The notebooks market is not only growing, but also diversifying into different segments. So besides the availability of notebooks in different form factors (ultra-portable, budget, desktop replacement, etc), now notebooks are also being positioned for specific markets as well. The latest market being targeted are the small and mid-size enterprises. That’s why this time, we have sourced notebooks that primarily target professionals in this segment. We received 11 of them, and have divided them into three price brackets for our readers’ convenience–Standard (Rs. 30-50k), Mid-range (Rs. 55-65k), and High-end (Rs. 80k+).
How we tested
We used our three axis model of performance, features, and price to compare all the notebooks. For measuring the performance, we ran industry standard benchmarks–PCMark Vantage, 3DMark 06, CineBench 11.5 , and Imtec BatteryMark to measure battery backup. Here, PCMark Vantage evaluates overall hardware performance and multitasking capabilities. 3DMark 06 checks the CPU and Graphics workload balance to evaluate the graphic capabilities.Cinebench also records the overall graphics rendering capability from the CPU. Lastly, BatteryMark checks overall battery backup of the laptop, and we ran the benchmark normal mode which utilizes all the laptop’s hardware and drains out the battery completely. The other mode is fast mode, which doesn’t drain out the battery completely, but runs for 10 minutes and provides a forecast. On the laptops that came with Windows 7, we also recorded the Windows Experience Index score.
In pricing, we considered the market price of the laptop, years of warranty offered, and the OS that shipped with each laptop.
In features we considered various parameters that included the weight of each laptop, the number and types of I/O ports (eSATA, USB 2/3.0, and VGA/HDMI out). We considered the laptop’s ergonomics, which included things like keyboard layout, touchpad placing and quality, tactility of keys, etc. Things like webcam, Gigabit LAN were standard across all laptops.
Finally, we used the Brown Gibson model to arrive at weightages for all parameters, and the final score is a sum of performance, features, and pricing scores.
Acer Travelmate 8473TG
The 14-inch 8473TG is a new entrant in the Travelmate range of laptops from Acer. It’s essentially meant for SME professionals who travel a lot. The laptop is strong and sturdy, weighing 2.1 kg. It comes with Microsoft Windows 7 Professional, has 3 USB ports, including a USB 3.0 port. The hardware specs on the laptop include a second generation Intel core i5-2410M processor at 2.3 GHz, 500 GB of internal storage and 2 GB RAM. The RAM was lower than some of the other units reviewed. The laptop also has 1 GB GeForce GT 540M nVidia graphics card which renders this laptop fit for graphics intensive work. The keyboard tactility and quality is pretty neat. The 2 mouse buttons on the touchpad are separated by a fingerprint reader, which could be a point of annoyance at times. The laptop was one of the better scorers on our performance benchmark results specifically in the graphics tests which could be attributed to the strong graphics unit. The laptop gives good battery backup of 2 hours 33 minutes which should be good for people traveling a lot. While the battery backup time is average, it scores the highest overall, making it the overall winner in this category.
Bottomline: A well-rounded laptop with a great set of features, performance at a decent price.
Lenovo Ideapad Z570
At 33k, the 2.5 kg Ideapad Z570 from Lenovo is the cheapest laptop in this category. The laptop features a vibrant 15.6-inch LED backlit widescreen display that supports 1366 x 768 pixel resolution. It sports a second-generation Intel Core i3 processor 2310M (2.1 GHz), 3 GB DDR3 RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GT520M graphics with 1GB memory, 750 GB hard drive and Windows 7 Home Basic.
An interesting thing about this laptop is a switch that let’s you toggle between the high performance NVIDIA graphics and Intel HD 3000 graphics. This is great when you’re on the road and running on battery. The laptop features a full keyboard with a separate numeric keypad.
Its performance is average across all benchmarks. Even the battery backup was recorded just under 2 hours under normal usage conditions.
Acer Aspire 5755G
One of the only laptops in the shootout with dedicated 2 GB NVIDIA CUDA GT540M Graphics. The laptop was well placed in terms of specs as it had a 4 GB RAM, 750 GB HDD and Intel Core i5 series processor. The 15.6 inch screen laptop (1,366×768 resolution) weighs 2.6 kg, which is a tad heavy but the specs make it great for graphics intensive work and even gaming. Newer I/O connects like USB 3.0 are present, which means it’s in tune with changing times and meets the tech demands for tech enthusiasts as well. The laptop comes with Microsoft Windows 7 Home premium.
Its keyboard was well laid out, comfortable to use, and one of the few models to feature a separate numeric pad. The touchpad was smooth to use but the only problem point could be the single rocker bar for mouse keys. The problem with such a bar is that there is a dead spot in the center which begins to annoy the user shortly after using it.
The laptop performed pretty well in our tests. Its battery backup stood at 2 hours, which is not the best around as compared to some of the other models we received. It gave us the best 3DMarks score which could be attributed to the well placed 2 GB Graphics card.
Acer Aspire TimelineX 5830T
One of the latest laptops from Acer in the Timeline X series is the 15.6 inch 5830T. The 2.54 kg laptop comes with Microsoft Windows 7 Home Basic. The laptop has 4 USB ports out of which 1 is USB3.0. The laptop is powered by second generation Intel Core i3-2310M and 2 GB DDR3 RAM. The notebook gives us 500 GB internal storage. It has onboard Intel HD graphics 3000 which would compromise the graphics performance. The laptop has a HD Widescreen CineCrystal LED-backlit display that gives a resolution of up to 1366×768 pixels.
The real good part about the notebook is that it is pretty slender and sleek at just about under an inch. Though it’s so slender, the frame is sturdy enough to absorb shocks from daily rough usage. Just like the Aspire 5755G , this notebook has a full scape keyboard with a separate numeric pad. The touchpad is smooth to use with separate mouse clicks which is a relief. Since the laptop does not have the best of specs, it didn’t score particularly high on our benchmark results, but it did have the best battery backup time of all laptops we reviewed at 2 hours 44 minutes. There were no heating issues in the laptop as the cooling vents are provided on the side.
Bottomline: The touch and feel, looks and battery backup are the high points whereas the specs could have been better for better performance at a price point of around Rs. 36,000.
At around 34k, this is one of the cheaper laptops, costing slightly higher than the cheapest laptop we received this time, the Lenovo Ideapad Z50. The silver plastic colored RV511 weighs 2.5 kg, which is average, and has a 15.6-inch screen that supports 1366 x 768 resolution. The laptop is powered by first generation Intel Core i3-M 380 CPU, has 500 GB HDD and 3 GB RAM. The user gets a fullscape island-style keyboard that’s comfortable to use, and a large and smooth touchpad to use with separate keys for mouse clicks.
The notebook’s performance is average as compared to others in this category, except for its battery backup. 2 hours 46 minutes is more than decent for a 6-cell battery, and the best in this category. Its 3DMarks and Cinebench scores were pretty low, which could be attributed to absence of dedicated onboard graphics. Its Windows experience index also stood at just 4.3.
Dell XPS 15z
The XPS S15z is one of the most good looking and thinnest laptops we’ve reviewed this time. Having a fingerprint resistant matte finish, the laptop boasts of a 15.6-inch screen offering full HD display at 1920x1080p, with an aluminum and magnesium alloy body. It comes with Intel Core i7 Processor , NVIDIA GForce GT graphics featuring 8 GB RAM, and an ample 750 GB of HDD space. Plus it’s one of the few laptops to come with a backlit chiclet keyboard.
With impressive specs, one would expect impressive performance, and the XPS S15z didn’t disappoint us on that front. In PC Mark Vantage test, it scored 8056, which is better than any other Dell XPS notebook we’ve reviewed. In 3DMark 06, it scored an impressive 7382, making it great for graphics and gaming. It stood the torment of our battery backup benchmark for 2 hours, which is good. In Cinebench, the laptop scored an impressive 2.81. The Windows experience index for this laptop was the highest at 5.8.
Bottomline: Overall a great laptop, given its impressive configuration, performance, and pricing.
Lenovo Thinkpad Edge E420s
The Thinkpad Edge E420s is a recent launch from Lenovo, specifically targeted at SMBs. The 14-inch laptop has a moss green matt finish, which not only looks elegant and stylish, but is also resistive to scratches and fingerprint smudges. The curved ends of the laptop also help improve its durability and maintainability. Hardware specs include a second generation Intel Core i5-2410M at 2.3 GHz, 320 GB HDD and 4 GB RAM. The laptop weighs a mere 1.88 kgs, making it a great companion when you’re on the move. The machine comes with Microsoft Windows 7 Professional. It is one of the few laptops to have a backlit keyboard, which can be turned on when you have to work in the dark. The keyboard’s keys are also well placed with good tactility and spacing. The laptop’s touchpad is big and smooth, but the mouse keys are placed above the touchpad only. These are convenient to use with the trackpoint, but become a bit of a nag when you’re working on the touchpad.
Benchmark scores aren’t the highest as compared to others in this category, but decent nevertheless. Battery backup is average at an hour and 56 minutes of full usage. At 55k, this is the cheapest laptop in this category.
Bottomline: A great buy but for the placement of touchpad keys. The backlit keyboard and weight make it a great companion for road warriors.
Dell Vostro V3350
This is another laptop that has been designed especially for SMBs, and also comes with an impressive configuration. This nifty and sleek laptop boasts of a 13.3-inch HD display, and weighs just over 2 kgs. It’s powered by a second generation Intel Core i7-2620M processor, 500 GB HDD and 4 GB RAM. The processor comes with Microsoft Windows 7 Professional edition.
Amongst the many high points of the laptop is its 8-cell battery which is placed in a way that it elevates the laptop from the screen, making it comfortable to use. Plus of course, it gave 2 hours 40 minutes of backup, which is one of the best scores we got.
The laptop’s keyboard is well placed and a breeze to use. Its touchpad is smooth and has separate keys for mouse clicks which eliminates any dead spots. While the configuration options are available from Rs.41,990, the unit under review would come for Rs. 65,912, which is on the higher side. Another good thing is that the laptop offers one year next business day onsite support warranty.
HP Elitebook 2560p
Though highly priced, the machine is worth every penny of it, coming out with flying colors in this category. The EliteBook 2560p is a 12.5” ultra-portable notebook targeted at business users and has a tough aluminum-and-magnesium-alloy build.
HP claims, it’s the only laptop of its size with a built-in optical drive. The 2560p is heavy for its size weighing at 2.5 kg. Its hardware specs include a 320 GB HDD, 4 GB RAM and a second generation Intel Core i5 2540M processor running at 2.60 GHz.
The ultraportable notebook comes with Microsoft Windows 7 Professional, and has a well laid out chiclet keyboard with a trackball touchpad combo that is astoundingly similar to Lenovo’s ThinkPad series. The laptop has a light next to the webcam so that you can see the keyboard’s keys when using it in the dark.
his is similar to Lenovo Thinkpad’s Thinklight.
The keyboard is also backlit in case you don’t want to use the light. The laptop is rugged and sturdy to wither the rigors of day to day usage. The laptop gave a good battery backup of 2 hours 13 minutes and performed well on the PCMark benchmark, which evaluates overall performance of the hardware and its multitasking capabilities.
Lack of a full-fledged onboard graphics card is accountable for an average score on the graphics benchmarks although the Sandy Bridge based processor is bound to compensate for the lack of it.
Bottomline: A decent ultra portable suitable for road warriors.
Apple MacBook Pro 13
The 2.04 kg, 13-inch, MacBook Pro looks identical to its predecessor. It ships with Mac OS X Snow Leopard, but we got the option to upgrade it to OS X Lion without extra charges. The laptop’s hardware specs include a 2.7 GHz dual-core Intel Core-i7 processor with 500 GB HDD and 4 GB RAM. As we couldn’t run our standard benchmarks on OS X Lion, we installed Windows 7 Ultimate on boot-camp and ran the benchmark on it, just to see how much juice is there in its hardware. Interestingly, it scored 5.7 in Windows Index benchmark, which is quite good, while performance was average in other benchmarks. The MacBook has Intel HD Graphics 3000 with 384 MB of DDR3 SDRAM, which is shared with main memory. It has the same black color keyboard with a large touchpad which supports multi touch. In order to scroll up and down you can use two fingers. Battery is inside the machine and you cannot replace it yourself, and need to contact Apple tech support for the same. There is also a battery indicator placed on the left hand side which shows how much battery is left.
Bottomline: Considering user experience, MacBook Pro is a pretty good choice for users across all platforms.
Lenovo Thinkpad X1
The enterprise class Thinkpad X1 is the latest light weight laptop from Lenovo, having a 13.3-inch screen and weight only 1.67 Kg, making it the lightest laptop we got. The hardware specs include a second generation Intel Core i5- 2520M running at 2.5 GHz, 320 GB HDD and 4 GB RAM. The processor uses Intel vPro technology, which makes life easy for the IT department by providing them remote manageability of the laptop. The laptop runs on Microsoft Windows 7 Professional. It has a backlit keyboard that has an excellent design with well placed and spaced keys. The touchpad is a breeze to use, and it also has Thinkpad’s signature trackpoint. The screen is made of gorilla glass which enhances its durability considerably. The screen also tilts a complete 180 degree.
We noticed that the screen latch was missing from this ThinkPad, which used to be there in earlier ThinkPads. This was a good feature that would ensure that the screen doesn’t flip open if it falls. We missed having an optical drive in the laptop, but then you can’t have everything in a thin and lightweight laptop. Performance was average, and battery backup on full usage and drain came to 1 hour 15 minutes.