Five Multimedia Notebooks, Tested

Looking at the latest crop of multimedia notebooks, I’m struck by the strong grab that such computers are making at our home entertainment hubs. As our test results will demonstrate, battery life is nowhere near as important as display size and capability, especially for the biggest models with 1080p-capable screens built in. But while this makes for dismal operating time when operating un-tethered, whom would it really bother to have one of these notebooks always on the coffee table in a living or family room?

Here’s the line-up of machines we cover in this review, along with some of their more salient characteristics:

  • Acer 8920G: 18.4" display, 1920x1200 resolution, Blu-ray burner
  • Asus M70S: 17" display, 1440x900 resolution, DVD burner
  • Eurocom D90X: 17" display, 1920x1200, Blu-ray player
  • HP Pavilion HDX 9203KW: 20.1" display, 1920x1200 resolution, Blu-ray Player
  • Sony VAIO VGN-AR790U: 17" display, 1920x1200 resolution, Blu-ray Player

All of these units weigh at least 8 lbs or more; none qualifies as "small,” as the tables of detailed specifications that appear later in this story attest. It’s clear that media playback capabilities were judged as more important design criteria than portability or battery life. Given that they’re all unabashedly multimedia units, we think that’s a good thing!

In the pages that follow, we introduce and describe each of the five units listed, then describe and discuss our test results. Although we report on battery life (where feasible, since we couldn’t finish some tests because battery life was too short), we don’t think it’s a significant factor when choosing a multimedia notebook. Expense, ease of use and media handling are far more important for this type of machine.

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