There's literally a TON of choices for enthusiasts and professional users out there today looking for powerful notebooks with good graphics horsepower. Toshiba, Sager, OCZ, and need I say Gateway have released some impressive notebooks over the past six months that can chew through the toughest graphics tasks and CPU intensive applications.
In 2008 Intel showed off a new platform (Calpella) due for release in Q309. I remember seeing a demo using a prototype notebook mounted on a special cooling base. What impressed me the most, however, was the CPU. It was a new mobile quad-core, able to not only dynamically overclock based on CPU load, but it would do so while switching off the other cores not needed.
While we're not quite there yet, the OCZ whitebook paired with a QX9300 will allow manual overclocking. In a recent review, the 2.53GHz chip went all the way to 3GHz. The Toshiba Qosmio X305-Q708 has a bios setting to disable 2 of the 4 cores as well.
Do you see where all this is headed?
Dynamic CPU frequency throttling and core switching based on application load.
Start a video encoding job, for example, and all four cores get to work at stock speed. Fire up a single-core optimized game, however, and three cores switch off while the fourth core gets a nice overclock. Get back to idle and see the CPU go down to half speed. Browse the web while your virus scan runs - two cores on two cores off.
We've already seen what hybrid SLI has done for graphics. Match that graphics flexibility with a "smart" CPU that can overclock and switch cores and you have a notebook that is not only power-friendly, but can truly optimize it's performance based on what you have running.
Fast forward to the future now to August 2009. Where do I see my dream notebook? Let's take a look:
Welcome to the mobile Core i7 aka Clarksfield. Four cores with hyperthreading, dynamic multiplier and voltage adjustement for speed, and core switching based on load. Throw in an advanced heatpipe cooling solution with some silent fans and you have a CPU that will be impressive, efficient yet extremely powerful.
How does dual 1GB G280M sound? SLI paired with a low power G110M for hybrid graphics? I'll take it!
17" WUXGA 1920x1200. Take advantage of the power of your graphics cards to push games in sharp high-resolution, while at the same time give all your icons, tabs and taskbar the room they need for serious work. Throw in an LED backlight, stereo microphones and a 1.3MP webcam and we're in business.
Need I mention? Well I have to. Isolated inverted-t cursor keys, full shift keys, and separate 4-column number pad. While I've been used to the zd7000 keyboard, the X305 has pretty-much nailed it for layout. But layout alone won't help those who expect good feedback and 4-5 years of key-pounding reliability.
Toshiba Qosmio X305. Listen to it. Enjoy it. And don't settle for anything less. Four quality speakers with a bass-reflex subwoofer bring not only PC games to life, but make music listening an audiophile experience and take movie watching to an exciting new level. Once you've listened, you will not want to go back.
6. Hard Drive
Dual drives, and not 7200RPM but SSD. You can put them in RAID 0 for maximum performance. With SSD drive sizes now at 512GB, you can truly get 1TB of lightning-fast, reliable storage for games, apps, movies and backups
7. Optical drive
Go Blu-ray. With a WUXGA screen to take advantage of all the hi-def 1080p content and speakers to go along with the eye candy, it will make an amazing entertainment system. Go all the way and get a BD burner for creating HD content on the go.
8. Other options
Case design and color? Everyone has their own taste. While I didn't mind the flame design and lights of the X305, professional users may opt for less ostentatious, no-nonsense styling.
Memory and OS? I'd go for a minimum of 4GB DDR3 and pair it with Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit. I've yet to encounter software that would not run on Vista 64, and with XP becoming less and less supported on notebook chipsets, Win 7 offers a future-proof, secure, optimized and modern desktop to work on. Would I try 8GB? If it meant better performance, yes.
Battery life and placement? We've seen 1 hour runtimes with standard batteries. With the option to use external polymer lithium-ion batteries of higher capacity, I can see users who would appreciate a high-performance notebook with an untethered 8-hour life.
So there you have it - my top picks for upcoming notebook technologies of 2009 and my component wishlist. As soon as I get a notebook with all these goodies loaded, you'll find it reviewed here.