical discs or burn archives, the included DVD Combo Drive is a real godsend. 

Lenovo's IdeaPad Y560 15-inch Notebook (Core i7, 6GB RAM) - $1199
Lenovo IdeaPad Y560 15-inch Notebook (Core i5, 4Gb RAM) - $799

Lenovo's IdeaPad Y560D is an interesting system that initially caught our eye thanks to its 3D-capable display. 3D films and TVs have been declared hot ticket capabilities by the film industry and TV manufacturers, but this is the first 3D-capable notebook we've had in house. Unfortunately we weren't thrilled with the 3D performance of the machine but the rest of the package we felt was top-notch.  We'd suggest you take a look at the non-3D capable version, dubbed the standard Y560.  There are a multitude of configurations to choose from, including Core i7 and Core i5-based models and Blu-ray players to go along with the machine's AMD Mobility Radeon HD 5730 graphics engine.

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch - $1799+

With the latest iteration of its 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro laptops, Apple finally jumped onto the Intel Core i3 and Core i5 bandwagon—bringing its flagship line of laptops up to the same performance level as the Windows-based competition (the 13-inch MacBook Pro and Air laptops still use Intel Core 2 Duo processors). With a starting price of $1,799 for the 15-inch model, and $2,299 for the 17-inch version, MacBook Pros are far from your garden-variety laptops. Though Macs have always come with a premium price tag—at least when compared against similarly configured Windows systems—many will argue that their elegant designs, build quality and the intuitive user interface are all well worth it.

Asus G73Jh Gaming Notebook - $1700

At the heart of this monster is an Intel Core i7 720QM quad-core processor, clocked at 1.6GHz with Turbo Boost technology for increased single core performance (up to 2.8GHz) and Hyper-Threading for multitasking situations. We find 8GB of DDR3 RAM installed, along with 1TB of total storage, consisting of two 500GB Seagate hard drives. But the real draw is ATI's Mobility HD 5870 graphics card with 1GB of GDDR5 memory and enough pixel pushing power to feed a 17.3" screen. In addition, Asus includes a full sized keyboard, Blu-ray drive, and a 2MP webcam.  All of this comes at a relatively affordable price point. Interested?  We thought so.

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