CNET's holiday 2009 retail desktop and laptop review roundup

The all-important holiday season is here again, and with it the inevitable confusion about how to find the best deals on desktops and laptops. In order to help cut through the clutter, we are once again scouring the shelves of big retail stores to find bo

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Rich Brown Former Senior Editorial Director - Home and Wellness
Rich was the editorial lead for CNET's Home and Wellness sections, based in Louisville, Kentucky. Before moving to Louisville in 2013, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years in New York City. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D printing to Z-Wave smart locks.
Expertise Smart home, Windows PCs, cooking (sometimes), woodworking tools (getting there...)
Dan Ackerman
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2 min read

The all-important holiday season is here, and with it the inevitable confusion about how to find the best deals on desktops and laptops. In order to help cut through the clutter, we are once again scouring the shelves of big retail stores to find boxed versions of popular PCs, from entry-level systems starting at $349 to Core i7 powerhouses.

The difference from our normal lineup of reviews is that this roundup is concerned with the specific retail models offered by brick-and-mortar stores. These are similar to those you'd be able to configure online from companies such as Dell and HP, but may have slightly different names and features. Even better, thanks to deep holiday discounts, they can sometimes be a better deal than buying direct from a PC maker.

One way to use this guide is to pick up a Sunday newspaper sales circular (which will list the retail-specific models names of computers on sale), and check here for a review before heading out to the store.

We've got all the entire list of models in our retail review roundup below, and we'll update this page with ratings and live links as the systems get reviewed over the next several weeks.

(Note: Apple's desktops and laptops, while popular holiday items, are the same whether purchased direct from Apple or in a store. You can find recent Apple products reviewed or profiled here: latest Apple MacBooks; latest Apple iMacs; latest Apple Mac Minis.)


Toshiba NB205-N325BL
HP MINI 110-1131NR
Asus 1005HAGB-USBBY-BK01

Budget (up to $699)
Toshiba L455/S5975 (2.5 stars)
Gateway NV5207u (3 stars)
Asus K60IJ-RBLX05 (3 stars)
Dell i1545-4374PBU (3.5 stars)
Toshiba T135/S1309 (3.5 stars)
HP Pavilion dv4-2045dx (3.5 stars)
Gateway NV7802u (3.5 stars)
Toshiba A505/S6980 (3.5 stars)
Sony VGNNW240F/T (3.5 stars)
Asus UL50AG-RBBBK05 (3.5 stars)

Mainstream ($700 - $998)
Sony VGN-NW270F/S (4 stars)
Dell i1470-3282CRD (3.5 stars)
HP dv7-3065dx (3.5 stars)
HP dv4-1555dx (3 stars)
Dell s1745-3691MBU
Toshiba U505-S2970 (3 stars)
Toshiba E105-S1802 (3.5 stars)
Toshiba P505/S8980
HP dv6-1375dx (2.5 stars)

High-end ($999 and up)
Asus G60VX-RBBX05
Sony VGNFW560F/T (4 stars)
HP dv7-3085dx (3.5 stars)
HP Envy 15-1050nr (3.5 stars)


Acer Aspire Revo 1600 (3 stars)
Averatec D1130 All-In-One (2 stars)
Asus Essentio CM5570-AP003 (3 stars)
Dell Inspiron 545s-1476NBK (2.5 stars)
HP Pavilion Slimline S5220Y (2.5 stars)
Gateway DX4822-01 (3.5 stars)

Dell Inspiron 545s-3055NBK
HP Pavilion P6210y
Asus Essentio CG5270-BP004 (3.5 stars)
Gateway One ZX4800-02 (3.5 stars)
Gateway DX4300-11 (3 stars)
HP Pavilion P6230y (2.5 stars)

HP Pavilion Elite E9220
Dell Studio XPS SX8000/2361jbk
Asus Essentio CG5290-BP009

>See our favorite laptop in the budget category here.

See more news, reviews, and recommendations in our Laptops and Desktops sections.