Welcome to the SAI: Tools 10 x 10 Holiday Gift Guide! We’re picking the 10 best products from 10 different categories to round out your shopping list this year.
As part of our final week in the series we’re hitting the best laptops you can buy right now.
Apple made a big splash last year with the MacBook Air, and now other manufacturers are rushing to catch up with their own super-thin Ultrabook models. And this is just the beginning. Get ready for dozens more MacBook Air competitors in 2012.
For now we’ve picked the best laptops, netbooks, and Ultrabooks you can get for the Holidays. Keep reading for our favourites.
Netbooks may slowly be on their way out as the newer Ultrabooks move in, but there are still plenty to choose from.
One of our favourites is HP's Pavilion dm1z series. This super portable comes in a variety configurations, starting with a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, 2 GB of RAM, 320 GB hard drive, and Windows 7 Home Premium. Thanks to that processing power and larger 11.6-inch screen, the dm1z is able to perform just as well as many of the popular Ultrabooks out there at a fraction of the price.
Price: Starts at $379
For the gamers out there who like to stay on the go, you still can't go wrong with an Alienware setup. The M11x is stacked with all the best specs for gaming on a laptop. If you max it out you can get a 1.5 GHz i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, 2 GB NVIDIA GeForce graphics card, 11.6-inch 720p HD display, and a 750 GB hard drive.
Enough for you?
Price: Starts at $899
Dell's first Ultrabook (although it doesn't exactly go by that name), isn't as affordable as some of the competition, but it is a looker. It has a 14-inch screen and is just 0.9 inches thin. Not a bad option if you're looking for a screen size larger than some of the other Ultrabooks out there.
Here are some of the key specs with the base model: 2.4 GHz Intel i5 processor, 6 GB of RAM, 14-inch 720p HD display, 750 GB hard drive, or 256 GB solid state drive.
Price: Starts at $1,099
Acer made a decent first attempt at an Ultrabook, but it still falls short in a lot of categories that matter. There's a lot of cheap feeling plasticky parts on it, battery life is atrocious, and it doesn't run nearly as fast as competitors like the Asus Zenbook and Toshiba Portege Z830.
Still, the Aspire is a decent buy for the price if you can put up with those minor annoyances.
The first Ultrabook from Asus, the Zenbook, comes in a large variety of models and configurations. Just like the MacBook Air's design, the Zenbook's body tapers down from 9mm to just 3mm thin. Pretty impressive. It also comes in two screen sizes, 11.6 and 13.3 inches.
Other notable specs include Intel i3, i5, or i7 processors, up to 4 GB of RAM, and up to 256 GB of solid state drive storage.
Price: Retails for around $1,200 (Amazon link), but you can find better deals at various retailers.
If you're looking for a business-grade answer to Apple's MacBook Pro, HP's Elitebook series is one of your best bets.
But unlike the MacBook Pro, you don't have to pay a premium price for this machine. Notable specs include a 320 GB hard drive, 14-inch display, and a 2.5 GHz Intel i5 processor.
Click here for our Review of the Elitebook 8460p >
Price: Starts at $829.99 (Amazon link)
The Portege from Toshiba is one of our favourite Windows-based Ultrabooks. It has a unique angled and metallic design that gives the device a professional feel. Plus this thing is loaded with every port you could want: HDMI, USB, monitor, even Ethernet.
The Portege is just as zippy as the MacBook Air too, booting up in just 15 seconds thanks to its solid state drive. Not bad for a Windows machine. There are several options and upgrades available for the Portege, but the affordable 13-inch base model will be more than enough to get you through.
The Series 9 isn't cheap, but it's one of the most powerful super-thin laptops out there. Despite the heavy price tag, it's our favourite Windows machine available.
It's thin, light, has a gorgeous and bright 13-inch screen, and a unique design that makes it stand out from the MacBook Air. Key specs include a 128 GB solid state drive, up to 8 GB of RAM, and a thin profile that weighs just 2.88 pounds. If you're a PC lover, you can't go wrong with this one.
When it comes to getting a fully-powered desktop experience in a gorgeous mobile package, it's nearly impossible to top the MacBook Pro. Apple's top of the line laptop has it all, including Thunderbolt for a zippy connection to all your connected devices and monitors. You can even upgrade to a solid state drive instead of a hard drive for an insanely fast computing experience. (Assuming you have a lot of extra cash to burn.)
With three sizes to choose from, the MacBook Pro is simply the best and most powerful computing experience in a laptop.
Price: Starts at $1,199
The MacBook Air kicked off a revolution in laptop computing. Now everyone is rushing to get their own Ultrabook out the door. Meanwhile, the MacBook Air is still the best. It's thin, light, and has the impeccable build quality you'd expect from a MacBook. The latest models introduced this summer now ship with a Thunderbolt port, which lets you transfer data up to 10 Gbps or attach an external monitor for brilliant display quality.
The MacBook Air comes in 11 and 13-inch models.