The Best of 2013

This year has been a very different one compared to all others I've covered here on lgpOnTheMove. The notebook landscape has changed dramatically, not only due to hardware and software advances, but from the onslaught of devices from other product categories. This was to be expected given hardware first seen in 2012, and should continue into 2014 as well.

While I haven't managed to personally look at even a fraction of what manufacturers have teased consumers with this year, I can pretty much lay down my recommendations based on what I've researched and read up on over these last 12 months. Let's take a look at the changes that have taken place this year, along with some of the newest gadgets worthy of mention.

Best Notebook

Would you pay $10,000 for a notebook?
It's becoming somewhat boring (and predictable) that a single manufacturer continues to dominate the performance notebook market, but Clevo again takes the crown with their X7200. Upgraded in 2013 to a 12C/24T Xeon E5-2697 v2 and rocking dual GTX 780M GPU's in SLI, this 17.3" mobile performance behemoth can now also host upto 4TB of SSD storage. And while the $10,000 sticker price may shock you, the unit does come with a generous 30 minute UPS built-in, otherwise known as the battery.

Solid gaming performance for around $5000
Alienware also upped the ante this year with their M18 redesign. Now offered up with dual GTX 780M graphics cards and an overclocked Core i7-4930MX, the system should perform even better than the model I looked at previously, assuming Dell has addressed the flaky audio issues. Kudos as well that the notebook can still be had with Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit, a rarity among brand-name notebooks today. Priced north of $5000 fully-loaded, however, many users will see better bang-for-the-buck going the build-it-yourself mini-ITX route, especially if you loathe a 1080p display stretched across an 18.4" diagonal.

A compact productivity solution
Another favorite of mine has to be the Sager NP7330. Lacking the horrible numpad that has plagued Clevo designs, this 13.3" ultraportable packs the power of a Core i7-4900MQ, GTX 765M, upto 16GB of RAM and dual mSata SSD's in RAID 0. Add the utility of Killer networking, an available 2.5" drive caddy and 1920 x 1080 matte display and you have a very potent productivity tool that puts many larger notebooks to shame. It ain't cheap coming in at around $2600 nicely equipped, but if I were shopping for an ultraportable today this would be my top pick, primarily because it too still sells with Windows 7.

Best Slate

Waiting to get my hands on the newer model
It's no surprise given my exceptional experience with the original Microsoft Surface RT and Surface Pro that my vote here goes to the refreshed Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2. While I have yet to obtain a unit to review due to a lack of inventory in stores in my area, it's safe to say the improvements brought by ULV Haswell, Microsoft's 8.1 upgrade and continued support of apps in the Metro UI are continuing to convince the crowd that this is a tablet that can really do stuff, and lots of it. I particularly like the new docking station accessory and backlit keyboards now available. Of course, if your idea of a great slate revolves around Angry Birds and a glorified word processor, a walk into your local Apple store is strongly recommended.

The highest DPI display on a slate
Those slate aficionados being seduced by a smaller 7" form factor should find solace in the Nexus 7. Refreshed in 2013, but sporting the same name as the 2012 model, this slate now comes with an eye-popping 320 PPI 1920 x 1200 display. As I showed in my review, the image clarity and detail takes reading text and viewing images to a whole other level. Priced at a very pocket-friendly $216 and a choice of black/white back covers, it's a great Android device. Too bad the optional docking accessory no longer works with this model.

Best Netbook

For the netbook die-hard only
While today's Surface Pro 2 with Type Cover 2 would in effect fill in as my netbook pseudo alternative in this Best-of gathering, there's still something to be said for a 10" device that offers a fixed keyboard, adjustable display angle and Windows 7 OS. My recommendation for this category last year went to the HP Elitebook 2170p, an 11.6" unit that is still being sold today, and with Windows 7 nonetheless! You do sacrifice screen real-estate with the 1366 x 768 display, but that's made up for by the convenience of a removable battery, easy-access 2.5" drive caddy, Core i7 performance and upto 16GB of RAM. There's also a point to be made about the sturdy build quality of HP's business notebooks, an important factor for the mobile road warrior who's on the move all day, every day.

Best Notebook Accessory

The only networking device you may ever need
Sadly I didn't get to review too many accessories this year, although I was definitely pleased with my recent experience with the Netgear D6200 wireless AC modem router. Given the more widespread adoption of 802.11ac radios in notebooks this year, along with seamless compatibility with devices such as Microsoft's Surface slates, this device integrates amazingly well with your existing wireless and wired gear, including modems, external hard drives and printers. I particularly like how I can wirelessly access my media library stored on my NAS natively with Microsoft's slates without any special apps necessary.

Best Notebook Innovation

This is a tough one to call out. Obviously, Intel and nVidia deserve kudos for their hardware efforts seen in the mobile derivatives of Haswell and Kepler. Another interesting development may be the long-awaited breakaway from 1080p, as seen in Dell's newest XPS 15 notebook sporting a monster 3200 x 1800 15.6" display. This is the kind of high-resolution option I'm hoping will become mainstream in larger, more powerful 17" and 18.4" notebooks as we move into 2014 and beyond.

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