Ultraportable laptops review

Ultraportable laptops can do most of your computing tasks while on the go.
 
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02.Results

The following models scored the best results in our test 

What to buy
Brand Price
Dell XPS M1330 $1798
BenQ Joybook $1699
Toshiba Portege M800 $2310
Apple MacBook Air $2499
 

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Results table

Full results for all models are shown in the table below

  Performance
Brand Overall (100%) Ease of use (50%) Battery life (30%) PCMark Vantage score Price RRP $
Dell XPS M1330
www.dell.com.au
78 81 69 3410 1798
BenQ Joybook X31-PE04
www.benq.com.au
73 75 68 2723 1699 [a]
Toshiba Portege M800
www.toshiba.com.au
73 76 66 3022 2310
Apple MacBook Air
www.apple.com.au
72 78 64 2030 [c] 2499
Lenovo Ideapad U110
www.lenovo.com.au
71 74 69 2003 2999
Sony Vaio TZ36GN/W
www.sony.com.au
71 79 70 927 2920 [a]
Twinhead J13S
www.twinhead.com.au
68 66 66 2737 1599
Pioneer DreamBook M72R
www.pioneercomputers.com.au
65 71 46 2931 1725
 


  Energy use Features
Brand Annual standby energy consumption (20h/d) (kWh/y) Annual active energy consumption (4h/d) (kWh/y) Annual energy cost ($) based on 4h/d Active +20h/d Standby USB ports Video out, position [b] Recovery disc supplied Recovery partition Card Reader, position [b]
Dell XPS M1330
www.dell.com.au
8 47 9.33 2 VGA, L; HDMI, L 8-in-1; F
BenQ Joybook X31-PE04
www.benq.com.au
6 40 7.92 3 VGA, L; HDMI, R 4-in-1; R
Toshiba Portege M800
www.toshiba.com.au
9 56 11.15 3 VGA, L [g] 6-in-1; F
Apple MacBook Air
www.apple.com.au
6 24 5.04 1 Mini-DVI, R
Lenovo Ideapad U110
www.lenovo.com.au
7 39 7.67 3 VGA, L 6-in-1; R
Sony Vaio TZ36GN/W
www.sony.com.au
10 21 5.23 2 VGA, R 2; F
Twinhead J13S
www.twinhead.com.au
11 35 7.82 3 VGA, L 4-in-1; F
Pioneer DreamBook M72R
www.pioneercomputers.com.au
10 54 10.85 3 VGA, L 7-in-1; L
 


  Features
Brand Antivirus, licence [d] Firewall, licence [d] Anti-spyware, licence [d] Operating system Warranty (years) [e] Warranty type [f]
Dell XPS M1330
www.dell.com.au
• (30 days) • (30 days) • (30 days) Vista Premium 1 Onsite
BenQ Joybook X31-PE04
www.benq.com.au
• (90 days) • (90 days) Vista Premium RTB, PnR
Toshiba Portege M800
www.toshiba.com.au
• (90 days) • (90 days) • (90 days) Vista Business [i] 3 PnR
Apple MacBook Air
www.apple.com.au
Mac OS X 10.5 1 RTB, PnR
Lenovo Ideapad U110
www.lenovo.com.au
• (90 days) • (90 days) Vista Premium 1 PnR
Sony Vaio TZ36GN/W
www.sony.com.au
• (90 days) • (90 days) • (90 days) Vista Business [i] 1 ns
Twinhead J13S
www.twinhead.com.au
Vista Premium ns
Pioneer DreamBook M72R
www.pioneercomputers.com.au
• (1 year) • (1 year) • (1 year) Vista Premium 1 RTB
 


  Specifications
Brand Weight including battery (kg) Weight of power supply and cordage (g) Unit dimensions (HxDxW) cm * Hard drive (GB) Optical drive [b] Processor type Screen size (in) Max. screen resolution Battery life (Hours:Minutes) heavy usage
Dell XPS M1330
www.dell.com.au
2 544 3.3 x 23.8 x 31.8 160 DL-DVD, R Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 13.3 1280 x 800 2:42
BenQ Joybook X31-PE04
www.benq.com.au
1.9 420 2.5 x 22.9 x 32 250 DL-DVD, R Intel Core 2 Duo 1.6 13.3 1280 x 800 2:36
Toshiba Portege M800
www.toshiba.com.au
2 471 3.5 x 22.9 x 31.4 160 DL-DVD, R Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 13.3 1280 x 800 2:29
Apple MacBook Air
www.apple.com.au
1.4 361 2.1 x 22.8 x 32.5 80 Intel Core 2 Duo 1.6 13.3 1280 x 800 2:20
Lenovo Ideapad U110
www.lenovo.com.au
1.1/1.3 335 2.2 x 19.6 x 27.5 250 DL-DVD, ext. Intel Core 2 Duo 1.6 11.1 1366 x 768 0:47/2:43
Sony Vaio TZ36GN/W
www.sony.com.au
1.2 330 2.9 x 19.8 x 27.7 100 DL-DVD-RAM, R Intel Core 2 Duo 1.2 11.1 1366 x 768 2:47
Twinhead J13S
www.twinhead.com.au
2.1 403 4.4 x 22.6 x 30.5 160 DL-DVD, R Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 13.3 1280 x 800 2:29
Pioneer DreamBook M72R
www.pioneercomputers.com.au
2 433 4.1 x 22.5 x 29.9 250 DL-DVD, R Intel Core 2 Duo 2.1 12.1 1366 x 768 1:17
 

Table notes

  1. Price RRP inc GST as at September 2008. Note that specifications on some models may have changed slightly, particularly with online build-to-order brands. Check all specifications, options and pricing carefully before ordering.
  2. Ease of use (50% of Overall) based on three different, specific user panels.
  3. Battery life (30% of Overall) based on one test, simulating heavy usage when using the battery as the power source.
  4. Performance (20% of overall) based on the performance of benchmark software and an expert user panel assessment of the display screen.
  5. PCMark Vantage scores These are the raw benchmark scores and only included in this table as a point of comparison for past and future notebook performance tests using this software.
  6. Specifications
    Weight (including battery) commonly referred to as the ‘travel weight’, not including mains cord/power supply.
    Weight of power supply/ cord weighed separately.
    Unit dimensions the dimensions of the notebook.
    Hard drive (GB) the included hard disk size, in gigabytes.
    RAM (GB) the amount of memory installed, in gigabytes.
    Optical drive the type of optical disc drive and it’s location.
    Processor type the Intel family and speed.
    Screen size measured in inches diagonally, all are widescreen.
    Max. screen resolution is the maximum supported screen resolution in pixels.
    Claimed battery capacity measured in milliamp hours at specified volts.
    Battery life average in hours and minutes under heavy usage.
  7. Energy use Standby energy consumption and active energy consumption in kilowatt hours per year (kWhr/y); plus annual energy cost on the average usage scenario of 20 hours per day standby and 4 hours per day active, calculated at 17c per kWh.
  8. Features
    USB ports the number of USB connections; FireWire whether the product has a 4-pin IEEE 1394 (FireWire) connection, and its location.
    Video out port type, quantity and location for video output to a monitor or TV.
    Recovery disc whether a bootable disc is supplied with Windows and other bundled software.
    Recovery partition whether a hard disk partition is supplied with Windows and other bundled software for recovery purposes.
    Card reader + location number, location and type of memory card slot — common formats include Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Secure Digital (SD), MultiMediaCard (MMC), xD-Picture Card (xD) and CompactFlash.
    Antivirus if software is supplied and licence duration.
    Firewall software in addition to Windows or OS X firewall software, if supplied and licence duration.
    Anti-spyware software, if supplied and licence duration.
    Operating System Windows XP or Vista Premium or Business, or Mac OS X.
    Warranty (years) length of standard warranty.
    Warranty type limited parts and labour warranty — Return to base (RTB), Onsite or Pickup and return (PnR).
    ns = not stated.

Footnotes:

[a] Discontinued, but may still be available in stores, possibly at a discount, except the Sony, which has been recalled and is no longer available.
[b] Relates to the positioning of the optical drive, IEEE 1394 ports, video and audio ports, plus the multimedia card reader (L = Left, R = Right, F = Front).
[c] Performance benchmarks were conducted under Windows Vista.
[d] Time period for trial version of software e.g. 90 days.
[e] Consumers are advised to check the conditions of the warranty period before making a purchase e.g. 3-year warranty can mean 1st year parts and labour, 2nd and 3rd years parts only.
[f] Optional upgrades may be available for warranty type, check with the retailer or laptop manufacturer.
[g] User can create restore disc using supplied software.
[h] Second year of warranty at no cost but requires registration.
[i] Also includes XP Pro downgrade option.
[j] Third year of warranty at no cost but requires registration and includes labour only, not parts.
Note: All laptops had a built-in webcam, microphone and Wi-Fi (wireless networking). All but the Pioneer had Bluetooth built in.

How we tested

An expert user panel rated the design of each laptop, looking at:

  • Ease of opening/closing and stability when open.
  • Screen quality and visibility.
  • Status lights/indicators -- type and visibility.
  • Ease of removal/insertion of DVD/CD and battery.
  • Connection placement, labelling and ease of access.
  • Design flaws and advantages; overall style.

A general user panel judged the laptops for comfort and usability, looking at:

  • The touchpad and keyboard -- including comfort, ease of use, responsiveness, position, angle, key size and shape, overall size and other factors.
  • Wrist rest comfort.
  • Laptop handling (comfort/grippiness) and weight.
  • Quality of display screen (additional to the expert LCD assessment panel).

Our expert tester assessed each laptop for:

  • Performance, including benchmarking with the PCMark Vantage software tool.
  • Battery life.
  • Security (hardware and software).
  • Power consumption -- active and standby.
  • Ease of transferring /synchronising data.
  • Monitor visibility indoors and outdoors, controls.
  • The manuals, help files and support options.
  • Recovery systems (disc, partition).

Our expert LCD assessment panel assessed each laptop screen for:

  • Sharpness/focus, colour accuracy, brightness, contrast, glare/surface reflection, distortion, evenness/hot spots, viewing angles and DVD playback.

Boot time and temperature

We also looked at how long the computer takes to boot up and its maximum operating temperature, though neither was included in the overall scoring.

The maximum operating temperature was measured after playing a DVD for one hour. The tester then measured the heat on the base of the unit. It failed this test if it reached more than 44 degrees Celsius.

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