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Best New Fall Notebooks for around $1800.
by Tech-Edge E-zine Tech Lab Staff & Review Panel
November 30th, 2004

2004 has been an interesting year for notebook computers. The first of the factory loaded Linux PC’s from HP hit the streets this fall. Apple finally bumped up the volume on the G4 in the new Aluminum PowerBook and even put G4’s in the iBooks. Most of the “with it” PC brands have finally adopted the wide aspect ratio “cinema” LCD displays.

PC notebooks have gone in two directions for most manufacturers. At one extreme, they have become vastly over-priced ($3,600) game playing luggables like ones from Alienware, Voodoo or Hypersonic, which are temperamental and run hotter than your toaster oven. Some of the “big-brand” boys like Dell have tried to jump, but fall far short gamer capable.

One the other end of the scale is the masses of bland underpowered, under-featured poor performing notebooks. While there are some notebooks out there with full power desktop P-4’s, AMD Athlons XP’s or Athlon-64’s; most manufacturers have gone to anemic Intel Celerons or pathetically slow Centrinos in not just budget notebooks, but high priced ones!

Medium and high priced notebooks with underpowered Intel’s we tested include - IBM’s, Fujitsu’s, HP’s, Dell’s, Compaq’s, eMachine’s and Sharp’s. We’ll be more specific about models we disliked for lack of performance, features and cost, at the end of the article.

We strongly think that those manufacturers are trying to skimp on manufacturing costs while still charging full market segment prices for sub-par notebooks. But, cost cutting has also touch in some ways, even the best of portables. None seem to qualify a 100% perfect in every way.

There is a sunny side –
So if you’re shopping around for a great notebook at a good price, what are you going to do? Well, we shopped around notebook specs and found three notebooks that looked great on paper. We asked those manufacturers to allow us to test them with our grueling Buyers Peer-Group Review Panel and our own finicky Tech Lab engineers.

These three portables have personalities of their own that make them stand out from a lot of others that blend into a gray blur and that is why we picked them and liked them best.

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You may also notice that each may well fit better into a use that you are especially interested in ….. yeah we were thinking that exactly. In this review we are going to concentrate mostly on feel, some performance and actual use reactions from our “peer-group” review panel comprised of expected buyers and users, just like yourself. If you want the arms length raw specs, we’ll be directing you to the manufacturers web site for details. So here they are, our finalists –

  Click the shortcut link below
  Toshiba A75-S266 15.4-in
  Apple G4 PowerBook 15.2-in
  Sony Vaio PCG-K27 15.4-in

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Toshiba Satellite A75-S226, “A” Series
$1,388.00 street

Toshiba has been a trendsetter for notebooks better than two decades and one of the few brands always in the struggle as market sales leader. Toshiba always seems to have something good up their sleeve each year.

The A75-S226 is one of the top models of the new A75 series and Toshiba has once again been working hard to produce a quality PC notebook. Most of the innovations are subtle and hidden in making use of this notebook easier for you. The Satellite A75 has close “cousins” in the A60 and A70 series too.
 Click image to view the Toshiba Satellite picture page

Like many of the current notebooks, Toshiba jumped onto the wide aspect ratio “cinema” display bandwagon pioneered by Apple. The Toshiba Satellite A75-S226 sports a more reasonable 15.4-in diagonal (13.25-in wide) compared to the many ridiculously huge 17-inch portable that weigh a ton.

We decided to do our usual testing process in reverse order by having our “buyers peer-group” review panel meet first to see the Toshiba A75 series notebook first, before Tech Lab started hardware testing. I had a feeling I knew what their first impression would be.

The review panel walked into our conference room with the A75 sitting in the middle of the mahogany meeting table. There were Ooos and Aaahs immediately at first sight of it’s attractive lines and the deep blue tint of the wedge shaped top.

But what we heard next is what I was expecting when everyone took eager turns at holding the A75. “It’s so much lighter than it’s actual size” and “It looks heavy, but it’s light as a feather!”


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