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Shopping Guide: The TOP DEVICES for Christmas

Redaktion (translated by Liala Stieglitz), 12/15/2011

Crème de la crème. We are now listing the editorial office's current top devices from every category here for spontaneous buyers or those who are already waiting for After-Holiday-Sales. No matter if you are looking for a slim notebook, a tablet PC, an affordable office laptop or even a high performance gamer, you'll find the right one here.

Readers could find an overview of laptops from the various device categories in the previous shopping guides. To conclude the series, the Notebookcheck editorial office would like to pull an overall verdict and choose the top devices of the different categories.

We will limit ourselves to a maximum of three devices in every category for our selection, whereby the sorting does not indicate any preferences. We listed the devices in alphabetical order. A detailed overview of other potential candidates of the single categories can be found on the following special reports linked here:

Subnotebooks

Apple MacBook Air 13

Apple MacBook Air 13
Apple MacBook Air 13

The Apple MacBook Air 13 secures itself an editor's recommendation also in this category. The slim case, fast hardware, good screen and the typical good unibody case, as well as the convincing input devices including LED backlight, are strong arguments for this option. If we look at it generously, it is Apple's ultrabook which most OEMs with Windows devices want to keep up with. At a starting price of €1249 (RRP), this "quality apple" has its price, especially when the buyer considers that, for example, an Acer Aspire S3 with a 13.3 inch screen is already available for starting at €799 (RRP). Apple's 11 inch counterpart to the Air 13 is also a bit cheaper: Apple MacBook Air 11.

Review of the Apple MacBook Air 13 Mid 2011

Asus Zenbook UX31

Asus Zenbook UX31
Asus Zenbook UX31

Now, the following may be seen as the proverbial comparison of apples and oranges, but judging by the rating in the review and the overall impression, the Asus Zenbook U31 UltraBook can very well keep up with Apple's Air: Strong hardware, an aluminum case (unibody) and an overall high-end impression. Asus' advantage: The 13.3 inch screen is very bright and has a resolution of 1600x900 pixels in a 16:9 aspect ratio. Apple can't offer this even for a surcharge. Excepting for the top model with an Intel Core i7 processor and SSD memory medium, the two "smaller" models are even cheaper than the Apple Air. Just as interesting for potential buyers: The smaller Asus UX21 UltraBook with similar strengths.

Review of the Asus Zenbook UX31

Samsung Series 9 900X1B

Samsung Series 9 900X1B
Samsung Series 9 900X1B

Slim cases are trendy. Samsung also underlines this with its Series 9, to be precise the 900X1B subnotebook. Compared to pure aluminum cases, Samsung uses a special alloy from the aircraft industry called duralumin. It's just as robust, but isn't as easy to clean. The latest Intel hardware, including an SSD memory, also does its job inside. On the other hand, the 900X1B differs in a smaller, 11.6 inch screen, more compact dimensions and a lower total weight. At a recommended retail price of €999, the price is still within limits for this category. Again, it has an equal big brother, the 900X3A (13 inch).  

Review of the Samsung Series 9 900X1B

Multimedia Notebooks

Apple MacBook Pro 15

Apple MacBook Pro 15
Apple MacBook Pro 15

"More Bang for the Buck" is supplied with the Late 2011 Refresh of Apple's MacBook Pro 15. The refresh bids more performance for the same money with a perfect aluminum unibody case, a very good screen (optionally matt) and the latest hardware (Intel Core i7-2760QM & AMD Radeon HD 6770M). However, owners of an Early 2011 model won't have any benefits by replacing it. Of course, the operating system is ultimately a matter of taste, but Apple offers a tried and tested device with this update. In terms of price, this notebook places itself in the ultimate premium range, which could still be a make-or-break criterion.

Reviews of the Apple MacBook Pro 15 Late 2011 (2.4 GHz, 6770M, glare) // Apple MacBook Pro 15 (2.0 GHz, matt) // Apple MacBook Pro 15 (2.0 GHz, glare) // Apple MacBook Pro 15 (2.2 GHz, glare)

Alienware M14x

Alienware M14x
Alienware M14x

An unusual rarity has also made it onto our top rating list. We are speaking of a powerful gaming/multimedia notebook in a typical business-style 14 inch size called M14x. An Intel quad core CPU paired with Nvidia's GeForce GT 555M graphics card provides impressive performance in view of the compact size. Whether gaming on the desk at home or surfing on the go, the M14x is capable of almost everything. Downside: Glossy screen and high noise level during load.

Review of the Alienware M14x

Schenker mySN XMG A501

Schenker mySN XMG A501
Schenker mySN XMG A501

When dealing with almost completely configurable notebooks, the German supplier Schenker Notebooks, short mySN, shouldn't be left out. In the category of multimedia laptops, the company sends the XMG A501 with a matt 15.6 inch screen into the race. Including the latest hardware, such as Intel's Core i5-2410M dual core CPU and the dedicated Nvidia GeForce GT 555M graphics unit, automatic graphics switching, good screen rates, an impressive case, good battery runtimes and pleasant input devices, the device comes very close to perfection. The emissions during load, the GPU's tight memory interface and a bulky power adapter oppose the positive impression. Nevertheless, the start price of €669 is more than appropriate.

Review of the Schenker mySN XMG A501

Tablet PCs

Apple iPad 2

Apple iPad 2
Apple iPad 2

In the category of tablet PCs, the Apple iPad 2 naturally shouldn't be omitted, even if fans of the Android operating system will be critical of this statement. The case's workmanship, the excellent IPS screen and the simplicity of use are weighty bonus points of this device. However, Android could at least gain ground in the last point. In terms of computing power, there's not much difference between the Apple A5 processor, which is also found in the new iPhone 4S, and the Nvidia Tegra platform. The iPad is a solid tablet that should simply satisfy the user, not least because of the clever marketing… 

Review of the Apple iPad 2

Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101

Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101
Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101

An author in our editorial office called the Eee Pad Transformer TF101 Tablet from Asus "The logical development of tablets", as it fuses two devices: First, an Android tablet with a 10.1 inch screen and second, a netbook. Other advantages of this concept are the IPS screen, the Tegra 2 dual core CPU and the additional interfaces on the keyboard dock. Significant drawbacks are the not inevitably very good mobility of this combination and the price of about €600 (keyboard only: €150). Basically a very good idea from Taiwan, which will likely soon have a new family member called Eee Transformer Prime.

Review of the Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1N
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1N

There was a lot of commotion about the Samsung Galaxy 10.1 in the last weeks and months. Apple saw its design patent infringed and Samsung had to consequently take its device from the German market, among others. Now the device is finally available again under the name "Galaxy Tab 10.1N" and with a slightly modified design, which especially stands out with the visible speakers on the front. The innards haven't been changed. Nvidia's Tegra 2 SoC (system-on-a-chip) and Google's Android 3.2 operating system still create the backbone. The Galaxy Tab is likely one of the favorites among Apple's Android contenders.

Review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v

Netbooks

Lenovo ThinkPad X121e

Lenovo ThinkPad X121e
Lenovo ThinkPad X121e

In the category of "endangered" netbooks, the opinion in the editorial office tend to move away from the low-cost Intel Atom netbooks for around €300 or less, to the higher quality and more powerful options. The Lenovo ThinkPad X121e qualifies itself here in view of various configuration options, although it could pass as a subnotebook. Other advantages are the fast hard disk, easy expandability, a very long battery life, a matt 11.6 inch screen with a good brightness (1366x768) and not least, the interesting price-performance ratio. At a start price of about €360, it's not much more expensive than other current netbooks, but it can offer a considerable added value in many points.

Reviews of the Lenovo ThinkPad X121e (Intel) // Lenovo ThinkPad X121e (AMD)

Gaming Notebooks

Alienware M17x

Alienware M17x R3
Alienware M17x R3

When dealing with gaming notebooks, the name Alienware shouldn't be omitted. The Dell department has a high performance device in its range with the M17x. In the meantime, it's available in its third generation (R3). The outstanding performance, including the automatic graphics switching Nvidia Optimus, the design and the good feel are convincing arguments for the 17.3 inch machine. It also moves more toward desktop replacements with a total weight of over four kilograms. The configuration diversity offered in the online shop also has to be emphasized additionally. The price starts at €1499 (RRP) in the mobile premium top range.

Reviews of the Alienware M17x R3 (GTX 460M) // Alienware M17x R3 (GTX 580M)

Asus G74SX

Asus G74SX
Asus G74SX

Asus' flagship in this category is called G74SX and is also equipped with a 17.3 inch screen that has a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels, a matt surface and is even 3D suitable. Asus doesn't offer customization in its configuration, but this notebook impresses with a strong Intel Sandy Bridge quad core processor and the Nvidia GeForce GTX 560M. In addition to the good feel of the stealth case, the low emissions during load(!) and the good input devices speak for the G74SX. The poor connectivity could have been solved better in view of a notebook price of around €2000.

Review of the Asus G74SX

Samsung Series 7 Gamer 700G7A

Samsung Series 7 Gamer 700G7A
Samsung Series 7 Gamer 700G7A

Samsung is new to the business with the Series 7 Gamer, 700G7A, which was introduced at this year's Gamescom 2011 in Cologne on short notice. The laptop, also 17 inches, with an Intel Sandy Bridge CPU, but an AMD graphics unit. The Radeon HD 6970M is just as impressive as its Nvidia contenders. However, in a direct comparison, the M17x has the better developed graphics switching, Nvidia Optimus. The high-end screen, the illuminated keyboard, the good performance, the Blu-Ray drive, and a lot more oppose the weight, poor battery life and high temperatures during load. Compromises in different areas have to be made in all three devices, though. We have not yet found a machine for all purposes. The Samsung is on about the same price level as the other two alternatives.

Review of the Samsung Series 7 Gamer 700G7A

Office Notebooks

Dell Latitude E6520

Dell Latitude E6520
Dell Latitude E6520

Owing to a lot of configuration options, the Dell Latitude E6520 can serve various requirements in the office sector. In addition to an affordable entry level device, a high-end notebook with a solid case can also be set up. A feature is the matt screen, which bids sRGB color spectrum coverage and is thus also suitable for professional picture editing. A point of complaint in the review was the permanently audible hard disk (7200 rpm). However, this issue can be eliminated by installing a cutting edge solid state drive (SSD) which then also provides a considerable speed increase. The start price in this series is €899 via Dell's online shop and includes an Intel Core i5 dual core processor, but not UMTS or the WXGA screen. 

Reviews of the Dell Latitude E6520 (Core i5) // Dell Latitude E6520 (Core i7)

HP ProBook 6560b

HP ProBook 6560b
HP ProBook 6560b

Like Dell's laptop, the ProBook 6560b from HP is in the midfield of this category and convinces in many areas. Alike the expensive EliteBook, the device's design is elegant, well manufactured and made of high-end materials. The configuration includes a built-in UMTS module, fast hardware and a good 15.6 inch screen. The lack of USB 3.0 ports, the narrow viewing angles and the short battery life during load oppose the positive qualities. But all in all, it's a well-conceived device that doesn't leave much to desire. At a start price of €899 (RRP), the Hewlett Packard notebook is on the same level of Dell's contender, whereby the options list is extensive.

Review of the HP ProBook 6560b

HP EliteBook 8560p

HP EliteBook 8560p
HP EliteBook 8560p

The price range in the office segment is vast and can meet different requirements. The EliteBook 8560p from Hewlett Packard belongs to the premium devices. Merely the associated price and the high total weight are the disadvantages of this option. A matt screen, the good input devices, a spill-proof keyboard and, not least, the elegant design lets this device stand out. In addition to that, the docking port on the device's bottom and the acceptable battery life alone with the standard battery has to be mentioned. The main application field of this device is mainly the (home) office, even if the case has been manufactured in compliance with military standards.

Review of the HP EliteBook 8560p

Mobile Workstations

Apple MacBook Pro 17

Apple MacBook Pro 17
Apple MacBook Pro 17

Apple also reserves a place for itself in this category with its MacBook Pro series. The biggest notebook from Cupertino has always been a popular choice among creative users. It unites an outstanding screen with matt surface and a native resolution of 1920x1200 pixels with strong hardware in a first rate aluminum unibody case. In addition to the screen's resolution, the reproducible color spectrum also plays a major role in this sector. In terms of operating system, it depends on the required applications, the compatibility with other systems of the user's work environment and not least, personal preferences. Despite the high start price of around €2100, this solution lacks a docking station and up to date USB 3.0 ports. Apple would like to compensate the latter with the Thunderbolt interface. However, there are not many peripheral devices for it available up till now.

Review of the Apple MacBook Pro 17

Dell Precision M4600

Dell Precision M4600
Dell Precision M4600

With the Precision M4600, the American manufacturer, Dell, has a power machine with a 15.6 inch screen in its range. There's no doubt that it deserves the title "Mobile Workstation". An Intel Core i7-2920XM with a clock frequency of up to 3.5 GHz (optional), the very rigid case as well as the input devices of this notebook are impressive. Only the pliable keyboard is a reason for complaint. The Precision gathers even more plus points with an average battery runtime of around 7 hours (WLAN) and convincing emission rates. It's definitely worth a closer look for pros. This configuration is still comparatively affordable at a start price of around €1370, even if the options have a few "de rigueur positions". A strong configuration for the train-driving graphics designer can quickly add up to €4000 in that case. 

Review of the Dell Precision M4600

Lenovo ThinkPad W520

Lenovo ThinkPad W520
Lenovo ThinkPad W520

The Chinese manufacturer also sends a workstation into the race called ThinkPad W520. It is on a par with Dell's notebook (or at least wants to be). A robust case, strong hardware and good input devices are also de rigueur here. Alike the Precision M4600, the ThinkPad has a good scope of interfaces, which also includes the option of docking station use. The battery life is also good. Merely the lack of a numpad and the high temperatures during load are points of criticism that should be considered before buying. At a start price of around €1700, Lenovo's notebook is also within the usual price range for this category.

Review of the Lenovo ThinkPad W520

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Shopping Guide: The TOP DEVICES for Christmas
Author: Redaktion, 2011-12-15 (Update: 2012-05-26)