The best laptops of 2011

We reviewed over 70 laptops this year; in this roundup we highlight our top 20

We reviewed 78 laptops in 2011 (and there is a handful more still in the editorial pipeline at the time of writing). They ranged from small and smart AMD Fusion-based models, to big and bold desktop replacements and workstations.

It was a year in which the netbook faded away to make way for small laptops with a little more grunt at the start of the year (AMD Fusion-based laptops) and by November we got to see the Ultrabook.

The Ultrabook is the talk of the moment, with four vendors currently offering their wares for this Christmas period: Acer, ASUS, HP and Toshiba. Ultrabooks are meant to be thin and light, offer good speed thanks to Intel Core i-series processors and possess long battery life. It's a market segment that we think will get better, especially when second generation models are released next year.

At the moment, there are only two Ultrabooks that we think are worthy: the Toshiba Satellite Z830 and the HP Folio 13. It's probably not a coincidence that both of these Ultrabooks are also aimed at business users. They have the best features, best designs and best battery life. The price points for Ultrabooks haven't panned out the way we hoped -- that is to say, we expected a lot more models to be offered at or under $1000. You can find the Toshiba Satellite Z830 for just over $1100 at the moment, which we think is great value for that unit, and Acer has released a $999 version of its Aspire S3, although it comes with a Core i3 CPU rather than a i5 and it has a regular hard drive rather than a solid state drive.

2011 also saw the release of another thin and light laptop that wowed almost everyone who got a chance to play with it: the Sony VAIO Z Series. This is a laptop with a featherweight design, plenty of speed in its chassis and plenty more speed outside of its chassis thanks to its external graphics card unit. It's a laptop that only few can afford though, costing a not-so-cool $3999. Nevertheless, it's definitely a top unit, if not the top unit of 2011 in terms of design.

In the roundup below, you'll find the VAIO Z Series as well as all the other laptops (from the oldest to the newest) that we think represent the best that 2011 had to offer.

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10 / 20
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 (1291-23M)

The ThinkPad X1 is the type of laptop that no reviewer wants to give back to the vendor. It feels solidly built and great to use, but it could be better. In particular, its touchpad needs refinement, it could use more premium features such as an ambient light sensor, and Lenovo needs to make sure that all of its features work perfectly straight out of the box -- the 3G modem in our review model didn't recognise our SIM cards.

  • Review Date:
  • Reviewer:
  • Manufacturer:
  • 26th May, 2011
  • Elias Plastiras
  • Lenovo
  • Rating:
  • Price:
  • Pros:
  • Semi-rugged design
  • Full-voltage Intel Core i5 CPU
  • Solid state drive
  • Cons:
  • Touchpad could be better
  • Had problems recognising SIM cards
  • Could use more premium features
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