Notebookcheck's Best of July 2011

Sebastian Jentsch (translated by Liala Stieglitz), 08/29/2011

Strong battery life & fast. In July, subnotebooks with an SSD and Core processors prove that battery life, low weight and high application performance aren't contradictions. Even the business bolides, EliteBook and ProBook, took part with at least five hours.

The many rainy days of July made the Notebookcheck editors call off their vacation and they wrote lots of reviews. This time we were attracted by simple office laptops and light subnotebooks. A total of 15 devices from these categories went over our test course. SSD equipped subnotebooks from Sony and Toshiba once again showed the enormous advantage that application performance can extract from flash memory. The first AMD Llano APU, accompanied by crashes and low performance, struggled its way through the tests among the multimedia devices. Thus, the category winners are still Intel and Nvidia.

We now compare the tested laptops according to their classification in a total of five categories and subsequently elect our winner of July 2011 in each category.

Category: Netbook

Contenders:

Samsung Series 5 Chromebook

Asus Eee PC 1015B 

After the sharp decline of sold netbooks, we don't test them very often anymore and novelties from the manufacturers are limited. Samsung makes an attempt with a surf book for working on Cloud with the Chrome OS based ChromeBook. But, at a price of 399 euros, it doesn't bid as much diversity as a Windows netbook, such as the Asus Eee PC 1015B that only costs 240 euros.

Netbook of July 2011: Asus Eee PC 1015B

Although we like the idea behind the ChromeBook, the Fusion netbook wins in terms of score and price. The case's stability is good, USB 3.0 and HDMI are unique for this price range and the APU's performance ensures smooth HD movie entertainment with the AMD Radeon HD 6250. Beyond that, the buyer gets a matt and, at the same time, bright display - perfect for working in the sun. The high contrast of 828:1 is unusual in a netbook and in this price range. The battery life of 6:30 hours is quite good for normal surfing use and the extremely low system noise and waste heat is awe-inspiring. Buyers won't make a mistake with this 10.1 incher for an almost give-away price of 240 euros.

Asus Eee PC 1015B
Asus Eee PC 1015B
Asus Eee PC 1015B
Asus Eee PC 1015B
Asus Eee PC 1015B
Asus Eee PC 1015B
Award "Good"
Award "Good"

What we like

The familiar Eee PC quality with strong GPU performance.

What we'd like to see

A better battery performance would even increase the Eee PC 1015B value.

What surprises us

The seashell case's sustainability.

The competition

Acer Aspire One 522 netbook, Samsung N145-JP02DE netbook, Samsung NC10-JP01DE netbook, Samsung NC210-A01DE netbook, Toshiba NB550D (AMD Fusion) netbook, Asus Eee PC 1215B netbook, Samsung NF210 netbook, Packard Bell dot SE (N550) netbook, HP Pavilion dm1-3180eg netbook

Category: Subnotebook

Lenovo ThinkPad X120e 

The month of subnotebooks? We pushed seven small and light devices of all price ranges over our test course. The Vaio VPC-SB2L1E/W is an update of the first SB1Z9EB test device from April 2010. We reproached the high system noise and lacking stability back then. But they unfortunately haven't been discarded yet. Besides the same display size of 13.3 inches, the Vaio SA2Z9E/B has the contrast and viewing angle weak screen in common with the SB2 test device. Much to the disappointment of potential buyers because performance (SSD), gaming power (AMD Radeon HD 6630M) and weight (1652 grams) are extraordinarily strong, respectively low. The Toshiba Satelite R830-11C wants to pass on a light SSD subnotebook for low 999 euros. That is even successful with a runtime of 6:30 hours and high performance, but the screen would have to be brighter for outdoor use.

The Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 11 (K345) wants to entice price-sensitive buyers with ThinkPad workmanship starting at 369 euros. Hopes are only fulfilled to an extent. A low TFT brightness (175 cd/m2) and tight battery life with the 32 Wh battery let us speak of a key downgrade. The 13.3 inch brother, Edge 13, serves with a somewhat brighter screen and a runtime of 5:30 hours with an equally good workmanship. If you're looking for an Intel ThinkPad, you'll find a low-voltage Core i3 with a battery life of five hours in the Lenovo ThinkPad X120e. The typing-eager input devices and the low weight make the 11.6 incher to a not-really-that-expensive-after-all AMD alternative, starting at 449 euros.

The Aspire 3750 addresses price conscious subnotebook buyers that don't want to do without a standard Core i3 CPU, like found in bigger laptops. The performance is correspondingly good. Unfortunately, mobility suffers under the reflective screen and low brightness.

Subnotebook of July 2011: Sony Vaio VPC-SA2Z9E/B

Despite its weak screen and the high price, the Sony Vaio SA2Z9E/B wins the tight match among the July subnotebooks. The reason: The RAID0 SSD's (256 GBs) high speed is yet unreached. It makes the 1652 gram light 13.3 incher as fast as some workstations (Core i7 dual core). The battery life of almost five hours is acceptable despite the midrange GPU, Radeon HD 6630M (can be disabled manually). The steep price of 2300 euros would be all right for an superior product, if it weren't for this weak, run of the mill screen.

Sony Vaio VPC-SA2Z9E/B
Sony Vaio VPC-SA2Z9E/B
Sony Vaio VPC-SA2Z9E/B
Sony Vaio VPC-SA2Z9E/B
Sony Vaio VPC-SA2Z9E/B
Sony Vaio VPC-SA2Z9E/B
Award "Good"
Award "Good"

Shortcut:

What we like

The weaknesses of the first SB case have been eliminated (flexibility). Business suitable work devices and portability combined with extreme notebook power and gaming option.

What we'd like to see

A sRGB screen would have been the icing on the cake.

What surprises us

The fastest read/write throughputs that a notebook has ever achieved (HDTune, AS SSD, Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 - in medium & large files).

The competition  

Business price range with Core i7-2620M: Toshiba Portege R830-10V: 256GB SSD; Sony Vaio VPC-Z21V9E/B: external Radeon HD 6650M; Sony Vaio VPC-SB1A9E/B: HD 6650 (Option); Lenovo ThinkPad X1: SSD; Fujitsu Lifebook S761: SSD

Consumer price range with Core i7-2620M: Acer Aspire TimelineX 3830TG-2628G12nbb: GT540M & 120GB SSD starts at 1200 euros; Schenker XMG A301-3AP: with GT 520M starts at 810 euros; Dell Vostro 3350: HD 6470M starts at 960 euros; ASUS U36SD-RX145V: 160 GB SSD & GT 520M

Category: Office

Contenders:

HP ProBook 6460b LG645EA 

Packard Bell EasyNote TS11 HR-040UK TestIT!

There were many simple office devices without dedicated graphics among the July reviews. Notebookcheck readers participated in one of five correspondingly marked tests in Intel's TestIT! campaign. Their ratings are considered in the outcome. The MSI A6400 and the Packard Bell EasyNote TS11 reaped the best results with 82% each. It was ensured by the solid and cool case, the good Core i5 performance and the good battery life. The contrast poor screen with poor viewing angles was the common weakness of all test devices. HP's Pavilion g6-1141sg and Toshiba's Satellite L755-14P (17 inch) had a clattery case and a feedback weak keyboard in common. Typing in Word just wasn't any fun on it. It looked different for the Asus X53E-SX082V. This 15.6 inch device had a quality case (surface texture) and its waste heat as well as system noise was very low thanks to the IceCool technology.

The three HP office laptops are all on a higher workmanship standard. The ProBook 6460b (14") and its 15.6 inch brother, 6560b, had a high-end aluminum feel and a very solid workmanship. The 14 incher had the brighter screen, but the 15.6 incher definitely had the better contrasts.

Office Notebook of July 2011: HP ProBook 6560b

The low temperatures and the hardly ever annoying noise are a trademark of the 15.6 incher. It's easy for the business device to reach the top in July (87%) with its responsive input devices and high quality feel. However, it wasn't enough for a very good in the final rating due to its high weight and the "only" good battery life of 4:49 hours. If you are looking for a very solid laptop with WXGA++ resolution, you should take a closer look at the ProBook 6560b (880 euros).

ProBook 6560 LG658EA
ProBook 6560 LG658EA
ProBook 6560 LG658EA
ProBook 6560 LG658EA
ProBook 6560 LG658EA
ProBook 6560 LG658EA
Award "Good"
Award "Good"

Shortcut:

What we like

We like the exemplary workmanship and the high-end design of the HP ProBook.

What we'd like to see

A USB 3.0 port would enhance the almost perfect notebook even more.

What surprises us

Although 899 euros may sound like a lot for the one or other customer, it is very justified for this business notebook in our opinion.

The competition

The HP ProBook 6560-LG658EA has homegrown competition among others. For example, the EliteBook 8560p, EliteBook 8540p or the ProBook 4530s. Among the other manufacturers: Dell Latitude E5520, Vostro 3550; Lenovo Thinkpad Edge E520.

Category: Multimedia

Contenders:

Gigabyte P2532N 

HP Pavilion g7-1002sg 

Samsung RF511-S05DE

HP Pavilion dv6-6110eg (Llano) 

Gigabyte is still rather unknown as a notebook manufacturer. However, the 15.6 incher proves to have a remarkable overall design. Quad CPU and GeForce GT 550M appeal to gamers, the Full HD screen with brilliant colors and good brightness is suitable for pros and the case adorned with aluminum applications is presentable. The Samsung RF511 is also equipped with a quad CPU and has a matt screen, very good ergonomic rates, but only a midrange GT 540M GPU.

The HP Pavilion g7-1002sg lurks among the entry-level league in terms of performance. However, the price starting at 500 euros can compensate this drawback. The 17 incher disappointed with a rating of only 74% due to an average case, high system noise during load, a short battery life and low-end inputs (satisfactory). The dv6-6110eg also came along based on AMD's new Llano platform. Succeeding the netbooks (C-50, E-350), there is now also an APU concept for big notebooks and even for desktops. Unfortunately, the dual GPU, HD 6750M + HD 6520G, disappointed with crashes and below average performance (crossfire option). We see the dv6's advantage in the hard aluminum finish, the long battery runtimes and the cool case.

Multimedia Notebook of July 2011: Samsung RF511-S05DE

Samsung's RF511 didn't have the strongest graphics card or the best display among the test devices in July. But the low waste heat, quiet system noise and long battery runtimes increased the total score opposed to the hottest opponent, the Gigabyte P2532N. Gamers should seriously consider if they wouldn't be able to accept the Gigabyte device's minor ergonomics and runtime shortcomings, for a Fast-sRGB Full HD screen and better gaming performance due to the GT 550M. The extra charge of 200 euros is still acceptable for that.

Samsung RF511-S05DE
Samsung RF511-S05DE
Samsung RF511-S05DE
Samsung RF511-S05DE
Samsung RF511-S05DE
Samsung RF511-S05DE
Award "Good"
Award "Good"

Shortcut:

What we like

Pleasantly matt work surface that is apt for the office. Awesome battery life of six hours and this with a quad core CPU. The low power consumption also lets energy savers jump for joy.

What we'd like to see

A WXGA++ screen, preferably with sRGB coverage and wide viewing angles. An Intel quad core without throttling - even if most users won't notice the performance loss (during load).

What surprises us

So quiet and energy saving (idle), despite quad core CPU. The best battery life with the i7 2630QM in a notebook up until now.

The competition

Quad core & GT 520/540M, 685 to 850 euros: Quad core & GT 520/540M 685 to 850 euros: Acer (Aspire 5750G), Asus (X53SV, X5MSV-SX319V), Packard Bell (TS11-HR-275GE), Lenovo (IdeaPad Y560p), Toshiba (P750-100), MSI (CX640), Dell (Inspiron Q15R, XPS 15), HP (Pavilion dv6-6001sg).

Category: Gaming / DTR

Contenders:

Acer Aspire Ethos 8951G

HP Pavilion dv7-6101eg

The 17.3 inch HP Pavilion dv7-6101eg and the 18.4 inch Aspire Ethos 8951G competed in the category of heavyweight desktop replacements. At a price under 800 euros, equipped with a strong AMD Radeon HD 6770M, the Pavilion dv7 let gamers' hearts beat faster. Moreover, it had an elegant and solid case, graphics switching and a good battery life of nearly four hours. The gaming performance is good as expected, but the contrast weak and reflective display, as well as the clattery keyboard dented the rating.

The Aspire Ethos 8951G scored marginally better in regard to points (81 instead of 80%). This isn't surprising since the 18.4 incher, with a fast Intel SSD, quad core processor and GeForce GT 555M, is a lot stronger in total than the less expensive dv7. The contrast weak display with narrow viewing angles proved to be a major drawback.

DTR Notebook of July 2011: Acer Aspire Ethos 8951G

The HP Pavilion dv7-6101eg is entitled to the award in terms of price-performance. The 17.3 incher is a good total bundle for gamer and multimedia users for less than 800 euros. However, we have to let the premium version of the Ethos win in view of points (1300 to 1600 euros). The inferior Full HD screen is a slap in the face for a so-called premium model, but the application and gaming performance (SSD, GT 555M) is considerably better than the Pavilion dv7's. The 18.4 incher is surprisingly good in terms of battery life and power consumption: 3:42 hours, respectively 16-22 watts in idle are remarkable for a DTR.

Acer Aspire Ethos 8951G
Acer Aspire Ethos 8951G
Acer Aspire Ethos 8951G
Acer Aspire Ethos 8951G
Acer Aspire Ethos 8951G
Acer Aspire Ethos 8951G
Award "Good"
Award "Good"

What we like

We especially liked the 5.1 speaker arrangement in the test.

What we'd like to see

A proper display would enhance the Acer Aspire 8951G considerably.

What surprises us

The removable touchpad that can be used as a remote control.

The competition

MSI GT780RDell Inspiron 17R (N7110)Asus G73SW, Alienware M17x R3, Dell XPS 17, DevilTech Fragbook DTX, Packard Bell EasyNote LX86Asus K73SV-TY032VFujitsu Lifebook NH751MacBook Pro 17 Early 2011 (2.2 GHz Quad-Core, glare)Asus N73SV NotebookHP ProBook 4720s

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Notebookcheck's Best of July 2011
Author: Sebastian Jentsch, 2011-08-29 (Update: 2013-06- 6)