Sunday, January 23, 2011

Janaury 2011 11" to 12.1" Ultraportable Notebook Buyers Guide

Eleven to twelve inch ultraportables offer a good balance of cost, portability and performance. The most important thing about the 11-inch of larger form factor for a laptop is that it allows for the use of a full size keyboard, which aides in typing comfort. Ultimately, this is the part of the laptop you interact with most.

Before making our recommendations, we need to lay down some baseline parameter what it a good ultraportable today. With screen sizes of 11" to 12.1", the laptop should:
  • Not weight more than 3.5 pounds; 
  • At least 4 hours of battery life while web-browsing on WiFi, at that weight;
  • Have a processor more powerful than the latest dual core Atoms.
  • Full sized keyboard.
1. Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T. The 11.6" Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T is the lowest priced option in this round-up. I While this product is not yet widely released priced at Acer Concept stores at Php32,500 (available at 12 months zero interest), you can get it for as low as Php28,500 if you are willing to pay cash.




Quick Specs:
  • Screen: 11.6" HD 1366 x 768 (WXGA) high-brightness (200-nit) Acer CineCrystal LED-backlit TFT LCD screen
  • O.S.: Windows 7 Home Basic 64-bit
  • Processor: Intel Core i3-380UM (1.33GHz, 3MB cache)
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics with 128MB dedicated memory (up to 768 shared memory)
  • Memory: 2GB DDR3 Memory
  • Storage: 250GB SATA Hard Drive and a SD card reader
  • Optical drive: None
  • Connectivity: Wifi b/g/n; Bluetooth; USB (x3); VGA Port; HDMI Port; Ethernet Port
  • Dimensions: 11.2 x 8 x 1-1.1 inches
  • Battery: 6-cell (5800 mAh)
  • Weight: 3 lbs.
This Acer 1830T is virtually identical to the Gateway EC19C10i but is has a lower power Intel Core i3-380UM processor and a smaller 250GB hard drive.  


2. Gateway EC19C10i. The Gateway EC19C10i is actually an Acer 1830T sold under the Gateway brand, Acer having bought Gateway. Since our last round-up, the price of Gateway EC19C10i has gone down from Php37,990 to Php34,999. In addition it now comes with a free external optical drive or 320GB portable hard drive.

This 11.6-inch laptop has never been laking specifications wise. With an Intel Core i3-430UM (1.20GHz with turbo boost up to 1.73GHz, 3MB cache) it is the most powerful ultraportable in this round-up. Backed by Intel Graphics with 128MB of dedicated memory and 2GB of RAM, it will do pretty much everything you expect to do in an 11.6" laptop. The combination will even allow for some degree of 3D gaming. In terms of endurance, the six cell 4400 mAh battery is good for 4 hours of real world use.

Quick Specs:
    • Screen: 11.6" HD 1366 x 768 (WXGA) high-brightness (200-nit) Acer CineCrystal LED-backlit TFT LCD screen
    • O.S.: Windows 7 Home Basic 64-bit
    • Processor: Intel Core i3-430UM (1.20GHz with turbo boost up to 1.73GHz, 3MB cache)
    • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics with 128MB dedicated memory (up to 768 shared memory)
    • Memory: 2GB DDR3 Memory
    • Storage: 320GB SATA Hard Drive and a SD card reader
    • Optical drive: None
    • Connectivity: Wifi b/g/n; Bluetooth; USB (x3); VGA Port; HDMI Port; Ethernet Port
    • Dimensions: 11.2 x 8 x 1-1.1 inches
    • Battery: 6-cell (4400 mAh)
    • Weight: 3 lbs.
    Build quality is average, but it is fairly well designed. The laptop feels solidly built with just a bit of flex on the center of lid and keyboard. The lid is designed with a pattern pretty much making it impervious to fingerprints.  Ergonomically, the keyboard is comfortable to use although the touchpad is a tad to small in our opinion.

    The  Gateway EC19C10i is that it is only 1.1" thick at its thickest  point, and weighs in at just 3 pounds.

    Lets look at the other options available.


    3. Apple 11.6" MacBook Air. Its an Apple so do not expect it to be cheap, but at only Php51,990 the price is surprisingly reasonable. 

    Quick Specs:
        • Screen: 11.6" HD 1366 x 768 (WXGA) LED-backlit TFT LCD screen
        • O.S.: Mac OS 10.6
        • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 1.4GHz
        • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 320M (share memory)
        • Memory: 2GB DDR3 Memory
        • Storage: 64GD Solid State Drive
        • Optical drive: None
        • Connectivity: Wifi b/g/n; Bluetooth; USB (x2); Apple Mini Display Port
        • Dimensions: 11.8 x 7.56 x 0.68 inches
        • Battery: 5 hour battery
        • Weight: 2.3 lbs.
        At 0.68 inches at the thickest pounds and 2.3 pounds in weight, nothing else can touch it right now in terms of portability. With its aluminum unibody it is the best looking among the bunch. So should you shell out you Php51K right away? Yes and no. There are some drawbacks to consider.

        The 11.6" MacBook Air 1.40 GHz core 2 Duo is actually a modified for Apple Intel SU9400 which makes it the slowest among the options available here in sheer processing power by about 20%. It does have the best graphics in the bunch with its Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics card. The 64GD Solid State Drive, will launch applications fast, making the system appear to be faster than it is. We love SSD's. On the other hand the 64GB storage only leaves you with about 40GB after installing an Office Suite. Upgrading to a 128GB SSD is an option, but will cost another Php10K. We recommend that of you decide on this one, you should simply get an external USB hard drive for this model. Battery life is the advertised 5 hours is less than the Gateway and Ace by about an hour.

        In the end, the 11.6" MacBook Air is the slowest in the models we looked at, offers the least storage and battery life is on the lower end of the scale. Why consider it? At 2.3 pounds is the lightest of our selections, has the best touch pad, and lets face it, its a Mac.


        4. Sony Vaio Y. I have been interested in the 11.6-inch Sony Vaio Y since I heard that an 11.6-inch model had been released in Japan. The Y series is Sony's lower end business laptop. When the 11.6-inch Vaio Y finally arrived on Philippine shores, it was is priced at Php47,900. At that price, we really could not recommend it. In a span of a bit over a month, its price has been drastically reduced to Php39,996.

        Here are the quick specifications:  
        • Screen: 11.6" HD 1366 x 768 (WXGA) LED-backlit TFT LCD screen
        • O.S.: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
        • Processor: Intel Core i3-380M (1.33GHz, 3MB cache)
        • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics
        • Memory: 2GB DDR3 Memory
        • Storage: 320GB SATA Hard Drive with SD Card and Memory Stick readers
        • Optical drive: None
        • Connectivity: WiFi, LAN and Bluetooth
        • Ports: HDMI, Analogue RGB, Mini D-Sub 15 pin ans USB (x3) 
        • Dimensions: 11.4 x 8 x 1.0-1.3 inches
        • Battery: 4-cell (4 hours)
        • Weight: 3.2 lbs.
        Except for the larger hard drive, the hardware specifications are similar to the Gateway. The Gateway though has several advantages. The Gateway weighs in at 3 pounds with a 6-cell battery. The Sony weighs in at 3.2 pounds despite coming with a smaller 4-cell battery. The end result is that the Gateway has a more powerful processor, is lighter and has 2 hours more battery life.

        Why recommend it at all? It has a better keyboard and touch pad than the Gateway, and overall a better build quality. Plus it's a Vaio.  It is the kind of thing you would not mind flipping open at a corporate board meeting. Not as flashy as an Apple, not as pedestrian as a Gateway or Acer. Well, unless you buy the red one.

        In sum. In the end we have four on this list. Value for money, the Acer and the Gateway are the best value for money options in the market right now. The Apple is the lightest of the bunch. We were not sure whether to include the Sony Vaio, but in the end decided to include it as it has the same kind of exclusive appeal an Apple does, and is still cheaper.

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