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Five 17" Media Center Notebooks Compared: Which Is Best?

Introduction

Together, all five of our roundup notebooks tip the scales at over 40 pounds!

Since its introduction in 2003, Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition (MCE) has continued to attract ever-increasing interest. The current version of MCE is 2005. MCE is now often purchased by consumers hungry for living or family room systems that can help them organize and enjoy their music, movies, TV programs and more. Today the cornucopia of Windows MCE PCs is stuffed to overflowing, with hundreds of makes and models available at prices ranging from under $800 to over $5,000. An increasing number of notebooks is entering this category as vendors race to claim their share of this burgeoning market. Recent market information from Nicole D'Onofrio at Current Analysis indicates that media notebook PCs accounted for more than 16 percent of all notebook sales in Q1 2006, a sharp increase from the paltry two percent the year before (Q1 2005).

Due to this explosion in popularity, we wanted to include seven systems in this roundup of high-end notebooks with 17" screens - big enough to make watching TV or videos right on the unit itself enjoyable - but wound up with only five. In addition to the units from Acer, Fujitsu, HP, Sony and Toshiba that made it through our testing and reviews for this roundup, we had hoped to obtain units from Dell and Asus. Dell elected not to participate in this roundup, preferring to wait for a new line of notebooks scheduled to make its debut in this month before turning a unit over to us for review. Asus tried to get a new unit from its latest production run to us in time for this review, but wasn't able to put one in our hands soon enough for us to cover it here. We plan to schedule reviews for both units, however, as soon as we can slipstream them into our tightly-packed schedule for notebook reviews.

Please understand that neither the list of candidates we hoped to cover in this roundup, nor the list that is actually reviewed here, by any means represents the full range of Windows Media Center notebook PCs. There are many units with smaller screens that also ship with Windows MCE 2005 installed, either as the base configuration or as a factory upgrade option. Microsoft lists seven Lenovo models in this category on its

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