All the excitement these days may be centered around supersmall laptops, from ultraportable to ultrathin to, but there's still a place for PCs on the opposite end of the spectrum. There are few things more fun for a laptop reviewer than unpacking and setting up a massive 17- or 18-inch desktop replacement laptop. To be fair, many of these systems hardly qualify to be called laptops at all; some are so massive, and have such poor battery life, that you'll essentially set them up once and never move them again.
We've had a bit of a flood of big laptops of late, with some incredibly impressive performance scores, thanks in some cases to overclocked components (a relative rarity in laptops). Below are some of the recent highlights in oversize gaming and multimedia laptops, from the $5,000 Alienware M18X to the 3D Toshiba Qosmio X775.
Intel Core i7 2920XM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 580M (x2, SLI), $5,071
The new Alienware M18x is built around a stunning 18-inch display, with copious configuration options for killer performance, including overclocked CPUs and dual video cards. The huge screen makes a surprising difference over slightly smaller 17-inch ones, and if you're eschewing a flat-screen TV in a den, dorm room, or vacation home, the M18x can be an all-in-one entertainment center, especially as it has a separate HDMI-in port for your game console, cable box, or other device.
Intel Extreme Edition Core i7-2920XM (overclocked), Nvidia GeForce GTX 580M (overclocked), $3,599
The real advantage Origin brings is its capability to offer not only overclocked CPUs, but also overclocked GPUs. Considering that the overclocked parts in our review unit were already top-of-the-line--an Intel Extreme Edition Core i7-2920XM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 580M--it's not too surprising that this config costs a whopping $3,599. What you end up with is a powerful system, hand-assembled and tested, but without the inventive proprietary industrial designs that companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Dell can bring to their own gaming systems.
Intel Core i7-2630QM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 560M, $1,899
This particular Qosmio comes packaged with Nvidia 3D Vision technology (the most common way for laptops to display stereoscopic 3D) and a pair of Nvidia 3D active-shutter glasses, meaning it can play 3D PC games and 3D Blu-ray movies. Both look good on the large 17.3-inch 1,920x1,080-pixel display, or either can be output to a 3D-compatible HDTV with Nvidia 3DTV Play software. Still, the value of 3D entertainment is up for debate; honestly, even in the years since 3D laptops were introduced, it's never been more than a high-end novelty.
Intel Core i7-2630QM, Nvidia GeForce GT555, $1,599
The 18-inch Acer Aspire Ethos AS8951G is a huge multimedia powerhouse laptop with a unique removable touch-pad remote control. It's a clever idea, but one that might be ahead of its time. Beyond that, the laptop's actual hardware is mostly top-notch. Acer and sister-brand Gateway have always made excellent large 17-inch-and-bigger multimedia and gaming laptops. This one has a full HD 1,920x1,080-pixel-resolution screen, Blu-ray, a fast Intel Core i7-2630QM CPU, and a decent Nvidia GeForce GT555 graphics card.