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Best Notebooks of 2011 (So Far)

Apr 19 2011, 1:09pm CDT | by , in Shopping | Shopping Tips

Best Notebooks of 2011 (So Far)
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Ten of the coolest notebooks around

The range of notebooks on the market today makes it very hard for people to choose the perfect machine for their needs. There are all manner of notebooks with different screen sizes, different screen resolutions, and different processors and other hardware inside. Wading through all the choices is hard for a lot of folks.

Perhaps more than any other product in the tech world the best notebook for you can be hard to determine without knowing a few things about what you plan to do with the machine. If you plan on heavy video editing you will need a notebook with a fast processor and a robust graphics card. If you are the sort that loves to consume HD media you will want to look for a notebook with robust graphics and a Blu-ray player, you can even get machines with 3D screens on the market today.

Generally, I always tell people to set a budget for a notebook and then buy the fastest machine you can afford in that budget. Fast means different things to different people though. To me fast is all about the processor and the graphics card. These are the most important items in a notebook. The graphics card or GPU of the notebook has more to do with the performance of the machine than just how well it can play games and can speed the entire system by offloading video processing from the CPU. There is software on the market today that will use the processing power for the GPU for all sorts of things from helping to cure cancer to editing video. A discrete graphics card means the machine has a GPU on an add in card and these are typically much faster than integrated GPUs that are built into the notebook mainboard.

A discrete GPU also has its own RAM so you won't lose your computer memory to graphics card functions. The CPU will generally be a dual-core today, but there are also a number of notebooks with quad-core CPUs. The more cores your CPU has the more work it can handle at one time and the faster it will operate. A powerful CPU is very important for gaming, video editing, and number crunching.

Screen size varies greatly on notebooks from small 8-inch or under netbooks up to massive multimedia and gaming machines that are over 18-inches. The screen size will determine how portable the machine is with larger screens being hard to carry and sucking down power faster making for less battery life on the road. If you want HD media, you will want to be sure you get a screen that supports at least 720p resolution and if Blu-ray is your think get a screen with 1080p capability.

The amount of RAM is very important and will affect how the system runs overall. If you open lots of tabs or edit large photo and video files, you will want a lot of RAM. I would consider 4GB a minimum for power users and 8GB a comfortable amount. Running out of RAM will slow your entire computer down and make things laggy and slow. Storage is another very important thing to consider when buying. You need enough storage to hold all your documents and music files easily. However, it is very easy today to shoot all sorts of files over to a flash drive or external HDD to free up storage space on your computer. A general use notebook is probably good with 200GB or so of storage and high-end systems will want at last 500GB. A SSD will make the machine boot faster and allow programs to open quicker. The downside is they cost more and have less storage space. These are just a few of the things you need to think about when notebooks shopping, read on for some of my picks for the coolest notebooks of 2011.

1. Toshiba Satellite M645-S4080 - This is one of the new machines from Toshiba for 2011. It has a 14-inch LED backlit LCD and runs Windows 7 Home Premium. The processor is the Intel Core i5-460M running 2.53GHz and the machine has 6GB of RAM. The screen resolution is 1366 x 768 and it has 640GB of storage.

2. Toshiba Qosmio X500- S1811 - This notebook is one of the largest machines you will find and is perfect for those that like to play games and those that like to watch lots of media. The notebook has a giant 18.4-inch LCD supporting HD resolution. The notebook runs an Intel Core i7-740QM processor, has 500GB of storage, and 4GB of RAM. It also packs in a lot more features making this a giant size notebook that will do just about everything you want it to.

3. Dell L701x XPS 17 Notebook - This is one of the larger new Dell machines to launch his year with a big 17.3-inch screen and a discrete GeForce GT 435m 1GB GPU. The machine has NVIDIA Optimus tech to switch between that discrete GPU and the integrated graphics. This notebook also has Blu-ray, 6GB of RAM, 500GB storage and a lot more features. The processor is a Core i5-460M at 2.53GHz.

4. HP Mini 5013 Netbook - This little netbook is one of the best on the market. The downside to a netbook is that the hardware isn't that robust, the upside is portability and a low price. This netbook uses an Intel Atom N450 1.66GHz CPU, 2GB of RAM, and a 250GB HDD. It runs Windows 7 Pro and has a 10.1-inch 1024 x 600 resolution screen along with a few other features.

5. Sony Vaio VPC-YB15KX/S - This is the first notebook on the list powered by an AMD processor. The CPU is the dual-core AMD E-350 running at 1.6GHz. The screen is an 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 unit and the GPU for the notebook is a Radeon HD 6310. This notebook has 500GB of storage and 4GB of RAM with the Windows 7 Home Premium OS.

6. Dell Inspiron M101z Notebook - Dell is one of the largest companies in the notebook market. This machine is a small AMD powered unit with an 11.6-inch screen. It has a resolution of 1366 x 768 and uses a Radeon Mobility HD 4200 GPU. It sports 2GB of RAM, 500GB of storage, and Windows 7 Home Premium for the OS. The processor inside the notebook is the AMD Athlon II Neo K125 and it has several other features too like WiFi and Bluetooth.

7. Alienware m17x 10-1847DSB - This 17-inch notebook is one of the most powerful gaming notebooks Alienware offers and the nearly $2200 price shows it. It uses an Intel Core 17-740QM processor at 1.73 GHz and it has 6GB of RAM. The notebook has 500GB of storage and a slot loading DVD burner. Graphics are handled by a CrossFireX 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5870 GPU and the machine has a 17-inch screen with a 1440 x 900 resolution. Other features include a backlit keyboard, 500GB of storage, 6GB of RAM, and lots more.

8. Apple MacBook Pro MC700LL/A - This is one of the cheapest MacBook notebooks that you can purchase right now. The machine has a 13.3-inch screen and runs a 2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor. It has 320GB of storage, a screen resolution of 1280 x 800, and Intel HD graphics. The machine also has 4GB of RAM and the new Thunderbolt port among other things.

9. Apple MacBook Pro MC721LL/A - This is the larger 15.4-inch MacBook Pro notebook with a screen resolution of 1440 x 900. It has a 2GHz Intel Core i7 processor, Radeon HD 6490M graphics, and a 500GB HDD. Other features include 4GB of RAM, Thunderbolt, and lots more. This is the MacBook Pro that is at the lower end of the price range for the large screen machine.

10. MacBook Air 13.3 - This little machine is one of the thinnest and coolest notebooks on the market. It has a 13.3-inch screen and a processor that runs at 2.13GHz. Storage is to a 256GB SSD and the machine uses NVIDIA GeForce 320M graphics. This machine also has 4GB of RAM.

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