Sunday, April 3, 2011

2011 Q2 budget ultraportable laptop buyers guide

2011 brings us the new Intel Sandy Bridge and AMD Fusion platforms which bring all kinds of goodies to laptops, but the one thing that interest us most is the focus on better graphics for lower cost laptops. The new Sandy Bridge powered MacBook Pro's and Acer Aspire 4750G's are making things start to look interesting in the thin-and-light category. Still the new offerings are pretty thin. A couple of new AMD Fusion based ultraportables give new options in the under 4-pound category, but for the most part, ultraportable shoppers will still be looking mostly at 2010 models. The newer  ultraportables, like the U36 reviewed by Techie.com.ph last January, still cannot be found in the store shelves.   

With a focus on better deals, while waiting for newer models, we are going to take a look at the best ultraportable options under Php35,000. All the models featured have sufficient power for business and multimedia use, and will even allow for some degree of 3D gaming.


Powerful portable - Gateway EC19C10i. The most powerful low cost ultraportable in the market is the 11.6-inch ultraportable. Originally prices at Php37,990, has gone down to  to Php34,999 bundled with a external optical drive or 320GB portable hard drive. 

The Gateway EC19C10i is powered by an Intel Core i3-430UM which runs at 1.20GHz, with turbo boost up to 1.73GHz, and a 3MB cache. Backed by Intel Graphics with 128MB of dedicated memory and 2GB of RAM it is the most powerful ultraportable available at under Php35K, Actually you could spend twice as much and still not get a more powerful 3 pound unit.

In terms of endurance, the six cell 4400 mAh battery is good for 4 hours of real world use, which is the weakest part of the package. The 11.6-inch form factor also allows for a full sized keyboard. The combination of power and portability make the Gateway EC19C10i the best option for those looking for the most bang for the buck, at the cost of endurance.

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.
    Portable daily driver - Acer Aspire TimelineX 3820T. While a 11.6-inch unit which is the smallest size that can accommodate a full size keyboard is a good choice for a daily carry unit, a light 13-inch laptop might be a more balanced solution being light enough for daily carry with a larger screen and track pad.

    The Acer Aspire TimelineX 3820T originally priced at Php34,900 now comes at a lower price of Php31,999. The unit is still bundled with an external optical drive. The new lower price actually comes with higher specifications, the current model sporting a fast Intel Core i3-380M processor and a larger 500 GB hard drive.


    Weighing in at just under 4 pounds and with a battery good for almost 6 hours of use, this is the poor man's version of a MacBook Pro.



    Quick Specs:
        • Screen: 13.3" HD 1366 x 768 (WXGA) high-brightness (200-nit) Acer CineCrysta LED-backlit TFT LCD screen
        • O.S.: Windows 7 Home Basic 64-bit
        • Processor: Intel Core i3-380M (2.53GHz, 3MB cache)
        • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics with 128MB dedicated memory (up to 768 shared memory)
        • Memory: 2GB DDR3 Memory
        • Storage: 500GB SATA Hard Drive
        • Optical drive: None
        • Dimensions: 12.8 x 9.3 x 0.9-1.0 inches
        • Battery: 6-cell 
        • Weight: 3.9 lbs.

        Value option - Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T. Another 11.6-inch option is the Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T. The Acer 1830T is nearly identical to the Gateway EC19C10i, Gateway being a subsidiary of Acer. While both the 1830T and the EC19C10i are sold with Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 processors, in the Philippines the Gateway EC19C10i is offered with an i5, while the Acer 1830T is offered with a i3. 

        The Acer 1830T sells at Php29,500, which is more than 5K less than the Gateway EC19C10i. Other than the slower processor, you also get a smaller 250GB hard drive. Between the two, I would take the Acer 1830T since it 5800 mAH battery should give you an additional two hours in battery life.  

        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.  



        Business Chic - Sony Vaio YB. The Sony Vaio YB is powered by a AMD Fusion E350 which has a dual core 1.6GHz processor and ATI 6310 graphics. It's AMD processor is no match for the Intel i3 found in the Acer Aspire 1830T, but its ATI 6310 is more powerful than the Intel HD graphics of the 1830T. At Php26,990 is the cheapest Sony laptop. It price does not make it a value for money option, but it does carry the prestigious Vaio branding.

        Other than the price, the 4-cell (3500 mAh) battery has less capacity than our other options and but should be enough to provide the promised 4 hour battery life. The battery is the biggest chink in its armor. Still, it is a very nicely built unit, and is the best looking unit in our round-up. That will be enough to convince many to buy it.  


        Quick Specs:
          • Screen: 11.6" HD 1366 x 768 (WXGA) LED-backlit TFT LCD screen
          • O.S.: Windows 7 Starter
          • Processor: AMD Dual Core E350 (1.60GHz, 1MB cache)
          • Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 6310
          • 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 (3500 mAh)
          • Weight: 3.2 lbs.



          Budget choice - HP Pavilion DM1 - 3016AU The HP Pavillon DM1 can be had for as low Php21,500 preloaded and has similar specifications as the pricier Sony Vaio YB. It also comes loaded with a higher version of Windows, with Windows 7 Home Basic and comes with a 6-cell battery. It makes it a excellent option for some looking for a capable but low cost ultraportable. Where it disappoints is build quality and weight. 

          Quick Specs:
            • Screen: 11.6" HD 1366 x 768 (WXGA) LED-backlit TFT LCD screen
            • O.S.: Windows 7 Starter
            • Processor: AMD Dual Core E350 (1.60GHz, 1MB cache)
            • Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 6310
            • 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 8.4 x 0.83-1.2 inches
            • Battery: 6-cell 
            • Weight: 3.5 lbs.

            4 comments:

            1. Hi Robin.

              What's the difference between an ultraportable and a netbook? Or are they the same?

              ReplyDelete
            2. Traditionally, laptops were classified by weight. A 4-6 pound unit was classified as a thin-and-light, a laptop under 4 pounds was classified as an ultraportable. Following this definition, netbooks would be ultraportables. But in 2007 a new classification was created around the Asus Eee PC 700 series which was called a netbook. What is a netbook is not that clear a definition, since it covers low power devices similar to laptops but which were too slow to run desktop software. Over time the definition changed and basically Atom powered devices and their AMD equivalents were called netbooks. As netbooks become more powerful, it really is hard to distinguish a netbook from a ultraportable. Engadget coined the term notnooks, for netbooks that they felt should be classified as laptops.

              I hope this helps.

              ReplyDelete
            3. OK, thanks bro!

              Would like to eventually see a review of your top netbook picks here.

              Cheers!

              ReplyDelete
            4. On netbooks, I like the Acer Aspire One 522 with its AMD Fusion platform. But it won't give you 8 hours of battery life, only having 5 hours of battery life. For longer battery life one of the Atom powered models which can be found at below 14K-16K with an operating system might be a better choice. I would really recommend the Acer Aspire One 522 despite the shorter battery life.

              ReplyDelete

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