Last year it was all about portability, networkability, connectivity and longevity (battery life). But this year, in deciding the best travel laptops 2011, we are looking for evidence of one more attribute: Innovativeness.
Innovate or die. Let’s face it, to stand out you need actual innovation not just a new colour scheme. Ideally, we are looking for laptops that are rugged in some way. And as the traditional approach to mobile computing has changed so much, we are throwing the doors wide open and throwing in the tablets.
Best Travel Laptops 2011: Innovators
It led the way from its launch back in April 2010. Since then, it’s become the must-have and must-beat portable product around. Due for an upgrade, the first generation is no laptop, but as it covers most bases, making it one of the best travel laptops 2011 in the innovation category.
Apple pimped its iPod Touch, yet in adding a little swagger and bling, it created something new: ultra-portable, survivable (in that there’s nothing to break off) powerful (enough) and fully hooked up (with a contract). Tech specs are way shy of a netbook, but the pad still does the job.
Apple’s 1GHz processor flicks open the apps for almost ten hours between charges, storage is up to 64 GB flash (has no moving parts) and it’s a looker. Needs a good case and don’t expect the touch screen to work with your gloves on – but still rather special.
Other Specs to note: 9.7″(diagonal) screen but no USB!
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
Seven inches was never enough. No surprise then that Samsung has brought out a ten inch version. And it’s included features that exploit the failings of the iPad. Where Apple does without a camera, Samsung has two (front-facing 2MP and an 8MP rear).
There’s also a removable battery, WiFi, Bluetooth, and 1080p record and capture. But does it work? Silly question, as the new Android OS is top-drawer, it’s just that it’s up against a Mac, and Apple has a knack of making things work organically. It’s also matched fairly closely in price and portability. Once the Samsung gets full release and the second generation iPad is let loose, we’ll have a real competition.
Other Specs to note: Honeycomb OS, 1GHz dual-core processor.
Still partly under wraps, this mobile/tablet looks ready to impress in 2011. In the same way Apple uses unibody construction to make its Macs, HTC have cut this device from the block. Two things set this handy device apart: its diminutive size and its stylus.
At just seven inches, the screen is the smallest here. And while using a stylus seems a strange choice in these days of touch-screen everything, it adds some tips and tricks to a tablet that works equally well with the new-fangled finger approach.
Connectivity is via Bluetooth 3, it’s on Android 2.3, and initial reviews are excellent. Considering it’s more of a mobile than a tablet, the little HTC looks set to take some scalps in 2011. And watch out for an upgrade to Honeycomb to make it even more competitive.
Other Specs to look for: USB port/ 5MP camera and 1.3MP webcam/ 1.5GHz CPU
Best Travel Laptops 2011: Netbooks
Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E220s
We might have been tricked by the rubberised finish – when you write on adventure sports, anything that’s rubberised is nice! Even so, this is a well-spec’d, ultra-light (just 3.5lbs) 12.5″ netbook that looks good to go.
There’s no real survivability to be seen in the design, just good design. There’s also the optional Rapid Drive technology which mates a solid state drive (SSD) with a traditional hard drive: clever as the SSD runs the OS leaving more space for storage. No DVD slot for this mini traveller, but a 720p webcam and connectivity to help you use it for messaging.
Other specs to Note: Core i5 or i7 processors / max of 4GB DDR3.
In a word: Beautiful. Netbooks don’t look like this. Apple has remade the oddball MacBook Air – which can’t match most competitors on specs and is frankly too expensive – and you just can’t help but want one. Beer mat thin at one end and cm thick at the other one of the best travel laptops 2011.
Cold aluminium all round, clever trackpad (not to everyone’s taste), SSD storage, two USB connections, WiFi and Bluetooth, and a solid 1.4GHz/ 1.6GHz processor running a full OS (unlike the iPad): it ticks all our boxes. But could you not get as much done on a machine for half the price?
Can you do without a traditional drive? These are question you answer with your head: make the purchasing decision with your heart and you’re likely to be paying for the latest (freshest) MacBook Air.
Other Specs to Note: 2GB of SDRAM, weight 2.3lbs, Facetime camera
Samsung 9 Series
Super-skinny, this netbook shows that it’s not just Apple that can make them thin and powerful. It’s already sporting some top industry awards, and looks set to find its way into travellers’ bags this year. Light, at less than 3 pounds and with a battery life that passes 6 hours, it’s looking like one of the best travel laptops 2011 in the netbook category.
As with the other micro machines on test, it ditches a disk drive and opts for the most stable memory of all, SSD (128GB). Specs are familiar, and Bluetooth 3.0/USB 3.0 helps it keep up with the crowd. At 13.3 inches the screen is pushing the limit for a netbook while the second generation Intel Core i5 processor is more than powerful enough to push out apps, emails and manage our power-sapping social media needs. Backlit keys are a nice touch, as is the brushed aircraft part Duralumin finish.
Other specs to watch for: 4GB DDR3/ two 1.5 watt stereo speakers.
Best Travel Laptops 2011: Soldiers
Panasonic Toughbook S9
Toughbooks are ugly. Well they are usually ugly and the people who choose them frankly don’t care. That’s because these are laptops built to take everything the world can throw at them – I think there’s even a model that can take a bullet for youâ€¦
The company’s S9 changed this when it was launched in September of last year. This 12.1″ standard(ish)-looking laptop can work on after a drop from 2 feet, has an 11-hour battery life, and even with all the body armour, it claimed to be the world’s lightest laptop with a DVD drive. Wrapped up in magnesium alloy and with a shock-mounted hard drive, it takes some beating – and could probably dish one outâ€¦
Other specs to note: 2.4GHz + processor/ 2GB SDRAM/ Full spec wireless.
GammaTech Durabook S15C
Magnesium alloy seems to be the material of choice when it comes to protecting laptops. Durabook’s latest looks like it has similar specs to the Toughbook: spill resistance and a mounted hard drive with protection against drops and shocks.
It gets its power from Intel i7 and i5 processors but a larger screen at 15.6″(probably as big as we want to go in terms of portability). The manufacturer is keen on stressing that its products pass the military test standard 810F – and so it should be: this test includes simulating 1,000 miles of truck transportation and more drops than a regiment of paratroopers.
Other specs to note: Up to 8GB of RAM/ DVD Super drive or Blue Ray Disk / Hard disk up to 500GB
Rocky: the name says it all. Combat rugged computing from this US firm guarantees these are ready to be dropped (literally) into the back of a 4×4 and bashed around the globe. Ruggedness is a given, but where laptops like these need to impress is in power to be one of the best travel laptops 2011.
Manufacturer Login Crete AB has dropped in Intel Core 2 Duo processors running at 2.6 GHz, more than a match for our media urges. Memory is up to 8GB and helps support Intel’s graphics memory. Clunky, yes, but there’s no real compromise to be made in these mil-spec computers: they need to be super-survivable and in building them this tough, Rocky again makes it into the ring.
Other tech specs to watch for: 1.8GB SDRAM/ 15.1″ backlit LED screen
This Year’s Ringer: Google C48
Well, it was only a matter of time Google has a laptop coming out in 2011. Having created so many competitive online applications, the search goliath is even rolling out its own OS. Currently under testing, the C48 is set to turn things upside down, that’s because its browser is the OS.
Basically, under the skin you’ll have a browser box, of sorts, with the power and connectivity for users to run everything online. No disk drives, rapid start up times ‘almost instant from sleep mode’ which take you straight into your usual Google apps, and we think you’ll be able to work it off the grid. Full specs are creeping out from the user testing, but Google has claimed battery life of 8 hours and it’s also slim at less than an inch.
Other specs we know of: Weight 3.6 pounds/ 1x VGA, 1X SD, and 1xUSB
If you’ve spotted any other laptops, tablets, smartphones or hybrid communicators that are likely to influence adventure sports buyers, just let us know we will consider adding it to the best travel laptops 2011.
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