The low down: Best Laptop 2009

Day 4 of our Vodafone Pocket-lint Gadget Awards 2009 nominees round-up gives us a chance to look at what many of us are using right now - laptops. So, before you head over to the voting page to mark your choices, here's a little run down of our pick of the crop for the year.

 

Apple MacBook Pro

Type
13-inch portable/multimedia

Release date
08/06/09

Price
£899/£1149

PL review rating
9/10

It was more or less inevitable that one of the year's Macs would make it into the shortlist and it was the dubbing of the "Pro" title to the smaller end of the MacBook range that did it for us in 2009. What it means is a high performance spec set and typically beautiful Apple design on something nice and portable. At 13 inches it's an excellent size for both home or on your knees and the seamless aluminium deck and neat cut-outs for the various ports and connectors give a premium finish that other manufacturers just don't achieve.

Under the hood, you get the choice of the cheaper 2.26GHz/2GB RAM/160GB model or the 2.53GHz/4GB/250GB for a few pennies more. Both come with a bright and glossy 1280 x 800px  LED backlit screen and an Nvidia GeForce 9400M GPU for high quality HD playback. The non-removable battery is a bit of a grind - particularly as that 7 hours of reported battery life is only with the screen at 50% but you can't have everything. The whole thing is topped off by the welcome addition of an SD card and backlit keyboard for easier use on flights etc. A very solid, attractive and usable contender for this year's award. Simply put, it oozes quality.

 

Sony Vaio Z

Type
13.1-inch ultra-portable

Price
£2159

PL review rating
9/10

Fighting in a similar space as the 13-inch Pro is the same sized Sony Vaio Z. Strangely though it makes the Apple computer look cheap at around double the cost. What you're paying for though is a fantastically light 1.5kg carbon fibre and magnesium body built for mobile use. It has an isolated keyboard, much like the MacBook, but a superior 1600 x 900 pixels LED backlit screen that's simply one of the best around with its curious matte/gloss hybrid finish.

Lurking within is a powerful combo of an Intel 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo processor, an Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS and 4096MB of high speed DDR3 memory all backed up with a luxury 128GB SSD. As with the Pro, there's also a DVD/CD drive plus an SD slot and also a direct HDMI port rather than the adaptor needed for the Apple machine. Yes, this thing is more expensive and actually doesn't even offer much in the way of battery life but it's sexy as hell and light as a feather. Very hard to walk past in the shops without an oooh and an ahhhh.

 

Dell Adamo XPS

Type
13.4-inch ultra-portable

Release date
Any time now

Price
£1799

PL review rating
9/10

The real head turner for 2009 has to be the Dell Adamo XPS. Not content with throwing us one version of the new luxury sub-brand, Dell went and invented the thinnest computer known to man with this 9.9mm curiously folding PC. That's thinner than a CD case.

Frankly, the rest of the specs are a footnote but, if you're interested, what you get for whatever portion of the money is left is an Intel Core 2 Duo ULV (1.4GHz) processor, 4GB DDR3-800MHz and a Solid State 128GB. There's only integrated graphics to play with plus a non-Full HD 1366 x 768 LED screen and a thoroughly disappointing 2.5 hours battery life. But if you can cope with the last parts, you can still feel safe that you're buying an incredible work of design.

 

Toshiba NB200

Type
10.1-inch netbook
Release date
23/4/09
Price
£250

PL review rating
8/10

At the other end of the price range and the only netbook to have made the grade for Pocket-lint in 2009 is the Toshiba NB200. Simply enough, it's an upgrade to the NB100 but what you get now is a larger, nearly full size and well-designed, isolated keyboard plus an LED backlit display with a reasonable resolution of 1024 x 600px. That lot aside, there's nothing wildly exciting about the machine apart from its robust build and excellent 8-hour life and that's before you've upgraded to the 9-cell battery.

For just £250 you get all this plus 1GB RAM, an Intel Atom N280 processor and a 160GB HDD all running Windows XP. There's a 1.3-megapixel webcam and it handles all the normal connectivity you'd expect. Like we said, not astounding but definitely good value.

 

HP Envy 15

Type
15.6-inch multimedia PC

Release date
22/10/09

Price
£1199

PL review rating
8/10

The Envy 15 is very much a Windows take on the MacBook Pro. It has similar levels of high design input minus that Apple touch, but what it's missing in class it more than makes up for in raw grunt. It's the only machine on our list to feature the new Intel Core i7 CPU and it comes with 4GB RAM that's expandable up to a whopping 16GB. It runs Windows 7 on a nice, bright, Full HD 1366 x 768px LED screen - as is the mode - with a whole 1GB ATI GPU helping you render just about anything you can think of.

The Envy measures 38 x 24.4 x 2.65cm and weighs 2.35kg putting it firmly in the multimedia category and, just in case you needed to be sure, it has all the HDMI ports, eSATAs and USBs that you'd need. Sorry to see a lack of Blu-ray though. The real drawback is the miniscule 1.5 hours battery life, but then this thing wasn't meant to be taken on the move. So, now you know what they are, how are you going to vote?