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Roundup: 8 Laptops

Product Survey: Laptops

Our Tests

Before we look at its technical performance, we like to get a feel for each laptop, checking the case and finishing. Sometimes it's easy to get seduced by promises of high speeds, but sooner or later, a faster model will arrive at the same price as the laptop in question, so spending time thinking about how the user experience will be like is well worth it.

The screen gets a lot of attention from us, as you will be looking at it the whole time you use your laptop. Checking its viewing angle, how well it handles colors and whether or not adjusting the settings can give better results than the default configuration are just a few of the things we do.

After that, before we get on with the benchmarking tests, we make sure the operating system is completely up to date and that any useless bundled software has been removed so we can ensure a fair test.

This roundup includes products released within one year preceding the publication date of this article. The product selection consists solely of review units made available to Tom’s Guide by vendors. While the products listed here do not constitute a comprehensive listing of all products in the category, they do represent a broad range of what is available to consumers in this category. We will quickly update this roundup with new products as they become available to Tom’s Guide, and soon add data relating to product specifications and test dates. In other words, these roundups are a work in progress. Please check back frequently to see what’s new.

Everybody has their own definition of the perfect laptop computer, but it often boils down to the age-old compromise between performance and portability.

Laptops -- or notebook computers, for some -- are veritable wonders of modern engineering. Manufacturers take a collection of components, often made in factories spread across the globe, and cram them into tiny cases to create very powerful machines that are often ready to compete with the computer sitting on your desk.

The very limited amount of space inside a laptop creates two problems, however. It's hard for suppliers to innovate -- there's only a certain number of ways you can pack all of that electronics into one box, after all. Secondly, because of the of the highly-specialized components designed to maximize efficiency, it can be hard to upgrade laptops or replace faulty parts with spares.

Your best bet is to make sure you choose the right product from the get go, ensuring you have the right combination of components to do everything you want to do with your laptop. When you're shopping around, you'll probably want to look at the following parts, all of which will affect the performance of your laptop, but there's a more detailed list of what to look for here.

  • Processor
  • Hard Drive
  • Memory
  • Graphics Card
  • Screen

As we mentioned above, apart from the RAM and the hard drive, many laptop components are very difficult to replace.  Even if it is possible to swap in a spare part, their delicate construction often makes repairing laptops a costly affair.  A year's guarantee, which is what's usually offered, is often less than adequate.

Misleading Statistics

Putting blind faith in manufacturers' claims can often get you into trouble.  Reducing the quality of components to try and save on power consumption or reduce heat is one widespread practice.  That's why it's important to check our reviews of each laptop to make sure that the performance that's advertised is actually available.

Using Your Laptop

How far can you go on a laptop?  In theory, absolutely anything you can do with a desktop computer is possible on a laptop, but where you position yourself on the classic compromise between size and computing power is up to you.  

Any laptop on the market today will be capable of getting online and running simple office software. Editing videos and photos should be possible on the majority of models, as long as you have 2 GB of memory. However, playing the latest games is going to require a little more "oomph", and a careful choice of screen and graphics card will be needed.

  • wildwestgoh
    Could put up a list of hardware for comparison, for ease of user to compare those product not by points but by hardware parts.
    High points does not mean high expectation in other user eyes.

    Otherwise would like to see more laptops comparison next time (HP, Acer, etc.)
  • iversen
    I read in a local magazine that the Dell XPS 13 would run very hot during normal usage, especially on the "leather" part.

    Is that something you noticed?
  • parlar
    I'm allergic to fan noise. That it is quiet is for me by far the most important parameter, but it's rarely discussed. Does anyone know if the Dell Studio 17 is completely quiet under normal usage, such as word processing, surfing the internet or watching mp4 movies.
  • warezme
    I don't really dig the 5 star system. It always seems like not all the hardware is compared equally as there never seems to be any direct comparison between one model to the other. I think all models should be weighed by features, performance and price point.
  • Tomsguiderachel
    warezmeI don't really dig the 5 star system. It always seems like not all the hardware is compared equally as there never seems to be any direct comparison between one model to the other. I think all models should be weighed by features, performance and price point.Hi Warezme--
    These products aren't "directly" compared to each other. That's because each one hit the market at a different time. We couldn't compare the performance of a laptop that came out in May to one that came out in July. Each product's review was written at the time that laptop was received by us.

    Rachel Rosmarin
    Editor, Tom's Guide
  • andy_newton
    That's an old Macbook Pro, what about the new one with the SD card & without the expresscard slot.

  • I would never buy those piece of garbage lenovo's
  • Worst ever laptop review, each page didn't even clearly describe spec such as cpu, chipset, HD, battery size... only subjective rating. Pathetic!
  • iversen
    Yeah full specs should always be listed, especially when the laptops weren’t even compared head to head.
    Take a look at the Dell 17 inch Studio, it seems one of the major critiques is the battery life. But when ordering that laptop you have several different CPU’s to choose from (CPU’s that differ not only in speed but also in power consumption) so depending on what the review sample was equipped with it could either spell doom for certain configurations or be less of an issue with others.
  • murillians
    WTF no alienware!!!!!!!!