Top 10 best value laptops of 2011 so far

From desktop replacements to ultraportables, you're sure to find something to your liking

With Intel's Second Generation Core CPUs starting to get a foothold in the Australian market, and AMD's Fusion offering some very interesting low-cost ultraportables, there has never been a better time than now to purchase a new laptop. Lots of great options exist for under $1000, and plenty of great all-round models can be found for between $1000 and $1600. If you have a corporate budget, then you can consider a thin and light, yet powerful ultraportable instead. These models, from Samsung (Notebook Series 9), Lenovo (ThinkPad X1) and Toshiba (Portege R830) carry a hefty price tag, but they are fantastically mobile and well designed.

Indeed, some great computers have been released so far this year, and we've rounded up ten of the best value models from all categories. It's tough to come up with these lists, but we've tried to include the laptops that have impressed us most during our test periods. We haven't included any of the sleek ultraportables that have been released — we'll save those for another roundup. Bear in mind that HP is yet to send us many of its latest mainstream models. We're also itching to get our hands on Alienware's latest offerings, in particular the M11x R3, and also Dell's latest, the XPS 15z.

1. Sony VAIO SB Series

RRP: $1499

The Sony VAIO SB Series (VPCSB16FG) represents all that is good about mobile computing: it's a thin, light, well built and attractive 13in laptop, and thanks to 2nd Generation Intel Core CPU technology, it also possesses great battery life and fast performance. We're quite taken by it, and think it's an excellent buy for business users, and indeed anyone who wants a well featured 13in laptop. It may even convert some Mac users. Its $1499 price tag is competitive, but you can get it for a few hundred dollars less from overseas markets such as Hong Kong.

2. Toshiba Satellite L750

RRP: $999

The Toshiba Satellite L750 offers many of the benefits of a full-sized laptop, such as a built-in DVD burner, USB 3.0 and a comfortable keyboard, but it's a compact 13.3 inches in size and only weighs 1.9kg. It's a good option for anyone who wants a well featured and easy-to-carry notebook for home, school or office use.

3. Medion Akoya E6224 (MD 98630)

RRP: $699

This was only available for a limited time from Aldi supermarkets. However, Aldi stocks new Medion models every few months; if you ever see a model with similar specs and pricing, then it's definitely worth going for. It's one of the best value desktop replacement-style notebooks you will find.

4. Dell Inspiron 15R N5110

RRP: $699

The Dell Inspiron 15R N5110 is a cheap laptop with good speed and it includes nice features such as HDMI and USB 3.0. It also has a customisable lid so that you can install a design of your choice. However, its build quality is a little creaky, and its screen too glossy. Despite these quibbles, we think it's a good entry-level computer for home users.

5. MSI Wind U270

RRP: $549

The MSI Wind U270 offers more speed than a typical netbook thanks to its AMD Fusion APU. It comes with good features, such as USB 3.0 and Gigabit, and it's affordable. We just wish it had more of a streamlined design and that it looked better.

6. Sony VAIO YB Series

RRP: $749

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.

7. Dell Vostro 3550

RRP: $1299

The Dell Vostro 3550 is a great 15.6in business laptop. It comes with a Sandy Bridge-based Core i7 CPU, which gives it great performance, and it also offers long battery life.

8. MSI CR640

RRP: $799

The MSI CR640 is a desktop replacement notebook with good speed and battery life. It's a good choice for students, families and budget shoppers who want a laptop that will be quick when processing office, Web, and multimedia tasks. It looks nice and has good features (such as USB 3.0), but we wish it had a screen that wasn't reflective and that it had a better touchpad.

9. Dell Inspiron M501R

RRP: $999

The Dell Inspiron M5010 is based on AMD's triple-core Phenom II N850 CPU and it's one of the best all-round 15.6in laptops on the Australian market. You can use it for office work, multimedia tasks and even gaming (although not for graphics-intensive first-person shooters). It's a good unit for students looking for something to take back to school, yet even small business users should find it appealing for everyday work. We just wish it wasn't so glossy and reflective.

10. Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T

RRP: $1299

The Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T is an ultraportable notebook that's light, very mobile and provides decent performance for office and Web tasks, as well as some multimedia tasks. We think it should be considered by people who have considered getting a netbook but have been put off by their slow performance. Bear in mind that user comfort isn't great, however, as the laptop's touchpad is small and its keyboard a little too stiff. As far as mobility is concerned, though, it's great.

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Sony Sony VAIO SB Series (VPCSB16FG)

The Sony VAIO SB Series (VPCSB16FG) represents all that is good about mobile computing: it's a thin, light, well built and attractive 13in laptop, and thanks to 2nd Generation Intel Core CPU technology, it also possesses great battery life and fast performance. We're quite taken by it, and think it's an excellent buy for business users, and indeed anyone who wants a well featured 13in laptop. It may even convert some Mac users.

  • Review Date:
  • Reviewer:
  • Manufacturer:
  • 24th Feb., 2011
  • Elias Plastiras
  • Sony
  • Rating:
  • Price:
  • Pros:
  • Light and well built, excellent battery life, excellent performance, backlit keyboard, USB 3.0, ambient light sensor
  • Cons:
  • All ports on one side, not friendly to left-handers, lots of pre-installed software

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