Computer and Notebook Gift Ideas [2010 Cool Yule Tools]

PCs, desktops, all-in-ones, notebooks and even netbooks shape the holiday season

Computers continue be one of those product categories that make you say, “Yeah, what’s new?” Makers of notebooks and netbooks are facing continued pressure from the likes of the iPad, as people continue to consider what they need or want from their computing environment. Do they want portability? Do they want a powerhouse? Do they want something that can connect to TV, or just something with all of the latest and greatest?

We got a variety of desktops, notebooks, netbooks and other such gear for this year’s gift guide. Here are our picks for what we liked in the computer/notebook space.

Products reviewed in this category:

  • ViewSonic PC Mini VOT 125 (or VDT 125)
  • ViewSonic all-in-one PC VPC220
  • Lenovo A700 ideaCentre all-in-one PC
  • HP TouchSmart 310 PC (all-in-one)
  • Artigo A1100 (by VIA) Pico-ITX Kit
  • Toshiba Portege R705-P25 notebook
  • Lenovo ideapad Y560d (3d notebook)
  • Lenovo ideapad S10-3t (notebook/tablet)
  • HP Envy 14 notebook
  • HP Pavilion DM3 notebook
  • HP ProBook 4520s notebook
  • HP EliteBook 8440w
  • Panasonic Toughbook C1 rugged notebook
  • MSI P600 notebook
  • Dell Inspiron netbook
  • HP Mini 210-2000 netbook

TouchSmart 310 All-In-One PC, by HPHP TouchSmart 310PCIf there’s anything HP failed to pack into this all-in-one PC, I can’t think of it. For $699, you get an all-in-one with wireless keyboard and mouse, an amazing 20-inch display, powerful AMD Athlon chip, 500GB hard drive, 4GB of RAM, a camera, CD/DVD burner, and some pretty nice speakers. Oh, and did I mention the TV tuner. And the touch screen features. And the ability to plays games that you download from http://hp.wildgames.com. The all-in-one is stylish and sturdy. Moving the screen angle doesn’t make you fear tipping the whole thing over. All of the USB and other inputs are on the sides or the back, so the front of the PC has a simple, sleek look to it. The wireless mouse and keyboard help eliminate that clutter of wires that you typically end up with around a desktop device.

This computer has gaming as one of its primary missions. You can go to the HP Website and download kid-oriented games like Bob the Builder, Dora’s World Adventure and Collapse Crunch. The two-finger touch screen works well, allowing you to drop and drop, scroll, surf, navigate, etc.

In a test scenario, you don’t really have your personal photos, videos, documents, songs, etc., on the test PC. But one can certainly appreciate the potential of being able to use the touch screen to organize and share all types of media. All in all, this is an all-in-one that delivers pretty much everything you could ask for in a device that costs under $700.

Cool Yule rating: 4.5 stars 

Price: $699

Company Web site

Reviewed by Neal Weinberg

ideaCentre A7 Series (A700) all-in-one desktop, by LenovoLenovo ideaCentre A700 seriesIt’s hard to figure out the best location for the ideacentre A700 – you could use it for work to save space, since the monitor and CPU are located in the same unit, but there’s a bunch of “fun” features that make it work well within the home as well.

The Windows 7 computer is monster-sized – it has a 23-inch full HD widescreen monitor that also is a touch-screen. The system can support the Intel Core i7-820QM processor, and has up to 8GB of RAM and up to 2TB of storage capacity. The A700 has a slot-loaded DVD player (you can also upgrade to Blu-ray), and an optional TV tuner lets you connect your coax line for viewing TV programming. Another fun feature is a Wii-like remote control and motion-control games, although it seems like this was an afterthought.  The remote can also be used as an “air mouse” for controlling options on the screen, and the unit can be wall-mounted (which would likely mean that you’d be using the air mouse). The system also has an integrated Webcam and microphone, allowing you to “video conference” with co-workers, or “video chat” with friends.

My biggest complaint about the system is the use of a Bluetooth keyboard, mouse and remote control – During my tests, I got very poor response from the system with Bluetooth, to the point where the system was skipping in and out of being able to provide a mouse cursor or the ability to type. The remote control was even worse – the included games with the remote showed barely any response. If you plan on using this as your main system, get a non-Bluetooth wireless keyboard and mouse, or just connect to the system with wires – it’s not as pretty, but you’ll be happier with the connectivity.

Some additional software from Lenovo is interesting – the Dynamic Brightness System helps protect your eyes by automatically adjusting the screen brightness based on ambient light conditions, and the Eye Distance System can alert you if you get too close to the screen.

Cool Yule rating: 4 stars (5 stars if you don’t use the Bluetooth keyboard/mouse)

Price: Starts at $1,000 

Company Web site

Reviewed by Keith Shaw

ARTiGO A1100 DIY PC Kit, by VIAArtigo A1100 do-it-yourself kitI’m a huge fan of VIA’s embedded processors, and I’ve used them in several projects recently. The Artigo 1100 is based on a 1.2 GHz VIA Nano processor (the case at the heart of a Pico-ITX main board, which measures only 70 x 100 mm), which means this is one tiny PC. Our review unit came with Windows XP installed (ugh); we’ve run Ubuntu on these, and any necessary drivers are available for Windows (including Windows 7) and Linux. There’s lots of I/O – five USB 2.0 jacks (including one mini device port), three audio jacks with eight-channel sound, gigabit Ethernet, VGA, and – get this – HDMI, making the Artigo 1100 a reasonable candidate for a home theater PC. Up to 2GB of RAM is supported, and there’s room for one SATA 2.5-inch drive. An SD card slot and 802.11g wireless are optionalPackaging is tight, but anyone experienced in PC assembly and repair should be able to handle configuring this unit.

Responsiveness is surprisingly good, with XP running without any noticeable lag. The compact size of the unit (146 x 52 x 99 mm / 5.7 x 2 x 3.9 inches) allows it to fit almost anywhere, and it’s one of the smallest nettops on the market. One drawback, though – it’s pretty noisy, with a fan you can hear across the room. And there’s no optical drive, so you might need a USB version of one of these to load software or play media. But, hey, most content comes off the Internet these days, so optical drives may be going the way of the floppy disk anyway.

You will need to add your own RAM, hard drive, keyboard, mouse, monitor and operating system, so this gift idea is only for true techies who enjoy a little light tinkering. I’m pretty sure, though, that they’ll be happy with the performance, and especially the form factor. But this unit may not be a good value for someone looking for a primary PC (we have a bunch of those in this guide) or the less technically inclined. Still, everyone will be impressed with the amount of performance and flexibility available in tiny PCs today.

Cool Yule rating: 4 stars (lost one star for a very noisy fan)

Price: Around $300 (street), depending upon configuration

Company Web site 

Reviewed by C. J. Mathias

IdeaPad S10-3t, by LenovoLenovo ideapad s10-3tInstead of taking my corporate Dell Inspiron on a recent business trip, I grabbed the Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3t and I was already ahead of the game. The IdeaPad netbook/tablet was lighter, smaller, easier to carry, and easier to use in the cramped confines of the plane.

The 10.1-inch LED screen is big enough to do just about anything you’d want in terms of Web surfing, email and Word documents. I wouldn’t recommend it for complex Excel spreadsheets, and it’s not really built for gamers, but it handles the basics pretty well.

The IdeaPad has a sturdy, well-built and well-designed feel to it. The screen swivels 180 degrees and then folds flat onto the keyboard. In tablet mode, there are two ways to input data: you can use a touch-screen keyboard or you can use your finger to write in a special field on the top of the screen. The handwriting recognition software works pretty well for entering a URL or a short note. I wouldn’t use it for writing a news story or taking notes during a John Chambers’ keynote.

Overall, I used the IdeaPad on the plane, in the hotel room and in conference rooms for everything from Web surfing, to check emails to Tweeting during presentations. And I didn’t miss my Dell one bit.

The IdeaPad has a bunch of interesting features, including face recognition (there’s a 1.3 megapixel camera on board), touch-screen features (so you can double-click on a link, for example, with your finger) and the ability to switch from netbook to tablet modes.

On the downside, there’s no CD/DVD drive. The keypad doesn’t have the greatest responsiveness. And the performance from Intel Atom 1.8 GHz chip struck me as pretty sluggish. Microsoft has a performance metric that runs between 1 and 7.9 and it gives the IdeaPad a 2.6, which means it’s not optimized for games, for HDTV, or for running multiple apps on more than one monitor.

But with 2GB of RAM and a 180GB hard drive, you can certainly run basic apps and store plenty of videos, pictures, etc. Lenovo markets the IdeaPad with the slogan, “What’s Your Idea of Fun,” so it’s clearly not meant to be a corporate desktop replacement. But if you’re looking for a Cool Yule gift, the IdeaPad has a lot to offer.

Cool Yule rating: 4 stars

Price: $499

Company Web site

Reviewed by Neal Weinberg

Pavilion dm3 notebook, by HPHP Pavilion dm3 notebookThe first thing you notice about this device is the rubberized coating on the nicely shaped shell.  It has a good tactile feel to it; it feels good in your hands and there are no sharp edges.  The next thing is the size and build quality.  It’s fairly standard at 13-inches wide and 9-inches deep, but it is nice and thin – 1 inch at the hinge side and tapering down to about 5/8 of an inch at the front lip of the keyboard.  And, while it only weighs 3.99 pounds, it feels solid and well built.  

With so much being common about laptops these days, it is this little stuff that can mean the difference between a run-of-the-mill device and a machine you actually enjoy owning and using.

The review unit came with an Intel Core i3 CPU (you can get it with a less expensive Pentium U5400), 3GB of RAM and 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium.  There is no optical drive, but there is a port for an eSATA external drive.  There is also an HDMI port, two UBS ports, an SD slot, a gigabit Ethernet jack, a VGA port, microphone and headset ports, and a built-in Web cam above the screen.  802.11n wireless is also built in, while Bluetooth and broadband wireless support are optional.

When you start the dm3 up, in less than 10 seconds it launches Splashtop, a way to access email, the Web, music, photos, even Skype directly without loading Windows 7.  This is particularly handy when you’re on the go and don’t want to wait for the whole operating system to start up.  

While we didn’t get a chance to test it, HP says the standard 6-cell battery on this efficient unit will drive the dm3 for up to 7.5 hours.

Cool Yule rating:  5 stars

Price:  Starts at $550

Company Web site 

Reviewed by John Dix

Mini 210-2000, by HPHP Mini 210 netbookThis is a slick little netbook in a substantial case that feels like it would stand up to the rigors of life on the go.  With netbooks it is all about the size and weight.  This one is 10.5 inches wide, 7.5 inches deep and 1.25 inches at the hinge side and only 0.75 inches at the front of the keyboard, creating a nice slanted feel for the chicklet keyboard that is 93% the size of a full keyboard.  That keyboard is more than adequate for my large hands.  The downside? At 3.1 pounds it is heavier than some netbooks.  We’ve reviewed some that weigh around 2.5 pounds, and while that difference doesn’t sound like a lot, every ounce counts when you’re packing for travel.

That said, the Mini 210 is notable for the solid build quality, a hallmark of HP gear.  This thing doesn’t feel like a toy like some of the netbooks you see in big box stores.  The guts, however, are fairly similar:  Intel Atom CPU N455 1.66 GHz, 160GB hard drive, three USB ports, an Ethernet port, VGA output, and integrated 802.11n (Bluetooth optional).  It also includes an SD slot card slot.

Like many other mobile HP computing devices, the Mini 210 comes with HP QuickSync, a tool that synchronizes the contents on the netbook with your desktop over a wired or wireless link, and QuickWeb, which launches an HP browser without starting the operating system.  That lets you surf the Web in seconds instead of waiting for Windows 7 to boot.  Regarding the latter, the 210 comes with 32-bit Windows 7 Starter.  

CoolYule rating:  4 stars 

Price: Starting at $330

Company Web site

Reviewed by  John Dix

Toughbook CF-C1 by PanasonicPanasonic ToughBook CF-C1 notebookThis Toughbook is a notebook/laptop that supports WiMAX if you’ve got a card for it, and Panasonic itself brags about its lightness. “The 3.2 lb. Panasonic Toughbook C1. It features an array of industry-leading advancements, such as being the first rugged convertible to offer hot-swappable twin batteries for continuous use. The C1 comes equipped with the Intl Core i5 vPro Processor.”

The device supports Windows 7 and Microsoft Office applications admirably, and when used strictly as a laptop it’s comfortable. A minor nitpick: it’s got a short spacebar, so hitting the Alt key instead of the right end of the spacebar can be a problem.

Perhaps because it’s so light, it doesn’t seem all that rugged, but it did survive an accidental spill off a 48-inch tall bookshelf onto a carpeted concrete floor, so that says something.

The screen opens up like a laptop, and if you unlock it, it can rotate 180 degrees, then fold back down on the body of the computer so the touch-screen becomes the flat top of the device,  where you can write or type with a stylus. Even though it says it’s tough, it seems you could easily snap that joint if you’re not careful, and in fact they tell you to be careful.

It also has a great little plastic strap on the underside to slip your hand into as you hold the tablet as you might a pad of paper to take notes – long side running top to bottom, short side running side to side. When you rotate the display in order to write holding the notebook in this position, it pops up this disconcerting display: “To assure compliance with RF exposure requirements WWAN cannot be used in this direction.” It’s good that it’s offering protection, but it means having to shut down your WWAN connection if you want to use the notebook in this fashion, which is a pain.

Writing an e-mail with the stylus was challenging. The pen signals the computer, so a dot appears where your writing will appear when the point touches down, which is helpful because you tend to approach the place you want to write from above it. Without the dot, you tend to write above the line.

When you use the pen as a mouse to control the arrow cursor, the pen itself obscures the arrow icon as you approach the button you want to press, making it difficult to land the cursor on the button. As a result, using the pen to tap the onscreen keyboard is frustrating.  Maybe it just takes time to get used to it, but expect a learning curve.

The Toughbook works fine as a laptop, but its tablet features could use some refinements to improve usability.

Cool Yule rating: 2 stars

Price: $2,557 on Amazon.com

Product Web site

Reviewed by Tim Greene

P600-19US by MSI ComputerMSI P600-19US notebookThis 16-inch business laptop has a sleek, slim design and a bright 15.6-inch HD LED screen that makes watching DVDs via its optical drive enjoyable.

The 1.3 megapixel Webcam make for high quality video chats over Skype, for example, as does its built-in microphone mounted next to the camera along the top border of the display. (Remember, Skype supports HD sound.) The stereo sound worked well for the video calls and even better for DVDs played on the optical drive.

The machine is powered by an Intel Core i5-450M 2.66GHz 1066 MHz 3MB Processor, with 4GB DDR3 RAM, and a 500GB hard drive. This model, where the P stands for professional, has an eight-cell battery that the company claims lasts eight hours, enough for a round-trip cross-country flight or all day working away from a power supply. (MSI sells a similar model with just a four-cell battery for about $35 less.)

Part of the long battery life is its energy-saving mode called ECO Engine, which hibernates the computer after a period of inactivity and adjusts down the brightness of the screen. A cool feature is the MSI face-recognition software that comes with it and uses an image of the user to login. So if the thing falls asleep due to inactivity, you just hit a key, stick your face in front of the camera and you’re back in business within a second.

It’s not the lightest (5.3 lbs.) laptop and it’s not the thinnest (1.4 in.), but it is sleek, with black, flat-top keys with white lettering and a glossy, clear-plastic finish on a lid covered with a gray-on-black pattern. For the price it’s a possible alternative to other better known laptops for business use.

Cool Yule rating: 4 stars

Price: $736.65 on Amazon.com

Company Web site

Reviewed by Tim Greene

PC Mini VOT125, by ViewSonicViewSonic VOT125 PC MiniI have external hard drives that are larger than this desktop computer. Taking a cue from the people at Apple, ViewSonic has created a very tiny PC, which can be mounted onto the back of a much larger monitor to create an all-in-one system, or you can place it on top of your desk, and have a desktop on your desktop.

This version features an Intel Ultra Low Voltage processor, which makes it more green than other systems. It also includes 90% less plastic and consumers 90% less energy compared to a normal tower PC, ViewSonic says.

On the specs side, it features 2GB of RAM, a 250GB hard drive, four USB 2.0 ports (three in front, one in back), microphone/headphone jacks, memory card reader (MMS, MemoryStick and SD), and DVI and HDMI inputs. The DVI input was greatly appreciated, as it allowed me to try this with a larger, DVI-only monitor, rather than a bulkier, VGA-only monitor. There’s also an Ethernet port in the back, or you can connect this to your wireless network (supports b/g/n) if you desire. It ran Windows 7 just fine, save for one glitch – the system didn’t translate the highest resolution on my display (a HANNspree monitor) correctly, so I needed to drop down to the next highest resolution. I'm not sure whether it was an issue with the monitor or the PC Mini, but since that resolution works on my normal Dell notebook, I’m chalking it up to the ViewSonic unit.

The price is really good for a desktop system that you’re going to use as a second or third computer system. The green aspects might appeal to those looking to save some energy costs. Beyond just basic computing duties, though, having only 2GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive might be limiting, especially for users who are looking to do multimedia work (or listen/watch), or high-powered gaming.

Cool Yule rating: 4 starsAmazon.com

Price: $538 on

Company Web site 

Reviewed by Keith Shaw

ProBook 4520s notebook, by HPHP ProBook 4520s notebookThis business-aimed notebook is stylish and sleek, and reminds me of a MacBook Pro in terms of its form, especially with the chiclet-style keys. The ProBook 4520s features a 15.6-inch HD display with an integrated Webcam, and has a spill-resistant keyboard and numeric keypad.

Tech features include an Intel Core i3-370M processor (i5-460M also available on higher-end models), 2GB of SDRAM, a 320GB hard drive, DVD optical drive, 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth and a 6-cell battery with up to 5 hours of life. Other features include multimedia controls integrated with the keyboard (volume, next song, etc.), ArcSoft TotalMedia Suite software that lets you play, edit and create video/audio files, and the ability to check e-mail, calendars and browse the Web without having to boot up (via QuickLook 3 and HP QuickWeb software).

For security-conscious companies and users, the system comes with HP ProtectTools software, an optional fingerprint sensor, and face recognition for logging into Web sites and Windows. The system also includes a hard drive drop sensor (HP 3D DriveGuard).

Overall this is a nice business notebook, with enough style to maintain a professional atmosphere with a little bit of fun.

Cool Yule rating: 4 stars

Price: Starts at $559

Company Web site

Reviewed by Keith Shaw

VPC220 all-in-one PC, by ViewSonicViewSonic VPC220 all-in-one PCViewSonic continues to impress me with its all-in-one systems, which combine the monitor with the PC, and include (almost) all of the latest features. We tested the VPC220 and there’s a lot of features that I liked that were not present on some other all-in-ones that came in for the holiday guide.

The unit sports a 21.5-inch HD (1,920 by 1,080) LCD widescreen on top of a very nice adjustable base (best part? I didn’t have to assemble it, it comes pre-built in the box). The system runs on an Intel Pentium 3.06GHz processor (I’m a bit disappointed that it doesn’t sport an Intel Core i3, i5 or i7), 4GB of SDRAM (upgradeable to 8GB – nice!), and a 320GB hard drive (5400 rpm, unfortunately). The system also includes a 1.3-megapixel Webcam with two 3-watt speakers for good videoconferencing ability.

The back of the unit includes a VGA output port, an HDMI input (so you can connect a Roku box or AppleTV to the system), Ethernet port (although 802.11b/g/n is also supported), and four USB 2.0 ports. Two additional USB ports are on the side of the VPC220, as well as a media card reader and the microphone/headphone jacks. On the other side is a DVD optical drive.

The extra USB ports are nice to have, because the system comes with a USB keyboard and mouse. For people looking to reduce the cords around the system, they might not like this, but whoo-howdy I loved it (especially after such a nasty experience with Lenovo’s Bluetooth keyboard and mouse). The inclusion of the wired keyboard and mouse leave me to believe this is aimed more as a desktop system rather than something that you’d end up hanging on a wall. ViewSonic also sells another model of this system with a TV Tuner, so check out that if you want to watch TV on this thing.

Other than the processor and the hard drive, I really liked the features on this system, and can recommend it for people looking for a nice all-in-one unit.

Cool Yule rating: 4.5 stars 

Price: $933 on Amazon.com

Company Web site

Reviewed by Keith Shaw

EliteBook 8440w Mobile Workstation, by HPHP EliteBook 8440w notebookHP has this very nice feature where they try to explain who would use that particular model. For the EliteBook 8440w Mobile Workstation, this is geared to “photographers, power-users, developers and designers who need entry-level workstation graphics plus ISV certifications with high mobility.”

While I don’t need the ISV certifications, it’s certainly nice to have a system that’s not extremely large like some of the other mobile workstations I’ve seen, but yet powerful enough to do things like photo editing and perhaps even video editing.

The system sports Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, 4GB of RAM (upgradeable to 16GB!), 320GB hard drive (7200 rpm) that’s upgradeable to 500GB, a 14-inch display, NVIDIA Quadro FX 380M graphics card with 512MB of dedicated video memory, and Intel 802.11b/g/n wireless. The system includes a 6-cell battery that offers up to 4.25 of battery life.

Its gunmetal finish will remind you a bit of the MacBook Pro, as well as the chiclet-style keyboard. The system is slightly ruggedized, meeting the MIL-STD810G standard for vibration, dust, humidity, altitude and high temperature. Software includes HP’s QuickLook 3 and QuickWeb, which lets you check e-mail, contacts and surf the Web without booting up, and Power Assistant, which lets you stretch battery life and other power-saving options.

This may not be a gift that you’d buy for your kids or spouse, but if your company is in a giving mood this holiday, you might want to hit them up for this system – it’s light enough to travel with, but packs enough power to make you happy with some of those workstation-required apps.

Cool Yule rating: 4.5 stars

Price: Starts at $1,399

Company Web site

Reviewed by Keith Shaw

Portege R705-P25 notebook, by ToshibaToshiba Portege R705-P25 notebookI always laugh when a notebook company says the latest model is thin and light, but then they sacrifice something in order to get that thinness and lightness. As far as I can tell, there’s not much sacrificed on the Toshiba Portege R700 series. This 3.2-lb. notebook (more if you add a bigger battery) is small but not too small – the black chiclet keyboard is very nice to type on, and it has a great professional look and feel.

Tech features include an Intel Core i3 processor (base model, the P25, but models go up to the Core i7), 4GB of DDR3 RAM, a 500GB hard drive, 13.3-inch widescreen (LED backlit, 720p support), memory card slot, 2 USB ports, one combo USB/eSATA port, HDMI output, integrated Webcam, Intel Wireless 802.11a/g/n, and Gigabit Ethernet. The 6-cell battery offers up to 8 hours of battery life. The best part? A DVD optical drive, which you never see on a lightweight notebook.

Mobile users will love this notebook, as it gives them more than enough power to get things done quickly, and when they’re traveling they’ll be able to enjoy watching their DVDs on the plane ride. Highly recommended.

Cool Yule rating: 5 stars

Price: Starts at $890

Company Web site

Reviewed by Keith Shaw

ENVY 14 notebook, by HPHP Envy 14 notebookThe biggest unique difference about the Envy 14 is the inclusion of Beats audio, which is supposed to turn the notebook into a “music notebook.” Unfortunately, HP didn’t send me their special Envy 14 Beats edition, which includes a special logo, red backlit keyboard and Beats Solo headphones. Rather, they sent me a regular ENVY 14, which still includes Beats software, but that’s it.

Opening up the Beats audio software on the control panel gives you an audio control panel that lets you adjust things like speaker playback (either the internal speakers, headphones or external speakers), recording and equalization settings. I know as much about changing audio levels and equalizing as I do about earphone decibel levels and frequency ranges; basically not much. HP says that its Beats Audio lets users “hear music the way the artist intended you to.” OK, I guess.

Apart from that, the ENVY 14 is a nice lightweight notebook (starting at 5.25 pounds). The system includes an Intel Core i3-370 processor, a precision-etched metal alloy case (that was cool), 4GB of DDR3 RAM (upgradeable to 8GB), a 500GB (7200rpm) hard drive with drop protection software, and an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 graphics card with 1GB of dedicated video memory. A slot-loading DVD drive was also a very nice feature.

The system also includes Corel PaintShop Pro and VideoStudio for photo and video editing (a nice touch!), TrueVision HD Webcam, and MEdiaSmart software, which lets you watch movies, listen to music and even edit videos.

Overall it’s a pretty nice system, and if your gift recipient knows more about music settings than I do, then perhaps the Beats Audio software and adjustments will do more for them than me.

Cool Yule rating: 4 stars 

Price: Starts at $1,000

Company Web site

Reviewed by Keith Shaw

Ideapad Y560d notebook, by LenovoLenovo ideaPad Y560d 3D notebook3D is all the rage with TVs this year, so why not on the notebook as well? That’s the idea behind this version of the Lenovo ideaPad notebook, the Y560d. The system comes with a pair of 3D glasses that let you watch 3D movies or play 3D games.

The system comes with the TriDef Media player, which can transform a movie into a 3D experience, and the TriDef Photo Transformer, which does the same with photos. When putting in a non-3D movie, the system adds depth to the movie, rather than 3D where it jumps out in front of you. But still, it's a cool thing to see a formerly 2D movie become more three-dimensional. The system also includes JBL speakers and Dolby Home Theater for great audio when watching movies.

Tech features include an Intel Core i7-7250QM processor, Windows 7 64-bit version (Home Premium), 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM, an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5730 graphics card with 1GB of memory, a 500GB hard drive (7200 rpm), DVD optical drive, 6-cell battery, and 15.6-inch HD LED widescreen display.

Even if you’re not into the 3D craze just yet, those tech features make for a powerful gaming and entertainment notebook – even the cover of the notebook is wicked cool.

Cool Yule rating: 5 stars

Price: Starts at $1,400

Company Web site 

Reviewed by Keith Shaw

Inspiron Mini 10 Netbook, by DellDell Inspiron Mini 10 netbookAfter all of the really cool notebooks I tried out this year for the holiday gift guide, it was hard to get psyched up to try a netbook. After all, they are small, have limited power compared to larger notebooks, and always seem to sacrifice things like optical drives, extra ports – basically, everything I love in my computers. They’re also geared towards the type of consumer that I’m not – one who wants a basic, simple computer for doing things like browsing and limited multimedia.

That said, the Inspiron Mini 10 Netbook did try to make me happy with some of its features. Its battery, for example, can last up to 7 hours, 18 minutes (according to Dell), and its 3-lb. weight was very easy to travel with. You can add things like 802.11n wireless and a 250GB hard drive if you want (for extra cost, the standard drive is a 160GB, 5400 rpm drive). Other than that, you get really basic features – an Intel Atom N455 processor, Windows 7 Starter Edition, a 10.1-inch widescreen display with a 0.3megapixel webcam, and up to 1GB of SDRAM. This made for a very slow Web experience, it took a lot longer than I liked loading up Web pages.

Of course, you may love the starting price of $299, so if you are the type of consumer who loves doing basic things and wants a really tiny notebook (ahem, netbook) to do it with, then perhaps this is the netbook you’ve been looking for.

Cool Yule rating: 3.5 stars

Price: Starts at $299

Company Web site

Reviewed by Keith Shaw

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