If you're looking for a last-minute holiday gift for any laptop or netbook toting family member or friend—or just shopping around for yourself—you may want to consider the gift of volume.
While streaming music and movies are turning notebook computers into portable entertainment centers, the built-in speakers on most notebooks aren't up to the task—especially if you're looking for something like the immersive experience you get from a home theater system. A new generation of portable sound systems for notebook computers is stepping up to fix that, offering high-quality digital audio—and some have directional speakers that simulate home theater "surround sound". Plus, most can clip onto your computer's screen, eliminating desk, coffee table, or lap-top clutter.
These speakers won't deliver tooth-rattling bass, but they sure do raise the game for notebooks:
- Logitech's Z305 laptop speaker system has a built-in clip for notebook screens, so you can hang it on the back of the screen. Its two speakers point left and right from the ends of the speaker bar, creating a surround-sound effect. It connects to your computer through a USB 2.0 cable, and draws power from the computer over the cable as well—so there are no extra cables to lose or batteries to swap. The speaker system is 13 inches wide, so it may project a bit from the sides of smaller notebook and netbook computers, and Notebook Review's Amber Riippa reports that it may be too heavy for laptops with weak screen hinges—pulling the screen down under its weight. The suggested retail price of the Z305 is $59.99, but it's available online in several places for as much as $15 less, including Amazon.com.
- There's also the Philips SPA5210B Notebook SoundBar, which instead of hanging from the back of the screen, perches atop it. The Phillips SoundBar lacks the surround-sound capability of the Logitech system, but it retails for nearly $20 less. Like the Logitech, it powers itself through the USB cable.
- Another "soundbar" approach is Edifier's Soundbar USB, which is designed to sit on top of your notebook's body where the keyboard meets the screen. The Edifier Soundbar sells for $49 online at the Wired Store. It also is a stereo speaker system, with woofers and tweeters, and it works off a USB port. But in addition to the USB connection, it also can plug into the audio jack of an iPad, iPhone or iPod. And if you have a USB power supply, like the charger supplied for the iPhone and iPad (and many other smart phones that use USB connectors these days), you can power the speakers from a wall jack, as blogger Steve Garfield demonstrates here: