Best ultraportable laptops - June 2011

From inexpensive netbooks to wallet-draining corporate models, there's an ultraportable for everyone

There's no doubt that 2011 has been an interesting year for mobile computing and ultraportable computers in particular.

To date, we've seen some excellent ultraportable laptops from Samsung, Lenovo and Toshiba; these represent the high end of the market. We've also seen some great sub-$1000 ultraportables, including Intel Atom-based netbooks, and more powerful and feature-rich AMD Fusion-based models. Alienware has also refreshed its little gaming marvel, the M11x. Apple is yet to drop a Second generation Core CPU into its MacBook Air, but once it does then that will also be a top thin-and-light model to choose.

For corporate buyers or big spenders

Samsung Notebook Series 9

The sexy looks, the super-thin body and the sturdy build quality of this 13.3in ultraportable are undeniable. It's one of the best mobile solutions on the Australian market — it's just a pity it's so expensive.

Toshiba Portege R830

The 13.3in R830 improves greatly on the Portege R700, which was a bit of a let-down. The inclusion of a Second Generation Core CPU and a solid state drive in the R830 makes it run cooler and faster than the R700 while increasing battery life. We like this model because it's so light and sturdy, yet it doesn't compromise when it comes to the features around its edges — it even has a built-in optical drive and embedded 3G. However, it could use a better screen.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1

When we reviewed this 13.3in model, we said it's the type of laptop that as reviewers we don't want to give back to the vendor. That's because it feels so solidly built and it just looks like it means business. It has good features and a nice (albeit glossy) screen, and it includes embedded 3G. It's definitely not perfect though: our model didn't have a properly-functioning 3G module; we also dislike the touchpad, which is one of Lenovo's worst to date.

For students and home users

Sony VAIO YB Series

This 11.6in laptop is perhaps the sexiest of the AMD Fusion-based laptops we've seen so far. It's a little slimmer and has nicer lines than the Fusion models we mention below, but this is also because it has a slightly smaller battery. This means its battery life isn't as good as the other 11.6in Fusion models we've seen.

Dell M102z

Dell's 11.6in AMD Fusion-based laptop feels a little bulky, but it has decent styling and great battery life. Its configuration is decent, but it does lack niceties such as USB 3.0 and Gigabit Ethernet. On the plus side, it does include a 7200rpm hard drive.

MSI Wind U270

This is a little bigger than the other AMD Fusion laptops we've reviewed, and it doesn't look great, but it's a 12in ultraportable that's very affordable, and it provides good performance and features — including USB 3.0.

HP Pavilion dm1

This 11.6in is the most recent of the AMD Fusion laptops that we've seen, and while it's a decent model with good battery life and performance, it's not perfect. One of the keys fell off the keyboard during our tests and we also think its fan is too loud. Nevertheless, it's worth checking out if you're in the market for an entry-level ultraportable.

Toshiba NB550D

This 11.6in AMD Fusion-based model is thin and light, and it looks quite nice. However, we don't like the placement of speakers, which tend to get muffled if you listen to music while you type. We also wish our test model came with a better graphics driver at the time. But when it comes to everyday performance and functionality, it's a good model to choose despite its slightly slower processor compared to the other Fusion laptops that we've seen — it comes with an AMD C-50 APU rather than an AMD E-350 APU.

For gamers

Alienware M11x R3

We haven't put up our review of this 11.6in laptop yet, but we can tell you it looks pretty much identical to the previous M11x that we've reviewed, and this is not a bad thing. It feels very solid (some would say heavy) for its 11.6in frame, but its performance is excellent. This is due to its powerful configuration, which includes a Second Generation Intel Core i7 CPU, 8GB of DDR3 SDRAM and an NVIDIA GeForce GT 540M graphics adapter.

The only downsides are its relatively heavy weight for an 11.6in laptop (which we only bring up because a few people in the office complained about it) and its very loud cooling fan, which is a consequence of cramming so many powerful components into such a small space.

Previous Frame Next Frame
Item:
5 / 8
Sony VAIO YB Series (VPCYB16KG)

The Sony VAIO YB Series is one of the best little laptops on the market. Its screen quality is excellent, it performs well, and it has good looks as well as plenty of useful features. We recommend it to anyone who wants a sub-$1000 ultraportable laptop that isn't a netbook. Perhaps go for a colour other than pink though.

  • Review Date:
  • Reviewer:
  • Manufacturer:
  • 18th Feb., 2011
  • Elias Plastiras
  • Sony
  • Rating:
  • Price:
  • Pros:
  • Good looks, good graphics performance, doesn't get noticeably warm, HDMI output, excellent 11.6in screen, very small power adapter
  • Cons:
  • Hard drive produced slow results in our tests, bottom half of touchpad was sometimes unresponsive
Show Comments


Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?