HotHardware Holiday Gift Guide: Notebooks

Big, Bad, and Awesome

Full Size Notebooks

We're all about ultra-slims, ultra-portables, Ultrabooks, and ultra-whatevers, but for that special someone who craves a fully equipped notebook in a big-boy form factor, here are our picks.

Alienware M14x Gaming Laptop (HotHardware Review)

Dell brought the bling when it introduced its Alienware M14x laptop, a comparatively compact gaming notebook crammed with high-end hardware to help you break your competitors' spirits without breaking your back lugging it to LAN parties. Don't let the 14-inch form factor fool you, this is a full size notebook experience with up to a Core i7 2860QM quad-core processor, Nvidia GeForce GT 555M graphics, up to a 750GB hard drive or 256GB solid state drive, and even 5.1 surround sound baked in with optional Creative X-Fi software.

When you're not knee deep in gaming, you can play with nine customizable lighting zones with the included AlienFX Lighting software to complement an already sharp aesthetic with a rubberized coating and overall sturdy build quality. Shaped keycaps make the M14x one of the more comfortable notebooks we've ever typed on, which means the recipient of this gift idea can use it for work, as soon as they're finished with Skyrim and Batman Arkham City and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and, well, who are we kidding? This thing is built for gaming, plain and simple.

Price: $1,099 and up



    Hewlett-Packard Envy 15

    Arriving just in time for the holiday season, Hewlett-Packard's redesigned Envy notebook line is a great gift idea for the geek who has a secret lust for Apple's MacBook Pro styling, but isn't so infatuated with Apple's ecosystem. This is the compromise they've been waiting for. Now available in a 15.6-inch form factor (and 17.3-inch with or without a 3D screen), the Envy line is obviously inspired by the MacBook Pro, and that's not a bad thing.

    HP's Radiance Backlit keyboard features individual LEDs dedicated to each keycap. There's also a proximity sensor that detects when a user is approaching and turns on the lights, and then deactivates them when the user takes gets up for a coffee break.

    Quad-core processors, AMD Mobility Radeon graphics, 3x3 wireless technology, Full HD displays, HDMI, full-size DisplayPorts, long battery life, and Beats Audio are all optional features of the redesigned Envy line that would undoubtedly brighten anyone's Christmas morning.




    Apple MacBook Pro

    Ask any contentious Windows user what he has against Apple and he'll bring up things like the so-called Apple tax, planned obsolescence model, sketchy upgrade path, and how Steve Jobs once kicked his puppy before his untimely demise. An Apple fan's response? Haters gonna hate.

    That might be true, but imitative designs like HP's redesigned Envy and the entire Ultrabook category at large are proof that few people actually hate the design of Apple products, it's the underlying system and business model that perturbs them. If, on the other hand, you're either platform agnostic or an Apple fan to begin with, you can consider the MacBook Pro the real McCoy.

    MacBook Pro systems aren't cheap, especially for the 17-inch model, which starts at $2,500. But if you have the scratch, the current generation of MacBook Pro notebooks are solid systems that have long since crossed over Intel's Sandy Bridge. Only one of the five baseline configurations ships with a Core i5 processor, and the rest are built around Core i7 CPUs. Flanking these chips are either Intel HD Graphics 3000 or AMD Radeon HD 6750M/6770M graphics. And of course there's Thunderbolt, the high-speed interface that conspiracy theorists will have you believe is the reason Intel has been slow to adopt native USB 3.0 support in its chipsets.



    AVADirect Clevo P180HM (HotHardware Review)

    Two words every guy fears: Size matters (ed. note: not every guy). At the same time, there's not a die-hard gaming dude out there who would turn down an 18.4-inch desktop replacement built for fast framerates and big screen action in a mobile (not portable) form factor. That's what AVADirect's Clevo P180HM delivers.

    This sweet looking notebook is gargantuan in stature, high on sex appeal, and ready to tackle any media chores you throw at it. The system we reviewed showed up on our doorstep rocking an Intel Core i7 2760QM processor, not one but TWO Nvidia GeForce GTX 560M GPUs configured in SLI, a heaping scoop of DDR3-1333 memory (12GB), a blazing fast OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS solid state drive, a Blu-ray reader, and even an internal Bigfoot Networks Killer Wireless-N 1103 card for that extra ping advantage.

    Of course this is all customizable and you can build a system to fit your budget, big or small(er). Or if you really want to go nuts in the graphics department, AVADirect's Clevo X7200 is configurable with up to two Nvidia GeForce GTX 580M or ATI Radeon HD 6990M GPUs, albeit in a 17.3-inch form factor.

    Price: $1,923 and up

    Toshiba Qosmio F755 3D Laptop

    Two of the biggest roadblocks to 3D adoption are the cost of entry and the undesirable prospect of having to don a pair of glasses. Toshiba addresses both of those with its Qosmio F755, the world's first glasses-free 3D laptop that starts out at around $1,150 street. Not only is that affordable, it's also reasonable for the hardware, which includes an Intel Core i5 2430M processor, 6GB of DDR3-1333 memory, Nvidia GeForce GT 540M graphics, 750GB hard drive, Blu-ray reader, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Harman/Kardon stereo speakers with Dolby Advanced Audio and Waves MaxxAudio 3, USB 3.0 support, and up to 3 hours of battery life (6-cell battery).

    This is an entertainment machine through and through. From gaming to watching HD movies, the Qosmio F755 can handle it all, and does it in 3D. That's pretty rad and will make you the most popular gift giver this holiday season.

    Price: $1,150 and up

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