The Top Five Laptops of 2008

Asus' offerings top the list.
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These days, people use laptops for everything. They run the gamut from small, very portable mini-notebooks -- now dubbed "Netbooks" -- to thin, full-featured devices, rugged road workhorses, gaming machines and giant, all-in-one, semi-portable computers.

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Of all the "portables" I've gotten a chance to see and play with, these are the contenders for my Top 5 Laptops for 2008:

1. Asus Eee PCs: There are now a slew of them, more than I can keep track of. They range in price from under $300 to more than $700 depending on screen size, processor, memory, storage capabilities and other features. These little portables are terrific machines, but don't just take my word for it. Look at all the other companies that are scrambling to get their own branded Netbooks into the marketplace (top names like Lenovo,

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and

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.) These are mostly "zero spindle" devices -- meaning there are no spinning parts inside -- no built-in hard drives or CD/DVD capabilities. Few models replace the flash memory with a much larger hard drive.

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Those Eees are thicker and heavier than most.

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Atom processor is fine for Netbooks but that's about it. These run on

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Windows XP and Asus' Linux. Expect two to five hours per battery charge depending on the exact model. For the price, the best portable computing experience on the market.

2. Lenovo ThinkPad X Series: Next step up from Netbooks, ThinkPad X's are thin, lightweight and just fabulous computing devices. Currently running in price from $1,050 to more than $2,500, the X series computes all use Intel's beefier Core 2 Duo processors and sport 12.1- to 13.3-inch screens. They can provide between 9.5 and 13.2 hours of battery life per charge, can come with a 320 GB hard drive and can weigh less than 2.5 pounds. Some feature a carbon and glass fiber top cover and optional GPS. To me, these provide the best combination of computing power vs. overall size and weight of any Microsoft Windows based notebook.

3. Apple MacBook: Still one of my all-time computing favorites. All of my friends and family use and love their MacBook. They do everything on them from running their businesses, handling photos and videos, composing music and researching/writing award-winning novels and historic biographies. Apple laptops are terrific portable computers, and the MacBook is the best combination of price and computing power. Currently there are two models -- the 13-inch MacBook (from $1,299) and the 15-inch model (starting at $1,999). Both sport beautiful backlit screens, unibody aluminum enclosures and a glass, Multi-Touch track pad. Although slightly heavier in weight than similar PC-based designs, the MacBook is still the class act for anyone who prefers a Mac.

4. Alienware Area 51: Say Alienware to computer gamers and their eyes glaze and fingers twitch. Miami-based Alienware makes the ultimate computers for gaming freaks -- desktops and laptops, especially the m17x model. Just check out some of the specs: 2.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 8GB of 667MHz DDR2 memory, as much as 1.5TB or storage with some that Alienware calls a Smart Bay, high-definition audio and video circuitry and an illuminated keyboard. This is one hot machine. Actually, the entire Alienware line is hot. Prices for the m17x start at $1,999. The new m17 model (starting at $1,399), which sports Intel's new Core 2 Extreme Quad processor, looks pretty amazing, too.

5. HP Entertainment Machines: You usually need a big lap for these laptops. These are the heavy earth movers of portables. Actually, they're not always very portable. There are four models in HP's line of "entertainment" machines -- two in their Pavillion line and two in their HDX line. Screen sizes run from 16 to 18.4 inches diagonally, and these babies weigh in at 7.37 to 8.94 pounds. They come with either an

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Turion X2, Intel Core 2 Duo or the more powerful Core 2 Quad processors. Hard-drive space tops out at 500GB or dual 320GB (640GB total), depending on the model. All models run Windows Vista. Blu-Ray drives and TV tuners are optional. These are the ultimate in entertainment machines for people on the go and in my tests they do a good job of handling it all. Best part is the prices: these machines start at $779. Be aware that prices can go a lot higher depending on which optional features you choose.

These are only a few of the many choices out there. Honorable mentions go to HP's Mini 1000 XP, Lenovo's IdeaPad S10 and Dell's Inspiron Mini 9 (especially those running Ubuntu's fabulous Linux OS) netbooks.

Gary Krakow is TheStreet.com's senior technology correspondent.