Our top mainstream retail laptop: Toshiba E105

In our current roundup of retail-specific laptops, we've divided our 30-plus systems into four different price categories, from sub-$500 entry level models to high-end ones that cost more than $1,000.

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
Dan Ackerman
4 min read

In our current roundup of retail-specific laptops, we've divided our 30-plus systems into four different price categories, from sub-$500 entry level modelsto high-end ones that cost more than $1,000.

In the "mainstream" category, covering laptops between $700 and $999, we found a wide variety of systems, from the 12-inch touch screen HP tx2 to the 15-inch Core Solo Asus UX50V. Our overall favorite, was the Toshiba E105, which married solid components and performance with worthy features, such as a backlit keyboard, 500GB hard drive, and longer-than-average warranty.

One important notes -- on this particular page we're *only* talking about a handful of retail-specific models that cost between $700 and $999. For a roundup of retail laptops in all price ranges, check here.

Check out details of each system below:

HP Pavilion dv3-2155mx
The good: Nearly day-long battery life; compact design; includes small Media Center remote control; imprint finish helps it stand out from the laptop crowd.

The bad: Massive 9-cell battery is awkward and uncomfortable; lacks 802.11n Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet; glossy touch pad is uncomfortable.

The bottom line: Its massive battery extends awkwardly from the bottom of the laptop, but the HP Pavilion dv3-2155mx is an otherwise compact thin-and-light laptop that should get students to class and back on a single charge.

Read the full review here.

Asus UX50V-RX05
The good: Head-turning design; roomy 15.6-inch screen with 16:9 aspect ratio; keyboard is exceedingly comfortable and features backlighting; dedicated graphics offer some 3D-gaming capability.

The bad: Core 2 Solo processor can't keep up with dual-core competition; highly uncomfortable mouse button; merely average battery life, despite energy-efficient processor.

The bottom line: With its low-end single-core processor, dedicated GeForce graphics, and 16:9 display, the unquestionably sleek, entertainment-minded Asus UX50V-RX05 is a good fit for a specific user profile: the movie lover/sometime gamer.

Read the full review here.

Dell s1440-022B
The good: Compact, lightweight design; great battery life; full version of Microsoft Office and 15 months of Norton Internet Security; wonderfully roomy keyboard; GeForce graphics provide some 3D power; shockingly decent audio output from integrated speakers; useful selection of ports.

The bad: No optical drive.

The bottom line: If you can forgo a DVD burner on your laptop, the Dell Studio S1440-022B offers a ton of features and a slick design that should make it a frontrunner for any student doing their back-to-school shopping.

Read the full review here.

HP Pavilion dv4-1465DX
The good: Near all-day battery life; Special Edition imprint finish helps it stand out from the crowd without being garish; competitive application performance; includes small Media Center remote control.

The bad: Massive 12-cell battery is heavy and awkward; lacks 802.11n Wi-Fi; glossy touch pad is uncomfortable.

The bottom line: If you're the restless type, or simply away from electrical outlets for the majority of your day, you'll love the long battery life of the HP Pavilion dv4-1465dx. Be warned: such battery life requires you to tote a laptop that's roughly a pound heavier than its 14-inch competitors.

Read the full review here.

Sony Vaio VGN-NW125J/T
The good: HD video looks great on big 15.5-inch, 16:9 display; keyboard is comfortable and spacious; relatively thin and lightweight.

The bad: Disappointing battery life; extra-wide chassis may require a new laptop bag; no media control buttons.

The bottom line: With just about the biggest display you'd be willing to lug around on a daily basis, the Sony Vaio VGN-NW125J/T attempts to be both a low-end entertainment laptop and versatile everyday productivity machine. But for the battery life, it pulls it off.

Read the full review here.

Toshiba E105-S1602 *BEST*
The good: Sturdy construction and pleasing overall design; comfortable keyboard and touchpad; backlit keys; lengthy battery life without bulky battery; a twice-as-nice two-year warranty.

The bad: Uses integrated graphics while other laptops at this price feature dedicated graphics; poor speakers, even for integrated standards.

The bottom line: Toshiba improves on last year's excellent Best Buy Blue Label laptop by slashing the price while serving up a nearly identical machine. Long battery life, a lengthy warranty, and a backlit keyboard highlight Toshiba's winning Satellite E105-S1602.

Read the full review here.

Dell Studio XPS X1340-024B
The good: Upscale look; strong overall performance; integrated graphics provide some semblance of gaming power; backlit keyboard; attractive edge-to-edge glass on the display.

The bad: Poor battery life; runs hot; on the heavy side for a 13-inch laptop.

The bottom line: The Dell Studio XPS X1340-024B is an attractive 13-inch laptop and a capable performer, but it tends to run hot and its poor battery life will leave you cold.

Read the full review here.

HP TouchSmart tx2-1275dx
The good: Good price for tablet functionality; multitouch gestures are fun; flashy but not garish design.

The bad: Poor battery life; mediocre application performance; weighted down with bloatware; a tad heavy for a 12-inch ultraportable.

The bottom line: A fair price, an attractive design, and multitouch support may allow tablet shoppers to overlook the HP TouchSmart tx2-1275dx's middling performance and poor battery life.

Read the full review here.

Check out the rest of the 2009 Back-to-School retail laptop and desktop roundup here.