TechSpot Laptop Buying Guide: Holiday 2011 Update

By on December 9, 2011, 3:48 AM

With the holiday shopping season in full swing it's time we give our Laptop Buying Guide one last pass before the year is over to make sure it's packing enough punch. For the most part, the market has remained stagnant in the past few months. Netbooks have lost their lure to simply become smaller, entry-level notebooks, while other categories are only seeing minor spec bumps -- and in some cases slight price hikes as the ongoing HDD shortage takes its toll on PC makers.

But if you are looking into the ultraportable market, a new breed of devices has emerged. Intel is pushing the Ultrabooks as thin and light systems with plenty of power, fast SSD storage, long battery life, and a price that won't break the bank. They're essentially the Windows version of Apple's MacBook Air and they're supposed to take over the notebook market in the coming years. For now we're seeing a first generation of devices, with plenty more to come.

Ultraportables Thin and light laptops balance portability, performance and battery life. Business Mid to high end components with an emphasis on durability, security and battery life.
Desktop Replacements The most complete set of features, often forgo battery life and portability for extra horsepower. Gaming If mobility is a priority, there are some solid choices for gaming on the go.
Budget-oriented A good blend of price and features, but slim form factors are not necessarily a priority.    

Read the complete guide.




User Comments: 12

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Guest said:

You guys should look outside the "mainstream" brands at Sager/Clevo, PowerPro, etc. I got a Sager NP8130 with the standard matte screen, 2670m @2.2Ghz, 16 GB OF RAM, 1.5GB Nvidia 560m, 750 HD @7200 and more ports than you can shake a stick at for $1154 from powernotebooks.com

I'm willing to be that I got a better laptop (excluding the GPU perhaps) than the ones you listed for WAY less than the prices of Dell, Toshiba, HP and even the Acer you've listed. Look beyond the "big 4 or 5" when doing your reviews....

tehbanz tehbanz said:

Good input Guest, i'm in the market for a new laptop and never even considered a non-mainstream brand, having dealt with every single type of mainstream brand laptop through my work i've come to pick out a few "favorite" companies. imho i'd rank 1.) Lenovo 2.) HP 3.) Toshiba. but i'm sure there is someone out there who can say i'm wrong! Regardless, next laptop i'll shoot for something a little off the charts.

Guest said:

Disappointed there isn't mention of AMD's A-series. If you want a laptop that you can game on AMD is the only choice in the $500-600 bracket and under.

ebolamonkey3 said:

How did the Thinkpad X220 not even get a mention? Sure it's not as thin as the ultrabooks, but functionally it's better than all of them. And the IPS screen is awesome.

Staff
Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

Guess what? It's hard to please everyone . But there's some reasoning behind our picks, of course.

We did include one Clevo laptop in the gaming section. Sager and other manufacturers like Maingear use Clevo platforms for building powerful gaming oriented PCs, but unfortunately it's been our experience that build quality is not the best considering their high prices.

The AMD Fusion-powered HP Pavilion dm1z was one of our top picks in the netbook category which we decided to remove from the guide on this update. Instead it made it to our budget laptop category where other Sandy Bridge equipped systems are going for $500-600.

We also went back and forth between the X220 and the X1, ultimately favoring the latter.

dms96960 said:

What happened to the Samsung Series 9 that were being so highly touted in July?

Staff
Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

Good question, I love them still, but I think Jose was overwhelmed with so many ultrabooks announcements that he wanted to fit in the best of those (Asus and Toshiba so far). Will probably add back the Samsung soon.

Draconian said:

For gaming laptops, what about the Alienware M18x and the MSI GT780DXR?

I always see the Asus G74SX listed on buying guides, but the MSI is actually a better laptop because of it's GTX 570M compared to the GTX 560M in the Asus model. The MSI also has better speakers and a more sleek design.

Guest said:

I have to agree with you about the MSI laptop. Better processor (why did it take until this month for Asus to switch to the 2670 from the 2630?), better GPU (GTX570M vs GTX560M still being used on the G74), and most important of all, a fricking Anti-reflective MATTE SCREEN! The better sound does help as well.

That said, the Asus G74 does run cooler and quieter (even with the same CPU/GPU in an older version of the MSI 780DX) and the vent the laptop backwards! As they all should! I believe the cooler/quieter part is due to the use of two cooling fans for the CPU and GPU. What a novel idea! Spend the extra $5 and make your customers happy about the $1800 laptop they bought from you. Perhaps leading to a repeat customer in the future.

MSI and ASUS should both learn from each other. It would be great if both companies provided a matte finish IPS laptop screen, even if only as an option on one model, the latest CPU/GPU combinations, more than the standard business laptop level of cooling capacity, silence the laptops more, vent backwards, full size numpad zero key, optimus or the ati equivalent, offer both a nVidia and AMD GPU option - just like the Alienware laptops do, etc. Learn from every competitor you have and get the next round of gaming laptops RIGHT ok? And enough with the kiddie neon bring already. Black, gray, silver, brown, blue, red, whatever, just leave out the goofy lights. And NO BLOATWARE! Or stickers below the keypad. Are you paying me to advertise there?

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

tehbanz said:

Good input Guest, i'm in the market for a new laptop and never even considered a non-mainstream brand, having dealt with every single type of mainstream brand laptop through my work i've come to pick out a few "favorite" companies. imho i'd rank 1.) Lenovo 2.) HP 3.) Toshiba. but i'm sure there is someone out there who can say i'm wrong! Regardless, next laptop i'll shoot for something a little off the charts.

Hehe! I agree with both 1 & 2 but certainly not 3 although their support has been good so far

Guest said:

Dont forget about the new MSI GT-70 and GT-60 that just came out

Staff
Matthew Matthew, TechSpot Staff, said:

The guide will be updated soon. Thanks for the feedback.

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