The 10 Coolest Laptops Of 20124:00 PM EST Tue. Dec. 18, 2012
The year 2012 should be remembered as the coming of the Ultrabook, and many of the year's coolest ultra-portables carry that moniker. The key design elements of fast performance, powerful graphics and energy efficiency have all been in evidence in various combinations from system builders large and small. Indeed, Intel's Ultrabook spec has inspired a generation of devices that are thin and lightweight yet instantly responsive to the user's every need at a price that's within reach of most people. Though not all are Ultrabooks, here are 10 of the year's coolest laptops.
The Toshiba Portege 13 out of the box will ask the user to select between the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 Professional. That's something we don't see too much of anymore. On the other hand, all too common is the presence of pre-installed nagware, and the Portege has its share. Software aside, the Portege 13 is a fast and handsome unit that delivers its share of performance and convenience features. Among them is a third-gen Intel Core processor with HD Graphics, a backlit keyboard, DVD drive, full-size monitor and network ports. Though not technically an Ultrabook, the Portege is an ultra-portable that delivers features that many Ultrabooks leave out.
Acer has gotten lots of mileage out of the TravelMate brand, and has improved much along the way, although perhaps less so with its product naming. A case in point is the TravelMate B113M-6460, one of Acer's latest iterations that packs an enormous amount of hardware into a cabinet that can only be described as netbook-ish. Surely not a netbook, this TravelMate sports an Intel Core i3 (2377M) processor 1.5GHz processor running 64-bit Windows 7 Pro on 4 GB of DDR3 memory, 320-GB hard drive and HD Graphics 3000.
The thin and light TravelMate also shares many Ultrabook characteristics. The unit's bright 11.6-inch screen puts out a dazzling 1,366-x-768 pixel count with an aspect ratio of 16:9, perfect for viewing HD video. The TravelMate comes with a one-piece AC adapter that will never get separated from its power cord. At about half the price of a MacBook Air, it's one that should be on your holiday-buying radar.
Still very cool (though definitely not an Ultrabook) is the Samsung Chromebook Series 5. The second-generation Chromebooks pack lots more horsepower than the first-gen Chromebook, and also has more to horse around with. Its 1.3GHz Intel Celeron 867 processor and 4 GB of memory run rings around the Atom N570 with 2-GB RAM. The new model has Intel's HD graphics processor compared with the Intel GMA 3150 chip found in its predecessor.
Chromebook offers quicker control over network and monitor settings than before, plus an app launcher similar to Windows' taskbar that provides the ability to semi-multitask through multiple browser windows in a new desktop environment. When plugging in USB storage or a memory card into the multireader, a browser window pops up with a listing of what's on it. At a list price of $549, the new Chromebooks are a better value than before.
Dell's Latitude 6430u follows the Ultrabook design specifications and then some. This sleek, lightweight beauty provides a sturdy sense of confidence thanks to a rubberized surface, concealing a magnesium construction that serves for a rigid yet super-light feel. Available with an Intel Core i7 (3667U) 3.2GHz processor in configurations with as much as 16 GB of DDR3 1600MHz memory and 256-GB SSD, this is a Latitude with attitude. Its display and Intel HD 4000 Graphics can pump out as much as 1,600-x-900 pixels on its 14-inch anti-glare panel. Full-size ports are provided for VGA, Gbit Ethernet and USB 3.0, and LEDs light the way for display and keyboard.
Chiseled from solid aluminum, the Samsung Series 9 Ultrabook is about as stylish and feature-rich as an ultra-portable can be. This unit's flat charcoal hue is highlighted with bright silver borders that widen toward the rear to envelop its ports. Dedicated function keys adjust the screen and keyboard brightness, video output, speaker, fan and Wi-Fi. Another key invokes a single panel for eight major controls and system functions, as well as Samsung-only functions.
The Series 9 is available with a third-gen Intel Core i7 3517U 2.39GHz Ivy Bridge dual-core processor, 4 GB of DDR3 memory and a 128-GB SSD and runs 64-bit Windows 7 Pro. It also comes with Gbit Ethernet (connector adapter included), HDMI (adapter not included) and full-size USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports (one each) plus a four-in-one SD card reader. The 1,600-x-900 pixel HD+ LED panel is rated at a super-bright 400 nits and is controlled by Intel's highly-capable HD 4000 GPU.
Adding detail that must be seen to be believed, Apple added the high-resolution Retina display to its MacBook Pro laptops this year, and what was pretty cool before is "really" cool now. With a staggering 2,880-x-1,800 pixel display and graphics driven by Nvidia's Kepler-based GeForce GT 650M with 1 GB of dedicated video memory, this IPS panel delivers a 178-degree viewing radius. With prices starting at $1,199, the MacBook Pro at the high end is available with an Intel Core i7 quad-core processor at up to 2.7GHz and SSD-only storage of up to 768 GB.
Available in cool silver or very cool red, the Fujitsu Lifebook U772 goes well beyond a stylish exterior. Underneath its bright and boxy exterior is a plethora of palatable permutations, including an Intel Core i5-base configuration and Intel Core i7 processor at up to 3.3GHz running on as much as 8 GB of 1600MHz DDR3 memory. Driven by Intel HD 4000 Graphics, its 14-inch frameless display puts out 1,366-x-768 pixels, while its HDMI port adds another 1,920-x-1,080 pixels to the desktop. And if its optional port replicator is used, a separate DisplayPort can crank out another 2,560-x-1,600 pixels.
People may very well do a double-take when they see the Envy Spectre XP, the brand-new Ultrabook device from Hewlett-Packard. This sleek and literally cool-feeling unit comes out of the box ensconced in a suede-like pouch to keep its metallic shell free from scratches. Even its AC adapter and power cord are tucked safely in a heavy cloth pouch for protection. At just over 3 pounds, it's one of the lighter Ultrabooks we've covered, yet it delivers a bright and beautiful 1,366-x-768-pixel 13-inch display, stereo speakers from Beats Audio, a multicard reader, an HD webcam and full-size outputs for HDMI, Gbit Ethernet and multiple USB ports. With an Intel Core i5 processor and up to 256-GB SSD, the Spectre XT is rated to deliver eight hours of battery life on a single charge.
It's a little hefty to be a good full-time tablet, but we've not seen a device with this much "wow factor" since the first Ultrabooks hit the scene. The Dell XPS 12 Convertible Touch Ultrabook is a sleek unit with a bright, crisp 12.5-inch 1,920-x-1,080 IPS display that's nearly indistinguishable from the 13.3-inch XPS 13. The wow comes when transforming the XPS 12 from a Windows 8 laptop into a Windows 8 tablet. Its Gorilla Glass display flips vertically in the metal frame, snapping out of the invisible magnetic stays and locking back into place with a confident click. Wow -- the XPS 12 is now a 12-inch tablet running Windows 8 Pro. Wow might also be heard when looking at the at $1,199 price tag, well outside Intel's sub-$1,000 price guidelines for Ultrabooks. Still, this versatile unit's returned the wow to portables, at least for now; it even communicates while in sleep mode using Intel's Smart Connect. For the mobile pro looking for a super-cool Win8 half-laptop, half-tablet device, there's Dell XPS 12 Convertible Touch Ultrabook. If only the display panel itself could come out and stand alone. Maybe next year.
Before Lenovo acquired ThinkPad from IBM, its line of distinctive laptops was known as innovative, rugged and reliable. The X1 Carbon is evidence that Lenovo has retained that prestige and innovative spirit. This beautiful Ultrabook is the lightest, most powerful laptop we've ever held. Weighing just under 3 pounds is a 14-inch, 1,600-x-900 pixel laptop powered by an Intel Core i5 (3427U) processor running Windows 7 (or 8) Professional at 1.8GHz on up to 8 GB of 1333MHz DDR3L memory. At just 0.71 inches thin, this deceptively air unit is anything but delicate. How did they do that? Well, part of the secret's in the name. Like a stealth fighter jet, the X1 Carbon is shrouded in super-strong, super-light carbon-fiber "roll cage," for protection from shock. The extra-large glass-covered touchpad is highly sensitive and super comfortable. The bright, crisp screen puts out 300 nits, and a handsome backlit keyboard keeps the action going day or night. Dedicated buttons control speaker volume and mic mute and link to Lenovo's custom app launcher. With DisplayPort, card reader, and SuperSpeed USB ports, the X1 Carbon is one cool Ultrabook.