Notebookcheck's Best of January 2011

J. Simon Leitner (translated by Martina Osztovits), 02/16/2011

Hello Sandy. Basically, January 2011 was influenced by the newly introduced Intel Huron-River platform and the compatible Sandy-Bridge processors. Because of known problems, it might take same time until they are finally available. Anyway, even without the new CPUs some particularly interesting laptops are worth mentioning in January.

We have sufficient models for a 'Best-of' summary in three categories: gaming, multimedia, and subnotebook/netbook. In addition the Toshiba Folio 100 Tablet and the Dell Inspiron Duo Convertible are worth mentioning. The Folio is the very first tablet of the notebook manufacturer Toshiba. Unfortunately, it could not totally convince in our test and lot's of aspects should be improved. Therefore, it's particularly interesting, which improvements the announced Tegra 2 Tablet actually brings about.
The second laptop that does not belong to any of the categories mentioned above is the Inspiron Duo Netbook/Convertible from Dell. We believe that the small 10-incher can better unite the subnotebook and convertible world than any other solution we reviewed before because of its innovative folding mechanism. Unfortunately there are still some serious points of critique, first and foremost the display with its narrow viewing angles. Therefore it won't get an award here too.

Category: Gaming / Desktop Replacement


Deviltech Fragbook DTX (Clevo P170HM) Notebook
Schenker XMG U700 ULTRA GTX 470M SLI-Notebook
Update: MSI GX660R Gaming-Notebook
MSI GT663R Gaming-Notebook

We reviewed four different gaming notebooks of different size, performance, and price in the first month of 2011. Thereby the Schenker XMG U700 Ultra deserves the title "most powerful laptop" under review in January 2011. The reviewed model of the heavy 17-incher (more than 6 kilograms!) housed a i7-Desktop CPU and two Geforce GTX 470M graphics cards, the second strongest mobile graphics card from Nvidia. Accordingly our verdict: pure power at the expense of noise, weight, and battery life. Unfortunately the display did also not belong to the best.

Deviltech tried to score points with the Fragbook DTX, which is based on the Clevo P170HM barebone. Successfully, as it achieved a total score of 84%. But, there is still room for improvements, especially regarding noise.
In addition, we once again reviewed a GX660R model from MSI. Combining i7-740QM CPU and Mobility Radeon HD 5870 graphics card it provides sufficient power so that current games can still run smoothly at high graphics details. But, also this laptop did not meet our requirements in terms of display and noise.
Finally, also the GT663R, another gaming bolide from MSI, belongs to the current gaming category. Inside a i7-740QM CPU calculates fast again, but, graphics is done by a Geforce GTX 460M graphics card. In terms of performance the two MSI laptops do not differ much. So, one could conclude that it depends on the preferences of each user, which graphics solution he favors.

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DTR / Gaming Notebook of January 2011: Deviltech Fragbook DTX (Clevo P170HM)

Clevo did a good job with the new P170HM series. The 17-incher got a simple case and a huge number of ports. The cooling system even suffices most powerful components. The case stays comfortably cool, but the laptop can get loud upon load. Overall, it is still a balanced system for eager gamers.


What we like
You hardly ever see such a good display.

What we like to see
A less erratic fan and a better case build.

What surprises us
How cool the case surface remains under heavy use.

The competition
Other gaming notebooks with a single GPU like the Asus G53JW, the Asus G73JH, the Asus G73JW, the MSI GX660R, the MSI GT633R, the Medion Erazer X6811, the Medion Akoya X7811, the mySN XMG P501 or the Eurocom W860CU Cougar.

Category: Multimedia


Asus N53SV (X5MSV) Notebook
Acer Aspire 5742G Notebook
MSI GE603 Notebook
Samsung R540-JS08DE Notebook
Acer Aspire 4820TG (i7/HD 6550) Notebook

We reviewed quite a lot multimedia laptops this month, among others also the Asus N53SV, our first Sandy-Bridge multimedia laptop in review. Being equipped with 2630QM quad core CPU, the 15-incher could not only score with first-class application performance. Its GT540M graphics card also delivers a decent gaming performance. Combined with Nvidia Optimus the laptops succeeds in offering high performance reserves and low emissions.
Equipped with the same graphics card, but based on Intel's Montevina platform, the Acer Aspire 5742G is nearly a direct competitor of the Asus N53SV. Comparing these, the performance gain of the new Intel processors gets apparent. Again Optimus helps keeping the emissions low. But, the display could not convince us. 
MSI tries to attract price-conscious customers with the GE 603. The combination of i5-460M CPU and Geforce GT 425M graphics card should be able to cope with the basic tasks of a multimedia laptop and also the one or other game, but of course at reduced graphics details. In our test, this was actually possible, but, the moderate display clearly reminds on the price.
The Samsung R540 multimedia notebook is even cheaper than the MSI model. Its high-gloss plastic surfaces want to hide its cheap build, but a i3-370M and HD545v graphics speak for themselves. Positive: It is the only cheap multimedia laptop that is equipped with a user-friendly display, because it is AR-coated.
The last contender in this category is the new edition of the 14-inch Timeline laptops of Acer, the 4820TG. However, it is also still based on the Montevina platform from Intel. Acer selected a powerful Core i7-640M for the model we reviewed, which can score points because of its high clock rates. The AMD Radeon HD 6650M graphics card, a current offspring of the HD 6xxx series should make a smooth game play even in current games possible. Apart from the delivered performance, the light, small case might attract many laptop user.

Best Multimedia Laptop of January 2011: Acer Aspire 4820TG

Even if the Asus N53SV attracted most attention, because it is the first model equipped with a Sandy Bridge processor, Acer, in our opinion, delivered the most successful multimedia notebook in January with the 4820TG. The combination of i7-640M CPU and HD 6650 GPU ensures a good performance even in current games. In addition it can convince with a low system noise and a decent battery life of up to 5 hours in our WLAN test. The SSD in our test model had an important impact on performance and notably speeds the system up in daily office tasks.


What we like
SSD speed and a lot of CPU power for a comparatively low-priced notebook.

What we'd like to see
Value for money would have been perfect with a higher contrast, matt and brighter display.

What surprises us
The 14 incher's power consumption (load & idle) is lower than the 13 inch 3830TG.

The competition
Acer TimelineX 3820TG: now also with HD 6550M; TimelineX 5820TG: same looks in 15.6 inches, Nvidia alternatives. Asus N53SV: similarly strong gaming performance (GT 540M) and the latest Sandy Bridge processor; Samsung RF510-SO2DE: less 3D, but better workmanship, more interfaces; Sony Vaio VPC-EB3Z1E/BQ: the almost perfect consumer Full HD TFT and HD 5650.

Category: Subnotebook


Sony Vaio VPC-Z13Z9E (i7, FHD, Quad-SSD) Subnotebook
Samsung Q330 Suri Subnotebook
Samsung NF210 Netbook

A small, but noteworthy group musters in the category subnotebook/netbook. The Sony Z13Z in 13-inch size does a balancing act. It is still a subnotebook, but the delivered performance could even put the fear of Good into some powerful multimedia laptops. But, also the price is high: It first gets interesting above 2000 euro.
The 13-incher from Samsung, the Q330, is clearly cheaper and costs less than 1000 euro. However, being equipped with Core i3-350M and Geforce 310M the performance is considerably lower too. The Q330 mainly scores points with its good battery life and the bright screen, which is unfortunately not AR-coated.
Even if it can't achieve their performance, the Samsung NF210 can at least top the competitors in terms of mobility. The 10-inch netbook has Intel's current Atom N550 dual core CPU inside. As it weighs only 1.3 kg you can take it with you everywhere. In addition Samsung fortunately equipped it with a matte display.

Best Subnotebook of January 2011: Sony Vaio VPC-Z13Z9E

The VPC-Z13Z achieved a convincing total score of 88%. We can't find any notable slip in any aspect. It only falls behind a little bit regarding gaming performance, something that you can concede to 13-incher. Thanks to the Geforce GT 330M it is still decent in comparison. The Sony Vaio Z13Z has an absolutely high-quality case, most powerful components, in particular a quad-SSD, which is clearly faster than conventional hard drives,  a first-classs display – matte, bright, good contrast, excellent color space, low emissions, AND good battery runtimes. What a shame: It is possible to switch between integrated and dedicated graphics, but only manually as Optimus is not implemented.


What we like
A TFT with workstation-quality and resolution on a small 13-incher.

What we'd like to see
With Nvidia, the annoying black display and waiting time when switching GPU could have been avoided.

What surprises us
The Quad SSD no longer appears to perform as well in practice (PCMark Vantage, PCMark05) as does the much cheaper Intel X25M SSD in the Aspire 4820TG.

The competition
Sony Vaio VPC-Z11X9E/B: starting at 1,850 Euros, 2x64GB Samsung; Vaio VPC-Z12M9E/B:, 1,800 Euros, 2x64GB SSD Toshiba; Toshiba Portégé R700-172; Lenovo ThinkPad T410s; Apple Macbook Air 13 inch 2010-10: out-of-date processor;  MacBook Air 11 inch 2010-10: out-of-date processor; Dell Vostro V130: much cheaper, SSD-option; Lenovo Thinkpad X201s: without a dedicated GPU; Acer Aspire TimelineX 4820TG-644G16Mnks: Intel SSD  160GB and HD 6550M graphics

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J. Simon Leitner, 2011-02-16 (Update: 2013-06- 6)