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B&H Photo Video Pro Audio- PC Holiday Guide 2007
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PC Holiday Guide 2007

By Jim Fisher

Hot chocolate, chestnuts roasting on open fires, laptops, hot apple pie, large comfy blankets. All of these items have a single purpose during the cold winter months: keeping you warm. Granted, the notebook computer is probably the least traditional of these sources of warmth and comfort, but trust me, it works in a pinch. This is a good thing, because nobody likes to wear gloves when typing.

If you're looking for a laptop to keep your lap warm this holiday season, you may find the sheer number of options rather daunting. Between the various flavors of Microsoft's several Windows Vista, varying screen sizes, and alphabet soup model names, choosing a notebook only adds to the stress of the holiday season.

This is only compounded if you're buying a laptop for someone else, as is often the case around the holidays. So, without any further attempts at humor, here's a short list of portable computers to consider, in order of littlest to biggest.

Littlest

If we're talking small, we're talking Ultra Mobile PC. Often abbreviated to UMPC, (remember - computers and acronyms go together like cake and ice cream), these tiny computers can fit in the palm of your hand.

Sony enters the UMPC race with the VAOI UX series. This line features a relatively tiny 4.5" wide/touchscreen display that slides up to reveal a QWERTY keyboard. It ships with a port replicator for desktop docking. Definitely check out the VGN-UX380N, which sports a 1.33 GHz Intel CPU, Cingular EDGE broadband for wireless connectivity, and Windows Vista Business. The compact computer weighs in at a scant 1.2 pounds.

Sony VAIO VGN-UX380N
Sony VAIO VGN-UX380N 4.5" Notebook PC

For those of you who prefer your UMPC without the new, spicier Vista flavoring, take a look at the Samsung Q1 Ultra, model Q1U-ELXP; the XP stands for Windows XP Tablet Edition. This UMPC design features a split QWERTY keyboard: the QWERT side to the left of the screen, and YUIOP to the right. The screen itself is 7" diagonal, and a stylus is included for touch input. It weighs in at 1.5 pounds, includes integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and is powered by a 600 MHz Intel CPU.

Samsung Q1 Ultra Q1U-ELXP
Samsung Q1 Ultra Q1U-ELXP

 

Little

Moving up from UMPCs, we enter Tablet territory. HP's Pavilion tx1320us is a 12.1" tablet, complete with a touchscreen display, a 2 GHz dual-core AMD CPU, and Windows Vista Home Premium. The PC is absolutely loaded for bear with a whopping 250 GB hard disk and 2 GB of RAM. The screen rotates 180 degrees, allowing you to use the computer as a notebook or a tablet. Oh, and the weight? 4.49 pounds.

 

HP Pavilion TX1320US
HP Pavilion TX1320US

 

Medium

The 15.4" design has become the de facto standard for a normal-sized notebook. The screen is comfortable for most folks to use, and it won't break your back from carrying.

Sony's entry in the 15.4" series is the VAIO FZ. Their VGN-FZ240E/B features a 2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, 2 GB of RAM, a spacious 250 GB hard drive, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and integrated graphics by Intel. It's loaded with Vista Home Premium, and weighs in at 5.9 pounds.

Sony VAIO VGN-FZ240E/B
Sony VAIO VGN-FZ240E/B

Lenovo's ThinkPad z61m might be a better option for the professional looking for a notebook in this size range. The z61m 9450-02U model features a 1.83 GHz Intel C2D CPU, 1 GB of RAM, 120 GB hard drive, and ATI Radeon graphics. It stands out from the Vista crowd, however, coming loaded with the corporate-friendly Windows XP Professional edition, and weighs 5.94 pounds. It's also got that cool little red track point for pointer navigation, something that you won't find on many other PC notebooks.

Lenovo's ThinkPad z61m
Lenovo's ThinkPad z61m

Biggest

The 17" notebook is the big kid on the block, the school yard bully who torments all the smaller, weaker computers. Well, not really, but you get the point. For those with strong backs, or for someone simply looking for a desktop replacement, Toshiba jumps in the fray with their Satellite P205-S7476. In addition to the large screen, the computer features a 1.5 GHz Intel C2D CPU, 2 GB of RAM, 200 GB hard drive capacity, an integrated webcam, and 802.11n Wi-Fi. If that's not enough, you'll find an HD DVD ROM drive in the laptop, which doubles as a DVD burner. This drive lets you watch Hollywood HD DVD movies on your notebook's high-def screen, without losing the ability to burn standard DVD-R discs. This guy ships with Vista Home Premium, and weighs 7.2 pounds.

 

Toshiba Satellite P205-S7476
Toshiba Satellite P205-S7476

There you have it, and if you're still unable to make a decision, let me give a few words of final, holiday advice: You can never go wrong with fruitcake. But then again...try paying bills or booking airline tickets on-line with a fruitcake.

Please email feedback on this article, or suggestions for future topics, to emailfeedback@bhphotovideo.com