Feb 8 2013 - Desktop replacements are the most powerful of the mobile laptops. These system pack in the features and functions that make them competitive with full sized computers. There are even a lot of specialized multimedia and gaming models. Based on my research and experience, here are the top desktop replacement laptops that use 17-inch and larger screens for a variety of different budgets, features and uses.
Price around $650, the Lenovo G780 might be a bit more expensive than some budget laptops but the little extra money buys a surprising boost to the graphics. Most budget laptops rely on the integrated graphics but this one comes with an NVIDIA GT 635M graphics processor that lets it do some casual PC gaming and accelerating more programs. The system features a typical Core i5-3210M dual core processor and 4GB of DDR3 memory which should be enough for the average user. The downside is that it only comes with a 500GB hard drive and no USB 3.0 ports for high speed external drives. If this is a bit too much for your budget, the HP Pavilion g7 is available for under $500 and comes with an AMD A6-4400M processor for less general performance but it does feature a decent integrated graphics system.
At $900, Acer's Aspire V3-771G offers a very strong selection of features. With a Core i7-3632QM quad core processor and 6GB of DDR3 memory, it can power through even demanding tasks. The big surprise though is that it also features an NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M dedicated graphics processor. This means that it is possible to game on its 17.3-inch display with 1600x900 graphics. Of course the construction is mostly plastic in order to keep prices down and they use very glossy plastics which causes frequent fingerprints and smudges. In addition, it has a very small battery for shorter running time. For those that might want something something with a bit more running time, the Toshiba Satellite S875 is priced roughly the same with a similar level of features but with a Blu-ray compatible drive.
There are a number of systems out there based on the same chassis from MSI but the one direct from the company offers a bit more than the competition. Performance is very strong thanks to the Intel Core i7-3630QM quad core processor, 12GB of DDR3 memory and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675M graphics. Gaming is a joy thanks to the 1920x1080 resolution anti-glare display even if it has some narrow viewing angles. MSI even includes a Blu-ray drive that many others don't making it suitable for a portable high definition media platform as well. One big downside though is that when under heavy loads the cooling fans can get quite loud. Priced around $1500 to $1600. An alternative with a better build quality and customization that sacrifices a bit of performance is the Alienware M17x R4 which starts around the same price as the MSI.
Since Apple has discontinued their MacBook Pro 17, there is now only one real option for those looking to get an extremely thin and portable 17-inch laptop with the New Razer Blade. It measures just .9-inch thick with a very limited 6.4 pound weight. It mimics much of the basic design of the Apple but with black anodized aluminum and a very unique LCD backlit trackpad and ten customizable buttons. It has been updated to use a newer Intel Core i7-3632QM quad core processor and NVIDIA GT 660M graphics. One change is a shift away from a dedicated SSD drive to a 500GB hard drive that is cached by a 64GB SSD drive. Prices have dropped down to $2600 but that is still extremely high. If you are looking for something a bit more affordable, the Toshiba Satellite S875 weighs in a just under six pounds but with a thicker 1.3-inch profile but it does have dedicated graphics and a Blu-ray drive for under $1000.
With their large size and power hungry components, 17-inch laptops are generally not well known for long running times. The Dell Inspiron 17R is fairly unique in this class because it forgoes some of the performance by using a low power consuming i5-3317U dual core processor with a larger 65WHr battery pack to achieve almost five hours of digital video playback. Now for those not looking to do computer gaming or desktop video, this setup should provide sufficient performance. The one downside is that it does lack any dedicated graphics processor. Pricing is quite reasonable range from $700 to $800. Those wanting a bit more running time and performance can always go with the Alienware M17x R4 which even with its high performance uses a 90WHr battery to last over five hours for digital video but it is nearly twice as much at $1500.