The Most Important Laptops Of 2012

2012 was a big year for laptops. Windows 8 came along with its touch-centric worldview, Intel kept plugging away on its ultrabook crusade, and Apple finally started pumping out Retina MacBooks. Here's our list of the most important machines of the year.

9. Acer Aspire S7 11-inch

This is a statement of intent from Acer, and really all Windows laptops. Along with Samsung's Series 9, this is the most impressively designed and built laptop we've seen. Apple included. It's just wonderful, with a gorgeous, bright capacitive touch 1080p display crammed onto its 11-inch body. Acer has a few kinks to work out, like that undersized trackpad, before this really takes off, but it was the arrival of a new big time player in laptops, and a reaffirmation that Windows can be beautiful.


8. Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13

Lenovo was the first Windows 8 hybrid out the gate at CES this year, and its 13-inch Yoga managed to stay ahead of the field and come in as the best touchscreen convertible we saw this year. That makes it the unofficial face of Windows 8 laptops, even if Surface RT is the hardware face of Windows 8 itself. Sadly, this one is relegated to the import-only zone after Lenovo made the decision not to bring it to Australian shores. [More]

7. Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A

Asus's Zenbooks have been some of the most popular ultrabooks out, but this year's UX31A was notable for its gorgeous 1080p screen, which outshines anything short of a Retina display from Apple. The Zenbooks still have keyboard and trackpad issues to deal with, but pushing great displays on nice laptops at affordable prices is pretty important.


6. Samsung Series 9

Samsung's Series 9 was already really good last year — it was our favourite ultrabook at the time — but its total redesign this year cemented it as the most gorgeous laptop you can own. Period. We didn't love what that did to the keyboard, but wrestling "best looking laptop" away from Apple is a big deal, especially when it does't look like Cupertino's going to take it back any time soon.


5. Dell XPS 12

Early this year, ultrabooks were still getting off the groups, taking their first awkward, unsure steps toward being good and viable. Dell's XPS 12 was one of the first to really get almost everything right while also embracing a lot of Intel's features, which early ultrabooks avoided. It came in between the first and second waves of ultrabooks, and set a template for build quality and usability.


4. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is ostensibly a business machine, but it sure don't look like one. It's sleek — even sleeker than the original X1 — and performs as well as any ultrabook in its class. But the importance comes from the convergence of enterprise ruggedness and consumer-grade design. We want splash-proof, drop-proof, life-proof gadgets, and the X1 Carbon was a big step toward that happening. [More]

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3. Acer Chromebook

Chromebooks aren't for everyone, but they're excellent little internet machines, and just about all a lot of people need out of a computer. And a $US200 price tag is a big deal for a machine that actually works (and won't make everyone who touches it want jump off of a building). Get your third-party shipping services out for it, though.


2. Razer Blade

The new Razer Blade looks basically identical to the first Blade, which was released this spring. But the new model has all new guts — including a bump up to a GeForce GTX 660M — that are finally good enough to make Razer's attempted defragmentation of the PC gaming market a possibility. The price still has to come down, but Razer's doing important stuff.


1. MacBook Pro with Retina

The Retina MacBook Pro was probably inevitable, but that doesn't stop it from being important. It was the first ultra-high resolution laptop display, and unlike the extravagantly expensive 13-inch version, it actually performed up to its price tag.




    Why doesn't Toshiba make it to the list?
    I love their Toshiba Z830 and Z930.

      Totally agree!, Just got the Z930, its fast and the lightest laptop I have felt

    Retina MacBook Pro is the best laptop I've used so far, well deserved win.

      Conversely, the 13" version was probably Apple's biggest failure of the year.

      (Apart from the iPad Mini pricing, Apple Maps and iOS 6.)

      Last edited 17/12/12 11:29 am

        What's wrong with the 13" version? It's the model I was looking at - specs wise it looks incredible, just a bit pricey.

          The general concensus is that while the 15' Retina MBP is excellent, the 13" version falls quite short of the mark. It's certainly not just a smaller version of the same awesome.

          The components that make up the 13" Retina MBP are just too mismatched for it to live up to its 15" counterpart. For example, the integrated GPU is horribly underpowered when it comes to driving all those pixels that make it a Retina display (four times as many as on a standard 1280x800 display) to the point that even scrolling down a website can appear frustratingly choppy. The CPU options, too, are quite underwhelming compared to thos for the 15" rMBP.

          Last edited 17/12/12 4:06 pm

            Thats always been the case with the 13" models but. They aren't designed to compete with the 15" models on a performance level if GPU performance is whats needed. While I fond the 13" retina to be a bit expensive, both the non retina and retina models are still substantially cheaper than their 15" counterparts.

    Too many laptops with only 120~ GB SSD HD's, which are unfortunately utterly useless once you install an OS on top of them. I've been hunting for a good laptop to run Windows off, and the only one with good specs/usability was the MacBook Pro, however at a $3,000+ price tag (after you buff up the HD to a usable size), I'd rather just wait a little more for someone else to get their act together.

    Does anyone have a suggestion for a 13" laptop that has good memory AND disk space?

      120~ GB SSD HD's [...] utterly useless once you install an OS on top of them.

      WTF? What OS are you installing? Even Windows 8 is "only" 16GB-20GB depending on whether you go with 32-bit or 64-bit. That still leaves at least 100GB for... whatever.

      That said, you probably just need to look into making a custom order for your next laptop instead of relying on the off-the-shelf units (which generally have the lowest specs to achieve a price more competetive with the products sitting next to them.) Most (if not all) laptops these days come with the option of customising them with larger SSDs (many up to 256GB, most up to 512GB and some as high as 768GB) as well as more RAM etc.

      Last edited 17/12/12 11:33 am

      With Windows 8 64 bit installed, Office 2013, and various other bits of software, no games, music, videos I currently have 85.8GB free of 119GB.

      Are you calling my 85.8GB useless?

        Depending on what he needs the laptop for, it may well be. It's not a one size fits all thing.

    Strange. The rankings in the Gizmodo list seem to be very independent from the Gizmodo ratings for the individual products...

    8. Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 (4-star Gizrank)
    5. Dell XPS 12 (3-star Gizrank, yet somehow three places better than the 4-star Lenovo above).
    4. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (4-star Gizrank)
    1. MacBook Pro with Retina (3.5-star Gizrank, yet three places ahead of the apparently superior Lenovo X1).

    Last edited 17/12/12 11:19 am

      I was just about to make a similar observation. I would also have bumped the 15" Series 9 up the list several places because it is a 15" laptop that manages to be thinner than a MB Air and it out-does pretty much every other Ultrabook on battery life and sunlight performance, despite the big screen. It is the first Ultrabook that you could seriously consider as a desktop replacement, too.

      I think "most important" and "best" are at times two very different things. As a very rough example, hybrid vehicles may be considered important as they are a sign of the future, but they aren't necessarily going to be the best car on the road at any given time currently.

      The best device may also be the most important one, but I don't think it always has to be the case either.

      Edit: Also, regarding comparing scores. Technology advances at such a rate that a "good" laptop from late 2012 may very well be better than a "great" laptop from early 2012. The scores may not be completely reflective without the reviews having being done side by side all at once. Something to consider.

      Last edited 17/12/12 8:47 pm

    Hmmmmmm, another Gizmodo Apple ad. I guess we know who pays the bills fellas.

      Yep, 9 Windows laptops, one Mac. IT'S A CONSPIRACY!

    If the Ideapad Yoga had a trackpoint, I'd snap one up in an instant.

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