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Sunday, October 1, 2006

Notebook Computers In The Wild

Bring your digital darkroom with you on your next photo adventure

If you want to take the proverbial high road, go with the new Apple MacBook Pro. It's available in several different configurations at different prices, but figure that you'll need to post a $2,500 entry fee to get into the race. For that you'll get a 15.4-inch widescreen display that offers 1440 x 900 resolution, a speedy 2.16 GHz Intel Core Duo processor, 1 GB RAM (conveniently installed as a single SO-DIMM) and a 100 GB hard drive. It also includes a SuperDrive optical drive and an ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 video card with 256 MB GDDR3 memory (so you won't lose performance the way you do with some shared-memory configurations). For connectivity, there's one FireWire 400 and two USB 2.0 ports, enough for most operations, including digital video editing.

Sony has a notebook computer to fit every taste and pocketbook, but photographers will do well to gravitate toward the VGN-AR190G, complete with a 2.0 GHz Intel Core Duo processor and a 17-inch display that delivers 1920 x 1200 resolution. Colors are rich and vibrant thanks to Sony's exclusive XBRITE HiColor technology. This is a serious multimedia machine that comes equipped with a 200 GB Serial ATA Hard Drive, 1 GB of RAM and a double-layer DVD writer with Blu-Ray Disc support. Interfaces include a media slot for Memory Stick and Memory Stick Duo media, one PCMCIA Type II card slot, three Hi-Speed USB 2.0 ports and one iLink (FireWire) connector. Wireless capability includes built-in WiFi and integrated Bluetooth. Tipping the scales slightly under 8.5 pounds, this cool beauty is available in this beefy configuration for around $3,500.

Dell is the country's largest seller of notebook computers, and for good reason. Whether you're running a portrait studio out of your home or you're a student studying photography, there's a Dell that's just perfect for you. For serious field use, the Dell XPS series is a solid choice. The XPS M1710, which has a direct price of $2,400, features an Intel Core Duo processor operating at speeds up to 2.16 GHz with a 2 MB cache and a speedy 667 MHz FSB.

It handles up to 4 GB of RAM, so you should never be left wanting for memory. Furthermore, its DDR2 dual-channel memory architecture is designed to help improve overall system performance and reduce power consumption. The standard LCD display is a 17-inch widescreen display driven by a 256 MB NVIDIA graphics card. It sports a 120 GB hard drive and a dual-layer 8x DVD writer. Dell clearly leads the parade when it comes to ports: the XPS M1710 has no less than six Hi-Speed USB ports plus FireWire, S-Video, DVI (Digital Video Interface) and a five-in-one removable memory card reader. Actual price depends on configuration.

The popular HP Pavilion dv8000t, which starts at a base price of $1,100, offers a wide assortment of customizable upgrades. For example, you can step up to 240 GB of total hard-drive space or add a LightScribe DVD burner. Like the other models reviewed here, the dv8000t features an Intel Core Duo processor and a 17-inch monitor. It will support up to 2 GB of memory and either one or two hard drives up to 120 GB each. The biggest advantage of being able to write to two hard drives is data redundancy. Its Super Multi 8x DVD writer is double layer and supports LightScribe, so you can burn attractive disk labels right onto the surface of the specialized media.

Finally, Toshiba earns the award for the strangest name with the Qosmio series of notebooks, but putting the pronunciation challenge aside, you'll like the features that their G35-AV650 provides. Checking in at less than $2,995, you get a 17-inch display, 2.0 GHz Intel Core Duo Processor and 1 GB of RAM (installed as two 512 MB chips). A total of 200 GB hard-drive storage is configured as a pair of 100 GB drives, and the optical drive is the de facto standard double-layer DVD writer. They also lead the pack in super-compact notebooks, so if you're more into portability than power, keep Toshiba on your short list.

What else can you do with a notebook computer besides edit images and delete spam e-mail while on the road?

Add Microsofts Streets & Trips with GPS Locator (less than $100 street price), and you have an incredible mapping system. Its faster and more flexible than trying to access an online mapping service, plus it allows on-the-fly itinerary changes to the nth degree. The GPS plugs into a USB port and identifies your exact location on the map. And, of course, it will draw routes and arrange directions based on your travel preferences. Find restaurants and local attractions and avoid contemporaneous road construction delays. The 2006 version offers voice prompting and optional night-style map displays. If you like to know where you're going, Streets & Trips is hard to beat. Contact: Microsoft, www.microsoft.com/.

(800) MY-APPLE

(800) WWW-DELL

(800) 752-0900





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