Shopping Guide: Comparison of Multimedia Notebooks

Sebastian Jentsch (translated by Liala Stieglitz), 11/18/2011

One for all. Christmas is closing in on us faster than the one or other would like to see. We are starting a series of shopping tips for those who are planning to make themselves a present or distribute joy among their loved ones by means of a new laptop. It is a clearly arranged list of current top products and exciting bargains. Part 1: Multimedia notebooks.

In this article, we look back over the last months and give you a recommendation for the device category of multimedia notebooks. Since almost every laptop is multimedia capable to an extent nowadays, we had to be even more selective. For us, this category includes every device that has a graphics card capable of rendering the latest games in medium and high details. Beyond that, they supply sufficient mobility due to their size/weight. Downright gaming laptops have even stronger GPUs, such as the GTX 560M or Radeon HD 6850M (graphics performance category 1). See Market Overview – Gaming Notebooks 2011.

In 2011, increasingly more 13.3 and 14 inch devices with gaming capable hardware were launched onto the market. Currently, the midrange Nvidia Geforce GT 540M is very popular (performance category 2). Nevertheless, the 15.6 inch laptops remain to be most represented in our ranking lists and consequently dominate this shopping guide.

The TFT screen's quality and its resolution is time and again the primary distinctive feature. Devices with a pale, mediocre screen needed convincing secondary and tertiary arguments to make it onto our purchase recommendation list. Therefore: All following devices have the one or other shortcoming depending on the user's requirements. Nevertheless, they stand out from the vast range of multimedia laptops in view of the overall package.

Apple MacBook Pro 15 Early 2011

Apple MacBook Pro 15 Early 2011
Apple MacBook Pro 15 Early 2011

The notebook: The strongest version of the MacBook Pro 15 lets the Intel Core i7 2720QM and the Radeon HD 6750M develop their full potential (games in high details, no throttling). The unibody is a paragon of case quality, the input devices are in no way inferior to that. The 1440x900 pixels (16:10) of our test device have a good contrast, but unfortunately aren't anti-glare. Professionals looking for a WXGA+ screen (1680x1050 pixels) will find this in the (overpriced) version and don't need to worry about reflections. The new combo interface, Thunderbolt, can support a HD monitor as well as five memory units in series. Apart from Apple's expensive Thunderbolt 27 inch display (880€) and a LaCie memory (Little Big Disk) there are still, half a year after market launch, not many accessories for this high-end interface.

The buyer: Doesn't pinch every penny, but knows that it simply has to be an Apple. The higher definition WXGA+ screen (almost sRGB color spectrum, good contrast) only has standard viewing angles, but is a must have because it's anti-glare.

The review of the Apple MacBook Pro 15 Early 2011

Dell Alienware M14x

Dell Alienware M14x
Dell Alienware M14x

The notebook: Not only Aliens are small and aggressive. Dell's 14 inch mini gamer is too. The looks and the high-end, robust workmanship are in line with the Alienware style. The apparent advantage of a "handy" 14 inch device is ruined by the high weight (2.86 kilograms) and bulky size (38 mm height). The FX options (illumination), the good input devices and other details on the case can be customized. A quad core CPU and fast SSD ensure a very good application performance. Ardent gamers won't be as satisfied with the GeForce GT 555M, although it is usually enough for high details in the native HD+ resolution.

The buyer: Is looking for the smallest possible laptop with the maximum gaming and application performance. He is prepared to give up a price advantage in favor of excellent workmanship. For example Schenker's XMG A501 that offers the same performance (i5, SSD, GT 555M) for 1200€, but has a size of 15.6 inches. The reflections on the 14 inch laptop's edge to edge screen and the present soundscape under certain circumstances don't bother the buyer because he plays on a fleet of computers at home anyway.

The review of the Dell Alienware M14x

Samsung RF511-S05DE

Samsung RF511-S05DE
Samsung RF511-S05DE

The notebook: The manufacturer fuses high-end workmanship (partly aluminum) with an anti-glare screen, typing-friendly input devices and good midrange performance (Core i7 2630QMGeForce GT 540M). The ergonomics are excellent in view of the high performance: System noise and waste heat are very low even during load. Unfortunately, it's too much for the 90 watt power adapter and thus the processor clock is throttled during high stress. This reduces the performance in certain scenarios, but will only be noticed by performance aficionados. 

The buyer: A lot of hardware for little money. The typical buyer of the RF511 is looking for a quad core CPU and midrange GPU to be equipped sufficiently for the next few years. Value is put on good looks and a matt screen, but he is prepared to make compromises in terms of contrastsresolution and interfaces.

The review of the Samsung RF511-S05DE

Dell XPS 15

Dell XPS 15
Dell XPS 15

The notebook: Dell has an all-rounder in its range that offers a unique yet interesting design, an outstanding subwoofer sound system and a Full HD screen. It has almost no drawbacks. The unusual keyboard and the system noise in games or CPU load need getting used to. The battery life of nearly five hours could supply enough mobility, but the intensely reflective screen ruins this.

The buyer: Is looking for a good price-performance ratio and opts for a Core i5, GeForce GT 540M and Full HD (about 1215€) among the dozens of XPS 15 configurations. Although games don't run in the native 1920x1080 pixels, the good contrasts and good viewing angles are still a lot of fun in 1366x768 pixels or similar.

The review of the Dell XPS 15

Schenker XMG A501 (W150HRM)

Schenker XMG A501 (W150HRM)
Schenker XMG A501 (W150HRM)

The notebook: The A501 has what many laptops of well-known brands don't: A color and contrast rich screen equipped with good lateral viewing angles. Depending on the configuration, a speedy 160 GB SSD and a Core i5 2410M  ensures fast programs. The GeForce GT 555M can render the latest games in 1366x768 pixels and high details smoothly. However, it's only enough for older games in the native Full HD.

The buyer: The bargain hunter with affinity for perfect gaming hardware gets a very good application performance and good gaming power with a first rate screen. The cheap plastic looks and the just still useable touchpad is accepted in favor of the attractive price.

The review of the Schenker XMG A501 (W150HRM)

Dell XPS 15z

Dell XPS 15z
Dell XPS 15z

The notebook: Another XPS 15? The Z version bids a slimmer and higher quality case than the XPS 15 devices. Good connectivity with ports at the long-time neglected rear and a contrast rich screen in Full HD complete the good looker perfectly. The GeForce GT 525M isn't every gamers dream, but the performance is on a high standard with a Core i7 2620M and fast 7200 rpm hard disk.

The buyer: Doesn't buy hardware if it's not attractively wrapped up like in the 15z. Games aren't of much interest and the ideal of a quiet laptop is unknown to him. The buyer accepts a higher temperature and constant background noise for a high quality aluminum case.

The review of the Dell XPS 15z

Fujitsu Lifebook NH751

Fujitsu Lifebook NH751
Fujitsu Lifebook NH751

The notebook: Misfit, chart topper? Those who say that a Fujitsu isn't sexy haven't seen this 17.3 inch laptop. Quad core i7, two hard disks, subwoofer sound, a lot of interfaces and a very good battery life are offered. Besides that, it has fresh and unblemished looks. Gamers will be at odds with the Fujitsu because this strong complete package deserves a stronger graphics than only a GeForce GT 525M.

The buyer: Doesn't think much of the brand name hype. He will also buy a Fujitsu. He doesn't care what friends say because the contrast rich Full HD screen and the gigantic memory capacity of two hard disks (2x750GB) is always a reason for joy.

The review of the Fujitsu Lifebook NH751

Gigabyte P2532N

Gigabyte P2532N
Gigabyte P2532N

The notebook: The slim 15.6 inch laptop strikes the eye with its very good Full HD screen right away. The intense reflections prevent use in sunlight, but the good contrast, the near coverage of sRGB and the wide viewing angles reconcile us again. Gamers are well, but not perfectly, served with the GeForce GT 550M. It's almost impossible to play in Full HD.

The buyer: Makes his decision in favor of Gigabyte rather than the Republic of Gamers based on the slim, elegant case, the good screen and the gaming capable graphics card. We think it's too bad that Gigabyte models are so rarely sold in view of such good hardware.

The review of the Gigabyte P2532N

Packard Bell EasyNote NX69-HR-127GE

Packard Bell EasyNote NX69-HR-127GE
Packard Bell EasyNote NX69-HR-127GE

The notebook: A big screen in a small case. The 14 inch laptop's most striking feature is its 13 inch case. The TFT screen bezel is thus very narrow. But not only the slim looks and aluminum surfaces appeal to the buyer, but also the Core i5 2410M beside a GeForce GT 540M at a price of 871€. Others offer this as well, but hardly anyone supplies it in a 13.3 inch case. Additionally, it has an extremely long battery life of 6:39 hours in normal operation. The biggest drawback remain to be the contrast weak, reflective TFT and the imprecise keyboard.

The buyer: Is hunting for an interesting subnotebook look remote from the usual fare. The price-performance ratio also plays a role and is met by the NX69-HR-127GE. Likely due to its success, shops have increased the price by about 100€ since the review.

The review of the Packard Bell EasyNote NX69-HR-127GE

Samsung 700Z5A-S01DE

Samsung 700Z5A-S01DE
Samsung 700Z5A-S01DE

The notebook: The Samsung Series 7 Chronos is totally new among the reviewed laptops. The aluminum lid and keyboard area make a very good impression both in terms of feel and looks. The chassis' stability is mediocre, though. The input devices are good in terms of layout and feedback, but not perfect. The gaming capable midrange hardware comprised of Core i5 and Radeon HD 6750M isn't enough for gaming in the 15.6 inch notebook's native 1600x900 pixels. The bright but contrast weak TFT that lets colors look pale is a drawback. At least the AR coating, the good brightness and the battery life of six hours is useable for working in the sun.

The buyer: Is looking for a 15.6 inch laptop with swift hardware and good mobility traits. The six hour battery life and the matt screen are tempting. On the other hand, the test configuration's price of 1000€ seems too high for a laptop with weak colors. 

The review of the Samsung 700Z5A-S01DE

Sony Vaio VPC-F22S1E/B

Sony Vaio VPC-F22S1E/B
Sony Vaio VPC-F22S1E/B

The notebook: Primarily stands out with its matt Full HD screen that is on a high professional standard in terms of color spectrumviewing angles and contrasts (almost sRGB). A quad core CPU and GeForce GT 540M  aren't a bargain at a price of 1200€ because the competition partly offers this for starting at 650€. At least Sony has had to quickly reduce the price of 1400€ demanded at the time of the review. The plastic case seems inappropriate for this price. The bulky, unusual looks are a matter of taste, but the pliability and boring plastic looks don't fit to the price.

The buyer: Is explicitly looking for a first rate Full HD screen. The case's quality and gaming performance are secondary. Watching a Blu-Ray movie in the dark (burner drive) and taking delight on the illuminated keyboard seem more important.

The review of the Sony Vaio VPC-F22S1E/B

Acer Aspire TimelineX 4830TG

Acer Aspire TimelineX 4830TG
Acer Aspire TimelineX 4830TG

The notebook: Acer's member of the TimelineX range comes along in an appealing, sufficiently stable case. The 14 inch laptop only has a contrast weak HD screen with glare effect, but the battery life of 6:32 hours is very good in return. Although the case is quite slim, the temperature and system noise are very low, respectively remain reasonable. We would recommend the 4830T rather than the smaller 13.3 inch brother, 3830TG (same configurations available). The reason: The 14 inch device copes better with the CPU's and GPU's waste heat and hardly shows any operation-related losses due to throttling.

The buyer: Small but strong. The TimelineX has to attract buyers' attention when they're looking for a handy, good looking and affordable notebook. The test version, with a Core i5-2430M, is available for 700€. The premium model costs 1000€. This can't be seen as a bargain, but the components in the case, in the way of a 128 GB SSD, an i7-2620M and 8 GB of RAM, is remarkable.

The review of the Asus Acer Aspire TimelineX 4830TG

Samsung QX412-S01DE

Samsung QX412-S01DE
Samsung QX412-S01DE

The notebook: The 14.1 inch laptop is not a paragon in matters concerning outdoor use or color reproduction with its reflective, edge to edge screen. Nevertheless, the rating is quite good due to an outstanding heat dissipation and noise emission. In addition to that, it has good input devices, whereby the touchpad that can be pressed all over its surface (like the Apple) is a highlight. A rare trait is the battery life of 8:27 hours in the wifi test. The QX412 manages that despite the powerful Core i5 2520M and small GeForce GT 520M graphics.

The buyer: Doesn't place high expectations on the screen and doesn't want to use the laptop for gaming. In return, good input devices, high quality workmanship and future viability are important.

The review of the Samsung QX412-S01DE

Acer Aspire 7750G

Acer Aspire 7750G
Acer Aspire 7750G

The notebook: With its basicnon-slip surfaces and the strong, gaming suitable quad core hardware (Radeon HD 6850MCore i7 2630QM), the 17.3 inch laptop seems to be an everyday suitable all-rounder. In terms of games, the performance is sufficient for HD resolutions and high details, though not for the native 1600x900 pixels. Unfortunately, the keyboard is very spongy and typing is difficult. The low system noise and the battery life of five hours is positive in view of performance.

The buyer: First looks at the configuration and then looks at the brand. He will find the 17 inch notebook because the Aspire 7750G is sold at a low price as a mainstream model in a vast amount of configurations.

The review of the Acer Aspire 7750G

HP Pavilion dv6-6008eg

HP Pavilion dv6-6008eg
HP Pavilion dv6-6008eg

The notebook: The dv6 is HP's universal all-rounder that is sold at a higher or lower price in various configurations. Our test model, the dv6-6008eg, is no longer in retail. In return, there is a dv6-6109sg with a similar Core i7 2670QM (rather than 2630QM) and the same Radeon HD 6770M graphics in stores. In addition to the aluminum looks, the price of 800€ for the 15.6 inch device is especially attractive. On the other hand, it only has a contrast weak, reflective glare type screen and a spongy keyboard. The dv6 is an eye catcher in view of good looks, but it falters in stability (case, keyboard).

The buyer: Can accept a loud fan and a feedback weak keyboard as long as the gaming performance and the price are right.

The review of the HP Pavilion dv6-6008eg

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Shopping Guide: Comparison of Multimedia Notebooks
Author: Sebastian Jentsch, 2011-11-18 (Update: 2012-05-26)