Best Laptop 2011: 8th Pocket-lint Awards contenders
The temperature has dropped, the rain's begun and a frost has left our cars chilly in the morning. All this freezing cold excitement can be caused by only one thing: no not Dr Freeze, instead the super cool 8th Pocket-lint awards are upon us.
But we can't pass judgement on this year's gadgetry quite yet. We need your help first. For the 10 award categories, each contains five gadget-types that need picking as the nominees of their class. Those who want to get involved with voting can find out more here. But first let us whet your appetites with a few prime selections of electronic goodness from this year's laptop releases.
This year Intel created the Ultrabook moniker for laptops that were super portable, powerful and with a lengthy battery life. On top of that we had a Sandy Bridge MacBook Air release and the Samsung Series 9, complete with rocket parts, to compete with it. On top of that, there was also the arm-slashing, sharp cornered Asus Zenbook, which just managed to be released in time for our competition.
Intel came up with the Ultrabook name to define anything which manages 5 hours battery life or more, has an SSD and starts up fast. Nearly every Ultrabook we have come across at Pocket-lint has impressed, reminding us that a laptop doesn't need to be a bulky plastic blob in order to deliver performance. Several major manufacturers have jumped on board the Ultrabook parade. First up is the Acer Aspire S3, essentially a MacBook Air made from plastic. Then there is the slightly more upmarket Lenovo in the form of a new ThinkPad, a laptop classic with revamped spec sheet and business approach to styling. While it might be as boring as tie shop, it is the practical mans choice for super slims.
A value for money laptop was once as discardable as a bag full of used hospital underwear. Now, thanks to computer parts getting cheaper, a good purchase can mean music and video production capable hardware can be had for under £500.
One of the most interesting products we saw on the laptop front was the emergence of Google Chrome OS based laptops, namely the Samsung Series 5. Migrating our lives to the cloud didn't prove hugely easy, but the potential of an entirely web based operating system is difficult not to ignore. The £349 price tag isn't bad either.
HP had some decent value offerings this year too, the best of which came in the form of the Pavillion dv6, which included a i5 processor and AMD graphics, with an LED backlit screen to boot. Dell also brought a nice piece of laptop to the table with the Inspiron 15R, which at £549 is as cheap as it is powerful.
At the top end of the value category is the Asus U36J, which whilst not quite as cheap as competitors, does come better built, being thin and light compared to others. Apple more or less silenced itself for good on the value front in 2011, getting rid of the classic white MacBook and replacing it with the MacBook Air as the company's entry level portable product.
The Powerbook has seen a good year this year thanks to Intel managing to squeeze plenty of power with minimum battery life strain from its Sandy Bridge processors. On top of that Nvidia has gone overboard with its mobile graphics processors, which quite frankly have begun to deliver unbelievable performance given their size.
Medion shipped its usual value for money graphical powerhouse, which took the shape of the X6813. We particularly enjoyed the desktop levels of performance, included Blu-ray player and all round multimedia package.
Then there was Sony's offerings, starting at the Vaio SB VPC-SB1V9E, which at less than £1000 came with discreet graphics and an i5 to boot. Way up the price spectrum from Sony however was the Vaio VPC-F21Z1E (we know, we don't get the names either), which included a proper 3D display and built-in Nvidia GeForce 540m.
MSI and Alienware were flying the flag for gamers in 2011 with spec-filled laptops set to make portable fans eyes drool with gaming excitement. The GT680 from MSI in particular proved to be a seriously potent contender, complete with 8GB of RAM and an i7. AlienWare set the M11x R3 loose, which rapidly established itself as the smallest possible gaming rig available. At 11 inches, but with an i7 and a GT540m somehow included, it was a small but powerful package.
The netbook appears to be in its final throws towards the end of 2011, being replaced rapidly with super slims and Ultrabooks. There are, however, still a few releases worth taking notice of, namely things like the 11-inch MacBook Air, which stands out as one of the best laptops released this year.
There was also the Toshiba NB550D-10G, which ditched the problematic and underpowered Intel Atom processor in favour of the newer AMD APUs. This immediately led to a much needed performance hike and prevented it from suffering from the snail pace performance of other netbooks.
Dell tried something different with the Inspiron Duo, which was part tablet, part Netbook. It proved to be fun and high end enough to keep up with other entry level Sandy Bridge powered competition. Asus also tried to stand out with the Eee PC Seashell, which featured a dual-core Atom processor and USB 3.0 ports.
Samsung entered the Netbook foray with the NF210, which turned out to be one of our all round favourites this year. Inside was a 1.5 GHz dual-core Atom processor, 250GB hard drive and 1GB of RAM. The stylish white plastic design and affordable Netbook price also kept the Pocket-lint testers happy.
Finally there came the Android and Windows combo Acer Aspire One D255, which whilst not being of premium build quality, was more than powerful and portable enough to justify its 8/10.
Missed anything schweeet? Let us know in the comments below...