Best Laptop 2011: Top 20
Choosing the best laptop in 2011 for you is a complicate task as the number of choice is crushing. There’s huge lineup of cheap laptops among with high range ultra portables & gaming solutions. But this is a tough task as the new models come out every week and shortly replaced by the manufacturers.
Best Laptop 2011: Price Under USD $600
1. Asus EeePC 1018P – from $450
Unlike some of Asus’ earlier Eee PC models, this netbook boasts a high-end look and feel, thanks to the brushed aluminium design. We can’t remember seeing such a subtly stylish netbook before, and the matt finish means it’s also impervious to scratches and scuffs while you’re working at home or out and about.
The 1.1kg chassis isn’t a problem to carry around for hours on end, and the strong battery life of 359 minutes gives you almost six hours of power, so it’s great for those after a truly portable option.
Equally impressive is the 10.1-inch screen, which looks great encased in the brushed aluminium bezel. Brightness is good, as is detail, thanks to the 1024 x 600 pixel resolution. But it’s the vibrancy of colours that pleases the most, and those looking for a netbook to watch films and view photos on will find a lot to like here.
An inclusion we are particularly impressed with is the 500GB of free online storage. This means you can save a vast amount of content from the 1018P’s 250GB hard drive to Asus’ servers and access it from anywhere in the world, adding convenience and security.
2. Asus X52F – from $500
The Asus X52F-EX894V is powered by an Intel Core i3 processor, which provides strong performance for those on a tight budget. It’s not just performance that impresses though, with plenty of other surprising highlights and few flaws.
You can edit your photos and have a quick play around with your home movies, but you won’t be able to play the latest games, because the integrated graphics can’t cope.
Still, film fans will be pleased because you can watch DVDs via the built-in drive or stream your favourite movies or TV shows over the internet in high definition (HD) from sites such as BBC iPlayer. The Asus X52F-EX894V coped admirably, and catching up with last night’s telly was a smooth experience.
This is also a great way to enjoy your media, thanks to the excellent screen. The 15.6-inch display isn’t as sharp as the compact screens of the HP Pavilion DM1-3100sa and MSI U270, but it’s bright and pleasingly vibrant.
The 320GB hard drive gives you enough storage for thousands of photos and full-length music albums. You also have a 4-in-1 memory card reader, which can be used to back up your data or expand the available storage. Three USB ports are available for connecting peripherals.
3. Acer Aspire 5552 – from $500
Performance is provided by a triple-core AMD Phenom II X3 processor but we were a little disappointed by the results of our benchmark tests, since the Acer was comprehensively beaten by other laptops around this price point.
Your Office applications will run fine, but anything more than light multitasking will bring the system to a halt. However, the Acer proves far more pleasing when it comes to graphical ability.
Most laptops around this price have basic integrated graphics, but the Aspire 552 is actually quite capable when it comes to streaming high-definition (HD) video and running other light multimedia tasks. You won’t be able to frequently edit your media or play the latest games though.
While the Aspire 5552-N834G50Mnks has limited performance, a weak battery and an ugly plastic chassis, it isn’t all bad news. The display is fantastic considering the low price, while usability and features provide good value for money.
4. Samsung RV510 – from $500
When you’re spending less than £400 on a laptop, you’re not going to get the best power or build quality, but for basic users the Samsung RV510 is a good buy.
The screen is very bright and produces vivid images that make the laptop great for viewing photos and films. The standard glossy Super-TFT screen coating is in place, but manages to suppress reflections in bright light well.
An attractive silver paint finish has been implemented, which contrasts nicely with the black screen bezel and mock-chrome mouse buttons to make this an aesthetically pleasing laptop.
Build quality is surprisingly good, and at 2.4kg this is quite light. The 247 minutes of battery life is also useful for those who travel a lot and require a decent battery life.
5. Acer Aspire 5742G – from $550
Right out of the box the Aspire has enough processing power to handle everything you want in a starter laptop, but on top of that it’s also a pleasure to look at. The textured finish on both the lid and internal chassis feels comfortable and won’t pick up the grubby fingerprints that curse more reflective designs.
The keyboard doesn’t feel quite as sturdy as some (we noticed an obvious flex in the keyboard during typing), but the keys are well spaced and easy to type on. The Aspire 5742G sports Acer’s favoured keyboard where keys appear to float above the chassis. This looks great, but you’ll find it quickly traps debris underneath the keys.
The Acer is built around Intel’s Core i3 processor, which provides plenty of power, and is backed up by the 4096MB of memory.
But what really sets the Aspire 5742G apart is the 1024MB of video memory provided by the dedicated Nvidia GeForce GT 520M graphics card. This laptop will be fine running the current crop of gaming titles and will easily handle photo and HD video editing.
Best Laptop 2011: Price Under USD $1000
6. Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E520 – from $650
Lenovo’s ThinkPad range is traditionally aimed at business users, but has recently taken a more consumer-friendly turn, with less imposing builds and price tags. The ThinkPad Edge E520 is one of the more powerful laptops in the range and can keep you entertained on the move as well as at home.
The excellent performance is down to the latest Intel Sandy Bridge technology. This means you can do almost anything on this laptop, with incredibly fast response rates. Even complex editing software opens in seconds and happily runs alongside web browsers, media players and other applications. You won’t need to replace this laptop for a long time.
This laptop also scored high in our graphical tests, beaten only narrowly by the Acer Aspire 5750G. We tested out some recent games and found that they ran smoothly, although we occasionally had to turn down detail levels.
You can also check out and play around with your photos or home movies. Of course, if you’d rather relax with a film, the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E520won’t let you down. High-definition (HD) films play perfectly and look good on the 15.6-inch widescreen display.
7. Toshiba Satellite L730 – from $725
This 13.3-inch entertainment laptop is perfect for staving off boredom on the move. The Satellite L730-10G lacks graphical punch, but the compact display is a highlight, while the lightweight body and decent battery life ensure you’ll be entertained wherever you roam.
Despite its smaller screen, the Satellite L730 still features a 1366 x 768 pixel resolution. The result is a much sharper picture, so images look crisp and clean. It’s also a bright and vibrant panel, making this one of the best displays for movie watching.
With a weight of just 1.9kg, it is technically classed as an ultra-portable laptop. Not only is it an incredibly light machine, the battery life is also commendable. We watched movies for almost three hours before the laptop shut itself down, and limiting yourself to more basic entertainment such as browsing the web gives you many hours of life.You certainly won’t need to lug the charger around on the daily commute.
While the Toshiba Satellite L730 may lack graphical power and lots of storage, it’s still a good entertainment machine for regular travellers. The sharp and colourful screen is a good way of enjoying movies, while the reduced weight and decent battery life make it an excellent travel companion.
8. Samsung RV720 – from $735
With its 17.3-inch screen, the Samsung RV720 is a large laptop. It isn’t quite the chunkiest, with a surprisingly slim body considering the girth, but at 2.8kg it is pretty heavy.
While it can feasibly be carried around if needed, it works much better as a desktop replacement machine, especially given the mediocre battery life. For a family machine that will sit on your desk at home, this is a great option.
We found we could run all kinds of applications at once with no significant impact on performance. Whether you enjoy catching up with friends on social networking sites, watching the latest films in high definition (HD), or touching up your holiday snaps, this laptop can handle it.
If you’ve been hunting for a desktop replacement machine to entertain you and your family at home, the Samsung RV720 is well worth considering. The excellent performance and crisp, colourful 17.3-inch screen are highlights, although the lack of dedicated graphics is a shame.
9. Acer Aspire 5750G – from $735
Intel’s second generation Core i3, i5 and i7 processors, collectively dubbed ‘Sandy Bridge’, offer the best performance of any chips we’ve tested. The Aspire 5750G uses a Core i7 2630QM chip running at 2GHz, with 4GB of DDR3 memory.
With a pleasant blue finish to the lid and palmrests, the Aspire 5750G is a decent-looking laptop. It’s an obviously plastic build, and we did notice that some areas flexed when pushed or prodded, but it’s unlikely to break unless you stomp on it or knock it flying off your desk.
At 2.6kg, you can take the Aspire 5750G on the road when needed. The body is surprisingly slender, with a maximum thickness of just 34mm, so you shouldn’t have much problem slipping it into a backpack or briefcase.
The Aspire 5750G is a great all-round laptop, with very few flaws. The reasonable price makes it an excellent option for students and families with a flexible budget, who want the very best performance for their cash.
Best Laptop 2011: Ultra-portables
10. Asus Zenbook UX21 and UX31 – from $1325
The Asus Zenbook UX31 is one of the first laptops to conform to Intel’s Ultrabook specification.
More competition is to come, however, in the form of the Lenovo IdeaPad U300 S, Acer Aspire S3and, potentially, others from the likes of HP and Dell.Asus has done a terrific job with the Zenbook’s design – even if you have to acknowledge that the designer took more than a sneaky glance at Apple’s ultraportable first.
The aluminium silver lid boasts a distinctive concentric circle design that catches and reflects the surrounding light. Befitting the name, the Zenbook’s simple, sleek finish gives it a premium look that keeps getting better as soon as you lift the lid.
As well as the 13.3-inch UX31 from £999, there’s an 11.6-inch UX21 version that costs from £849.
11. Acer Aspire S3 – from $1400
Acer has announced its slim, light and powerful Acer Aspire S3 laptop, which kick starts a slew of Intel Ultrabooks that are about to take the market by storm. We got our hands on an early pre-production model to find out how this early flagship portable is shaping up.
The 13.1-inch Aspire S3 is beautifully styled, and a guaranteed head turner. It attracted interested comments and questions wherever we took it, as friends and strangers looked jealously at the clean, thin lines and classy aluminium body.
Aside from the quad-core Intel Core i7 2637M 1.7GHz processor is a 500GB hard drive, which offers enough storage for day-to-day use.
The Acer Aspire S3 is an impressive portable laptop that offers superb power in an incredibly lightweight design.
12. Sony VAIO S Series – from $1560
The Sony VAIO VPC-SB1V9E is Sony’s latest power ultra-portable laptop but it’s unusual for Sony – it falls into the business-oriented VAIO S-Series range.
At 13.3 inches, it’s a comfortable display to work on for extended periods. We were also impressed by the vivid colour reproduction, because images usually appear a little drained without a glossy Super-TFT coating. The 1366 x 768 resolution keeps things sharp, with excellent contrast levels.
Our benchmark tests proved that this is the most powerful ultra-portable laptop we’ve seen so far. Multitasking even with intensive business software is little effort for the VAIO VPC-SB1V9E, although the laptop’s fans do whine when it’s busy, which proves rather distracting in quiet environments.
Impressively, Sony has also shoved an AMD Mobility Radeon HD 6470M graphics card into its VAIO S-Series laptops. While we can’t imagine anyone doing much gaming on these ultra-portables, the extra graphical grunt is perfect for any design professionals who wish to edit video or run similar multimedia software.
13. Samsung 9 Series – from $2000
Samsung had a great 2010, producing a series of highly impressive machines. But it got a little left behind in the ultra-portable stakes. Here to rectify this is the long-awaited Samsung 900XSA – otherwise known as the Samsung 9 Series.
Boasting a gorgeous design and excellent power courtesy of an Intel Sandy Bridge Core i5 processor, portability is king here. A subtly brushed aluminium finish gives the laptop a truly high-end look and feel and, although it does attract fingerprints, dust and dirt don’t stick to the surface at all.
Powering the laptop is an Intel Core i5 chip from the latest Sandy Bridge generation, accompanied by 4GB of memory. This comes from Intel’s latest line of mobile processors and proved exceptionally powerful in testing.
Two Intel technologies are responsible for the power. Hyperthreading allows you to multitask your workload faster than ever before, while Turbo Boost automatically increases or decreases the speed the processor runs at to match your performance requirements.
Performance is also key for an ultra-portable laptop, and the 900XSA delivers here courtesy of the Intel Core i5 processor. Everyday performance is all conquering, and graphically the laptop is also very powerful as well. You won’t be playing the latest gaming titles, but being able to edit HD movies on the laptop demonstrates the performance available.
14. MacBook Air 13-inch 2011 – from $2100
So here we are with the 13-inch 2011 MacBook Air running the new Mac OS X 10.7 Lion operating system. For the components involved, it’s an expensive system. But as with all Macs, it’s the sum of its parts that gets everyone excited – and this time, it’s with just cause.
There’s no doubt about it – this is a superb-looking and performing machine on which Apple has finally managed to bestow the performance that its appearance and price deserve.
The great news is that the new models don’t lack for performance. Even the base models are stacked. The off-the-shelf models come with the blistering Core i5 1.6 GHz (11-inch, £849/£999 depending on memory and SSD) or 1.7 GHz (13-inch, £1,099/£1,349 depending on memory and SSD) variants.
Both Core i5s are dual-core with 3MB shared L3 cache. The 1.7GHz version in the 13-inch has 4GB of DDR3.
If it’s high-end task-orientated or gaming performance you want, you need a MacBook Pro. If you don’t need that extra oomph, a MacBook Air is one of the finest laptops on the market. Sleek. Powerful. A real statement and pretty handy at every common task. But you’re digging pretty deep for the pleasure of owning one.
15.Sony VAIO Z Series – from $4200
Despite being cursed by a name that’s less catchy than an N-Dubz tune, this is an excellent little 13.1-inch PC laptop that we’d happily use as our everyday computer.
That is, if we happened to have a spare couple of grand knocking around, priced as it is at US $4200.
We’ve seen a lot of ultra-portable laptops lately, from the sleek and sexy Samsung 900XSA to the business-oriented Lenovo ThinkPad X1. It’s impressive how much power you can now cram into a tiny frame, ably demonstrated by the new Apple MacBook Air 2011, which squeezes Intel’s Sandy Bridge technology into something as thin as your finger.
The 13.1-inch Sony VAIO VPC-Z21V9E also manages this feat. It’s a little chunkier than the Apple MacBook Air 2011 and Samsung 9 Series, but at 20mm it’s still a slender machine. Best of all, it weighs just 1.18kg – less than most netbooks we’ve used.
Best Laptop 2011: Gaming Power
16. Alienware M11x – from $1550
Alienware is one of the biggest manufacturers of gaming laptops and has gone from strength to strength since its acquisition by Dell. The M11x is the smallest laptop in the company’s range and has just been updated with a powerful new Intel Sandy Bridge processor for playing the latest titles.
While the previous M11x had an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, which would struggle to run some of today’s demanding games, this update features Intel’s latest Sandy Bridge technology.
We were impressed by the high frame rates when playing resource-crushing action and driving games, although the internal fans do get loud at times. Still, you can always drown that out with the sound of gunfire.
Games also look amazing, with the Nvidia GT 540M graphics card coping admirably even on high detail levels.The 11.6-inch display is rather compact for a gaming machine, but the sharp 1366 x 768-pixel resolution makes it a moot point. Images are crisp, clear and colourful, and you’ll be blown away playing games such as Crysis 2.
If you’re serious about gaming and need an entertainment machine to take on the road whenever you want, the Alienware M11x is a great solution.
17. Medion Erazer X6813 – from $1550
The biggest asset that Medion has given its Erazer X6813 is pure gaming performance. As our 3DMark 11 scores indicate, that GTX 460M under the hood does a sterling job with bleeding edge rendering techniques such as tessellation, bokeh filtering and advanced dynamic shadows and lighting. It’s a capable Fermi card with solid architecture.
The bottom line for the GTX 460M inside this Medion Erazer X6813 is that playing new games at max settings shouldn’t be a problem, even at the screen’s native resolution of 1920 x 1080.
Of course, it has help from the Intel Core i7 2630QM CPU, too. With four cores of eight threads at its disposal, and a Turbo Boosted running speed of 2.9GHz, it’s one mighty fine piece of Sandy Bridge silicon.
Medion has done a lot right with the Erazer X6813 gaming notebook. A Sandy Bridge CPU isn’t to be sniffed at and will excel in multithreaded applications, thanks to its eight available threads. The component that gamers really care about is the GPU, and again Medion is on the money by sticking an Nvidia GeForce GTX 460M inside the Erazer X6813.
18. Toshiba Qosmio X770 – from $2350
Toshiba’s latest gaming laptop, the Qosmio X770, promises super-speedy response times, mega-powerful processing and 3D visuals that will blow your mind. With a 17.3-inch Full HD screen, the Toshiba Qosmio X770 rocks a quad-core Intel i7 processor alongside 8GB of memory and a 500GB hard drive.
The stereoscopic 3D graphics are powered by an Nvidia GeForce GTX 560M graphics card with 1.5GB of dedicated GDDR5 memory, which all sounds like a perfect 3D graphical storm.
As well as 3D gaming, the laptop has a Blu-ray drive for 3D movie playback, can do 2D to 3D conversion and even has dual HD webcams so you can video chat in 3D, if that’s the sort of thing that floats your boat.
Music and movie playback should be pretty nice with integrated Harman Kardon speakers and subwoofer working alongside the Dolby Digital Advanced Audio.
19. Alienware M18X – from $2600
The latest release from Dell-owned Alienware, the M18X, is a behemoth with enough power to run any game under the sun without so much as a flicker. But you’ll have to have deep pockets to get your hands on one.
Even getting the M18X out of the box is a challenge, thanks to its 438 x 311 x 52mm dimensions and a back-breaking weight of 5.7kg. This machine was designed to dominate your desk. As expected, it sticks to the Alienware design, which we love, but won’t be to everyone’s taste.
Our review sample came with an AMD Radeon HD 6900M and scored a mind-blowing 19,056 during our intensive gaming benchmark test.
While the sheer power of the machine keeps games running perfectly, the 18.4-inch screen made playing on the M18X a truly immersive experience. The Super-TFT screen is like a window into your games. It’s extremely bright and the 1920 x 1080-pixel resolution keeps the most complex graphics razor sharp.
The laptop was powerful, but RAM and storage space were poor. This was disappointing and, although you can customise the amount of storage, we would expect more than 250GB and 4GB of RAM for £1,699.
20. Asus Automobili Lamborghini VX7 – from $3000
There was a genuine air of excitement when the Asus Automobili Lamborghini VX7 rolled into the office.
A Lamborghini Gallardo boasts a 552bhp V10 engine and its namesake is running the laptop equivalent – an Intel Core i7-2630QM CPU, Nvidia GeForce GTX 460QM GPU and 8GB of RAM.
Not everyone will be a fan of the chunky design and, if you like your laptops slim and svelte, this isn’t the machine for you. The design also means that it’s incredibly heavy at 3.9kg and even if you wanted to carry it round, the dimensions make it hard to fit comfortably into a bag.
Even though you’re consigned to a desk, usability is fantastic. The 15.6-inch Super-TFT screen is bright and it runs at a native pixel resolution of 1920 x 1080, so even the most complex websites and dense pictures are rendered in extremely sharp detail.
Understandably, cost is a factor and, although it’s not quite the £160,000 needed for a real Lamborghini, the asking price of the VX7 is pretty steep. But if you can afford it, this is a fantastically designed piece of kit that will easily satisfy all your computing needs.