Welcome to the Holiday Season!

Each year, technology gadgets and toys top the charts as some of the hottest items for the Christmas [Insert your personal holiday preference] shopping season. We like to think we know a thing or two about technology, with expert coverage of the latest CPUs, GPUs, SSDs, Laptops, Smartphones, and other items, so we usually try to put together some recommendations for the technophiles out there (or their significant others). The biggest shopping day of the year generally falls on Black Friday, which is coming up next week, but we wanted to stay ahead of the game by giving our readers some advanced shopping advice.

This week and next, we'll be putting out buyers' guides covering many aspects of the technology spectrum, starting today with notebooks. We'll have smartphones, media streamers, and complete systems coming, with suggestions from a variety of editors. And naturally, you can always join the conversation with your own thoughts in the comments section below. We hope you enjoy the guides, and from all of us at AnandTech we wish you happy holidays!

Holiday 2010 Notebook Guide

It's only been a little under six short months since our previous netbook and notebook buyers' guides when we suggested what notebooks you might want to bring along for the back to school season, but the second push for purchases is already upon us: the Christmas season. It's a time of opening your heart (and wallet), giving unto others (the contents of your wallet), and embracing new technology (and an empty wallet). All kidding aside, we know lots of people would love a new netbook, ultraportable, laptop, or notebook; these run the gamut from moderately expensive gifts up through high-end options that cost as much as a used car or a house down payment. We'll be covering all the mobile computer options in today's guide.

The intervening period between our last guide and this one has seen a surprising amount of upheaval. While Intel's "Core 2010" (Core i3/i5/i7) processor platform has remained a stalwart and AMD's mobile Phenom IIs have proven largely stillborn, AMD's Nile ultraportable platform has successfully gained some traction. The healthy evolution of what Congo should've been, Nile brings together low-voltage AMD processors with ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4225 integrated graphics, producing a balanced, HD-ready platform that makes a very convincing case for doing away with sluggish Atom-based netbooks without having to spend up for ultra low voltage Intel-based machines.

And what about those netbooks? Intel has finally seen fit to give them at least a marginal shot in the arm by bringing dual-core mobile Atom processors to the market, though the anemic GMA 3150 integrated graphics still grafted to them remains a major drawback. Two solutions on the market today—NVIDIA's NG-ION and Broadcom's HD decoder chip—bring considerable baggage with each, not the least of which is the potential for increased power consumption and higher prices that eat into the Intel Atom's saving grace.

Speaking of graphics, while AMD continues to rest comfortably on its Mobility Radeon HD 5000 series, NVIDIA has been bringing Optimus-powered graphics to the market in force. Their venerable (and frankly more than a little dated) 300M line is finally giving way to brand new architecture with the GeForce 400M series, finally getting DirectX 11 chocolate into the Optimus peanut butter and producing a strong alternative to AMD's solutions. The only drawback is that the mobile top-end remains largely confined to underwhelming parts from both manufacturers: the GeForce GTX 480M is just a lower clocked desktop GeForce GTX 465 (not exactly a big winner to begin with) while the Mobility Radeon HD 5870 is actually a desktop Radeon HD 5770 with its clocks cut, offering a marginal improvement over last generation's largely missing-in-action Mobility Radeon HD 4870.

There's also one major launch looming over this holiday season: the unfortunately-timed introduction of Intel's Sandy Bridge architecture. These chips are set to appear just after the new year, and if Anand's preview is any indication they may be worth waiting for. As it stands, current Intel Core 2010 processors are still plenty fast, but their days are numbered. This isn't a bad time to buy and we all know waiting for the latest and greatest almost always means waiting forever, but Sandy Bridge is just a month or two away.

For this guide we've condensed the nonsense and broken things down into five categories: Netbooks, Ultraportables, Mainstream, Gaming Machines, and Workstations. We've also tried to offer at least one solid alternative in each category, and then we'll discuss what Apple brings to the table before wrapping things up. Our guide will start with the least expensive and smallest offerings, and then proceed up through desktop replacements, so hit the next page link and join us as we discuss the netbook market.

Netbooks: ASUS 1015PN


View All Comments

  • DBissett - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    This model doesn't come up on Dell's website. How about a CURRENT model number? Reply
  • nirolf - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    It's the XPS 15. I too had this problem, as even searching their website for "L501x" returned inconclusive results. Maybe a correction could be made in the article. Reply
  • plewis00 - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    This is partly Dell's fault - you'll find their machines with names like 'new Studio 17' but the actual model number will be Studio 1745, etc.

    If you search for XPS 15 on the net, you inevitably end up with websites misnaming and listing the XPS M1530 15" notebook computer which was a 2008 model (albeit a very nice looking one! And, in my opinion, better looking than the new 2010 XPS 15).
  • Evil_Sheep - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    -Interesting that only Dell and Asus got top PC recommendations. Actually I respect that: most websites have a manufactured diversity of brands in their recommended lists, probably to appease their advertisers. But also maybe it reflects that Anandtech seems to review a lot of Asus's and Dells. Where are the HP's, Lenovo's and Sony's?

    -I noticed you co-recommended the Asus U30Jc and U35Jc after you fairly slagged the U35 in your review and said the U30 was the preferred choice. Is this a subtle change of heart?

    -The alternative recommendation in that category was the Toshiba Portege R700 but I don't think it makes sense to consider them as competitors since they aren't really in the same market. The R700 is in the "Macbook Air" category (funny how Apple has a way of creating its own market space): ultra-light and ultra-portable with power limitations, ideal as a 2nd computer for someone who wants more than a netbook, or as a primary computer for an undemanding user. The U30/35 on the other hand are clearly in the Macbook 13 space: a full-powered notebook that is still very portable. This is the so-called "thin and light" category, though I wish someone would come up with a name that is less awkward and ambiguous.

    -There is a workstation recommendation...nothing wrong with that except it seems a bit unnecessary since there are only 3 self-described competitors in that space (HP, Dell, and Lenovo) and you can't go wrong with any of them. And the number of people looking for workstation recommendations are probably quite small (as you mentioned) since IT depts often procure them, and in addition few need those capabilities in the first place.

    -No DTR/17" multimedia recommendation? Seems like an important category.

    Not to be overly critical. I like the picks and it's a good overview generally.
  • Powerlurker - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    HP is widely regarded as pretty much the bottom of the barrel reliabilitywise. Reply
  • Dug - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    I think the MSi GX640 or 660 series should be at the top for gaming.
    It is fairly lightweight compared to others and has an ATi 5870 or 5850.
    I personally like the 640 because of the 1680x1050 resolution and i5 processor.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Having tested the GX640, the keyboard is one of the worst I've personally encountered... almost to the point where I'd prefer the Acer keyboard. It just feels all around horrible when you consider the cost of the laptop, and it should be trivial to change it out, since just about anything would be an improvement. I can't comment personally on the GX660 or GX740 though, so perhaps they're better. Reply
  • Jeff7181 - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    I love Lenovo ThinkPads... it's going to be a tough sell to get me to buy a different brand when I upgrade. I can't believe none even made it as a runner up or alternative. My R61 is great... has the power and memory run several virtual machines for my studies, can do media encoding and light gaming and barely gets warm to the touch while staying quiet. AND it gets 4-5 hours of battery life on the battery that came with it in Feb. of '08. Reply
  • MrMist - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    I think the Asus 1018P with the N550 CPU is an interesting ultraportable, and it would be interesting to see it compared with the other alternatives here. Reply
  • erwos - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    You do realize that the 1015PN does not have Optimus out of the box, right Jared? Reply

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