Apr 062012

What is a multimedia laptop? It is any laptop that can play or show multiple forms of media, especially video, music, and photos.

You may be thinking that nearly all current laptops fall into that category and you would be right, however, there are some features you may want to consider to pick a really great multimedia laptop to suit your needs.

Does your video camera or digital camera use USB 2.0/3.0, Firewire(IEEE 1394), or Thunderbolt? Make sure the laptop can accommodate the equipment you plan to use to create video or photo albums.

Wide Screen(WXGA, WSXGA, WUXGA) or HD screens with 16:9 or 16:10 screen ratio is more suited to watching movies as most DVD movies use this format. The extra screen real estate is also great for editing large photos or photo albums.

How bright is the screen? Many manufacturers offer screens with superior brightness, high contrast, and wider viewing angles to provide sharp and vivid images. Examples are:

  • Acer – Crystalbrite
  • Sony – Xbrite
  • Toshiba – Trubright
  • Fujitsu – Crystal View
  • Dell – Truelife
  • HP – Brightview

Do you plan to do some video and sound editing or encoding? You will want the fastest laptop processor you can get, especially one that has multiple cores and hyperthreading. Many multimedia applications get a nice speed boost with both of these features.

Video editing can also take up HUGE amounts of disk space so you will need the biggest hard disk you can find, try to get 7200 RPM because you will notice the difference from 5400 RPM when moving large video files around. You can also purchase a very large external USB 2.0/3.0, or Firewire hard drive, or external hard drive enclosures which support any size regular drives up to 10,000 RPM and 3 terabytes or more.

When you make a great home movie of a relative’s wedding or birthday party and would like to give out copies to family members you can’t email if the video is several gigabytes. Your best option is to make sure your laptop comes with a DVD writer, not to be mistaken with DVD/CDRW combo drives that write to CD/CDRW but only read DVD.

Other extras for consideration to round out a multimedia laptop would be slots for memory cards from your digital camera and digital video camera and a TV tuner.

Some laptops include controls on the front or side so you can listen to music files and audio CD’s and/or view media such as VCD, SVCD, or DVD’s without having to boot into windows. (known as QuickPlay by HP or QosmioPlayer by Toshiba)

Media Center Laptops

There are laptops built specifically to act as a multimedia entertainment center. Using Windows 7 Media Center, Windows Vista Media Center, or Windows XP Media Center Edition (Windows XP MCE) they can play or display video, DVD, TV, pictures, and music through an easy to use interface. They can also be used like any other PC for running games and applications, otherwise it wouldn’t really be a useful laptop.

Some features of Media Center PC’s with Windows XP MCE include:

DVR (digital video recorder), similar to a PVR, which lets you pause or record TV channels.
Internet Radio
Downloads DVD or CD cover art and information online
TV programming guide
Remote Control (optional)