Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Ten Most Expensive Laptops in the World

The Ten Most Expensive Laptops in the World

Discover the most expensive notebooks ever created, burning a huge hole in your wallet...and breaking your back!
10 Expensive Laptops
Today I bring you an article examining the cream of the crop; the most badass laptops out there, whose uber-leet status is only rivaled by the hefty price tags that each one carries. I'll briefly explore the latest and greatest from some of the boutique shops (Alienware, Falcon Northwest, VoodooPC), some of the big boys of the industry (Apple, Dell, Sony, and Toshiba), and some of the more mid-size players (Acer, Asus, and Sager).
Normally you'd see an article rounding up ten systems saying how good is laptop XYZ compared to ABC', how many FPS (frames per second)can it pull in F.E.A.R.', what is the battery life like', etc. I'm going to take a slightly different angle, however. It's undeniable that each one of these systems will eat your ordinary, run of the mill laptops for dinner (and many desktops for that matter) - that fact isn't in dispute. What is under scrutiny here is more a question of value. Are all these features and power worth the big bucks being sought by the various manufacturers? Read on to find out.
The method behind this article's madness is this - select the best CPU offered by the laptop manufacturer, pair it with 2GB of RAM, a high capacity hard drive, a wide range of graphics cards, and some of the biggest screen with the highest resolution available. The results, as you'll see, will end up putting a big dent in any buyer's wallet.
Acer Aspire 9810
CPU2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7200
Hard Drive120GB SATA
Graphics Card(s)NVIDIA GeForce Go 7600 (256MB)
Optical DriveHD DVD
Screen Size and Resolution20" / 1680x1050
Dimensions18.7" W x 13.86" D x 2.43" H
Weight16.98 lbs
Approximate Price~$2600
As you can see from the specs, this is one hell of a machine, especially if you intend on using it for video playback purposes. The beefy Aspire 9810 is one of the first laptops out there to include an HD DVD drive, for all of you out there interested in portable HD video. A Core 2 Duo processor will also ensure you have plenty of power on tap for multitasking.
For all its great numbers and specs, there are some flaws with the Aspire 9810. A point of contention in my eyes is that the 9810 has a weaker graphics card than some of the other models in the roundup. Maybe it's my gaming predilection speaking, but for this kind of coin I'd like a more robust graphics card implemented so I would be able to game on a mobile solution at high resolution with all the eye candy turned up. To get an idea of how the NVIDIA GeForce Go 7600 performs, check out our review of the Go 7600-equipped Toshiba Qosmio AV650.
One more question abounds, and that is why Acer chose a 1680x1050 resolution bundled with that HD DVD drive, as this resolution is not true High Definition. A better choice may have been 1920x1200 which would allow 1080i/p content to be played in true high def. Another factor to consider with the inclusion of the HD DVD drive is that the high def standard has still not been decided. Whether Blu-ray or HD DVD will emerge victorious is anyone's guess, so the true value of having either drive right now is somewhat debatable. Also, the HD DVD drive doesn't record high definition video, it only plays it.
Despite these few quibbles, this laptop is one of the best bargains of the bunch. When you consider that a standalone HD DVD unit will run you about $500-$600 alone, that leaves you spending about $2,000 for a system that comes with a 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo CPU, 2GB of RAM, a fairly large amount of hard drive space, mid-range video card, and a big beautiful LCD, all in a package that you can still cart around to class, or on business trips.
Rating: 8/10 moneybags (more moneybags signify a better bargain)

Alienware Aurora m9700
CPU2.4GHz AMD Turion 64
Hard Drive120GB SATA
Graphics Card(s)NVIDIA GeForce Go 7900GS SLI (2x256MB)
Optical Drive8X DVD+/-RW
Screen Size and Resolution17" / 1920x1200
Dimensions15.85"W x 11.75" D x 1.85" H
Weight8.5 lbs
Approximate Price$3,126.00
No top ten list of expensive top tier systems would be complete without including an offering from Alienware. Billed as a high end gaming system/desktop replacement, the Aurora m9700 sports a 2.4GHz AMD Turion 64 CPU, 17' 1920x1200 screen, and two NVIDIA GeForce Go 7900GS graphics cards running in SLI configuration. True to Alienware form, the unit is styled with the alien theme and comes in several customizable colors.
Alienware has never had the reputation of being the most affordable or cost conscious OEM. In this case, that reputation stands firm. It looks pretty with its snazzy paintjob, gills' on the top of the chassis, and contains some nice hardware inside. However even for a high end boutique system, this Alienware model could stand to have better technology for the money.
First off, the hardware is good, but not that good. Some may question why an Alienware Core 2 Duo system wasn't included instead (such as the Area-51 m5750), and it's simply because the Aurora m9700 comes equipped with SLI, which brings the total price higher. Therein lies two issues; first of all, yes, it's SLI, but it's not nearly as good SLI as some other manufacturers offer. For a price at the level this laptop commands, I would expect a 7800GTX or 7900GTX, but that may just be me. Second, running a high resolution such as 1920x1200 on a fairly small 17' screen may be rough on some users' eyes. Perhaps a more appropriate resolution for best readability would have been 1680x1050.
Since I've done a fair amount of modding in my time, I'm not easily swayed by fancy OEM paintjobs that bring a hefty price premium. I've seen many a case painted by Joe Schmoe that came out looking like near OEM quality and the styling of the laptop itself is not a compelling enough reason to pay top dollar for this system.
Rating: 5/10 moneybags (more moneybags signify a better bargain)

Apple MacBook Pro (17")
CPU2.16GHz Intel Core Duo T2600
Hard Drive120GB SATA
Graphics Card(s)ATI Radeon X1600 (256MB)
Optical Drive8X DVD+/-RW
Screen Size and Resolution17" / 1680x1050
Dimensions15.4" W x 10.4" D x 1.0" H
Weight6.8 lbs
Approximate Price$3,099.00
The list of features, bundled accessories and capabilities of this small device look pretty impressive on paper, but let's see how it stacks up in actual usage.
Often synonymous with the word expensive', Apple makes an appearance on this list with their 17' MacBook Pro. Featuring an Intel Core Duo processor, 2GB of RAM, and an ATI Mobility Radeon X1600, Apple can finally hang with the big boys of the laptop world.
The bar for measuring how much laptop you get for the money is a little different with the MacBook Pro. Normally I would fault Apple for only' including an ATI Radeon X1600 with a machine that costs $3,100 because of my gaming tendencies. Since gaming and Apple are not normally used in the same sentence (unless that sentence is prefaced with the words don't even think about'), I can't really fault the MacBook Pro too much.
I hate to say it, for fear of inciting the anti-Mac crowd, but there are few laptops that are built as well as Apple's or include as many innovative or well-engineered features. The quality here is top-notch, and the fit and finish is second to none. It is also the thinnest laptop of the bunch, besting the next-thinnest by almost a third of an inch.
The rest of the hardware specs are comparable to the other models in this article, perhaps a tad worse. The area in which this laptop really shines is the fact that you can now dual boot Windows XP and OSX with the Apple-supplied Boot Camp or Parallels on the MacBook Pro, which obviously is a feature unique to Apple products. In my mind, this feature adds a great deal of value to the MacBook Pro, especially for those who have wanted to try OSX but were afraid to spend the money on an OSX-only Mac system. This laptop allows users to run all of their favorite programs for each OS on one single machine, and to choose between Microsoft and Apple for specific tasks, which was previously unheard of.
Sure, this laptop isn't that great for gaming, but the added functionality of dual booting makes that shortcoming seem miniscule. Now, had Apple included a better video card and a Core 2 Duo CPU, then the MacBook Pro could have earned ten moneybags.
Rating: 8/10 moneybags (more moneybags signify a better bargain)

Asus Lamborghini VX1
CPU2.0 GHz Intel Core Duo T2500
Hard Drive160GB PATA
Graphics Card(s)NVIDIA GeForce Go7400 VX (512MB)
Optical Drive4X DVD+/-RW
Screen Size and Resolution15" / 1400x1050
Dimensions13" W x 10.7" D x 1.5" H
Weight5.3 lbs
Approximate Price$2,799.99
Following in the footsteps of Acer's Ferrari line of laptops, Asus has teamed with Automobili Lamborghini to bring you the VX1. Available in the same yellow or black that you can purchase your next Lamborghini pasta-rocket in, the VX1 is largely crafted out of carbon alloy to reduce its weight to a hair over five pounds, a full pound-and-a-half less than the next lightest laptop, the MacBook Pro.
A standard VX1 configuration includes a 2.0GHz Intel Core Duo CPU, 2GB of DDR2 RAM, 160GB PATA hard drive, NVIDIA GeForce Go7400 VX GPU, and a 15' screen running at 1400x1050 resolution.
The hardware in the VX1 leaves me a little under whelmed for almost three grand out of my piggy bank. The CPU isn't even Core 2 Duo, the video card is middle of the road, the DVD drive is slower than any other laptop in this review, and the screen is 2' smaller than the other guys' laptops. I know they all can't be 19'+ behemoths, because that's not the only kind of laptop there is, but for this price you'd expect a little more.
I can understand why a company would market such a laptop - it certainly looks great, it's compact and light, and comes with a nice bundle (including a Lamborghini branded mouse pad and carrying case). In this instance, you're definitely paying a price premium for the automotive paintjob and Lamborghini emblem. A similarly equipped Dell XPS would run you about $800 less, but would certainly not look as nice. You probably won't see a lot of people running around with this laptop (kind of like you won't see a ton of Lamborghinis on the road) but I think that's more to do with Asus' method of distribution than anything else.
Rating: 5/10 moneybags (more moneybags signify a better bargain)

Dell XPS M2010
CPU2.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7600
Hard Drive120GB SATA RAID-1
Graphics Card(s)ATI Mobility X1800 (256MB)
Optical DriveDVD-RW
Screen Size and Resolution20" / 1680x1050
Dimensions18.85" W x 15.9" D x 2.9" H
Weight18.3 lbs
Approximate Price$4,649.00
Dell sort of broke the mold with this one. They're not usually known for innovative design, but this mobile' unit is like none of the others. It's a true desktop replacement solution, and runs a 2.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 2GB DDR2 RAM, ATI Mobility Radeon X1800 graphics card, and boasts a 20' LCD running a native resolution of 1680x1050. It's a beast in every sense of the word- an 18 pound, almost 19' wide monster.
There's a lot to like in the M2010. If you so choose, you can boost the RAM to 4GB (and add a couple grand to the price tag in the process), run 120GB SATA hard drives mirrored in RAID-1 (as the above configuration shows), and have a great screen with a resolution that is perfectly matched for it.
There are a couple of things I question about this model, however. First and foremost, I question the usefulness of the M2010 as a mobile' unit, as it has been marketed by Dell. I suppose you could fold the screen down, pick the thing up and lug it somewhere, but its sheer size makes that seem very unlikely in real world practice. It appears like it would be more at home on some yuppie's minimalist glass desk than in a student's book bag or on a commuter train. I would hesitate to brand it as a mobile' unit as it more closely resembles an all-in-one or small form factor (SFF) computer.
Also, since the unit is so large, I don't know why Dell didn't choose a better (or newer generation) video card. They could have fit a bigger, faster card that produces more heat inside because size (and heat dissipation) is not as much of an issue when you have 19' to work with.
The system is a design marvel, but the limited mobility makes it somewhat of an overpriced desktop system, as you can get a better SFF desktop for a lot less.
Rating: 4/10 moneybags (more moneybags signify a better bargain)

Falcon Northwest FragBook DR 6800A
CPU2.4GHz AMD Athlon64 X2 4600+
Hard Drive120GB SATA
Graphics Card(s)NVIDIA GeForce Go 7900 (512MB)
Optical Drive8X DVD+/-RW
Screen Size and Resolution17" / 1920x1200
Dimensions15.5"W x 11.7" D x 1.9" H
Weight12.7 lbs
Approximate Price$4,943.34
You almost had to expect to see an entry from Falcon Northwest on this list. Having long been one of the premier boutique PC shops, Falcon does not disappoint with the FragBook DR 6800A (well, relatively speaking). Probably the closest competitor to Apple in the way of fit and finish, you'd be hard pressed to find many nicer looking laptops. There's a great deal of aesthetic modifications you can have done right at Falcon's factory before the laptop ships.
Inside the FragBook isn't much of a slouch either. Powered by a desktop 2.4GHz AMD Athlon64 X2 4600+, there's a ton of power at your fingertips (and a lot of heat in your lap). Coupled with 2GB of DDR RAM, a 120GB SATA hard drive, and a NVIDIA GeForce Go 7900 displaying 1920x1200 on a 17' screen, you've got yourself quite a system, for gaming or otherwise.
There's not a lot to criticize this system for- save the desktop processor and its heat output, the potential eye strain mentioned previously when coupling a 17' screen with a 1920x1200 resolution, and lack of SLI at this price point. Remember, this article is not really focused on whether or not this is a good system. Every laptop here is kickass. The determining factor is whether the price is justified.
Despite the fact that the laptop is a great performer and has eleventy-billion coats of nice shiny paint that you can comb your hair while looking at, for almost $5,000 it's a bit steep. For that price, I would be looking for SLI and either a Turion64 X2 or Core 2 Duo processor.
Rating: 4/10 moneybags (more moneybags signify a better bargain)

Sager NP5950V
CPU2.4GHz AMD Turion 64
Hard Drive120GB SATA
Graphics Card(s)NVIDIA GeForce Go 7900GTX SLI (2x256MB)
Optical Drive8X DVD-RW
Screen Size and Resolution19" / 1680x1050
Dimensions18.7" W x 13.5" D x 1.9" H
Weight14.55 lbs
Approximate Price$3,474.00
A company whose large DTR designs are replicated world-wide, Sager brings to the table a great system in the form of the NP5950V. The specs speak for themselves- you can't ask for much more in a laptop. Being one of only two systems to grace this list with 19' SLI is a nice feather for Sager to stick in their cap, especially when it features two 7900GTX graphics cards, while others only' feature 7800GTX's.
Seeing a system like this makes me wish I had one when I went to QuakeCon. I could have taken it onboard as carry-on luggage, and I would have been saved from having my checked mid-tower PC destroyed by the airline (but that's a story for another day). Our only complaint is the lack of a dual core processor, but if gaming is your primary need the higher clocked Turion should work nicely. At almost 15 lbs, this system is a true desktop replacement.
The real test, of course, is the price tag. While not a blue-light special by any stretch of the imagination, at $3,474 Sager offers a very tempting package at a somewhat reasonable price. Dollar for dollar, this is probably the system with the best configuration at the best price of the whole bunch. In my opinion the NP590V gives you much more bang for your buck than any other system on this list.
I've also heard that this system overclocks well, if you're into that type of thing. Just one more reason to put it on your short list of power systems to check out.
Rating: 9/10 moneybags (more moneybags signify a better bargain)

Sony Vaio VGN-AR190G
CPU2.0 GHz Intel Core Duo T2500
Hard Drive200GB SATA (2x100GB RAID-0)
Graphics Card(s)NVIDIA GeForce Go 7600GT (256MB)
Optical DriveBlu-ray
Screen Size and Resolution17" / 1920x1200
Dimensions16.4" W x 11.8" D x 1.32" H
Weight8.4 lbs
Approximate Price$3,799.00
We have here a first for the mobile world - a portable Blu-ray drive in a laptop. Depending on your needs, this may not get a rise out of you, but for a lot of tech geeks out there this is a pretty cool thing. We've seen several vendors (including a few on this list) with HD-DVD capable laptops, but this is the first one available with Blu-ray.
If you set aside the fact that there is a Blu-ray drive in this laptop, the hardware doesn't seem that amazing compared to the others. The only exception is that the VGN-AR190G boasts dual hard drives for 200GB of storage. Otherwise, the CPU is a normal Core Duo, it has the standard 2GB of RAM, and the GeForce Go 7600GT is an okay choice. 1920x1200 resolution on a 17' screen again may be too small for some users, but the HD video junkie that purchases this laptop is unlikely to care.
My main gripe about this system also happens to be its biggest selling point: Blu-ray. While it is indeed cool that you can record HD quality video on this laptop (unlike the other systems that only have HD DVD players) there is questionable value in this fact. There's an interesting duality here. If you were to buy a standalone Blu-ray recorder for your home, it will run you about $1,000. Depending on how you look at it, the rest of the hardware technically would only cost $2,800, which isn't too bad for a system such as this. There's another viewpoint however, and this is more like how I see the VGN-AR190G. Since Blu-ray is waging its war with HD-DVD for the title of de facto high definition standard (this generation's BetaMax vs. VHS?), it is still too early to tell which will win, so why would you shell out this much money when down the road Blu-ray may not emerge victorious? I personally would not be a happy camper having shelled out $3,400 for this laptop, and God knows how much on blank Blu-ray discs, only to have them go the way of the dinosaurs by the end of 2007. For this reason, factoring in the current market price for normal Blu-ray recorders as justification for the price is nullified by the fact that it may be useless in a very short time.
On the other hand, Blu-ray may win and then you can have the privilege of crowing to all your buddies about how you knew it all along and were cool enough to be an early adopter. Check back later, my crystal ball's kind of cloudy at the moment.
Rating: 5/10 moneybags (more moneybags signify a better bargain)

Toshiba Qosmio G35-AV660
CPU2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7200
Hard Drive240GB SATA (120GBx2 RAID-0)
Graphics Card(s)NVIDIA GeForce Go 7600 (256MB)
Optical DriveHD DVD
Screen Size and Resolution17" / 1920x1200
Dimensions16.0" W x 11.6" D x 1.79" H
Weight10.1 lbs
Approximate Price$3,499.99
Here we have another HD DVD capable laptop, this time brought to you by the good people over at Toshiba. With a 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 2GB of RAM, 240GB of RAID-0 goodness, and a NVIDIA GeForce Go 7600, Toshiba provides a nice supporting cast of components to complement the HD DVD player. They also throw in a biometric fingerprint scanner for good measure.
If you look really closely, you will see that the Qosmio G35-AV660's specs are very close to the Acer Aspire 9810 reviewed earlier, albeit with some slight differences. That being said, Toshiba is going to have a hard act to follow considering that the Qosmio costs roughly $900 more than the comparable Acer.
Toshiba offers 240GB of hard drive space (RAID-0) in the Qosmio, which differentiates it slightly, but RAID-0 just offers more space, without any data protection benefit, rendering it near-useless as a selling point or justification for a higher price. One area that some users may find it worth shelling out the extra dough for the Toshiba is that it offers full HD resolution, instead of being limited to 720p like the Acer is. Unfortunately, the Qosmio's screen is only 17', so some users may be willing to tradeoff 1080p on a 17' screen for 720p on a 20' screen.
I'm not going to completely rehash why buying a HD DVD laptop may not be a good idea at this junction in time, except to say it may not really be a viable reason to spend money on a brand new technology that might not be around in a few years. Like the Acer before it, I'm going to put a better video card on my short wish list of things to fix about the Qosmio G35-AV660.
Is the Qosmio worth the asking price? It depends on your needs, I suppose. If you really need a high definition portable video player with 1920x1200 resolution, this may be the system for you. If you don't see the immediate need for something like this right now, you may consider the laptop slightly not worth it.
Rating: 6/10 moneybags (more moneybags signify a better bargain)

VoodooPC Envy u909
CPU2.4GHz AMD Turion 64
Hard Drive120GB SATA
Graphics Card(s)NVIDIA GeForce 7800GTX SLI (2x256MB)
Optical Drive8X DVD-RW
Screen Size and Resolution19" / 1680x1050
Dimensions17.5" W x 12.5" D x 1.75" H
Weight16 lbs
Approximate Price$5,989.25
Forgetting to include VoodooPC on a list of high priced hardware is like forgetting to buy beer for a kegger. VoodooPC is consistently pumping out high performing machines with price tags to match.
Only the second manufacturer to provide 19' SLI in this roundup, VoodooPC does so by way of dual NVIDIA GeForce 7800GTX's, and they also include a 2.4GHz AMD Turion 64 CPU, 2GB of DDR RAM, and a 120GB SATA hard drive.
VoodooPC markets this laptop as a desktop replacement, with an emphasis on it being a high end gaming machine. Like Falcon Northwest, the Envy u909 allows users to take their pick from a selection of automotive finishes for the chassis color. As can be expected, the laptop looks great.
The Envy u909 happens to be the most expensive laptop on the list. Coming from a company that once sold a gold plated case, this is hardly surprising. What may be somewhat surprising, however, is that the Envy u909 doesn't even have the best hardware out of the bunch (the Sager probably holds that crown AND is $1,500 cheaper).
Any way you slice it, the Envy u909 costs an absolutely ungodly amount of money, and the fancy paint job simply does not justify the huge markup. Allow me to illustrate just how much money this laptop costs. VoodooPC markets the Envy u909 as a gaming machine. It's a pretty big and heavy laptop, and at 16 pounds, probably not the most portable of units. I've taken the liberty to spec out a Shuttle small form factor (SFF) super-gaming system to show you how else you could spend nearly $6,000. Since the Shuttle is so small, you'd probably have comparable ease of mobility (but no battery power, though the Envy u909's battery life is nothing to write home about).
This is what almost $6,000 will buy you:
  • Shuttle SD37-P2-BK-V1 Barebone System
  • 2.93GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 CPU
  • 4GB G.Skill DDR2 1000 RAM
  • GeForce 7950GX2 Graphics Card
  • 16x DVD+/-RW Dual Layer Drive
  • Western Digital Raptor 150GB SATA Hard Drive
  • Seagate 750GB SATA Hard Drive
  • Dell 3007 LCD
  • Logitech G7 Wireless Mouse
  • Logitech G15 Gaming Keyboard
This is an amazing boatload of ultra high end parts, and the sad part is, that configuration listed above will set you back $300 less than the VoodooPC Envy u909. I hope you notice that this configuration, besides being FAR superior in every single category, will give you a 30' Dell LCD to boot. That is simply mind boggling.
It would be worth it to me to sacrifice a bit of portability in order to get the above configuration in place of the VoodooPC Envy u909. I see nothing about the Envy u909 that even remotely justifies such an astronomical cost. You'd be better off buying ANY other laptop listed in this article, as they all offer better bang for the buck, and you'd also avoid having to kick your own ass because of the worst case of buyer's remorse in world history.
Rating: 1/10 moneybags (more moneybags signify a better bargain)

ConclusionWhere does all this commentary leave us? The fact that the average number of moneybags in the article was almost 6 shows that there are some laptops in the bunch that may warrant a closer look than others. Most of the decision about whether a system is worth the price will depend entirely on your personal needs and usage. You're not necessarily going to look at high end video cards if you aren't a gamer; laptop weight and ease of mobility will matter more to you if you're a commuter or frequent business traveler, and so on. You may place a higher value on flashy paintjobs or higher resolution screens than someone else. That's why this article should only serve as one user's point of view. My viewpoints aren't necessarily applicable to all and value is truly in the eye of the beholder.
Laptop manufacturers are going to keep pumping out models that have all the newest bells and whistles, fancy paintjobs and huge screens. These systems are going to continue to cost thousands of dollars and the decision on whether they are worth it is truly up to you, the end user. Just don't forget your checkbook; you're going to need it.

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