More laptops combine Core i7, Windows 7

The arrival of Windows 7 has unleashed a wave of new notebooks including more Core i7 models such as Lenovo's IdeaPad Y550P.

Lenovo is the latest to add the Core i7 processor to its laptop lineup. The IdeaPad Y550P is one of several consumer laptops and desktops for Windows 7 that Lenovo announced yesterday. Intel first introduced Core i7 mobile processors, based on its Nehalem microarchitecture, in late September, but they remain high-end chips with list prices ranging from $364 to more than $1,000. The vast majority of laptops still use Core 2 Duo processors, or AMD Athlon or Turion chips. The arrival of Windows 7, however, has unleashed a wave of new notebooks including more Core i7 models.

The IdeaPad Y550P is an entertainment laptop with a 15.6-inch display and Nvidia discrete graphics. Lenovo hasn't announced the final specs but should start around $1,149 with the 1.60GHz Core i7-720QM. Lenovo announced two other new laptops, the U550, a thinner 15.6-inch mainstream model, and the 11.6-inch IdeaPad U150 ultraportable. Both use Core 2 Duo processors, and the U550 has switchable graphics (integrated and discrete). The U150 and U550 will starts at $585 and $650, respectively. Lenovo does not offer a quad-core processor on its ThinkPad business line with the exception of the 17-inch W700, a mobile workstation that offers Core 2 Quad processors, but not Core i7. Lenovo also unveiled three Windows 7 desktops--only two of which, the IdeaCentre B500 and K300, will be available in the U.S. The most interesting is the B500, an all-in-one with a 23-inch 1920x1080 display, Core 2 Duo E5400, 2GB of memory, Nvidia GeForce G210M graphics with 512M and 320GB hard drive. Final pricing hasn't been set, but Lenovo's release stated the B500 should start around $649. Last week, Lenovo announced Windows 7 updates for two laptops for small and medium-size businesses, the 14-inch ThinkPad SL410 and 15.6-inch SL510, but these are available only with Core 2 Duo processors.

HP is now offering Core i7 processors on several "Quad Edition" models including the 15.6-inch Pavilion dv6t, 17.3-inch dv7t and 18.4-inch dv8t. The lowest priced is the $999.99 dv6t with 1366x768 resolution display, 1.60GHz Core i7-720QM, 2GB of memory, Nvidia GeForce GT 230M graphics with 1GB and a 250GB hard drive. At the opposite extreme, HP's premium Envy 15 is also equipped with a 15.6-inch display but with a higher resolution (1920x1080) and ATI Radeon HD 4830 graphics. It starts at $1,799.99 with the same Core i7-720QM processor, 6GB of memory, and a 500GB hard drive. The 1.73GHz Core i7-820QM adds $400 to the price. Unlike the Pavilion dv6t, the Envy 15 does not have an internal optical drive to cut down on the weight and thickness, though you can purchase an external DVD burner or a combo drive that can also play Blu-ray discs.

Acer does not yet offer a model with a Core i7 processor. Gateway, which is a division of Acer, announced an new EC series of laptops, including a 15.6-inch model, but all of the new models use a 1.30GHz Pentium SU4100 dual-core processor, one of Intel's ULV chips designed for long battery life rather than high performance. That puts the $649.99 Gateway EC5409u more in direct competition with other thin 15.6-inch models such as Dell's Inspiron 15z and Lenovo's IdeaPad U550.

Dell has several models that now include the Core i7. The Studio 15 starts at $999.99 with a 15.6-inch display (720p), 1.60GHz Core i7-720QM, 4GB of memory, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4570 graphics with 512MB and 250GB hard drive. It competes directly with the Pavilion dv6t. The Studio XPS 16 is a higher-end model with a 1680x945 display, ATI Radeon HD 4670 graphics with 1GB and a 500GB hard drive. It starts at $1,399 with the same Core i7 chip. Dell's desktop replacement, the Studio 17, also has a Core i7 720QM starting at $1,099 (17.3-inch display, 4GB of memory, ATI Radeon HD 4650 with 1GB and a 250GB hard drive). Finally, the Alienware m15x, a gaming rig, is one of the few 15.6-inch laptops with the full menu of Core i7 processors including the 2.0GHz Core i7 920XM--the fastest mobile processor currently available.

Last week Apple announced an iMac refresh that included Core i7 and Core i5 processors on its 27-inch model, but the company does not yet offer a laptop with a Nehalem processor. There are rumors that a MacBook Pro refresh may be just around the corner, though perhaps with the upcoming Arrandale Core i3/Core i5 processors.