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Five Multimedia Notebooks, Tested

Five Multimedia Notebooks, Tested
By

Ed: This piece first ran on our sister site—Tom’s Guide—earlier in November. We haven’t spent much time on multimedia notebooks, instead preferring to focus on the mobile gaming hardware instead. But because these are still fairly powerful multimedia configurations, they warrant a look over here as well. If you read this story on Tom’s Guide last week, hopefully this note saves you a few minutes (check out the introduction to our Overdrive Overclocking Competition instead). If you missed it, though, we hope you enjoy it now. Take it away, Ed.

A Quintet Of Mobile Media Mavens

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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  • 1 Hide
    urimiel , November 15, 2008 7:36 AM
    I am really sorry to be the one that points this out. I am Tomshardware reader for quite many years now. This is the first time I have seen an article or any kind of presentation like that. You guys are posting bar graphs and change the legend of each color bar for every different graph... this does not make sense.
  • 0 Hide
    fudgeboy , November 15, 2008 9:59 AM
    Quote:
    You guys are posting bar graphs and change the legend of each color bar for every different graph
    wow, and thats like the basic fundamentals of presentation. the writers on this site really need to go back to high school. they should have a standard layout over the whole thing (like you would if you were doing an experiment)
  • 0 Hide
    Master Exon , November 15, 2008 11:02 AM
    Basically purple is always at the top, regardless of who purple represents. Kinda dumb, but they really should have had the manufacturer's name on the bar itself.

    Hey, when will TH compare $300-$450 netbooks? You already did the $2000 ones.
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , November 15, 2008 5:34 PM
    urimielI am really sorry to be the one that points this out. I am Tomshardware reader for quite many years now. This is the first time I have seen an article or any kind of presentation like that. You guys are posting bar graphs and change the legend of each color bar for every different graph... this does not make sense.


    Heya guys--sorry about that. I should have caught this in editing. The charts are now correct with each notebook appearing in the same place with the same corresponding legend data.
  • 1 Hide
    FrozenGpu , November 16, 2008 3:52 PM
    Master ExonBasically purple is always at the top, regardless of who purple represents. Kinda dumb, but they really should have had the manufacturer's name on the bar itself.Hey, when will TH compare $300-$450 netbooks? You already did the $2000 ones.


    Pretty pretty please with a cherry on top?
  • 0 Hide
    TheGreatGrapeApe , November 17, 2008 7:33 AM
    To me the $300-450 laptops aren't worth an in depth review, just a quicky 2 pager (is it capable as a netbook yes/no) that's a disposable laptop you buy a kids or as a couch laptop or travel one.

    I want to know what my $2K+ buys me, the $300 laptop is the price of one of the options on these things. That's the bigger risk. What's anyone really expecting in a $300-400 laptop, certainly not heaving gsaming, video editing or programming.

    It may seem elitist, but with the limited amount of info out there on laptops period, netbooks shouldn't consume much of the reviews time, nor space, I'd rather see more $1,000 and $2,000 and then $3,000+ reviews those 3 categories have more variability and value than the cheapest ones. Who can't figure out if a $400 laptop is worth it from a visit to the best buy or whatever?

    Personally I want to see an IBM W700 review, tell me if it's worth the $3,000+ (is the built in Wacom pad good enough, the keyboard stiff enough, is it worth it to get turbo memory now that it's faster & bigger or just go SSD and be done with it, etc), not something to tell me which of the cheap laptops is slower than my previous laptops that you could buy at a discount store for as much and which might be just a tiny bit faster but still just suited for M$ office and websurfing and light photoshoping.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , November 17, 2008 2:32 PM
    Is the image for this on the Toms Hardware site supposed to say "Multiedia" on the laptop screen or is that a typo?
  • 0 Hide
    johntmosher , November 17, 2008 10:19 PM
    I have been wanting to find a 20 inch laptop so I was excited to see the HDX review.....But still can't find it for sale online at HP.COM
    Got a sales link?
  • 0 Hide
    maric423 , November 18, 2008 4:41 PM
    johntmosherI have been wanting to find a 20 inch laptop so I was excited to see the HDX review.....But still can't find it for sale online at HP.COMGot a sales link?


    According to the HP Sales guys, its out of production (I got interested and looked for it too). The replacement machine is supposedly the HP HDX 18t, which is only an 18.4", and doesn't have the same hinge structure. Not really a comparable machine. You can still find a few HP Pavilion HDX 20" from third parties if you search around, but I wasn't thrilled about the idea of buying a system they'd already stopped making.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , November 21, 2008 8:00 AM
    Can you please test one more little thing? Linux compatibility.

    Its easy, just toss in an ubuntu live CD, and tell us if things like sound, webcam, wifi etc work out of the box. If they don't, don't bother much trying to get it to work. But Acer for instance is notorious for having buggy ACPI implementation in the bios that detects the OS and only work with Vista. With Linux (possibly even XP) standby will be highly unreliable. Dell and IBM do a much better job at it, and that deserves to be known.

    Doing such tests should be very straightforward and accomplish two things:
    1) inform us linux users (we buy notebooks too you know :)  )
    2) put some pressure on oem's to test their BIOS and hardware with linux

    Id appreciate it. No one does this, please be the first :) 
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , December 15, 2008 1:21 PM
    Bought the 8920G recently, the ATI version, first power on - entered BIOS and set it to boot from CD, started F10 Live.

    Did not do too extensive tests, but webcam, wifi, bluetooth, wired ethernet worked out of the box. Sound did not work, the card seems to be recognized but I never got a sound out of it.

    BEWARE: I started Vista only once till the Acer Arcade initial Setup screen, I did not proceed any further (I do not accept the M$ EULA), however after that I was not able to access the BIOS anymore! The "Press F2 to enter setup" message disappeared. Reflashing did not help, only made things worse because I lost the CMOS setting and could not boot from CD anymore (and at that time the hard drive was already formatted to get rid of Vista).