A couple of weeks ago, Dustin published the first part of our Mobile Buyer’s Guide, focused on notebooks and desktop replacements larger than 14”. Now we’re back with the second half, detailing the best choices for portable and ultraportable notebooks and netbooks.
 

With the back to school season approaching, newly refreshed notebooks are being released on a rapid fire basis. It’s pretty exciting, with tons of new products and new technology platforms hitting the market all at once. While a few months old, Intel’s Core i3/5/7 processors are really starting to ramp up, with standard voltage Core i3/i5/i7 processors essentially taking over the market. The delayed CULV refresh, with low voltage Arrandale chips, is also starting to hit the market in notebooks like the Alienware M11x R2 and Acer’s TimelineX series. Intel’s also done a bit of refresh job on the netbook-class Atom processor, with higher clock speeds, support for DDR3 memory, and a dual core variant expected to hit early Q3.

AMD has its own updates in the pipeline, with tri and quad core Phenom II chips (Danube platform) launching in some of the larger notebooks and their 2010 Ultrathin platform, codenamed Nile, just starting to hit the market. Danube and Nile both share the RS880 chipset and SB820 southbridge, along with a 55nm Radeon HD 4225 integrated graphics chip built on the RV620 core.

And on the graphics front, we’ve got ATI really making some waves with high performance DX11 parts like the HD 5850 and 5870, and on a more mainstream level, the HD 5650 as well. NVIDIA is dominating the portable market, with the Optimus automated graphics switching technology being a real draw for notebook manufacturers. On the higher end, NVIDIA just launched its first mobile DX11 part, based on a cut down version of the beastly Fermi core. More mainstream DX11 parts are in the pipeline for Q3 as well, based on even more scaled down variants of Fermi. And then there’s Next-Gen Ion (or Ion 2, whichever you prefer), which adds a discrete NVIDIA graphics chip and Optimus to Pine Trail based netbooks, making them serviceable HD media playback machines. We’re still waiting for NG ION to hit market (the Acer 532g just got canceled), but it’s supposed to be out this summer as well.

With all of the major chip makers firing on all cylinders, the sheer amount of new laptops on the market is simply astounding. In fact, of the group of laptops mentioned in this guide, just a handful are more than two months old, and there are at least five that are still in the preorder stage, though due to ship in the very near future.

Since this is the “Portable Edition”, we’ll be focusing on laptops mostly this side of 14” screen size, with 13.3” being the most common screen size in our list. We do have a few 14-inchers though, either because they were powerful enough to merit mention in this guide, or because they are slim enough to compare with smaller notebooks. I used 5.0 lbs as the (flexible) upper cap on weight, with sub-4.0 lbs carrying weights preferred. A surprisingly high number of systems on my list claim to top 8 hours of battery life, even with dedicated graphics and standard voltage Core i3/i5/i7 processors – a testament to how far battery life has come in recent years, even with battery tech staying mostly stagnant for some time now.

So, with all the background info out of the way, let’s get to our picks.

All-rounder: Asus U30Jc/U33Jc/U35Jc
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  • Friendly0Fire - Monday, July 19, 2010 - link

    You're painting this as if it was losing its entire battery life in a matter of hours. I've read about 10-20% in a day, with some people claiming 2-5% with some tweaking. The former numbers are high but tolerable unless you're constantly on the go, while the latter numbers are fine by me. Reply
  • jtsarnak - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    I am constantly on the go. This is a luxury class laptop and billed as an ultra-portable business solution. ANY substantial loss after a day, be it 5% or 20%, is unacceptable. It's the only laptop I've ever owned that loses this much power overnight. Anything else doesn't lose that power in a WEEK's time. Reply
  • Alexo - Monday, July 19, 2010 - link

    Note: I am more interested in battery life than gaming performance so my comment is going to address that, but it is equally valid for other benchmarks.

    With the above in mind, I am quite disappointed with the article.
    I came to associate AnandTech's articles, reviews and recommendation with rigorous testing.

    However, of all the notebooks that claim long battery life, only the Asus U30jc was actually reviewed and hard numbers were given. For the rest of the recommendations, battery life times were either "extrapolated" based on assumptions (Asus UL?0jt) or worse -- taken from the manufacturers' claims. There were no measurements to verify the claims/assumptions and no real-life data was given.

    If not a full comparative review, I expected to see at least a short comparison of measured performance. Especially since the actual user experience reported on various forums greatly varies.

    After reading the article, I still have no idea how the RECOMMENDED U30jc, U35jc, UL30jt, 3820tg and X201 compare to each other in terms of performance and battery life.

    Display quality was also glossed over. The article mentioned that most displays were bad but no mention was made which are better/worse than others.

    All in all, I got the impression that some of the recommendations were based on press releases.

    Vivek, can you get your hands on these models and give us some actual numbers?

    Best regards,
    Alex.

    P.S.,
    Another minor thing that I'd like to mention: The PL?0jt (the "business" version of the UL?0jt) is apparently available with matte displays.
    Reply
  • SongEmu - Monday, July 19, 2010 - link

    I was impressed with the looks of the new HP Envy line, and was hoping they'd turned a new leaf in thermal management as well... guess not. Reply
  • Munna2002 - Monday, July 19, 2010 - link

    Thanks for a great list, but I still don't see a laptop that fits all of my criteria.

    1) Non-ULV i5/i7
    2) Optimus technology
    3) 13-15" screens
    4) Decent non-Intel graphics card for light gaming
    5) Pointing stick
    6) (*Optional*) About 6 hours of battery life

    The closest match that I see are Thinkpads T410, HP Elitebook 8440p, and Dell Latitude E6410. (but these don't have Optimus, and T410 has really bad battery life)

    Suggestions anyone?
    Reply
  • VivekGowri - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    All of the Asus U30/33/35 line is sold elsewhere with Core i5 processors. If you were so inclined, you could technically just buy a Core i5 or i7 processor and swap it in yourself. Or there's always the Sony Z.....LOL.

    Optimus is still in the ramping up stages, only a few makers have had the chance to use it by now, so give it a few months and as more of the fall releases hit, there should definitely be at least a few that fit your needs.
    Reply
  • sam333 - Monday, July 19, 2010 - link

    I've been reading anandtech for quite some time and I've always felt that you are biased towards Intel giving them the publicity and advertising.
    Abt time if you gave a fair comparison.
    Reply
  • rhys006 - Monday, July 19, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the post. I'm curious why you chose to flag 'heat' as an issue for the Envy 14? The developers realized that the previous versions had short comings in this area and modified the unit accordingly. I've been following owner forums since the Envy 14 came out and excessive heat has not been cited as an issue.

    Do you have more intel than we do?
    Reply
  • batterycompanycomau - Monday, July 19, 2010 - link

    1. Most of the new Laptop Battery at the factory are set to sleep mode, the first boot with only about 5% of the electricity. You should not use an external power supply at this time, let the battery exhausted, until shutdown, then switch on the external ac adapter and the first charge had better over 15 hours. After fully charged, you should charge after the exhaustion of batter, the time of the second and third charge should be more than 12 hours, in order to activate TOSHIBA Laptop Battery and lay a good foundation for future use.
    2. TOSHIBA battery life is measured in terms of the number of charging and discharging. Do not enable the TOSHIBA Laptop Battery unless it is necessary, if you don't use the battery for a long time, you should charge it to about half full and place in a cool place to keep. If you enable the TOSHIBA battery, you should run out of power after the charging, and do not plug in the AC power before exhausted. When the TOSHIBA Laptop Battery fully charged, you should disconnect the AC input because overcharge will make the TOSHIBA battery overheat and that will shorten the TOSHIBA battery life.
    3. Generally speaking, nowadays the laptop are with intelligent TOSHIBA battery protection, the TOSHIBA Laptop Battery will not be damaged due to normal operation, but still may damaged for the life-span of travelmate battery or other special reasons.
    4. Lithium-ion TOSHIBA Laptop Battery should fast charge in constant current and then switch to slow charge in constant voltage when the voltage reaches a certain value. Usually the laptop doesn't have a strictly constant-current charge monitoring device. Charge current will turn small when system load large and vice versa, the current is decided by the TOSHIBA AC adapter power margin, it is obviously.
    5. Discharge in a current as small as possible, the action is to slow down the CPU, stop the hard disk, adjust the screen to the most dark, and then do not run any programs until the laptop automatically shut down. The reason to emphasize the small current discharging is to prevent the TOSHIBA laptop premature detect the Laptop Battery voltage shortage.

    www battery-company com au
    Reply
  • matt b - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    Given that numerous laptops 13.3 inchs and smaller are shipping with AMD nile dual core processors (K325 and K625), can we get a review of these? You must have some in your labs b/c you say that they still fall short of the Intel CULV processors on battery life. Can we see some actual reviews from Anandtech? I've seen mixed reviews on the internet. Toshiba has a 13.3 with the k625 that they claim gets over 6 hours of battery life. The k625 does not have bad performance, and in actual games (versus benchmarks like PC Vantage that Anandtech has shown that Intel's latest drivers have broken) the ATI 4225 cards are faster than Intel's. The price is right too. I'd like to see a i3 or CULV comparison using the same battery (one just not rated the same) versus the K625.
    My take from seeing the number of design wins was that Nile must be pretty impressive.
    Reply

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