Laptops have been through quite the change over the last five or six years. As soon as the technology that ran them got small enough, manufacturers realised that they didn’t have to churn out grey bricks any more. In fact, a splash of colour here, a super thin machine there and very quickly the public demanded something that looked good for their money even at the expense of what these machines were capable of doing.
Of course, it’s still perfectly possible to buy yourself a massive tower with twin GPUs, 20 CPU cores and a water jacket like an Olympic swimming pool to keep the whole thing from blowing up but with the majority of computer users just looking to browse the web and do a little word processing, frankly, who needs to?
So, instead, what with this being Style Week on Pocket-lint, we can focus on looking good and if that’s important to you, then here are the 10 best looking laptops that money can buy (or not in some cases).
MacBook Air (£849-1349)
Boring, boring, we know but let’s get it out of the way first. The MacBook Air looks amazing. It’s always looked amazing. It will continue to look amazing and, even when Apple stops making them, the memory of something that looked amazing will continue to live on. It might be a little tired in our minds but let’s remember that this is a machine so pretty that it actually makes people want to pay to sit in uncomfortable cafes on shoddy Wi-Fi drinking luke warm coffee just so that the rest of the world can see that they’ve got one.
It’s made of a single piece of brushed, silver aluminium; it comes with an isolated backlit keyboard and it’s just 1.7cm thick at its thickest point. It’s your call whether you opt for the 11- or 13-inch model - both are superb - but, at the most, you only have to put up with a 1.35kg weight to lump around. Still powerful on the inside all the same, it’s no wonder it’s changed little since its inception back in 2007.
Samsung Series 9 (from £1,100)
Where Apple goes, Samsung is never far behind and the launch of the Samsung Series 9 laptop in 2011 is proof that the Korean giant really can kick it in style these days. Built with Duralumin - an age-hardened alloy of aluminium used fighter planes - and, this time, brushed black, it comes in at a hair thinner and lighter than the Mac which we’d wager is no accident at all.
Naturally, it’s also more powerful on paper but then that’s PCs for you. That won’t necessarily translate to better performance, not that you care too much about that if you’re reading this anyway. Beyond all that, the curved lines of the Series 9 are really swish even down to the way there are little flaps to cover the ports on the side. Naturally, you get a backlit keyboard and touchpad with all the gesture mod-cons. Naturally, it’ll also cost you and arm and a leg.
Dell Inspiron Duo (from £379)
There have been a lot of efforts at the laptop/tablet transformer over the years but it was finally Dell that hit it bang on with the Dell Inspiron Duo netbook-come-slate. Despite the 10.1-inch swivel touchscreen, it actually feels like a really sturdy piece of kit that manages to work as well as a tablet as it does a computer.
The keyboard is nicely spaced, it’s light weight and not too bulky and it also comes with an Audio Station which acts as a dock, stand and better set of speakers for you to enjoy your films and music through. Highly affordable and nice and colourful, you could do a lot worse than pick up one of these.
Sony Vaio C (form £519)
Of course, if colour is what you’re after, then the only place to be is with the Sony Vaio C series as announced in 2011. Neither super thin nor super high spec these, again, are perfectly affordable machines that look great and come with enough grunt to accomplish all your multimedia needs.
Each bright coloured outer gets brighter still by reflecting out the same wavelength natural light to give them a bonus glow. They also come with a coloured mouse so that your collars and cuffs match. Plenty to choose from and not that many out on the streets, so you can be assured of catching some eyes.
Voodoo Envy 133 (unavailable)
One of the sadder stories of this list is that of Voodoo PCs. Bought up by HP in 2006, this luxury PC maker began doing special edition jobs on the Hewlett Pakard range. As you can see by this suped-up Envy laptop, Voodoo was doing an excellent job. The only trouble is that the Voodoo Envy 133, and indeed any other Voodoo PC product, is no longer available and there appears to be very little activity at all.
Still, if you can pick yourself up one on the second hand market, you’ll be treated to a wonferfully monolithic looking 13.3-inch screen device that’s about as thin as a MacBook Air and comes with the same joys of a backlit keyboard, solid state drive and minimal mass thanks to a carbon fibre frame. Even three years down the line, the specs are pretty reasonable too.
Lenovo IdeaPad U300s (from £800)
The most similar machine to the Voodoo that you can actually pick up in this day and age is the first Ultrabook from Lenovo known as the Lenovo IdeaPad U300s. Bang up to the minute, the idea is that it combines power with style and the style that the Chinese computer maker has gone for is that same utility chic appearance.
The U300s is crafted as a premium notebook, with a robust aluminium shell and an anodised finish, so it certainly looks and feels the part. Stepping away from the days of a PC being covered in ventilation holes, the base of the U300s is a single flat piece of metal, with Lenovo explaining that the chiclet keyboard has been designed to play a part in keeping the laptop cool, referring to it as "breathable" and at the base you’ll find it connected to a silky smooth glass touchpad. The only thing that might put you off is that it’s brown.
Asus Zenbook UX31 (£1000)
The other of the four Ultrabooks that’s certainly worth a shout in the looks department, if perhaps not in overall appeal, is the Asus Zenbook UX31. There's no possible way anyone could call the Zenbook ugly. In fact, it’s possibly the best looking laptop we’ve ever seen. It's solidly built for one, and has an all-metal body, which, while not a unibody, does feel very similar to the Mac in use.
Of course, where metal is involved, there's also extra weight but fortunately, the UX31 isn't overly heavy though which probably has something to do with the fact that it’s only 11mm thick at its thickest. In fact, if it weren’t for a bit of a dodgy trackpad and if those aesthetics didn’t let you down ergonomically, then it might just be the perfect machine.
Dell Adamo XPS (£600)
Given that the Dell Adamo XPS is two years old, you might think it’s a little odd to find it in this list. Do remember, of course, that this is all about style and good looks. Fortunately, the Adamo XPS was so highly specced when it was orginally launched that it still doesn’t shape up too bad on the performance side of things even now.
What’s so stunning about this machine is not just its dimensions and weight (9.99mm thick and 1.46kg, in case you wanted to know - which you did) but what’s really clever is the way it opens and closes with a hinge part way down that also doubles to angle the keyboard to a more user friendly slant when opened. It’s possible to pick these things up now at a fraction of the price at which they were launched and, for that kind of money, it’s hard to say no to even a, technically speaking, dated machine.
Alienware M11x-R3 (from £599)
Alienware laptops are not going to be everyone’s idea of a good looking computer. Minimal, sleek, subtle and fashionable they are not but stylish, well you have to give them that. Parent company Dell and its gaming arm has done an excellent job of squeezing all the power PC components into this small frame size and then spent the rest of the time blinging it up with lights and skulls
Like we say, not everyone’s cup of tea but thought has certainly gone into the look here and, if you’re the kind of person that wears a lot of black and hangs about in Camden, then you might just think this is it as far as laptops go.
Asus Eee Pad Transformer (£420)
Is it a laptop, is it a tablet, does it really matter? We love the Asus Eee Pad Transformer whatever the marketing decides it is. Technically speaking, the beautifully styled chiclet keyboard is an accessory but it’s pretty much a given that you’ll be purchasing one if you’re looking to buy a Transformer at all.
Typically Asus, this machine is tasteful from top to bottom. It’s not that thin at 1.3cm, given its 10.1-inch screen size, but somehow the styling makes it seem skinnier than that with its tapering down to the edges. It’s an all metal affair with well sculpted switches on the sides and a brown mottled top broken only by the logo and a webcam, and you’d be forgiven for thiking that Louis Vuitton had a hand in it somewhere. Seriously light at 680g too.
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Ultra Responsive. Ultra Sleek. Ultrabook ™ - www.intel.co.uk/ultrabook