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Notable notebooks from the first half of 2008

Six laptops stood out from the first six months of 2008.

We've reached the halfway mark of 2008, so let us take a look at the most noteworthy laptops we've seen thus far this year. These aren't merely the laptops that received the highest ratings from CNET Reviews, but those models that stood out from the pack by introducing a new and interesting design or feature set.

MacBook Air drops features to make weight.

The first laptop to create a stir this year was removed from a manila envelope by Steve Jobs at MacWorld in January. The MacBook Air was notable for both its thin design and thin feature set. The Air is impossibly thin, measuring only 0.76 inches at its thickest point, and yet we found its aluminum chassis to be remarkably sturdy. It also introduced a touchpad with gesture controls. Among its missing features, however, are standard accouterments including a built-in optical drive, a FireWire port, and an Ethernet jack.

Lovely Lenovos: IdeaPad U110 in red, ThinkPad X300 in black.

Lenovo introduced two remarkable ultraportables this year with the ThinkPad X300 and the IdeaPad U110. The X300 won our Editors' Choice award by incorporating the best of the MacBook Air (13.3-inch display, full-size keyboard, thickness less than one inch) while packing in much greater connectivity and a built-in DVD burner, WWAN connectivity, and GPS. It boasts a sleek design while retraining its ThinkPad DNA. The more consumer- and budget-friendly IdeaPad U110 is lighter than both the X300 and MacBook Air, though it does give up a couple inches in screen size. It's perhaps the best-looking laptop we've ever seen, with its glossy finish and etched lid. It's quite a fashion forward laptop, particularly when viewed against its corporate cousin, the staid ThinkPad.

Gateway woos broke gamers with uniquely configured P-6860FX.

The Gateway P-6860FX doesn't make the list here because of its design. That's not to say it's a bad looking laptop. What allows this 17-inch model stand out is the framerates it churns out for the price. Currently going for $1,099, there is no better option for the gamer on a tight budget. Gateway is able to hit this low price point by pairing a high-end GPU (GeForce 8800M GTS) with a low-end CPU (1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5550). Frankly, we're surprised this unique GPU-CPU marriage hasn't spawned a legion of imitators.

Big: 18-inch Acer Aspire 8920
Small: 9-inch Asus Eee PC 900

The Acer Aspire 8920 and Asus Eee PC 900 both find themselves on the list chiefly for their size. The Aspire 8920 adds an inch to the standard 17-inch desktop replacement model; its 18.4-inch wide-screen display features a 16:9 aspect ratio (as opposed to the 16:10 you typically find on a wide-screen laptop) and a Blu-ray-friendly resolution of 1920x1080. Aside from the screen, there's lots to like about this multimedia monster, including a slick multimedia control buttons, a Blu-ray drive, and not terrible battery life. On the other end of the spectrum is the Asus Eee PC 900, the 9-inch follow-up to last year's 7-inch Eee PC that started the runaway netbook trend. Impressively, the Eee PC 900 is nearly the same size as the 7-inch model but squeezes in a larger display with a much higher 1024x600 resolution, which greatly aids usability. The price jumps up a bit as well, but so too do the specs.

Honorable mentions:

HP 2133 Mini-Note: well-designed netbook

Asus Eee PC 901: first Intel Atom-based netbook improves battery life but not performance

Asus M70: feature-packed desktop replacement for a fair price

Apple MacBook Pro: gesture controls highlight 2008's incremental update