Which ultra-portable laptop for $1200?

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by PMCC, Jul 9, 2015.

  1. PMCC

    PMCC Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 18, 2013
    I am expecting about $1200 of funding, which cannot be used for anything else so there is no reason to save.

    Background: I have been using a Samsung Atom netbook as my only computer for nearly 7 years. I commute with it everyday, and travel with it for work. It is mainly used as an office machine but I make it doing everything. I consider myself rather savoy with the Windows system. I have a limited user account setup, on XP, with ACL that bars any arbitrary code execution.

    These are program/ features I use:

    Mission Critical:
    Office suite with Chinese character input
    AutoHotKey scripting
    A client for connecting to the intranet

    Some .net applications *
    Photoshop CS2 window version (I know its old but I don't see the reason to pay for a new one)
    Connection with my Windows Phone

    Nice to have:
    Firefox/Palemoon browser
    Foobar 2000 with ASIO
    Some vintage windows games

    I am looking for an ultra portable laptop, with no more than 13.3" screen, that is durable and with good keyboard. I have never been in this market segment so I don't know what to look for. Recommendations please :) 

    * I tried Ubuntu Linux some time ago and these programs don't run.
  2. gravijaflare

    gravijaflare Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 28, 2014
    A planet called Gaia
    for 13 inch or less screen sizes, look into the dell xps 13, or the apple macbooks (which can also use windows os), just check the configuration that will match your budget. :) 
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2015
    • Agree Agree x 1
  3. PacNWMike

    PacNWMike Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Dec 5, 2014
    Salish Sea
    why limit your search to just those two brands? e.g. ASUS gives good bang for your pesos. or HP or ????
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2015
  4. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Legend

    I'd look at a Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon. I use one for work and they have excellent IPS screens, are extremely thin and light, and have outstanding battery life. Thinkpads are often regarded to have the best keyboards.
  5. davidzvi

    davidzvi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 12, 2012
    Outside Boston MA
    Surface Pro 3, Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro, or maybe the Dell XPS 13.

    Given the size of the machine you have been using for years those are the first things that come to mind. The main down side of the Surface is upgrade or service. They are terrible for service.
  6. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA
    HP Spectre 360. Great performance, solid and flexible design. A thing of beauty.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  7. maritan

    maritan Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 30, 2014
    Do you have a Microsoft store near you? I would suggest visiting them and looking at the various options available.

    I'm probably no where near as tech savvy as you are, but I know that any brand laptop you buy at a Microsoft store comes with a "clean" install of Windows. In other words, all the annoying add-ons that Toshiba/ Dell/ Whatever include on your computer are not present. This improves stability and performance and not having to deal with OEM apps that don't work very well IME.
  8. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    I have a Surface Pro 3, which I used in a dock in two different offices plus as a tablet for reading the morning news with coffee, for email and general purposes when traveling, etc. I don't know anything about Chinese input, but I'm guessing that there is a keyboard for it that could be used in a docking setup. The SP3 is dramatically faster than a Lenovo Tablet 2 Atom tablet that I was using before. It is also dramatically faster than a Core Duo Fujitsu P1630 with SSD that I was also using. I am very happy with it.

    I am looking for a new computer for my wife and the Dell XPS 13 9343 (latest model) is where I think I'm headed. It's a laptop; she has no interest in a tablet. The thing is incredibly thin and there is almost no bezel around the screen, so for the screen size it is also very small in length and width.

    SP3 benchmarks put the i7 processor only about 20% faster than the i5 so I went with the i5. I am thinking the same for the XPS 13.
  9. jyc860923

    jyc860923 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Feb 28, 2012
    Shenyang, China
    I'm not sure if there's any ultra portable laptop built with ASIO compatible sound, however WASAPI (both event and push mode) on Windows 7 and newer is a very good quality output that not only bypasses sampling rate conversion, but also brings preferable experience to other methods I've tried. It requires a WASAPI plugin for Foobar2000.

    WASAPI requires also exclusive control of the hardware, meaning that only the application you're hearing from is allowed to output.
  10. kinlau

    kinlau Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 29, 2012
    All notebooks/laptops with Win 7 or Win 8 will have Chinese Input built in, pinyin, handwriting and about a dozen others.
  11. pake

    pake Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Oct 14, 2010
    I too did a research on <13 inch IPS-equipped laptops and narrowed down the options to these:
    1) Dell XPS 13
    2) ASUS UX303 or the more powerful UX303

    You can't go wrong with these. If you value battery life and better IQ, take the 1080p matte screens instead of the UHD touch screens.

    I think I will order a Dell XPS 13 after the summer. It MIGHT be the best ~13" laptop there is. And it's a lot smaller than it's competitors (they say it's a 13" laptop in a 11.5" case)
  12. PMCC

    PMCC Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 18, 2013
    Thanks everyone. :) 

    It is surprising that the XPS 13 gets so many votes. I'd take a look at that.

    The Thinkpad is also interesting, mainly because I had used a Thinkpad (still IBM) for nearly 8 years, before the Samsung.

    I reckon a WIN7/8 laptop should have no problem running the programs I need, but in case someone mentions the Mac OS or Linux.
  13. Clint

    Clint Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Apr 22, 2013
    San Diego area, CA
    Last weekend I decided I needed a laptop, something I have not purchased in quite a few years. When I started researching I could not believe the hundreds or thousands of choices. I knew I wanted 8GB and 256GB SSD at a minimum, probably an i7 cpu, and IPS display or something that was pretty close to color accurate, 3 – USB ports, a HDMI port, and likely the means to use the laptop in a couple of configurations. I compared Macs, Dell XPS13s, Lenovo Thinkpads, Asus, and Acer concentrating on a 13.3" display, 8GB ram, 256GB SSD.

    So after much, very much research, I was headed in a direction – basics for the 3 ultra-portable models listed below.

    I ended ordering an Acer Aspire R13. It came two days later but was not the same model ordered. Everything was the same except an i7-5500U and HD Graphics 5500. The differeenc between the i5-5200 to the i7-5510U is not enough to warrant an extra look. However the 16:9 13.3" display portables are larger than I expected - but smaller screen sizes didn't offer what I was looking for with getting into the very expensive neighborhood.

    BTW - I found MobileTechReview on both YouTube and their web site to very helpful!

    I installed Photoshop CS6, Lightroom 6, Olympus Capture, and my ColorMunki Photo calibration software. All work very well. The monitor calibration was actually excellent straight from the factory and is an excellent monitor. For a smaller laptop I'm impressed with how well Photoshop handles a D800 36mp raw file - excellent, yet not something I would want to do all of my editing on. I just finished installing a Wacom Inuit small tablet and it works very well.

    Here are the final three I looked at (Prices from Amazon USA)

    ASUS ZenBook UX305FA-RBM1-GD 13.3" Ultrabook Computer (Titanium Gold) i5-5200U vs M-5Y10
    • 800 MHz Intel Core M-5Y10 (Broadwell)
    • 8GB of 1600 MHz LPDDR3 RAM
    • 256GB Solid State Drive
    • Integrated Intel HD Graphics 5300
    • 13.3" Full HD IPS Display
    • 1920 x 1080 Native Resolution
    • 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
    • 1.2 MP Webcam
    • Bang & Olufsen ICEpower, SonicMaster
    • Windows 8.1 (64-bit)
    • L x W x H 12.80 x 8.90 x 0.50 inches

    • Intel Core i5-5200U 2.2GHz (turbo to 2.7GHz)
    • 8GB DDR3L RAM.
    • 256 GB Solid State Storage.
    • Integrated Intel HD
    • 13.3-Inch IPS FHD touchscreen display
    • 1920 x 1080
    • Dual-Band 802.11 A/C for ultrafast Wi-Fi.
    • L x W x H 12.70 x 8.80 x 0.80 inches

    Acer Aspire R 13 R7-371T-79TB
    • Processor 2 GHz Core i7-4510U
    • RAM 8 GB LPDDR3
    • 256GB SSD (2x128GB)
    • Graphics Coprocessor Intel HD Graphics 4400
    • 13.3" Full HD IPS Display
    • 1920 x 1080 Native Resolution
    • Wireless Type 802.11 A/C
    • Windows 8.1 (64x)
    • L x W x H 13.54 x 9.07 x 0.71 inches
    $803 (the price has already gone up)

    BTW - You can remove the back on all three of these and replace the battery, hard disk, Wi-Fi, and add replace the 4GB ram with an 8GB module.
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