Spring 2010 retail mainstream laptop roundup

Find out which budget laptop came out on top in the spring 2010 edition of our retail laptop roundup.

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
3 min read

To bring you our spring 2010 roundup of retail laptops, we've been testing and reviewing boxed versions of popular PCs--from entry-level systems starting at $329 to massive $2,000 gaming monsters. These are very much like the laptops you'd configure and buy online from Dell or HP, but these models are fixed configurations, have slightly different names, and are often a better deal compared to building the same system online.

In the "Mainstream" category, covering laptops from $600-$999, we found a lot of variety. While there were a couple of clunkers in this group, mostly because they charged mainstream prices for budget components, we were please to find a couple of real winners as well.

In the end, we couldn't pick a single favorite, so instead we have dual recommendations. The Toshiba Satellite E205-S1904 is a sequel to one of our favorite laptops from last year, the Toshiba E105. As part of Best Buy's Blue Label program, it's a custom model that is one of the first notebook computers to include Intel's Wireless Display technology.

We also quite liked the Samsung R580, which packed in a high-end CPU, discrete graphics, and a Blu-ray drive, all for under $900.

Note: For our roundup of retail laptops in all price ranges, check here.

Check out details of each system below:

Dell Studio s15z-2249CPN
The bottom line: The Dell Studio s15z-2249CPN is a worthy mainstream laptop that aims to satisfy a lot of what consumers crave.
Read the full review.

Toshiba Satellite E205-S1904
The bottom line: As one of the first laptops to feature Intel's Wireless Display technology, the Toshiba Satellite E205-S1904 is a slim, fast, and affordable package for mainstream users.
Read the full review.

Toshiba Satellite A505-S6025
The bottom line: While the Toshiba Satellite A505-6025 has a rock-solid combination of computing power, graphics, and battery life, its price and bulk may be hard to swallow.
Read the full review.

HP Pavilion dv7-3165dx
The bottom line: People who would rather have a big screen instead of great battery life will be happy with the HP dv7-3165dx.
Read the full review.

HP Pavilion dv4-2165dx
The bottom line: The excellent-performing HP Pavilion dv4-2165dx has a long battery life for the money, but it'll cost you some portability.
Read the full review.

HP Pavilion dv4-2155dx
The bottom line: A fast hard drive and a peppy processor help make HP's Pavilion dv4-2155dx a solid mainstream laptop, as long as you don't need good battery life.
Read the full review.

Toshiba Satellite P505D-S8007
The bottom line: The Toshiba Satellite P505D-S8007 may look like a sleek big-screen laptop, but underneath it has some seriously hobbled performance compared with its competitors.
Read the full review.

The bottom line: With switchable Nvidia graphics and a thin design, the Asus UL50VT-RBBBK05 sacrifices power for longer battery life, while still managing to be a gaming-capable notebook. For its price, though, you could buy a laptop with a faster Core i3 CPU.
Read the full review.

Asus U50F-RBBAG05
The bottom line: The Asus U50F is one of the best values for an Intel Core i3 laptop we've seen, offering a great all-around package for its price--save for shorter-than-average battery life.
Read the full review.

Dell Inspiron i1564-6980CRD
The bottom line: The Dell Inspiron i1564-6980CRD is a good, but basic, laptop -- essentially a no-frills workhorse.
Read the full review.

Samsung R580
The bottom line: The Samsung NP-R580-JSB1US is the best bang for the buck we've seen in a current mainstream laptop, with great processing, graphics, and Blu-ray to boot.
Read the full review.

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