We discuss the design, construction, and output characteristics of a versatile 10-TW Ti : sapphire laser system of high stability and spatiotemporal quality. By pumping the three amplifier stages independently and running at saturation, an energy stability of 1.3% is obtained. Controls over self-phase modulation, high-order dispersion, spatial aberration, and amplified spontaneous emission are done by robust passive methods. A time-bandwidth product of 1.2 times the Fourier-transform limit with a temporal contrast larger than 5 × 108 in the -10-ns scale, 2 × 106 in the -100-ps scale, and 104 in the -1-ps scale are achieved. The beam can be focused down to 1.2 times the diffraction limit with 80% of the energy enclosed in the Gaussian focal spot. Beam-pointing stability is < 13 μrad. Such high stability and spatiotemporal quality have made possible precision control over extremely nonlinear laser-plasma experiments, and the capability of computerized independent control of prepulse, pump pulse, probe pulse, and on-line diagnoses have made this system highly versatile and reliable.