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All-rounder laptop reviews

Some of these general purpose family laptops offer unprecedented performance and value.
 
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01.Introduction

laptop reviews

We bought and tested 12 all-rounder models, ranging in price from $730 to $2100.

Through our rigorous testing we reveal which laptops:

  • Have the best performance 
  • Are the easiest to use
  • Have the longest battery lives
  • Are the most energy efficient.

On this page we look at:

The latest family all-rounder laptops have a lot going for them. They have enough screen size, processing power and storage space to cope with everything from web browsing to movie making.

And while they don’t quite have the grab-it-and-go portability of a netbook or tablet, they’re still easy enough to take with you almost anywhere without compromising on power or features.

Family all-rounder laptops are versatile and offer great value for money - for under $1000 you can have a 15-inch laptop with a very fast processor, plenty of memory, DVD burner, half-a-terabyte or more of storage and all the connection ports you are likely to need. 

For more information on Laptops and netbooks, see Computers and accessories.

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Brands and models tested

  • Acer Aspire 5750-2414G64Mnkk
  • Apple Macbook Pro
  • ASUS A53SJ-SX395V
  • ASUS A53TA-SX080V
  • Dell XPS 15z
  • Fujitsu Lifebook AH531
  • HP Pavilion dv6-6134tx
  • Lenovo Thinkpad T520
  • MSI CX640-02AU
  • Pioneer Computers Dreambook Style W25
  • Samsung Series 3 305V5A-S06AU
  • Sony VAIO VPCCB15FG

How we test

Performance testing includes benchmarking each laptop with two software tools. Our customised PCMark 7 test uses a combination of three sub-tests that reflect everyday usage, covering entertainment, creativity and productivity tasks. The entertainment test is a collection of workloads that measure system performance in entertainment scenarios, including:

  • Recording, viewing, streaming, and transcoding TV shows and movies
  • Importing, organising and browsing new music
  • Several gaming related tasks.

The creativity test workloads include viewing, editing, transcoding and storing photos and videos. The productivity test includes loading web pages and using home office programs.

We also benchmark each laptop using the web-based tool, Peacekeeper. This cross-platform tool tests underlying processing and video capabilities and allows us to compare different operating systems. The same browser type and version is used in each case. These results do not contribute to the overall score, but are included as a point of reference to compare against previous and future tests.

Ease of use involves three assessments.

  • The first, by the tester, assesses any supplied security hardware and software; options for migrating settings; monitor visibility in high and low luminance, product manuals and help, plus the ease of system recovery and support options.
  • The second assessment involves panel of expert users looking at the keyboard and touchpad, plus general design features and overall style.
  • The third assessment by a panel of experts looks at the laptop display, taking into account brightness, contrast, glare and surface reflections, plus angles of view.

Energy usage measurements include power consumption in active use and on standby, calculating an annual cost based on an average usage scenario of six hours per day in use, plus 18 hours per day on standby, costed at 22c per kilowatt hour.

Battery life is assessed by conditioning each battery before testing to achieve optimum life then testing it under both light and heavy usage scenarios. For the heavy usage test the power management features are set to maximum performance, screen brightness 100%, with Wi-Fi turned on but not connected to a network. For light usage testing the power management features are set to the most economical setting, with screen brightness at 50% and with Wi-Fi turned off.

Temperature testing involves determining the hottest point on the underside of each laptop with a thermal camera after a period of heavy usage on battery only. We deem 44 degree Celsius as the maximum acceptable limit for laptop comfort. All models tested passed our temperature test, with temperatures ranging from 32-39 degrees, well under our limit.

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