written by: M.S. Smith•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 5/20/2011
Core i7 has been out for desktops for some time, but now it is coming to notebooks as well. As expected, there is an increasing wave of new Core i7 notebooks hitting the market. Which ones are worth your money?
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Nehalem for Notebooks
Intel's Core i7 processors have been out for some time, but they are now coming to notebooks as well. While given the name Core i7, the Nehalem derived processors which are coming to notebooks take advantage of the latest features which arrived in the new Core i5 and new Core i7 products. This includes turbo boost, which can substantially increase the clock speed of a processor depending on the number of cores being used.
Obviously, the notebooks are not meant for portability. If you want a cheap and portable netbook look elsewhere. If you're in need of a capable desktop replacement, however, these Core i7 notebooks are perfect for the job. Just as in the desktop processor market, Core i7 mobile processors are the fastest processors available to consumers.
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Dell Studio XPS 16
Dell has been extremely quick to jump on the Core i7 bandwagon. Alienware, Dell's gaming PC branch, was among the first to jump on the bandwagon with their stunning and surprisingly affordable Alienware M15X. Gaming notebooks are a fairly niche product, however, and Alienware's notebooks are as subtle as a baseball bat to the face. The Dell Studio XPS 16, however, is just a normal notebook, albeit one packing some big guns - and that is what makes it great.
Looking at it, you'd never suspect it has cutting-edge hardware packed inside. That isn't to say it is unattractive, but it also isn't showy. Use it for any demanding task, however, and the Studio XPS 16 comes to life. Its 1.6Ghz Core i7 can turbo up to 2.8Ghz, and although this is the slowest Core i7 mobile product offered it is still faster than 90% of notebooks.
The Studio XPS 16 also includes a 500GB hard drive, Radeon 4670 mobile graphics, four gigabytes of RAM, and all sorts of other goodies. It is, quite simply, loaded. And the price? The basic Studio XPS 16 with a Core i7 costs $1,399 dollars. Considering the hardware you're getting, that is an absolute bargain.
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Sager has long been an underdog in the realm of notebooks. Although often praised for offering solid, no-nonsense notebooks, they're clearly a much smaller outfit than giants like Dell and HP. Still, Sager's products are appealing, the NP8690 is another example of why. While marketed as a gaming notebook, you wouldn't guess it at first glance. The simple black design is absolutely devoid of styling. While those who care about aesthetic design will be disappointed, the approach has its advantages, as taking an Alienware on your travels is like putting a big red sign on your head saying "I HAVE AN EXPENSIVE NOTEBOOK. PLEASE STEAL MY BAG!"
When it comes to performance, the Sager knocks it out of the ballpark. This is not unexpected. The base configuration has the Core i7-720QM processor, the same base processor in the Studio XPS 16, but the Sager NP8690 adds a Geforce GTX 280M graphics card to the mix. The notebook's 15.6" screen comes with a base resolution of 1600x900, but even with the upgrade to a resolution of 1920x1080 there is little chance of encountering any slowdown.
At $1799, the Sager NP8690 is actually more expensive then some alternative gaming notebooks, but the Sager also packs a much larger graphics card. As a result, it actually isn't bad value.
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The Dell Studio XPS 16 is the least expensive Core i7 notebook currently available, but when it comes to value for money, ASUS is able to give Dell a challenge.
A basic review of specifications will show that the ASUS G51J-A1 has the same basic processor and the same amount of RAM as the XPS 16. The GTX 260M graphics provided is somewhat quicker, but not so much that the average user will notice. It would seem, then, that at $1499 the ASUS G51J-A1 is fighting an uphill battle.
But there there is the hard drive. As 640GB, it is larger than what is on offer with the XPS 16. And then there is the display. The ASUS G51J-A1's 15.6" display comes with a base resolution of 1920x1800. This offers far more usable screen real estate than the base 1680x945 display on the XPS 16. By the time you upgrade the specifications on the Dell to match the hard drive and display on the ASUS, the Dell Studio XPS 16 is actually more expensive.
Granted, there is more to the equation than specifications. The ASUS has a smaller battery and thus shorter battery life, and there are also some differences in weight, ports, and other miscellaneous features. That said, the ASUS G51J-A1 is clearly a good competitor for the Dell Studio XPS 16, and should be considered by anyone looking for a desktop replacement.