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  • s44 - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    Prime Reply
  • banvetor - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    Hi Jarred,

    Thanks for the great guide, but I kept wondering if this plain price/category division is the best way to go...

    For instance, the only laptop that you mentioned that even fits my buying needs is the Asus Ultrabook, but I feel that there are other options in the market that were not addressed (HP's Envy, for instance).

    Maybe you could keep the price categorization (up to 400, up to 700, up to 1200, up to infinity?), but add a little more depth inside each category, specially perhaps on the 1200, where there are a lot of things to choose from... The sub-categories could be screen size based, or, even better, weight based...

    I, for instance, need something powerful yet as portable as possible. Currently I have a Dell Latitude E6400, which is very nice, but is starting to show its age. I've been looking for something else at the 14" category, but both the new Envy and the 14z let me down on the screen category... My E6400 has a very nice LED backlit 1440×900 screen, I cannot think about downgrading to a 1366 x 768 screen!
  • piroroadkill - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    Haha, I hear you on the screen thing. My laptop is a positively ancient Dell Latitude D800. But it has a 15.4" 1920x1200 screen.
    It might be old, but the battery life is great. I have a bay battery as well as the main battery. I also upgraded it to the fastest 2GHz Pentium M I could get, 2GB RAM, Windows 7 and threw in a 160GB HDD. I also upgraded the GPU to the Radeon 9600 Mobility Pro Turbo.

    Yes, all this stuff is old, we're talking 2005~ish I suppose. But I don't really game on it, and I can't imagine buying a piece of crap 1366x768 screen when I have this beautiful panel..
  • The0ne - Saturday, December 03, 2011 - link

    Yea, those days will not come again. I dislike having lower resolution in the same size screen. Heck even my Dell vostro 17" from 3 years ago is 1920x1200 and the screen was nice, for a TN panel.

    And while the M17xR3 is nice for a new laptop I will continue to hold on to my R2 simply because of the better screen and its size. If anything I can always upgrade the cpu and video card but I'm not of a modern gamer so I'm not worry.
  • cjarrett - Monday, December 05, 2011 - link

    Check out the Sony SA. Its got a great 1080 screen, and can play relatively recent games--though no Alienware.

    It's also really light. Its treated me well thus far.
  • rdamiani - Sunday, December 11, 2011 - link

    1080p screens are the problem, not the solution. A 1080p screen is essentially an ultra-wide SXGA screen - something that was new and hot in 1998. 12 years later I was hoping to see 200+ dpi displays, not the 100dpi that is so distressingly common. Reply
  • dj christian - Wednesday, January 04, 2012 - link

    Where can i see dpi values on screens? And which ones are SXGA which ones are not? Reply
  • Drewdog343 - Sunday, January 22, 2012 - link Reply
  • piroroadkill - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    A 14" budget gaming Llano notebook.
    That sounds like a great idea.
    Some mythical specs, a 14.1" 1440x900 16:10 panel, A8-3530MX. Give me 6GB DDR3-1600 because Llano will be carving into system RAM, and give me a 7200 RPM 500GB HDD. Give me a spare mSATA slot inside, so later on I can buy a little SSD on a card and toss it in.

    Cheap the price down, and I'd buy it. A decent quality TN (hah, is that possible?) is acceptable of course, because it'll keep the thing in the right price range.
  • piroroadkill - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    An option to upgrade that to, say, 1680x1050 and IPS would also be welcome.
    Matte, all options, of course.
  • Meaker10 - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    Guys, nobody makes 16:10 panels anymore. Reply
  • piroroadkill - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    I don't care, I still want one.

    I bought a Dell U2410 for my desktop.
  • tipoo - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    Apples laptops are 16:10, someone has to be making panels of those ratio in mass quantities. Reply
  • piroroadkill - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    Good point. The Macbook Pro has basically exactly what I typed, and what I was hoping for.

    The 15" version has a.. 1440x900 screen, and upgradable to.. 1680x1050. I'd like to see it in a 14" chassis with a thin bezel, but that's basically spot on.
  • Corland - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    I got in the mail my 15" MacBook Pro just last night with the upgraded 1680X1050 density- only because it was the only one in a matte resolution in that form factor. It's quite a nice screen, and I recommend it totally. Reply
  • seapeople - Saturday, December 03, 2011 - link

    1920x1080p puts 1680x1050 to shame. Reply
  • nikclev - Saturday, December 03, 2011 - link

    And 1920x1200 puts 1920x1080 to shame. Reply
  • PeteH - Tuesday, December 06, 2011 - link

    But that's 16:9, not 16:10. Reply
  • rdamiani - Sunday, December 11, 2011 - link

    It actually doesn't. A 15.6" 1080p screen is only as tall as a 14" 16:10 screen. Reply
  • JojoKracko - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    The next round of gaming laptops really should include IPS panels. If you can throw them in tablets for $500, they really should be in $1500 laptops as well.

    AND laptops really should be 16x10, not 16x9.

    As for good gaming laptop options, why wasn't the MSI 780DXR in the list? GTX570M gpu, 2670 quad core and most importantly, a MATTE 1080P screen. Kicks the G74 to the curb.

    (however, as I prefer Asus in general, I sure hope the g75 adds ALL of these check box items AND fixes the undersized numpad zero key problem)
  • JarredWalton - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    I never had a chance to see a 780DXR in person, so I just don't know what the overall experience is like. It appears decent if a little gaudy. Finding credible reviews is also a bit difficult -- I can't find any where they actually measure contrast ratio for example. Pricing is reasonable, though I'd rather get an SSD + HDD hybrid like the ASUS. That's pretty much it: if I haven't tested a laptop and haven't been able to at least see it in person (or find a review from a source that I'd trust), I'm hesitant to recommend it without caveats. Reply
  • Penti - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    1600x900 14-inch is fine.

    Still displays like 15" DreamColor on HP use 15W. The technology doesn't scale yet. There are some 12.5" IPS options though. But they might not be the best option for WVA and outdoor readability. IPS is fine but they need to use 3-4W for it to just be a drop in replacement.
  • JarredWalton - Monday, December 05, 2011 - link

    I believe the problem with power on IPS has more to do with the backlighting than the IPS part of the equation. Otherwise, how would iPad and several other tablets manage with IPS? I know in the past RGB LED backlighting used a lot more power than standard WLED backlighting, and I'd assume the high gamut IPS displays in DreamColor are using something similar. Anyway, the fact that IPS can be done in a tablet without losing battery life compared to TN proves it's possible; now we just need a display panel manufacturer to put in the R&D efforts and a laptop manufacturer to use the result. Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    I've been looking for a succcessor to my EEE1005PR (10" 1366x768 + 11H battery) for a while, but with the premium netbooks having largely switched to 11.6/12" screens haven't been able to find any that isn't a major regression in at least one area.

    The slightly larger laptops all fall on the wrong side of the fits in my pocket threshold; and for wandering around a conference center not having to either hand carry or use a bag is worth the akward lump problems that come with something that only just fits.

    From the other direction, I loose the 1366x768 screen which is a major letdown 95% of the time (140DPI and 8 point font text in a browser don't mix well at arms length); and I've yet to see a 10" C50/60 with more than 6 hours of battery life. I had 6hrs with my 1st netbook and it just didn't cut it, I'd want 8 hours minimum; preferably 9 or 10 to give more margin once the battery starts getting old.

    The EEE-Pad transformer might fit the bill, but although ARMs gotten considerably faster I think it's CPU performance still falls short of the atom which I found barely fast enough to be tolerable and I'd be paying a very large price premium vs a netbook.
  • Sanz84 - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    Well my friend has an atom equipped laptop and in html5 performance is even behind my phone. I still think that for long battery life the way to go is an arm processor, at least for now. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    I'd suggest Brazos C-60 as a nice compromise. Better performance than Atom in both CPU and GPU departments; I'd expect its GPU to at least match most smartphone/tablet offerings. Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    If I could find one with a 10" screen and a suitably long lasting battery I would.

    The only one newegg carries with a 10" screen is the Acer Aspire One AO522-BZ465; I'd be OK with it's screen being 1280x720, but its battery is only rated for 6 hours which isn't long enough. Acer doesn't appear to offer this with a larger battery.

    Searching on google for "10" C60 netbook" only turns up the Toshiba NB550D-10T; which has a 9.5h battery but only a 1024x600 screen. More seriously, it doesn't appear to be available in the US.
  • Meaker10 - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    You recommended a gaming machine to get a quadro 2000M?

    GTX560M = 775/1550/625 192 shaders, 24 ROPs, 192bit GDDR5
    Quadro = 550/1100/900 192 shaders, 16 ROPs, 128bit DDR3

    I'd say a 192bit 555M with DDR3 could well do better.

    I'm sorry but for 1080p gaming 128bit DDR3 is a joke, you have cut the bandwidth by over half.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    It's not as fast as GTX 560M, certainly, but it's right in the mix with the GT 555M. The additional shaders relative to 555M help quite a bit, and memory bandwidth often isn't the limiting factor. Certainly more bandwidth would have been nice, and really I'd like the option to forego Quadro if you're primarily concerned with gaming and never do any professional OpenGL work, but that's sadly not an option on the W520. Reply
  • Meaker10 - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    I'd agree with you at 768p or even 900p, but at 1080p you are going to have to seriously cull something to ease that memory bandwidth.

    You can see the difference between the 5570 and 6570, often at 1680x1050 you can get a 40% difference in performance, much more than the 20% increase in shader count can cover.

    That's with a slower chipset at a lower resolution.
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, December 03, 2011 - link

    Turn off AA, don't set things on "Very High/Ultra", and 1080p is very much playable on most titles with a Quadro 2000M. Yes, there will be games where you need to drop to Medium details, but without spending a lot more money I just don't think there's a laptop out there that will match display quality, build quality, and keyboard quality. If you're primarily interested in gaming, that's what the M17x, G53SX, and G74SX recommendations are for. Reply
  • jalexoid - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    "battery life, build quality, an excellent display, and even the ability to play games"
    There is not better value for requested characteristics than W520. Period.
    MBP Might comes, but only at 17".

    I myself am on the notebook hunt. After 5.5 years with my trusty ThinkPad T42 the only two that can compare to my needs are ThinkPads T and W series and MacBook Pro series.

    The only thing I am waiting for is for Lenovo to update ThinkPad T4x0s or T5x0 with better GPU's.
  • dude1978 - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    I have a Dell e6400 with SSD and before that a Lenovo T61, would you think switching to an Asus Zenbook would disappoint as far build quality? Reply
  • jmunjr - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    Why no mention of the X220? i3 thru i7 CPU options, a nice 12.5" IPS display available for a $50 premium, insanely good battery life with the 6 cell, even more insane with the 9 cell and nearly 24 hours of battery life with the battery slice. There were some minor issues early on that seem to have been remedied so no complaints there. A nicely configured i5, 4GB, 320GB setup can be had on one of their regular sales for well under $1000, often dipping below $800... Also while SSD options are there but a but pricey, adding your own SSD is doable though tricky.

    It isn't a gaming rig but it sure is the best ultra portable laptop on the market today. The screen alone is worth a look.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    Good call -- I added both the X120e and X220 as alternatives. Reply
  • Braumin - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    Oh yeah one more thing about the X220 - you can get a larger battery (9 cell) PLUS you can get a battery slice that latches on under the laptop. That combination ups the battery life from ~10 hours with the standard battery to about ~20 hours. Not too shabby! Reply
  • zsero - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    I really hope that after this article Lenovo will start giving you review samples, they are SO MUCH missing from Anandtech!

    X220, T420, T520 (also has the same 1080p screen as the W520!) and W520 really needs to be covered, as well as the Thinkpad Tablet. These are proper laptops with options like
    - mSATA SSD + 2 HDD
    - huge battery life
    - docking stations with the option for 4!!! external displays
    - industry's best keyboards

    Also, they have the most sophisticated cooling system on all notebooks. Other than the 16:9 ratio they are what a laptop should be. The only weekness is possibly the T420's display, but there are no good 14" panels around.
  • Braumin - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    I need to second this. My wife's aunt recently wanted a new laptop. I told her to get an X220. You just can not go wrong.

    12.5" IPS display, great keyboard, and you can get it with an Intel SSD for less than $1000.

    If I was buying a laptop, that one would be near the top of the list for sure. Just to get an IPS screen for only a $50 premium makes it a top contender.
  • dude1978 - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    Isn't the X220 about 1.34 inches thick? I'm torn between that and Asus UX21. portability is at a premium for me and I almost always use an external monitor, keyboard and mouse. Reply
  • samsp99 - Saturday, December 03, 2011 - link

    I am on my 4th consecutive T-series thinkpad at work, and just recently bought my second T series for home. What the thinkpad line lacks in bling, it more than makes up for in construction quality and reliability. Most share the same power adapter which means I have a spare or two.

    While the lenovo site seems to be having perpetual sales, they also have an outlet (link at the bottom of their site) where they sell returned and refurbished machines at a nice discount. The inventory is constantly changing so its worth watching the site until you see the configuration you want.
  • aranyagag - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    I am also holding on to my core 2 duo until it either gives up the ghost or I get a taller screen Reply
  • Hrel - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    Gonna have to disagree on the midrange gaming laptop.

    I have for some time, and continue to believe this is simply the best laptop per dollar you can buy right now.
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, December 03, 2011 - link

    That's practically the same as our W150HRQ recommendation in many ways, only without Optimus and with a faster GPU. However, it's also $1200+ where we linked an ASUS G53SX going for under $1000. The Clevo P151HM is potentially faster, but having reviewed the P151HM I can say that the keyboard quality and overall build quality are nothing special. I would rather have the ASUS. Reply
  • Hrel - Saturday, December 03, 2011 - link

    Jarred, you and everyone else at Anand are always going on about laptop screens. How can you recommend the Asus when you know the screen is bog standard? Yes it's 1080p, which helps. But viewing angles, contrast, color accuracy, all those are areas where Asus consistently and inexplicably goes with a sub-par display. Reply
  • Hrel - Saturday, December 03, 2011 - link

    Also to clarify, from my perspective money isn't a concern as much as bang/buck is. And I care a great deal about the screen. I will say, while I'm satisfied with the quality of the speakers on the P151 Clevo, they could be louder. My only other complain though is the 10 key, the 0 needs to be moved over, if that means shrinking the arrow keys that's fine with me; then make the enter key larger or move it to the left. Build quality however and the rest of the keyboard, and tactile feedback, I find very impressive. I bought this laptop after asking you if I should get this or the MSI actually. You said Clevo or Asus, I went with the Clevo and couldn't be happier with it. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, December 03, 2011 - link

    My understanding is the G53SX has models in both matte and glossy, and that those are all higher contrast displays. However, I can't say for sure as ASUS is clearly sourcing from multiple vendors. Right now, I only know of two matte 1080p 15.6" LCD panels, both from AU Optronics and both good quality. One is high color gamut and the other is standard sRGB, and I would be happy with either one.

    If you've personally seen the G53SX and it does not have a decent contrast (e.g. it has a very poor black level), let me know, but the information I was able to dig up suggests the 1080p models are better than average displays.
  • Hrel - Saturday, December 03, 2011 - link

    Oh, also the GTX560M is the slowest GPU I'd accept. It is a shame it doesn't have Optimus, especially since it's supported. But the battery life is quite impressive, in my own uses. Reply
  • pepperoni - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    Jarred - I was a little surprised by your dismissal of 3D panels on notebooks. I have never seen a 120Hz display, but I have been intrigued ever since I read this review by your colleague:

    "[It] was my first exposure to 120Hz refresh displays that aren’t CRTs, and the difference is about as subtle as a dump truck driving through your living room. I spent the first half hour seriously just dragging windows back and forth across the desktop - from a 120Hz display to a 60Hz, stunned at how smooth and different 120Hz was. Yeah, it’s that different." --Brian Klug 8/7/10

    Your critique of mobile 3D has mainly centered on the lack of utility -- a point I completely agree with. Like you, I have zero interest in viewing any 3D games or movies on a notebook (or in my living room or in a theater, for that matter), but if 120Hz benefits the 2D experience half as much as Brian Klug claims, it sounds great.

    The Toshiba A665-3DV you reviewed had crappy resolution and low contrast. I'm thinking about Dell's XPS 17 with 1080p 3D. Do you think 120Hz is a worthwhile upgrade for someone like me who hates 3D?
  • snuuggles - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    I agree. I own an hn274h for 2d only, it makes a significant difference in my day to day activity and game playing. Everything just feels... Crisper? I'm not sure how to describe it

    One reason they might not want to do it it power use, I'm guessing if it's running twice as fast it'll use more juice. But the truth is that there's simply no market for better displays--witness all the 13" 1360x768 60hz tn panels on supposed high end ultra books. The average consumer is idiotic.

    Hey, not to put too fine a point on it, but our own jarred recommended the UTTERLY worthless ux31 based from what I can only guess is on the looks and specs. Certainly anyone who tried to use it to work would instantly find the keyboard--the single biggest differentiating factor between this and a tablet--completely unusable due to the short throw and stiff action of the keys

    Sorry Jarred, you blew it big time. I'm not normally this harsh to an individual, but you need to hear this: it is unacceptable for you to recommend something based on specs alone
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, December 03, 2011 - link

    Two things for you. First, here's the last part of my paragraph dismissing 3D: "Okay, sure, the 120Hz refresh rates would actually be nice, but does anyone want to view 3D content on a notebook?" I like the idea of 120Hz displays for non-3D purposes, but unfortunately you have to pay for all the 3D rigmarole to get there (e.g. glasses, emitter, etc.) and you generally can't get 120Hz displays unless you go with NVIDIA GPUs.

    Second, and this is specifically for snuuggles, I've got the UX31E sitting on my test bench right now. I can tell you the expected battery life and the performance. Given that it's an ultrabook, going outdoors into brightly lit environments is a very likely use case. A 500 nit display is going to be very useful. Would I prefer higher contrast? Of course, but at least the resolution is better than the competition. But you weren't talking about the display.... [To be continued!]
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, December 03, 2011 - link

    ...You wanted to talk about the keyboard experience, so let's do that.

    You're correct: the key depth is very shallow, but how much that matters is largely up to personal taste. It's the placement of the keys as much as the shape that helps me with typing, and I can definitely type on the UX31E. It won't win any awards for the keyboard, but to utterly dismiss it just because the key travel is shallow (which seems to be part of what we'll see on ultrabooks in general)? Nope, I don't buy that argument at all.

    I'd suggest getting keyboard backlighting in place would be higher on my list of priorities than key travel, and I'd really like ASUS to move the power key out of the current location (which is where the Delete key belongs--I had to sset Windows to ignore pressing the power button after the third time I inadvertently "typed" Power Off).

    Anyway, the keyboard isn't a ThinkPad or a Dell Latitude, but it's also not an Acer. I'd rate the layout as decent (outside of the power key) but the feel of the keys as below average. And I would much rather be typing on my Microsoft Natural Keyboard. Still, if I were in the market for an ultrabook (I'm not), out of the three or four 13.3" models currently available I'd go for the ASUS, mostly because 1600x900 with a so-so keyboard beats 1366x768 with a slightly better keyboard. I just don't think anyone is going to give me an excellent keyboard in an ultrabook.

    And yes, this whole comment was written on the UX31E and I'm not feeling any worse about the experience than I did before starting. Fact is, I've got the Acer S3 sitting right next to me as I type this and having just typing a few quick sentences on it I can say that key travel isn't much better there. I think ultrabooks are going to be about compromise, and one of those compromises is in the keyboard travel. When you set the maximum thickness of the laptop at 0.8", you won't get the quarter inch of travel found in a desktop keyboard.
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, December 03, 2011 - link

    PS: Just for you I've added a note about the keyboard on the UX31E in the article, suggesting potential customers try one out in person if that's an area that matters to them. Reply
  • Penti - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    You miss a whole category I bought a Arrandale (before SNB) CULV 11.6" (1366x768) laptop some while ago for basically as cheap as you get, for the same price as Atom netbooks which comes with decent battery, W7HP instead of W7 Starter and so on. With basically better battery life (got the slightly larger battery, cheapest model don't have them regardless if it's netbook or cheap ultraportable), cpu, software support and it feels like a real computer. Netbooks have no place when you get better hardware for the same price and power envelope. It's nothing to recommend.

    I'm not terribly sure what you got in that market now in the states, but I would prefer cheaper Intel chips here they are simply much higher end then Brazos or Atom. But you can get something like Toshiba L735-S3350 with Pentium B950, 4GB, 500GB 13.3-inch 1366x768 for 500 USD, Acer TimelineX AS3830T-6870 with Core i5 2430M 2.4GHz, 4GB, 500GB 13.3-inch 1366x768 for 600 USD. HP Pavilion dm1-4050us Core i3 2367M 1.4GHz, 4GB, 500GB 11.6-inch 1366x768 incl external dvd-drive for 570-600 USD. Or more in those lines, it doesn't have to be netbooks or 1000 - 1200 dollar ultrabooks. Certainly worth it for the extra 90 bucks to get a dm1-4050us over a dm1z Brazos netbook. Sure might be $140 with the MIR, but still worth it over the Brazos. I take a hundred dollar over a Atom or Brazos laptop any day. Still cheap or small enough and enough power to contend with 13-15" cheap models too. When we are talking non-properly speced out Atom netbooks for 200-300 they only has 3-cell batteries and virtually no battery life and other drawbacks such as Windows 7 Starter, low amount of memory and low res display, no webcams, bluetooth and so on. Like no hardware accelerated video (and thus Flash player video) on Atom's GMA3150 without Broadcom accelerator card, and I'm not sure you can even get that anymore from HP or others. That's not a problem with the Brazos. But I would still go Intel over Brazos here, they are simply not very powerful and kinda the wrong niche when compared to cheaper Intel Sandybridge stuff. There's more choices any way which was my point.
  • Penti - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    I wouldn't call a Llano which has worthless graphics in all fairness no faster then integrated HD 3000 Graphics a choice when it comes to gaming and I would even be critical and pushing it to call GT540M a choice for low-end gaming.

    That IPS displays don't end up in 11-16" laptops is basically because they aren't manufactured or are manufactured in low volume or are expensive, or power hungry. HP's dreamcolor 15" IPS display is still specced at 15 Watts. In tablets they usually use AFFS+ displays for outdoor viewability which you simply don't get with IPS displays in that way. Even though some Tablet PC's do use IPS displays in the 12-13" range. However does displays probably end up costing quiet a lot.

    For gaming I would probably say something like GTX550M or HD6750M is minimum. You can probably find some Llano with HD 6755G2/HD6750M for 500 refurbish and 700 ordinarily if you like budget. If you really like an AMD option. But again for 700 you have Intel options as well. 650-700 is probably where you find yourself under those 1000 dollar machines.
  • seapeople - Saturday, December 03, 2011 - link

    Since the GT550m can play Starcraft 2 at 1080p in high just fine, I don't think the ~20% or so drop off to the GT540m disqualifies it for "low-end gaming". Reply
  • Penti - Saturday, December 03, 2011 - link

    You would need GT550M for 1366x768 gaming basically for other games, but of course Llano without discrete GPU is disqualified. You wouldn't even get SC2 on 1366x768 medium on that. You need a discrete graphics card if you like to play SC2 at reasonable level. GT540M is just pushing on the limit to be disqualified, which is why I didn't outright say it's useless. For example a game like Metro 2033 would be too heavy for GT540M at 1366x768 and does not meet the _minimum_ requirements of many games at all. Anandtech here concluded for that matter that GT555M is not or just barely enough to drive 1600x900 in Alienware M14x in most games. Reply
  • Roland00Address - Monday, December 05, 2011 - link

    For console ports Llano is fine for cheap laptops, since cheap laptops usually have 1366x768 resolution.

    PC focused games on the other hand is a different matter, high settings is another matter since what most people consider "medium settings" is what a xbox 360 is really running.
  • Malih - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    tired of waiting for good ultrabooks with decent speed, good heat dissipation and good display,
    finally I put an end to all the wait and decided to get a MacBook Pro 13 (Late 2011),

    I'm using it (mostly) on Windows, as I bought the Windows version of my work/development tools, it would be too costly, highly inefficient to buy the mac version too.
  • Vxheous - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    I bought a G74SX-xc1 for $1350 Cdn, which other than 8 GB of RAM instead of 12GB, or having an SSD, was comparable in spec to some of the pricier G74 models. the XC1 is probably your best bang for buck in the midrange Reply
  • frozentundra123456 - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    Great article.

    One note however. I went to the Sears site, and several reviewers stated that that particular laptop has a somewhat gimped GT 560 M with a slower memory bus. I think the same thing happened a while back at Best Buy. They had a really good price on an asus gaming laptop, but the video card had a slower memory bus than the normal cards.

    It wouldnt be a deal breaker for me, and that price is outstanding. But it is just something to be aware of regarding that notebook. Like I said, I would also be wary buying at Best Buy because they tend to do the same thing.
  • Vxheous - Saturday, December 03, 2011 - link

    Yeah, I think the gimped ASUS G74 is the BBK7 model, the 560M has a lower bus, and it's also not 1920x1080. The model I got (XC-1) has the regular 560M with 3GB of vram, and has the 1920x1080. There's a G74SX-RH71 floating around now at $1400 Cdn, that has the i7 2670QM instead of the 2630QM that was in the original release G74's Reply
  • Wineohe - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    I've had the X220 for about 6 months now. IPS Display is great, i7 is very fast, and upgrades in the form of 8GB of ram and a 240GB SSD have made it even better. However I would challenge any mention of high build quality. The bezel on both the keyboard and around the LCD Panel have definite issues. The corners are separating even though I have added the extra protection of a Neoprene case, something I didn't do with my Dell M1210, it was nearly indestructible. Reply
  • snuuggles - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    Jarred, did you attempt to actually *use* the ux31? The keyboard is completely useless (action too short and resistant causing missed keystrokes. This has been reported quite consistently from reviewers, though they still give it high marks, god knows why). This is a very serious issue that I'm pretty surprised you didn't even mention it.

    Recommending it to readers here is not a service--I expect better from this site.
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, December 03, 2011 - link

    I've used it some and don't really mind the keyboard. It's not the best keyboard ever, sure, but it's better than some of the keyboards I've used over the years and a 13" keyboard is worlds better than the 11.6" and 10.1" netbook keyboards. To each his own; I'll have the full review in the next week or so. Reply
  • snuuggles - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    Well, it's true I haven't used a *ton* of notebooks, so I guess the UX31 keyboard could be "relatively good." But the keyboard is the single biggest differentiator of this class of notebook with a tablet computer. It's simply unacceptible to have the primary input mechanism be so unreliable. My user experience was that the key action cause me to miss letters in *multiple words per sentence.* Also, the bottom left of the return key would depress and "click" but not register a keypress. This was repeatible--pressing that part of the key did nothing--ever!

    This is a mechanically flawed device, something that is unfixible in drivers or with anything else besides a complete re-think of the design.

    Seriously Jarred, touch-type a couple of paragraphs *without* going back to correct missed keys and examine what you've written.

    I'm *very* interested in your review, it's possible I got a "bum" keyboard, but given the other reviews I've seen, I suspect not.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    I haven't had issues with missed keys, though I'll agree the key travel is lacking. The power button location is far more irritating to me (already disabled it, thanks). It's possible you just had a flaky unit, but I'll try typing a couple pages of the review on the UX31E just to verify there's nothing particularly damning. Reply
  • g39 - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    Good guide, saved me a lot of work. I'm a former PC user, now Mac user, looking to buy a gaming PC laptop after being out of the scene for a few years. One thing that would be handy in this article is a comparison table listing the prices/specs of the all laptops mentioned in this article. Any way nice article, looks like the Asus G53SX-XR1 fits my needs. Reply
  • ashwinn - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    Thanks so much for such a neat classification and budgeting of the wide array of available choices. This is the best laptop guide I have seen this year. Thanks for taking the time to pick nice photos of the laptops, non-Apple gadgets are typically shown with bad photos, though they do not look that bad at all :-) Reply
  • Bolas - Saturday, December 03, 2011 - link

    Well this is sweet... I just bought the laptop that anandtech recommended for high end gaming about a month ago and at half price (go go outlet center + coupon).

    refurbished Alienware m17x r3, 120Hz Nvidia 3D Vision, Nvidia GTX 580m gpu, Intel core i7 2820QM cpu, 16GB 1333MHz DDR3, Blu-Ray, Killer 1103 Wireless N, all for only $1661. And then installed an Intel 160GB X25-M G2 SSD for the boot drive (had one from a desktop build) and a 750GB HDD for the data drive.

    Lots of fun!
  • Supermuncher - Saturday, December 03, 2011 - link

    I think it's awesome you happend to mention the 4430s since I literally just bought one. The price/performance ratio is amazing. Right now you can actually get the updated 2330 with 500gb for $500. The matte screen is also a plus with usb3.0 and esata. The only annoying this is all the crapware preinstalled and also the fan which is audible all the time! It's not super noisy but it is always on. Even turning it off in bios does nothing to quinch the ever present noise of it. Reply
  • stancilmor - Sunday, December 04, 2011 - link

    Nice review, are there any laptops with an IPS display and a consumer grade discrete graphics card? The Dell & HP mobile workstations are just too expensive. I can't really play the Frames Per Second games, but I do like the graphics turned way out great for the slower response IPS displays, because I don't play FPS...makes me sea sick Reply
  • Penti - Sunday, December 04, 2011 - link

    Forget about IPS and notebooks basically, even HP workstations is useless with IPS panels. The DreamColor 15-inch panel is still a 15W panel. You might find tablet PCs or tablet PC sized machines with IPS or AFFS panels but that's pretty much it. Which of course means no discrete graphics or like a quadro card. FPS games is btw First-Person Shooter :)

    External display might still be a good option in addition to a TN panel built in. You will just have to sit pretty much straight in front of the notebook screen. Viewing angles on TN-panels vary widely though.
  • Iketh - Sunday, December 04, 2011 - link

    FPS games are "first-person shooter" games. That's where you point and shoot your weapon through the eyes of the character you're controlling.

    The other FPS is "frames per second", which is used to gauge the speed of graphics cards by indicating how many frames it can render and send to a display each second.
  • Iketh - Sunday, December 04, 2011 - link

    You're arguments to favor 14" over 15.6" should contain an element from the other side instead of being so biased. The biggest plus with going to 15.6" chassis is a number pad and should be mentioned also. Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, December 05, 2011 - link

    Meh. If I could get a 15.6" laptop with the arrow keys and Insert-PageDown block laid out properly I'd be somewhat interested; as it is the only justification I see for the bigger size is 1080p at a slightly less brutal DPI, or more volume for the battery and cooling hardware for a higher end mobile GPU. Reply
  • rdamiani - Sunday, December 11, 2011 - link

    After all these years of of using notebooks with the keyboard centered on the screen, a number pad is a minus, not a plus. Reply
  • Mr Bill - Sunday, December 04, 2011 - link

    In the $600 category (on sale), I picked up an HP DV6-6140US. A8-3500M Llano quadcore, USB3, 15.6" LED backlit screen and somewhat less important but nice is bluetooth support and blu-ray disk.
    Its not a bad little unit. Would have been nice if the keys were backlit. I hate the 1366 x 768 TN screen, its too narrow and the color rendering is highly directional. Battery life is good, Started playing WOW and its smooth.
  • aguilpa1 - Monday, December 05, 2011 - link

    I agree with Jared, mine is still doing very well as far as performance goes, I can even fire up Skyrim set to high @ 1680x1050 during my lunch break with my ancient 9800MGT and drivers stuck at 180.3 laptop. I imagine if new drivers were available I might even be able to push it all the way up to 1920x1200 full screen at Med-Hi settings. Reply
  • mikedice - Tuesday, December 06, 2011 - link Reply
  • Tamale - Wednesday, December 07, 2011 - link

    I just got a brand new Dell Precision M6600 for what must've been the deal of the century - Mobility FirePro M8900 (Radeon M6970 equivalent) version for $1,300. I was able to outfit it with a mini-SATA 128gb SSD, 40gb Intel SSD, and 8gb of extra DDR3 memory (for a total of 12gb of ram) all for ~$1,500., and now it's quite literally the best mobile workstation I could hope for. I run ubuntu at work, but it even gets decent battery life in windows - around 5 hours of light work.

    It's not small or light, but the 17" 1080p matte finish screen is amazing and the keyboard is top-notch, so I'm definitely a happy camper.

    What Jarred is saying about business laptops is SOOOOO true. You simply can't think of them as being in the same league as consumer laptops AT ALL.
  • Toughbook - Wednesday, December 07, 2011 - link

    This was a very informative article for keeping us up to date on what's out there now. Lord, we all know how fast they change these days. I strongly agree with your business suggestions. My son's Lenovo T410 is holding up pretty well considering a 14 year old hammers on it every day. My Panasonic Toughbook's CF-31 and CF-53 are still as solid as a brick. As you stated, if you change every 2 years go for whatever you like. If you hold onto one and pay dearly for the added quality and features then stick with business or rugged types! Reply
  • rdamiani - Thursday, December 08, 2011 - link

    I can't get excited about any of the current notebooks at any price point because of the craptastic 16:9 displays they all have. All a 1080p display means is a downgrade from the 16:10 1920x1200 display in my current notebook. Until that changes, I won't upgrade until my M4400 is dead. Reply
  • melblanc - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    In the low end category I would assume also the Samsung 305U 11.6inch laptop with E350 (E450 in some markets). Just got it for my motherinlaw and it won for me personally over the HP DM1. Also it has matte display and 1.3mpix camera.

    Battery life might be concern there as it gets just 4cell battery, but then the weight of 1.2kg is great there. I would recommend it. Got it for 399EUR with E350/4GB 1333 RAM / 500 GB HD config. Here it gets just in black, but some markets also more fancy colors are available.

    - decent build
    - matte display
    - price
    - good camera

    - not all configurations available in all markets, E450 is available in some EU contries only, language specific characters an issue there
    - battery standard 4 cell, 6 cell available as extra
    - availability
  • ReverendDC - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link


    I love your articles and almost all of the material on your site. For the most part, AnandTech is the most even-handed of the sites.

    However, I think you missed the mark on this one in the "inexpensive" category. I have a 17.3" HP, 4 GB RAM, 500 GB (5400 RPM...yuck) HD, 1600x900 res system that I got for $379.99 at Best Buy (of all places!). It runs the "not suggested" A4, and absolutely kicks it for general computing and mild gaming. Unless you want to run the newest games, this is more than enough for the general population, and it is extremely speedy. The keyboard is sufficient, and the system doesn't have too much play (the top behind the screen is hollow, so it pushes down quite a bit....). It boots in about 20-30 seconds from a cold start, and all functions of Win7 are peppy, with all Aero effects in gear. Even with a (really crappy) 47 wHr battery, I get 5-6 hours out of a charge.

    Your "low cost" solution is about $120 more than this system (one with an i3 is also available at $420 HP G7 Pavilion series, mine is G7-1237DX), and your netbook solution is $80 more. For the majority of readers that are looking for GP and light/mild gaming, this would be great, but things like this aren't mentioned.

    Of course, it isn't as great as some of the systems located above, but that $100 is a huge difference in many budgets these days...

    As for the A4, what it lacks in CPU power it more than makes up for in GPU power. The HD2000/3000 solutions aren't even close. In fact, your own Llano review notes that most of the benchmarks that are being run do not even run with Intel's current HD IGP solution. Again, pricing is way lower as well.

    I'm not saying one is better than the other, but the A4 matches well with an i3, especially considering the AMD discount.

    Of course, not everyone likes the added real estate of 17.3" over even 15.6", and I can see a major preference for 14" here, but I happen to like the larger screens. Wouldn't mind a 1920x1080 option at this price on a 17.3", nor a 1600x900 option for 15.6" systems, but you get what you can nowadays!
  • tential - Saturday, December 31, 2011 - link

    I'm just extremely disappointed when this review came to high end gaming. You recommended the Alienware M17x. Seriously? You would insult our intelligent to say that we can't do a simple check to compare Asus and Alienware and see which gives better performance? I tried to price an alienware and it gave me 8 GB ram, 2.2 quadcore, 500 GB HD, GTX 560 with 1.5 GB DDR5 Ram and 1080p screen for 2000 dollars. You had the nerve to say a 900p screen. WTF is a 900p screen? Is that something I'm supposed to WANT to purchase?

    A quick newegg search for Asus turned up a 12 GB ram, 2.2 quadcore, 1.5 TB HD, GTX 560 with 3 GB DDR5 Ram and 1080p screen for 1650 dollars. A TON more for a lot less. When I read the article I actually believed you at first. But knowing that this website has gotten more and more popular I decided to actually look, just to be safe. I bought my current gateway gaming laptop under a holiday roundup and it was hands down the best according to you guys. You were right. Price to performance nothing beat it. It's a joke for you to recommend the Aliewanre and I seriously doubt your integrity on this website now. I hope you have a legitimate reason why you would recommend me to pay more, for a LOT less.
  • raki - Sunday, January 08, 2012 - link

    I'm not sure if there's some reason this company wasn't looked at, but they advertise that you can request certain parts for your laptop, even if they don't carry them. Maybe they could do a 1920x1200 IPS display, if it's really important to you.

    The laptops can get pretty over the top.
  • abhicherath - Saturday, January 28, 2012 - link

    i know i'm kinda late here.But just as a head's up.I am pretty sure that Nvidia's GTX 560M and above cards use standard MXM slots.So they SHOULD be upgradeable.So you could slot in a 580M into the G74SX, would be way better than that tacky-ass alienware anyway. Reply

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