In a three-tiered comparison of laptops, Dell came out on top of the low-end laptop comparison, while Lenovo took first place in the mid-range laptop category, and HP came in first place amongst the high-end laptops compared. Some of the factors weighing to the comparisons aside from cost (which, of course, determined whether a laptop was low-end, mid-range or high-end) were as follows:
Powerful Core Processors
Covered in this report
Lenovo features a nice attention to attractive design without sacrificing technical strength
Lenovo delivers the most graphics and gaming power for the least impactful economic and size punch
Best for: Anyone who needs a mid-range laptop, especially for gaming, but for a wide range of computing needs that a lower range laptop cannot handle and a high end laptop might be too much for.
Very high end options for advanced computing and design
Highest quality intelligent design and ergonomic options
Best for: People who really spend a lot of time working on their computer and need the highest quality options.
The best no frills simple computing options available
The research seemed to show that even lower end models tend to last
Best for: People who need a basic model to do simple computing and need to watch their costs as they purchase computers.
With three companies enjoying longstanding reputations for success, warranties which are largely equal to each other save for occasional deals, and an almost equally spotty record for service and complaints from customers across the board, these are three companies whose laptops just about beg you to get out there and kick some tires to find out which products are best for you. In this case we thought it best to do a more in-depth look at the laptops each company offered at each level, low-end, mid-level and high-end. Read on for an in-depth comparison at all places along that spectrum.
Low End Laptops
Display: 15.6 inches, 1366 x 768 pixels
Processor: 1.9 Gigahertz Advanced Micro Devices A4-3305M, 4 Gigabytes Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory
Graphics: Advanced Micro Devices Radeon HD 6480G
fair display quality
processing speed adequate for low-level software
processing speed mostly adequate for mid-level software
no backlit keyboard
no 1080p display
no heavy gaming
Cost : $471
Display : 15.6 inches, 1366x768 pixels
Processor : 2.4 Gigahertz Core i3-2370Megabytes, 6 Gigabytes double data rate 3 random access memory
Graphics : Intel HD Graphics 3000 (SB)
display quality is good
processing speed is fast enough to use low-and-mid-level software
speed seems somewhat faster than other two reviewed here
no backlit keyboard
no 1080p display
no heavy gaming
Cost : $600
Display : 15.6 inches, 1366 x 768 pixels
Processor : 2.5 gigahertz A110 with 6 gigabites dual in-line memory module random access memory
Graphics : Integrated Intel HD 3000 Graphics
display quality is adequate
processing speed is fast enough to use low-level software
comes with its own fingerprint and face recognition software, along with passive
no backlit keyboard
no 1080p display
no heavy gaming
Dell. The most bang for your buck, and all basic computer functions for under $500 out the door. Dell has a great reputation for lasting a long time, too.
The Lenovo IdeaPad is much more neatly designed than many of the gaming laptops that have come and gone. It has a business-like look to it and isn't all flashing lights and silliness. It’s slimmer and lighter than most laptops in its class; other 15.6in models all weighed around 7.27 lbs., where the IdeaPad is only 6.17 lbs. It’s just under an inch and a half thick. (The HP Sleekbook beats it in this one respect, however.) So, no Ultrabook, but you can more easily carry it around in a backpack or should bag when required.
The 15.6in screen has a 1920x1080 resolution, and produces a bright, appealing image with a superior, wide angle. This laptop uses Windows 8 and is not touch-controlled, but overall touch-controls seem less useful on mid- to higher-end laptops anyway; both businesspeople and gamers tend to plug a mouse in anyway. The keyboard and trackpad are both large and exceedingly comfortable to use. The JBL stereo speakers are far superior to most other laptop speakers going, and definitely those of the other two in this comparison.
Lenovo IdeaPadstands out as providing a lot of value while remaining economical. It has the modern, portable power for entertainment, work, and media. If its short battery life and overweight stature don’t crush your spirit, the IdeaPad will seriously be the one for you.
HP Envy Sleekbook
The HP Envy 6 Sleekbook is supposed to be a successful rival in the Ultrabook category of laptops. The HP Envy 6 Sleekbook looks the same as Intel's Envy 6 Ultrabook. They each use the exact chassis made from plastic and aluminum. The modern and fashionable design of the HP Envy Sleekbook is easy to like, with its brushed black aluminum on the lid and around the keyboard, and eye-catching red matte finish plastic underside. The problem with the aluminum parts is that they get covered in fingerprints just about instantly.
For a 15.6in-sized laptop (like the Lanovo) its measurements of about .8 inches and 4.4 lbs. Prove that it's basically making the Ultrabook grade, unlike it's Lanovo rival. The keyboard is high quality. The plastic Scrabble-style keys let you type smoothly. However, the Up and Down arrows are together only in one space which makes them pretty tough to use. The multi-touch trackpad is big, integrating two mouse buttons underneath, and it's mostly responsive. BUT it has this annoying HP “thing” where clicking the button also moves the mouse cursor which is really irritating.
A big marketing point was the audio performance, featuring Beats Audio. The HP Sleekbook is equipped with stereo speakers plus a 'subwoofer' by Beats, but all that is is another small loudspeaker. Lame! This was really disappointing and Lenovo's sound totally outperforms.
Overall the Sleekbook really doesn't perform well next to its mid-level peers. It features an advanced microdevice A6-4455M – a dual-core APU and a 2.1gigahertz main processor with Radeon HD 7500G graphics. It also has 6GB of random access memory, and a 500 gigabytes regular hard disk drive. Its display and visuals, especially for high-demand stuff like gaming or graphics work, leaves a lot to be desired. It has a weird glossy finish that can make detail tough to discern in any light. In the end the Sleekbook is fine for basic online work but nothing fancy.
Dell Inspiron Ultrabook
The Dell Inspiron Ultrabook, like so many others, is an ultrabook in name only. It lacks style and integrity but does make up for some of its shortcomings with performance. It's about 1 inch thick but it weighs more than 4 pounds. It also has a 32 Gigabyte solid state boot drive for speedy startup and has a DVD-RW drive that loads with a tray.
The Dell Inspiron Ultrabook features an i5-3317U Intel processor, 3 megabyte Cache, up to 2.6 Gigahertz, 6 Gigabytes of random access memory, an advanced micro devices Radeon HD 7570 megabyte graphics card, a 500 gigabyte hard drive spinning at 5400 rotations per minute, a tray-loading DVD-RW drive, built-in Wi-Fi with each 802.11a/b/g/n router support and Bluetooth 4.0, and the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium.
The Inspiron manages just 5 hours, 25 minutes of battery life, unfortunately. Housed in a plain-looking body with rounded edging and matte plastic corners, the design is uninspired and basic-looking. The keyboard is spill-proof but this functionality renders the keys too small, too far apart, and far too soft to the touch. The end result is that you sacrifice speed (and sanity) for safety. Another major problem is that for whatever reason the function keys work only a little more than half of the time! The large trackpad is too sensitive.
The Inspiron has a glossy 14-inch screen (smaller than the other two in this comparison) of 1366 by 768 pixels. The screen looks pretty good, with bright whites and good color representation, but overall it's a little dim, even at the highest brightness setting in a dark room. On the other hand, high-definition video playback looks great on this laptop, thanks to the graphics card. Audio quality is good at the low levels that the speakers can achieve.
Lenovo. Lenovo IdeaPad stands out as providing a lot of value while remaining economical. It has the modern, portable power for entertainment, work, and media. If its short battery life and overweight stature don’t crush your spirit, the IdeaPad will seriously be the one for you.
Best High End Lap Tops
With amazingly high across the board performance and top-of-the-line features, the HP EliteBook is a desktop replacement laptop that makes short work of anything you need to do—including actual work.
You don't buy the HP EliteBook for its looks. You buy this high-end bad boy because you need an actual workstation that can deliver than kind of performance. Not that the EliteBook is ugly, but its looks just aren't in the foreground when you're busy focusing on the fact that it's faster than almost any other mainstream desktop-replacement laptop on the market.
What makes the HP EliteBook tick? A Core i7 CPU, 8GB of memory, and a 7200rpm, 750GB hard drive, for starters. The graphics processing unit is an Nvidia Quadro 2000M, a model that is more than competent. The 8560w functions at a rate of 37.5 frames per second on Cinebench 11.5 with a 5.67 central processing unit rating.
The HP EliteBook is even a good choice for gaming, almost always. Video playback is great; but audio is best through headphones; I found the speakers disappointing taken in the context of the rest of the awesome system.
The HP EliteBook's high resolution 1920 by 1080 display is perfect for computer aided design (CAD), games, photos, and video, but this high resolution on the 15.6-inch screen means that the icons and text are very small. Still, the backlighting is great and the display is very colorful. Input ergonomics on the HP EliteBook are way above-average. The keyboard is full-size with numeric keys, and all keys have a tailored, snug feel. The touchpad is also very responsive, and there is also a very cool stylus that is unique to HP.
The HP EliteBook's ports are high-end like the rest of the machine. Their are two USB 2.0 ports, one of which features external SATA, and there are two universal serial bus (USB) 3.0 ports as well. Video graphics array (VGA), DisplayPort, audio-in and -out, plus both secure digital high capacity or (SDHC) and/or multi media card (MMC) and Expresscard/54 slots are also present. There is maximum connectivity with 802.11a/b/g/n (2.4GHz and 5GHz), and gig ethernet. There is optional evolution data optimized broadband modem as well.
The HP EliteBook has 64-bit Windows 7 Professional and HP's ProtectTools for encryption of the hard drive, management of the biometric scanner, and password maintenance, so you are pretty secure with your new high-end toy. The laptop also features anti-theft innovation which guards the broadband chip, disabling and enabling the laptop via SMS messages. This technology from Intel can also use the un2430's GPS capabilities to track your laptop's location.
The HP EliteBook's weak spot is battery life. The measured lifespan of 2 hours, 57 minutes is too brief to do much without power. On the other hand, at more than six and a half pounds you probably won't be lugging it around too much. The only reason I forgive its weight? It's awesome functionality makes it okay.
The ThinkPad will never be an icon for beauty in computing. If that's what you seek, look elsewhere—anywhere else, actually. But ThinkPads have a very loyal following and it is worth it to come see what all of the fuss is about. The TrackPoint has a touchpad with gritty texture to it and buttons atop that with a very odd feel to them; this is something that takes time to get used to but that existing users are happy to see come with the newer models. Lenovo ThinkPads also come with fingerprint readers for biometric processing and logging on.
The ThinkPad features the i7-3520M central processing unit, 16 giggabits of memory, and a 256 giggabits of electronic disk. The ThinkPad's ports are a nicely-designed mix of ThinkPad legacy and innovation. There is one universal serial bus 2.0 port (always on for charging) on the front right, a video graphics array output, a mini DisplayPort, a set of ThinkPad buttons which includes two universal serial bus 3.0 ports on the left side of the unit, Wi-Fi with on and off capacity to the left of the machine, gigabyte ethernet and Kensington lock ports, a volume control, the ThinkVantage button which launches Lenovo Recovery, speaker controls at the top, and a microphone mute option along the top.
The ThinkPad tries hard to be great at multimedia, but it really never does any better than a gentleman's C. The ThinkPad does have a 1080p video which plays well, but a 1366-by-768, 12.5-inch screen, even a good one, is not ever really very good quality. For its size the display is good. Sound through the speakers is predictably lacking bass which is a bummer for music and movies. Along these lines, as you might predict, gaming is not the ThinkPad's forte. Frame rates are not adequate for serious modern games. Games are barely playable at low resolution and no more.
The Dell Latitude is a very sturdy choice that is built for business. This professional-class laptop can quickly be folded into a tablet PC by rotating its screen on its single central hinge. So-called “convertible PCs” are often used in large organizations, especially in, education, health care and law enforcement. This strength of this kind of machine is that it needs to perform well both as a laptop and as a tablet, even when subjected to hectic environments, and show good battery life. Dell Latitude is within these hash marks.
The weighty yet attractive high-end model was designed to get kicked around a little. Its case is constructed of thick, immovable plastic which is reinforced at the corners with a magnesium-alloy. There is almost no give in the case or panel. The company also claims that the Latitude is spill-resistant; although I didn't waltz into the store to test that I did note the thin rubber gaskets that line the keyboard, the screen bezel, and the perimeter of the computer's top panel.
Here's the biggest problem with the Dell Latitude: It weighs too much. The internal battery pack, this substantial laptop weighs 6.6 lbs. with accessories - not something you'll want to hold casually for long. On the upside, the batteries really last—more than eight hours, and almost 19 hours with the spare pack. However, that extra pack raises the total weight to 8.15lbs.
You lose a lot in exchange for the Dell Latitude's toughness and its convertibility. It's speed and functionality are comparable to most mid-level machines, not high-level peers. In fact you can get more speed and power for considerably less money on ultraportables costing less than $1,200. And the Latitude is really not able to be used by gamers at all, or serious video or image editors.
If you're looking for a basic convertible business PC, the Dell Latitude is a strong choice, especially if you don't need to travel with it a lot. This model gives you one of the biggest screens available on a convertible, and superior battery life.
HP. With amazingly high across the board performance and top-of-the-line features, the HP EliteBook is a desktop replacement laptop that makes short work of anything you need to do—including actual work. You don't buy the HP EliteBook for its looks. You buy this high-end bad boy because you need an actual workstation that can deliver than kind of performance. Not that the EliteBook is ugly, but its looks just aren't in the foreground when you're busy focusing on the fact that it's faster than almost any other mainstream desktop-replacement laptop on the market.