With this year's hyper-frenzied launch of Apple's iPad, it's easy to forget that the crop of notebook PCs launched over the past several months has hit new heights in performance, design and, in some cases, serious battery life. For business, the combination of Intel's Core i3 and Core i5 platforms as well as the introduction of Windows 7 is working to breathe new life into the notebook -- and here are some that have caught the attention recently of the CRN Test Centre.
Fujitsu LifeBook E780
When on the road, the built-in 15.6-inch TFT screen natively displays 1366 x 768, but Windows 7 preferred to have it at 1600 x 900, which looked crisp, clear, bright and vivid. The LifeBook behaves as expected when opening and closing the lid. When opened, all connected screens wink to life, and when closed, the Windows desktop moves automatically to an external monitor. A full-sized keyboard with white sculpted keys is flanked on both sides by great-sounding speakers. Testers would have liked a louder maximum volume, and for the mute key to be adjacent to the up/down volume instead of five keys further right. LifeBook E780 (with Intel Core i5) pricing starts at $2359 and goes up to $2599. At that level it would be suitable for occasionally mobile executives "wanting to do high-end analytical or performance modelling or something where you need graphics performance."
Dell Latitude Z
We may never achieve the paperless office, but Dell has delivered a laptop that's as close to wireless as anything the CRN Test Centre has seen.
With a feature list that would have read like science fiction just two or three years ago, the wafer-thin Dell Latitude Z will appeal to well-heeled executives and device freaks alike. Starting at $2599, the Z delivers a 16-inch 1600-by-900 LCD with touch-sensitive on-screen menu system, dual-core processor with hardware virtualisation, 64-GB solid state hard drive and a "FaceAware" web cam that doubles as a document scanner. There's also an embedded Linux boot feature for battery life when accessing Outlook and the web.
Panasonic Toughbook 31
If laptops were motor vehicles, the Panasonic Toughbook 31 would be a Hummer.
The Toughbook 31 also passed all of the drop tests we threw at it. The Toughbook 31 has earned a Test Centre recommendation, and is well-suited for auto and HVAC repair workers, health care, emergency first-responders, construction sites, battle zones and any field environment that might prove hostile for delicate equipment. The Toughbook received by the Test Centre came with the "optional downgrade to Windows XP" preinstalled, so testers took the opportunity to compare benchmarks of Microsoft's still widely deployed operating system with those of Windows 7, which comes standard. Geekbench 2.1.5 reported the Toughbook to be equipped with 3 GB of 1,067-MHz memory and an Intel Core i5 M540 CPU running at 2.53 GHz. Windows XP turned in a top score of 4,584. All operations under XP, including the unit's touch-sensitive LCD, functioned normally. The Toughbook ran slightly faster under Windows 7 than XP, turning in a top Geekbench score of 4,596.
Toshiba, Acer and Viewsonic notebooks tested on the next page...