Notebooks Go High-End

As people switch from desktops in droves, they're using notebooks to do it all: DVDs, games, and a full range of computing tasks

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In the computer business, notebooks are where the money is. What used to be a secondary sibling to the desktop is now increasingly the only computer anyone wants or needs. That has PC makers adding top-shelf features designed to attract the attention of power users, serious gamers, and others who need a notebook that is anything but secondary. Often they're called "desktop replacements" because they are large enough to include full-size keyboards and have large 17-inch screens that for the most part look gorgeous.

One avenue PC makers are pursuing is entertainment. Take the Japanese consumer-electronics companies Sony (SNE) and Toshiba (TOSBF), for instance. They're using notebooks as a weapon in the brewing battle between their respective next-generation DVD formats, Blu-ray and HD-DVD. Sony has just released a high-end version of its Sony Vaio notebook PC with a Blu-ray disc drive that not only plays movies (the library is, so far, pretty limited) but burns video and other data to the discs, as well. Toshiba, a leader of the HD-DVD camp, put its preferred format on its latest Qosmio notebook. These notebooks don't come cheap.

Others are sticking to more traditional methods of making notebooks entertaining. Fujitsu's Lifebook packs a huge amount of storage and a TV tuner into a package that will let you record an entire season of your favorite show—and then some.


  Meanwhile, Dell (DELL), taking a page from gaming-PC boutique shops like Alienware (which it recently acquired) and Canada's VoodooPC, has continued to push its XPS notebooks aimed at gamers, and its results are promising. But the small gaming shops aren't yielding any thunder, as Voodoo's Envy line shows.

If Windows isn't your thing, there's always Apple Computer's (AAPL) MacBook Pro line. The flagship of that line is Apple's aluminum-encased 17-inch model, which like other newer Macs now sports microprocessor chips from Intel (INTC). Curious about switching to the Mac but afraid to part with Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows? Never fear. Apple's Boot Camp will let you run both on the same computer. But be warned: As of this writing, Boot Camp is still in a test phase.

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