CNET First Look
Best laptops for studentsCNET editor Dan Ackerman describes his top five laptops for students heading back to school, with options in every price range.
[ music ] ^M00:00:05 >> The best thing about back to school season isn't the cafeteria food or pledge week, it's having mom and dad buy you a new laptop. So whether you've got a blank check from the rents or you're on a tight budget, there's a perfect laptop out there for your academic adventures. Hi, I'm Dan Ackerman and we're gonna take a look back at some of our recent favs and find something to fit your back to school needs. Now if I'm running around campus all day, I want something as small and light as possible. Unfortunately, ultra-portable laptops are usually pretty expensive. So when I found the Avaratek 2371, a 4 pound, 12 inch laptop for under 1000 bucks, I totally dug it. Now bear in mind, to make it small and cheap, they had to cut a few corners along the way. So don't expect super high end performance but for classwork and web surfing, it's great. So take a look. This is the Avaratek 2371. Now this is a fairly standard looking, ultra-portable laptop, kind of like any other ultra-portable you've seen. The problem with these super small 12 inch laptops is they're usually very expensive. This guy however, manages to come in at well under 1000 dollars, making it one of the most affordable ultra-portable laptops that we've seen. Now how do they shave a couple bucks off the price? Well first of all, this guys uses an AMD CPU, not the latest Core 2 Duo Intel chips and definitely not the new Santa Rosa Centrino Duo upgrade that Intel rolled out this spring. So it's not gonna be the fastest laptop on the blocks, but for web surfing, working with web documents, basic productivity, it's gonna be more than enough. Now you're not gonna find a lot of the fancy extras you'd see on more expensive laptops like a webcam or touch sensitive controls, but you do have all the basics of USB ports, a mini fire wire, a dvd burner, what you do have is this one little button here marked ETH and it actually goes into a super low power mode, it slows down the CPU and that's gonna save you some battery life. If you're a little accident prone like me, you may want something a little sturdier. If you go over to Dell's website and check out their business section instead of the consumer section, you can find laptops that start under 1000 bucks, but are built like a tank. Like the Dell Latitude D630. Now it's not flashy, it won't impress the girls, but it's a solid, no nonsense system with a great battery for a long day of note taking. Let's take a look. This is the Dell Latitude D630. Now you might be thinking this looks a heck of a lot like the Latitude D620 and you'd be right. Most of the changes in this model are under the hood. The most important one of course is this guy has been upgraded with Intel's new Centrino Duo platform, otherwise known as Santa Rosa if you've been following that. That means you get more powerful CPU, probably some better battery life and of course, all the other Santa Rosa goodies, like support for 802.11 and Wifi and a new graphics chip set. Now you might look at the screen and say hey, that's Windows XP, what happened to Windows Vista? I thought everybody had to have Windows Vista now. Well this is actually from Dell's business line and they're more than happy to give you XP. You can actually get XP on some of their consumer systems now too. Now this guy is a 14 inch laptop. It's a little bit smaller than the standard 15 inch mainstream laptops but, I think you're gonna see more and more people switching to this smaller, more compact 14 inch size. Our only complaint is that for a 14 inch laptop is a little bit heavy, tough to carry around with you, it could be because of this battery, this gigantic 9 cell thing sticking out of the front here. That's actually great for battery life and you can use this thing for hours and hours, which is especially important if you're taking this on the road. This is a good laptop for that because it's what Dell calls Road Ready. If there's one laptop that's the student default these days, it's gotta be Apple's incredibly popular 13 inch Macbook. It's the perfect size for lugging around campus. It's got all of Apple's little extras like the iSite camera in iLife and it just looks cool. Apple just updated some of the components inside the Macbook, even though it looks exactly the same. A faster computer for the same price, always a winning formula. ^M00:03:50 [ music ] ^M00:04:00 I'm Dan Ackerman, Senior Editor at CNET.com and we are here with Apple's new Macbook laptop. An Editor's Choice in the laptop category. Now why is this an Editor's Choice? Because it's nearly as powerful as Apple's recent high end Macbook Pro laptop, but it's almost 1000 dollars less, depending on how you configure it, making it a fantastic value. Following the footsteps of the Macbook Pro, Apple has now put Intel's Core 2 Duo CPU, in the more consumer friendly Macbook. This only comes in one size, the 13.3 inch screen and you can get it in traditional Apple white or this Mac black which is really great because it resists fingerprints very well. The Macbook has got a lot of the great design features that everybody loves about Apples. It's got the iSite camera built right into the lid over here and it's got the mag safe power cable. So if you trip over it, it pops right out instead of sending your expensive investment crashing to the floor. Another new design feature that you're not gonna find on the Macbook Pro is this keyboard. It's got flat keys, kinda like scrabble tiles, as opposed to the slightly concave keys you may be used to. It's a matter of personal choice but, I like it. It looks great and it feels great. You also get a suite of great software with the Macbook. It's called iLife and it's one of the big reasons why a lot of people love Mac's in general. You get programs like iWeb for building web pages. You get iPhoto for manipulating photos. You can get Garage Band for making your own tunes. Even though this Macbook is black, the included front row remote is still white. Despite the color mismatch, it's still great because, it launches Apple's Front Row software which lets you control movies and music and photos and play DVD's, from a ten foot living room style interface. Kinda like Microsoft's Media Center. Whether you're an MBA student or just wanna look like one, a Think Pad is pretty much required equipment. Lunovo's new button down Think Pad R61, will make the folks think they're studying hard, but add one of the optional graphics cards and it's good for a little gaming on the side. We are here with the Lunovo Think Pad R61. Now if this looks familiar, that's because it looks like pretty much ever other Think Pad ever. This is one of the very first laptops we've seen with Intel's new Santa Rosa technology. Now there's a couple interesting things about this new R61. Instead of using the default Intel integrated graphics, it's actually got a discrete Invidia Quantro mobile chip in there and you'll need that if you wanna get the optional Blue Ray drive, which we don't have here but will add several hundred dollars to your system price. It's also got a webcam, which is something you don't see too often in a business system and perhaps the most interesting thing is something you can't see, there's a new internal roll cage behind the lid. A middle lattice work, slightly concave that protects the display and instead of having the full magnesium alloy back, you can have a simple composite back now and that helps your wifi reception because full magnesium alloy chances hurt wifi reception. Now finally, if you're looking to create the ultimate student bachelor pad, you're gonna need some pretty serious AV equipment. HP's massive HDX system will cover a lot of those bases, but it's so big it's barely a laptop at all. It's got a 20 inch screen on a pivoting arm, a remote control that pops down, a TV tuner and a sub woofer. Sure it weighs around 16 pounds and you'll probably need a new student loan to pay for it, but you'll be the big man on campus at least on movie night. [ music ] I'm Dan Ackerman, Senior Editor at CNET.com and we are taking a look at the brand new HP Pavilion HDX. This is one of the very first HDX systems to roll off the production line and as you can see, it is a laptop in name only, supporting a massive 20 inch LCD display and weighing in at about 15 and a half pounds. Now what's a massive system like this for? Well it's kind of a portable home theater. You can take it to the country house, you can set it up in your dorm room, you can move it around occasionally, but you probably wouldn't wanna carry it around more than once every great while. Because this thing is so huge, it requires a special hinge. You can actually take the screen and tilt it up and tilt it back like this and you can move it forward. Now we really like the touch sensitive controls up here above the keyboard, including this volume control, just run your finger up and down it like that. It's also got the cool touch pad that we saw on the HP TX1000 a couple of months ago and you've also got an HTMI output for controlling the system from way back on the couch. This is actually a remote control built in. It sits right here and you just hit this little switch and lift it out and then you can use this to launch media center or play, pause, control the volume, anything else you'd wanna do. There you have it, 5 laptops for students on any kind of budget. Whether you're going to community college or the ivy leagues. For in depth reviews of these and other laptops, check out www.CNET.com. I'm Dan Ackerman. Be cool. Stay in school ^M00:08:41 [ music ]