It might not be terribly cheap, but Dell's Inspiron 1420 offers plenty of portable power and options without sacrificing fun.
Our test unit's configuration was expensive for an all-purpose notebook at $US1,748 (as of 9/12/07), but it included a long-life battery, a 160GB hard drive, and integrated mobile broadband. Our configuration lacked the optional $50 Webcam, as well as the optional $550 Blu-ray Disc drive; the drive might have been a good complement to our machine's high-definition, WXGA+, glossy screen, which was bright and easy to read. If you don't like the glossy screen's reflectiveness, you can have the screen with a non-glossy, antiglare coating for the same price.
The 6-pound 1420 is a little heavy for a notebook with only a 14.1-inch screen, but it's very well crafted. The comfortable keyboard features mouse buttons with tactile finger ridges, and the battery has an external power gauge. Your choice from among seven optional lid colors ($50) dresses up the 1420's standard black case. Our test unit came in a blindingly bright Alpine White. Other hues include Ruby Red, Flamingo Pink, and Spring Green.
Better at multimedia than most notebooks its size, the 1420 offers rich, medium-volume sound. The laptop also sports Dell's standard Media Direct button, which works better than other instant-on buttons. With this button, you get direct access not only to movie, music, and photo players but also to office-application viewers, a feature that lets you check, say, an Outlook phone number or a PowerPoint slide without having to start Windows. Dell sells some reasonably priced multimedia add-ons, too, ranging from a $15 IR travel remote to a $125 TV tuner and remote package for taking full advantage of the entertainment applications in Windows Vista Home Premium (our test model's operating system).
Performance was excellent. Our test unit's nine-cell battery lasted nearly 5 hours. Equipped with a 2.2-GHz Core Duo T7500 processor and 2GB of RAM, the 1420 rose to the top of its class with a WorldBench 6 Beta 2 score of 83. That score put it in a tie for first place, among currently tested all-purpose notebooks, with a similarly equipped Gateway E-475M. (Two other similarly equipped laptops earned a WorldBench 6 Beta 2 mark of 80.) Our test unit was a decent 3D game player, with an average frames-per-second rate of 42 (30 fps is considered minimally acceptable, and some notebooks manage 100 fps).
Overall this notebook has much to like. It's fast, capable, and as colorful as you care to make it. Viva la choice!