Laptop Buyer’s Guide: January R15,000 to R21,000

Hello Internet and welcome to the last episode of the Laptop Buyers guide for this month. Today we’re back in the high-end price range, where laptops become gaming laptops and Ultrabooks become…er, better Ultrabooks? That aside, this is where you’d be shopping if you want absolutely no compromises. Unfortunately, even for someone who has this much money to burn, there isn’t a lot of choice. Even worse, some companies know that and subsequently overcharge local customers. Careful shopping, then, is encouraged. Hit the jump, because I’ve mostly done that for you.


R15,000 Ultrabooks, Gaming and Business laptops:

Acer Aspire S3  13.3″ @ R15,515

AKill 100 11.6″ @ R14,845 (stock options, Core i7-3610QM, IC Diamond compound, 750GB HDD, Killer NIC Wireless card)

AKill 1762 17.3″ HD @ R14,999 (all stock options, no OS)

Apple Macbook Pro 13″ 2.5GHz @ R12,999 (SSD Upgrade: Plextor M3S 256GB or Intel 330 180GB)

Dell Latitude E6430 14″ HD @ R14,857

Lenovo Thinkpad T430s 14″ HD @ R14,952

Mecer W370ET 17.3″ HD @ R12,706 (Windows 8 Single lang., Core i7-3630QM, Toshiba 500GB HDD, 24GB RAM) (SSD Upgrade: Plextor M3S 256GB @ R2174)

MSI GE70-OND 17.3″ @ R13,981 (SSD Upgrade: ADATA SX300 mSATA 128GB @ R1544)

Proline P150E 15.6″ @ R15,189

Samsung NP900 13.3″ HD @ R14,869

Sony VAIO SVS 15.5″ HD @ R15,556

Toshiba Portege Z930 13.3″ @ R14,227

Thankfully we don’t have the huge array of options we had in last week’s edition. There’s no high-end tablets here, partly because its not worth it to even drag up ones like the ASUS TX300CA because even if you do upgrade the SSD inside, its not worth it for the price you’re paying. I could likewise kill the other Ultrabooks here with Gigabyte’s U2442 and a SSD upgrade but again, you’re getting less value back. The only meaningful upgrades you can do to regular notebooks today is shoving in extra RAM and a bigger or better SSD, beyond that its still a very limited platform. The reason why the U2442 is perfect is because you don’t have to change anything about it, its perfect as it is.

That’s why the only Ultrabooks I’ve shown here are Acer’s Aspire S3, Samsung’s NP900 and Toshiba’s Portege Z930. All offer something different and the Z930 has 3G and a very low weight. Both it and the Aspire S3 have 1366 x 768 screens and when you look at them side-by-side, there’s not much difference in the chassis or the way they look. The Aspire S3 is the better buy because it has more capable hardware when you tally things up. However, Samsung’s NP900 does force its way in thanks to the better screen with higher . resolution and a non-glossy surface. A matte screen makes all the difference to someone who works with their notebook in different places and often its the deal-clincher.

For the business guys, only Dell and Lenovo are playing for your wallet up here, HP can’t really compete. Both business-orientated notebooks are equally matched with the Latitude trading some GPU VRAM for a backlit keyboard, while the Thinkpad features more VRAM, an Expresscard slot, Displayport-out and Lenovo’s brilliant keyboard in return for less system RAM. All things taken into account, the Latitude looks like the better deal, although your mileage may vary. I’d also like to mention Sony’s VAIO SVS here as well because it’s much larger than the Latitude but manages to keep weight down to the same level. If you like to imply that you’ve got lots of money by choosing a VAIO for work use, this is the one to go for.

I suppose the Macbook Pro 13″ can be considered for business use as well, but Apple doesn’t really price its products all that well, nor do they offer a service where you can spec it the way you want. I’d highly recommend getting a SSD into the base system and calling it a day. Note that I’ve recommended an Intel drive here. Although OS X works with a number of SSDs, you’re pretty much guaranteed that it’ll work with a Samsung or Intel-based unit. Since we don’t have Samsung SSDs distributed here, Plextor is the next best thing.

Gamers, welcome! You have several options here and I’d like to point out the AKill 100 – its basically a cheaper version of Dell’s Alienware M11x that used to be offered here until their local portal launched and the company decided SAffers with lots of money could do with less choice. Its a potent little machine and even can have some options configured to your liking or bank balance. The next best option to that is the Proline P150E. Its based off a Clevo P150EM, but lacks the MXM option allowing you to choose whatever GPU you prefer. In its default configured state its worth every cent and a better buy, currently, than AKill’s 1762. While the latter does have better upgrade options, the former is smaller and lighter, sports a backlit keyboard as well as packing in an OS by default. Both are based on laptops produced by Clevo, as is the Mecer W370ET. All are good buys, but the Proline gets my vote this time round.

MSI also chimes in with a value-orientated bargain, the stock GE70-OND. Its better to choose this version than the slightly higher-priced SKU that includes and SSD by default because you can get a better-spec one on your own. Its not worth it paying an extra R3000 for a 128GB SSD that costs less than half that.

R18,000 Gaming and Business Notebooks and Premium Ultrabooks:

Alienware M14x 14.1″ HD @ R16,999 (case in point, Dell’s local portal does overprice things a bit)

AKill 170 17.3″ HD @ R18,398 (stock options, Geforce GTX675M)

Apple Macbook Pro 13″ Super-HD 128GB @ R18,699

Dell Latitude E6430 14″ HD @ R14,857 (SSD Upgrade: OCZ Vector 256GB @ R2845)

Lenovo Thinkpad W530 15.6″ HD @ R17,127 (RAM Upgrade to 16GB @ R628)

Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon 14″ HD 3G @ R18,215

MSI GT60 15.6″ @ R18,210

Proline P150E 15.6″ @ R15,189 (SSD Upgrade: ADATA SX300 mSATA 256GB @ R3130)

Samsung NP700 17.3″ 3D HD @ R17,248 (SSD Upgrade: PNY XLR8 120GB @ R1027)

Again, not much choice here – only gaming laptops and business notebooks qualify to be here in my opinion, since many Ultrabooks at this level targeted at entertainment-orientated users are way, way too expensive for the hardware they pack inside. Even Samsung’s Series 7 slate doesn’t make the cut because ASUS beat it with better pricing and better hardware in the TX300CA.

If you’re a business user, once again its only Dell and Lenovo at this level. However, going this high seems to have given Dell some dizziness because every one of their options above R17,000 is not worth it considering you’re not getting any more peformance out of their SKUs. Best option then is to take the best version of the Latitude and stick a SSD in there. Lenovo rules here with its two Thinkpads, the Carbon which is undoubtably the more impressive out of the two. The W530 is the better workhorse out of the two though. As far as portable workstations go, it’s pretty much your best choice here.

The Macbook Pro makes another appearance, this time with the Retina display. Basically, its no faster than the one we looked at in the previous price point, it just has a screen that’s out of this world.

As for gamers, there’s the options you’re normally used to seeing, although I’d like to touch on the Alienware M14x. While it is a great design and good value for money, the only reason why its almost double the price of Lenovo’s Ideapad Y500 is because of the better screen, customisable backlit keyboard and the spiffy chassis design. If money’s no problem, the M14x is the better choice, especially if you like showing off. However, taking the Y500 and using a SSD with it would be the cheaper and better-performing option and you’d even have some change spare for buying a boatload of games. Just sayin’.

Otherwise, here the AKill 170 and the Proline P150E duke it out. Strangely enough, they’re both based on Clevo designs so when you get inside, they’re more or less the same. I’d pick the AKill 170 because of its upgrade options and the MXM slot, while the P150E settles with fitting in a SSD to outrun the 170 in everything else. Hey, Samsung’s NP700 also comes to the party and will definitely earn its keep here, even though its getting on in age. Shove in a SSD and you’re good to go. MSI’s GT60 is present but doesn’t get much word in, as the P150E is the better buy.

R21,000 Gaming and Business Notebooks and Premium Ultrabooks:

AKill 1762 17.3″ HD @ R21,046 (stock options, Geforce GTX680M, IC Diamond compound, Intel Centrino Ultimate) 

AKill 170 17.3″ HD @ R20,846 (stock options, matte screen, IC Diamond compound, AMD Radeon HD7970 2GB)

Apple Macbook Pro 15″ 2.3GHz @ R19,999

Apple Macbook Pro 13″ Super-HD 256GB @ R21,699

Dell Latitude E6530 15.6″ HD @ R20,512

Lenovo Thinkpad Carbon X1 14″ HD 3G @ R20,873

Toshiba Qosimio X870 17.3″ 3D HD @ R20,269

By now you pretty much know what I’m going to say – gamers, head straight to the AKill 170. Do not pass begin, do not collect $200, go straight there because anything else for gaming purposes is compromised. The 1762 does offer the option for a GTX680M GPU, but still doesn’t come with an OS, nor a backlit keyboard. Toshiba’s Qosimio ticks many boxes but compared to the 170 it only has the extra RAM and the 3D screen going for it. If 3D gaming is your thing, though, go for the Qosimio.

Business peeps, Dell’s only option that’s worth the money is the E6530. Sure, its a 15.6″ notebook, but it does pack in Nvidia’s Quadro 5200M. For rendering or CAD on the move, its your best option. The Carbon X1 is much slimmer and less suited to grunt work, but it will be a great travel companion. The integrated 3G helps cement this, although its still a high-priced Ultrabook. You can get the same performance elsewhere for cheaper.

As for Apple, its a mix-up between the Pro 13 and 15″. The Pro 13 comes with the Retina display and a 256GB SSD, while the Pro 15 offers users an easily accessible maintenance panel and the option for RAM and HDD upgrades in the future. It also has a quad-core chip and AMD’s HD6770M. The Retina-packing Pro 13 is still the better deal, though.

That’s it for this month boys and girls. Next month we’re back into the desktop space and lemme tell you, a few things have changed. Make sure you tune in again on the 5th for all the lists and info!

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