Top 5 All-Rounder Notebooks

Top All-Purpose Laptops.

These laptops can do it all and are a great choice for most notebook users.

1. Lenovo ThinkPad W510

Sometimes size does matter. You’d never describe Lenovo’s Thinkpad W510 as “thin and light.” It’s a bulky, heavy beast–a laptop with a 15.6-inch, LED backlit display that weighs as much as some 17-inch laptops. What you get with that bulk is a high-performance, workstation-class CPU, nVidia Quadro midrange mobile graphics, and workstation-style features such as built-in color calibration, complete with sensor. Of course, all those performance features will set you back a pretty penny; the price for the W510 configuration we tested comes in at $2929.

2. HP EliteBook 8440w

The HP EliteBook 8440w won’t win awards for ultrathin design elements or elegant looks, but underneath the almost military-style exterior is a dual-core (with Hyperthreading) Intel CPU coupled with an nVidia Quadro FX 380M professional-grade graphics processor. When you first unpack the laptop, the muted magnesium-clad system impresses with its solid feel. While the body of the unit is mostly plastic, it’s a dense, unyielding plastic that exudes ruggedness without seeming overbuilt. Priced at $1649 (as of February 23, 2010), the 8440w isn’t the least expensive all-purpose laptop, but it delivers robust performance in a 5.3-pound package.

3. HP Envy 13

Snarky bloggers (ahem) could easily dismiss the HP Envy 13 as a MacBook Pro plus $300, say so in a tweet, and call it a day. Hell, I was certainly tempted. (The Envy 13 starts at $1699. As configured, our review unit would cost you $1799.) This handsome laptop isn’t so much a tribute as it is a poke in Apple’s eye saying, “We can design similarly sleek, sexy machines…and maybe charge people a little more.” But the HP story here–and my review–has a bit more to it than that.

Before I start digging (or, should I say, “lacing”?) into the Envy 13, look under the hood. You get a decent amount of juice, comparable to that of a 13-inch MacBook Pro: a 2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SL9600 processor, 3GB of RAM, and an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330 discrete GPU. (A $1499, 13-inch MacBook Pro–one of the cheaper versions–offers a 2.53GHz CPU, 4GB of RAM, and an nVidia GeForce 9400M GPU.)The combo here, though, earns a respectible 93 in WorldBench 6 tests. It even had a good showing in the 3D gaming department. At high settings with a 1024 by 768-pixel resolution, it ran Enemy Territory: Quake Wars at 40 frames per second and Unreal Tournament III at 42. Certainly good enough to get a good match or two in on those aging games. As for battery life, the Envy 13 will survive 4 hours, 40 minutes before giving out. Good news, the optional extra battery can help out.

4. Lenovo ThinkPad T410

The Lenovo ThinkPad T-series seems to be a case of “more of the same”–which isn’t entirely a bad thing. In an era when system designs seem like ephemeral fashion statements and laptop PCs change color with each season, the basic black ThinkPad T410 feels like a comfortable set of jeans. The T-series also has the reputation of being a little on the pricey side. The price of the T410 configuration we review here came in at $1419–definitely on the high side for its feature set.

5. Sony VAIO EB12FX/T

The Sony VAIO EB12FX/T is an affordable all-purpose notebook that impresses with its style, features, and affordable price–but it is also marred by mediocre performance. It looks great and has most of the features you’d expect in a notebook costing around $750. The earthy brown finish, slim design, and clean layout certainly make it more attractive than most sub-$1000 notebooks, but it if you need a laptop for heavy-duty tasks, playing games, or long battery life, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

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