The most common question i get asked is simple: “What laptop should I buy?” Being a generally difficult person by nature, I usually respond with my own series of questions: “What size screen do you want? How much do you want to spend?” and so on. But sometimes people just want a simple suggestion, based on what I actually like. So, here is a jargon-free list of the current crop of laptops that I’m digging, either because they give you good bang for your buck, they excel in their specific category, or because they’re just plain awesome.
5. HP Mini 5102
Even though i’m not a big fan of netbooks, this one just stands out and forced its way onto this list. Being a sequel to its powerful predessecor, this little machine defenitely meets today’s standards, even for a notebook. It features the new Intel Atom proccessor with 1.66 GHz and 1GB of DDR2 RAM, more than enough for such a little computer. The build quality is one of best on any netbook on the market today, made of aluminum and magnesium alloy, some material nobody knows but sounds strong and complicated, so it suffices. The graphics are reasonable, a simple Intel GMA integrated chipset does the job fine. The machine overall stands out both performance-wise and construction-wise in today’s selection of netbooks and still manages to keep a steady price of $399.99.
4. Gateway NV7915u
In the past, desktop-replacement notebooks were never any interest to mainstream consumers, considering they were usually bulky, expensive and were never really fast enough to be compared to a desktop. Gateway (or Acer) addressed this ‘issue’ by introducing the NV79 series, more specifically, the 7915u. The 600 dollar notebook features Intel’s new Core i3 processor alongside 2.13 GHZ and 4GBs of RAM, specs that no-doubt compares to average desktops. It has a wide and glossy 17.3′ inch screen, perfect for handling multiple windows or just sitting back and watching a movie. At $599, it’s one of the cheapest laptops you’ll find at retail with Intel’s Core i3 processor. Only minor flaws like poor battery life and an awkward trackpad button give us reason to not favour the Gateway NV7915u.
3. Toshiba Satellite E205
At this year’s CES conference, one of the technologies introduced that captured everyone’s interest was Intel’s Wireless Display Technology, or WiDi. WiDi, however, needs to be compatible on computers to work, and one of the first notebook computers to include WiDi at retail is the $899 Toshiba Satellite E205-S1904, a model that’s exclusive to Best Buy. The E205 defenitely has some changed looks from its predecessor, the E105. Gone is the boxy look, replaced with a sleek curved blue design. A new Intel Core i5 replaces the old Core 2 Duo, bringing some performance and power-management upgrades along with it. Still featuring a backlit keyboard, for $50 more than the previous E105 for improved CPU and wireless display technology, it’s arguably worth it, placing it third in our top five list.
2. Sony Vaio Z Series VPC-Z116GX/S
Because of the economy, recently, everyone is looking into value and low-priced computers, and has really taken the spotlight off the more high-end machines that are a bit expensive but fully-featured beastly masterpieces. Also due to the economy, many companies have limited their high-end notebook production dramatically, the same way automakers have limited their production of SUVs. Each of the famous corporations like HP and Dell have only one or two of these high-priced monsters, like the Envy 13 from HP and Adamo XPS from Dell, and from Sony, they’ve released a successor to their very much-loved notebook, the Z-series. In the latest refresh, the Vaio Z has a very fast Intel Core i5 processing unit with 2.4 GHZ and 4GBs of DDR3 RAM, an Nvidia GT 330M GPU which can be switched over to Intel GMA 4500MHD integrated graphics for better battery life, a DVD/CD drive and a huge 256GB SSD (SSDs are much more expensive than regular HDs, even for less space) hard drive, which is a big portion of the $2,299 price. Price aside, the new Vaio Z is my 13-inch laptop of choice, as it breezed by many of the other 13-inch notebooks with slower CPUs. The trade-off though, is battery life. The Vaio Z has only a 3-hour batter life, which compared to other 13-inch laptops, like the Macbooks which has up to 10 hour batteries now, is a flaw. Although the price is out-of-range for most consumers, the price is definitely worth the bang on this machine as it powers by most other high-end notebooks with ease, placing it second on our list.
1. Macbook Pro 15-inch (Spring 2010 Model) – Core i7 2.66 GHz/4GB RAM/500GB HDD
Apple’s lineup of high-end notebooks have never been disappointing, especially the recently updated lineup of Pros. Apple’s upgrades to their devices have always been closely watched, falling into two main categories; major evolutions such as the switch to unibody aluminum construction in 2008 or minor spec upgrades like the iPhone 3GS. The Spring 2010 upgrade for the Macbook Pros however, don’t fall into either. The unibody construction remains the same, well actually, the physical attributes of the new MBPs are identical to their predecessors and the internal components are upgraded, but these are no minor spec updates. The Pros have made a switch over to Intel’s new Core lineup, both the mainstream i5 and the high-end i7 CPUs (unfortunately, the 13-inch still uses the Core 2 Duo processor). This requires new chipset construction(according to Intel) which carry onto the next upgrade to a more powerful and efficient GPU, the Nvidia GeForce 9400M and Intel integrated chipset, which switch between the two seamlessly and automatically when needed. The basic model of the 15-inch is priced at $1,799, but i’ve come to realize you get a better bang-for-your-buck with the highest-end model (Core i7 2.66 GHz/4GB RAM/500GB HDD) which values at $2,199. With the 13-inch stuck with a Core 2 Duo, this revamp seems like the 15-inch is their new powerhouse flagship model, deserving its prestigious standing on our Best Notebook list.