"Now, notebooks are delivering desktop-level performance at ever-falling price points," says Alan Promisel, research analyst, client computing for International Data Corp., a market research firm in Framingham, Mass.
This category's winner, the Hewlett-Packard Co. Pavilion zd7000 boasts a generous 17-inch screen along with a cranking 3.2GHz Pentium 4 processor, 60GB hard drive and a built-in DVD-RW drive. And at a street price of a bit less than $1,500, the Pavilion zd7000 is priced right.
"The fast processor easily enables multitasking," says Chris Nerney, executive editor of JupiterWeb's IT Management channels and owner of a Pavilion zd7000. "And the wider screen is ideal for spreadsheet work. You can see more columns than with most notebooks without having to shrink the spreadsheet."
Nerney also appreciates the zd7000's built-in 802.11g wireless antenna, which is compatible with 802.11b networks. "Press a button and you've got an instant connection to any available b or g network."
Equipped with high-quality Harman Kardon speakers and an nVidia GeForce FX Go 5600 graphics card with 128MB of local graphics memory, the zd7000 is a perfect multimedia platform. And since the ample screen width fits the aspect ratio for most DVDs, it is a natural for watching movies.
Deluxe features and super-charged processing come at the cost of size and weight, however. HP positions the zd7000 as a true desktop replacement, meaning it is less than portable. Few users will relish the experience of lugging around the 9.3-pound machine. The modest battery life won't satisfy the road warrior, either.
But for people who are looking for a notebook to use as their primary PC, toting it only within the home -- and there are an increasing number of people in this category -- the Pavilion zd7000 sings.
"Consumers look at this system as a desktop replacement -- something that takes up less room on their desks and is easy to transport from one room to the next. The zd7000 is ideally suited to this model," says Promisel.
The second-place winner in this laptop category, the Apple Computer Inc. PowerBook G4, is visually stunning, packed with power and much more portable than the HP Pavilion zd7000. Apple is targeting different types of users with screen sizes ranging from 12 inches to 17 inches' and prices that match.
"With the G4 family, Apple succeeds in finding a balance between performance and mobility," says Promisel.
The average selling price for these PowerBook models can be tough to swallow, however, ranging from about $1,599 at the low end up to a hefty $2,999 at the high end.
"The price premium tends to alienate potential consumers," says Promisel. But for core Apple users in the creative and education markets, the PowerBook G4s deliver top-notch performance in a stylish form factor.