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Laptops continue their steady progress towards dominating the PC market, but in many ways haven't changed too much from their counterparts a year ago. The most influential and exciting launch in 2010 was probably that of the Intel Mobile Core i3 and i5. These brought the newer architecture to a budget price point, where before the high-end Core i7 - initially only found in expensive gaming-oriented laptops such as the Toshiba Qosmio X500-10T - reigned alone.
Unfortunately, AMD is still not a strong player in performance mobile CPUs, though its Athlon II Neo CPU (beating at the heart of the Dell Inspiron M101z, for one) is doing a good job in the netbook and ultra-portable notebook segment.
Speaking of gaming, graphics is probably where the biggest breakthrough this year has occurred, with powerful DirectX 11 solutions finally making their way into the mobile sector. The AMD Mobility Radeon HD5870, which we first came across in the Asus G73Jh, finally allows you to play a decent game of Crysis at an acceptable resolution - a first for a single-card solution. On Nvidia's side, meanwhile, there's now the DirectX 11 GeForce GTX 480M, which also enables you to run the latest games at something approaching their best.
On the general graphics front Optimus is also becoming more popular, as we recently saw in the MacBook Pro. It provides power when you need it and longer battery life when you don't, and it (or an equivalent) is the way we hope all laptops will go eventually.
Unfortunately, we're not seeing the same progress with storage: while many (high-end) desktop PCs now come with SSDs, in laptops these are still very much the exception rather than the rule. Admittedly this is largely because space limitations mean you can't usually install an SSD for a main drive with a secondary 2.5in hard drive for storage, but we wonder how many people would be willing to sacrifice space for speed.
Connectivity will likely be the next biggest evolution, with USB 3.0 already starting to make its way into some of the newer laptops and netbooks. We can only hope it will replace USB 2.0 across the board.
Probably the most original development in laptops this year was the long-awaited introduction of non-X86 compatible hardware, but unfortunately one of the more promising examples, the Toshiba AC100, failed to really impress. It will be interesting to see how, if at all, the increasing popularity of tablets and netbooks affects the laptop market.
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