Top five best laptops available now

Trying to find a value-for-money notebook these days is not an easy task, not because they’re hard to find, but because the complete opposite is true, you can’t turn around without someone offering even more of a bargain to the one you first thought of.

It’s not only the price making the buying decision difficult, it’s what you get for your money. It’s safe to say that any sub £400 notebook will almost the same specification as a £700+ notebook of nine months ago. To make the decision even harder is what do you want your notebook for, business, home, gaming or as a desktop replacement for a standard space hogging PC.

We picked a small selection of notebooks in various classes that have caught our eye over the past few months that we think that you should add to your list of choices.

THINQ! Best Ultraportable

Acer Aspire Timeline AS1810TZ (413G25N)
Price: £450

There was a time when small ultraportable notebooks were almost inspirational products because of their high price, thankfully this isn’t the case anymore and the popularity of netbooks proves there is a need for small highly portable notebooks.

The problem with netbooks is the performance, what’s needed is something with the size and battery life of a netbook and the performance akin that of a notebook at a sensible price. Ticking all these boxes and more is the Acer Aspire Timeline AS1810TZ, an almost perfect example of an ultraportable weighing in at a mere 1.4kg.

At the AS1810TZ’s heart lies an Intel SU4100 dual core processor backed by Intel’s GS45 Express chipset and 3MB of 667MHz DDR2 memory which is clocked at just 1.3GHz but more importantly in the context of the AS1810TZ it has a TDP (Thermal Design Power) of just 10Watts. On paper it may not sound that much more that a netbook offers, but because of the dual core processer, better chipset architecture it just does the everyday jobs so much better and without the struggles associated with netbook hardware and the installed Windows 7 Home Premium runs quickly and smoothly.

Good Amazing battery life
Bad Screen viewing angles. Lack of Bluetooth.
Overall Excellent blend of portability, battery life, performance and usability, everything you reasonably ask of an ultraportable.

Specifications
Processor: Intel Dual Core SU4100 (1.3GHz, 2MB L2 cache)
Memory: 3GB 667MHz DDR2
Graphics: integrated Intel GMA 4500M (64MB shared system memory)
Hard Drive: 250GB
Optical Drive: None
Screen: 11.6in Acer CineCrystal (1,366 by 768 pixel resolution)
Webcam: Yes
Networking: 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi
Ports: 3 x USB, 2 x audio, 1 x HDMI, 1x VGA
Card Reader: Y, 5-in-1
Colour Options: Black, Blue, Red
Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium
Dimensions (HxWxD): 30 x 285 x 207mm
Weight: 1.4kg

For more see following pages..

THINQ! Top Mainstream Model

Sony VAIO VGN-NW20EF/S
Price £490

The VAIO NW series are part of Sony’s family of budget multimedia notebooks, the NW20EF/S is one of the latest arrivals to the line-up and despite the price tag, it still has all the Sony design strengths and great build quality.

Powering the NW20EF/S is an Intel Pentium T4300 processor which although clocked at 2.1GHz only has a 1MB of L2 cache and an 800MHz FSB and backed by 3GB of DDR2 memory its no speed demon, but it is more than adequate to power all the everyday office apps. The choice of just 3GB of memory is quite odd as it comes with the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium which can access all the memory present, and as the motherboard can support a maximum of 8GB, 4GB might have been nice. As it is, if you want more grunt then the option is available to you via two SO-DIMM slots.

The 15.5in screen has a 16:9 aspect ratio and a native resolution of 1,366 by 768 pixels but isn’t that bright, producing slightly washed out colours with poor contrasts.

On the other hand, the keyboard is, as we’ve all come to expect from a Sony notebook hard to fault with large well spaced keys that are a joy to type on.

Good: Good all-round package for the money.
Bad: Dull screen. Lack of HDMI port. No Bluetooth
Overall: Good looking notebook with Sony’s usual design and build quality but the screen lets it down.

Specifications
Processor: Intel Pentium T4300 (2.1GHz, 1MB L2 cache)
Memory: 3GB 667MHz DDR2
Graphics: integrated Intel GMA 4500M (128MB shared system memory)
Hard Drive: 320GB
Optical Drive: DVD +/- RW +/- DL
Screen: 15.5in X-Black WXGA (1,366 by 768 pixel resolution)
Webcam: 0.3MP
Networking: 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi
Ports: 1 x 34mm Express Card, 3 x USB, 2 x audio, 1 x FireWire, 1 x VGA
Card Reader: SD, Memory Stick
Colour Options: Silver, Pink
Operating System: 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium
Dimensions (HxWxD): 29 x 370 x 249mm
Weight: 2.7kg

THINQ! Best Mainstream + notebook

Dell Studio 15 (N0053503)
Price (as configured) £720

As with most Dell systems, the Studio 15 can be configured to fit many budgets; the standard model costs £479 (inc VAT) although it pays to keep an eye on the Dell website as prices change and offers appear on a regular basis. There are a bewildering number of changes you can make to the spec, even down to the colour scheme you want and there are a multitude of them as well, and it must be said that most of them aren’t cheap. Our review model came in the standard black finish or as Dell calls it Black Chainlink!

Our review sample came with an Intel Core 2 Duo P8700 processor clocked at 2.53GHz backed by 4GB of 800MHz DDR memory so it’s no slouch in the performance stakes, the installed 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium runs quickly and smoothly and you’ll have no problem running all your everyday apps on the Studio 15.

Dell have fitted a good keyboard to the Studio 15, well laid out with firm, responsive keys, similarly the touchpad is good and responsive as are the two mouse buttons sitting under it.

The 15.6in screen fitted to our machine was the standard 1,366 by 768 one, but for an extra £70 you can get a 1,920 by 1,080 one, well worth buying if your budget can stretch to it.

As standard the Studio 15 comes with a 6-cell 56Whr battery which was good for just over three and a half hours when tested but if you want more then a 9-cell 85Whr unit is available for an extra £60, again a good choice if your budget can stretch a bit.

Good: Good all round performer
Bad: Screen viewing angles aren’t great
Overall: Fully configurable to your requirements, Dell’s Studio 15 is a well balanced system with a good range of features and decent performance.

Specifications (as configured
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo P8700 (2.53GHz, 3MB L2 cache)
Memory: 4GB 800MHz DDR2
Graphics: dedicated ATI Mobility Radeon HD4570
Hard Drive: 500GB
Optical Drive: DVD +/- RW
Screen: 15.6in TrueLife (1,366 by 768 pixel resolution)
Webcam: 2.0MP
Networking: 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
Ports: 1 x 34mm Express Card, 3 x USB, (1 x eSATA/USB combo), 3 x audio, 1 x FireWire, 1 x HDMI, 1 x VGA
Card Reader: 8-in-1
Colour Options: multi
Operating System: 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium
Dimensions (HxWxD): 25.3 x 371.6 x 252.9mm
Weight: 2.65kg

THINQ! Best Blu-Ray laptop

Samsung R620
Price £682

With its high gloss Piano black finish, Samsung’s R620 wouldn’t look out of place in the living room which is just as well as it weighs a non too light 2.8kg which is testament to the build quality, but as well as looking the part, it also offers a pretty impressive bang for your buck.

At the R620’s heart is an Intel Core 2 Duo T6500 processor which is clocked at 2.1GHz, ably supported by Intel’s PM45 Express chipset, 3GB of 800MHz DDR memory and dedicated ATI Mobility graphics.

While the 1,366 by 768 resolution 16in screen doesn’t support Full HD content (but the graphics chipset can), it supports 720p and in any case there is a HDMI port so you can output to a HD TV. Unfortunately the speakers don’t match the quality of the screen, they have the usual notebook tinnyness, lacking any real bass depth.

The keybed stretches the width of the chassis allowing a full size keyboard and separate number pad to be fitted. The keyboard is superbly laid out with the keys having a really good action making it a pleasure to type on. The multtouch trackpad is also very good, responsive and smooth and has a neat design touch in the way the surround is lit with blue lighting.

While the ATI graphics support full HD, they offer little in the way of support for most of today’s top titles but then again the R620 isn’t being pitched as a gaming notebook.

For storage there is a 500GB hard drive and there is also an e-SATA port built into the chassis allowing an external hard drive to be connected up to the R620 to keep as much space free on the hard drive as possible.

Good Built in Blu-ray. Good feature set
Bad Audio
Overall Samsung’s R620 has first rate build quality and offers an excellent mix of features, performance and price.

Specifications
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo T6500 (2.1GHz, 2MB L2 cache)
Memory: 4GB 800MHz DDR2
Graphics: dedicated ATI Mobility Radeon HD4330 (512MB)
Hard Drive: 500GB
Optical Drive: BD-ROM, DVD+/-RW, DVD +/- DL
Screen: 16in WXGA SuperBright (1,366 by 768 pixel resolution)
Webcam: 1.3MP
Networking: 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n WiFi
Ports: 1 x 54mm Express Card, 4 x USB (1 x eSATA/USB combo), 2 x audio, 1 x HDMI, 1 x VGA
Card Reader: 3-in-1
Colour Options: Black
Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium
Dimensions (HxWxD): 37 x 381 x 259mm
Weight: 2.8kg

THINQ! Best Desktop Replacement

Toshiba Satellite P500-12D Price £799 Why is the Toshiba Satellite P500-12D a desktop replacement? Well unless you’re the governor of California you won’t be carting it around all day as it weighs in at an impressive 4.4kg, so it’s bound to spend most of its life connected to the mains.

So why the heavy weight, well it needs a hefty chassis (443 x 42 x 294mm) to support its massive 18.4in screen.

The gloss black exterior finish continues through to the wrist pad, so not only does the lid attract fingerprints like a magnet, so does everything else so you’ll be forever cleaning this beast with the cleaning cloth that comes with it. The black finish is neatly set off by the chrome mouse buttons and speaker trim. As with most Toshiba laptops the keyboard is first rate and given the huge size of the P500-12D it comes as no surprise that it is excellently laid out with a full number pad, and has large easy to use and responsive keys. To the left of the keyboard are a set of touch sensitive short cut controls that look after the playback controls for audio etc.

At the heart of the beast sits an Intel Core 2 Duo P7450 speeding along at 2.13GHz backed by 4GB of DDR2 which the installed 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium can take full advantage of. Despite the screens huge size, its resolution is disappointing, just 1,680 by 945 pixels meaning it doesn’t support Full HD which is a real missed opportunity especially as the integrated Harmon Kardon speakers are some of the best laptop speakers you’ll ever listen to. All is not lost however as there is a HDMI port built in the chassis which allows you to connect up to an external HD screen.

Good Huge screen. Excellent speakers
Bad Screen resolution. No Blu-ray drive
Overall Stylish and impressively big desktop replacement that covers everything from gaming at low detail settings up to taking care of most of your entertainment needs.

Specifications
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo P7450 (2.13GHz, 3MB L2 cache)
Memory: 4GB 800MHz DDR2
Graphics: dedicated nVidia GeForce GT230M (1GB)
Hard Drive: 500GB
Optical Drive: DVD+/-RW, DVD +/- DL
Screen: 18.4in Toshiba TruBrite (1,680 by 945 pixel resolution)
Webcam: HD Web cam
Networking: 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n WiFi
Ports: 1 x 54mm Express Card slot, 4 x USB (1 x eSATA/USB combo), 2 x audio, 1 x HDMI, 1 x VGA
Card Reader: 5-in-1
Colour Options: Black
Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
Dimensions (HxWxD): 42 x 443 x 294mm
Weight: 4.4kg