More recent updates:
April 23rd Update: The Best Ultra-Portable Laptops For Your Money
March 29th Update: The Best Gaming Laptops For Your Money

Coming soon:
The Best Workstation Laptops For Your Money and The Best General Computing/Family Laptops.

Updated on December 24th 2011.

Alienware MX18

The Alienware MX18 laptop, recommended as the best gaming laptop for $2950, equipped with an Intel quad-core CPU and two GTX 580M in SLI!

The best laptops for your money?

By that, I mean the laptops that offer the best performance at a given price. Why would you want that, you ask?

Because you want the best bang for the buck, because you want the best possible laptop for your hard-earned money and because you want the best features possible!

If you have the time to do research… but who does in this crazy world?

If you have the time, reading detailed laptop reviews and specs are a lot of fun. However, most of us don’t have the time to do the research and just want the answers. In other words, what we want to know is what is the best laptop for our budget and requirements.

So if you don’t have the time to do the research, or just don’t care to do it, don’t worry. I’ll come to your help with this series on the best laptops for your money.

A few reminders:

I’ll use this opportunity to remind you that this article is only a guideline for the prices I’ve seen on December 24th 2011. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you read this list:

  1. This specific article on the best high-end laptops have three or four price ceilings for the recommended laptops: $1500, $2000, $3000 and $5000 (Workstation only). I may also suggest some alternatives to my main recommendations, for reasons that I’ll explain.
  2. This list is based on the best U.S. prices from NewEgg and/or Amazon and/or directly from the manufacturer. Prices and availability change everyday. I can’t keep up with accurate pricing everyday, but I can suggest to you great laptops that you won’t regret buying at the price ranges that I list.
  3. All prices are based on new laptops prices, no refurbished or open box laptops are listed; they might be a good deal, but they come with trade offs, such as missing accessories, higher failure rate, limited return policy, limited warranty, etc.
  4. I recommend a few different types of laptops, such as Gaming, Ultra-portable and Workstations. Each type has its pros and cons, so make sure to read the details to figure out which type suits you best.

Summary

Click on any of these links to jump to the section that interests you. Alternatively, scroll down to see them all, in this order.

– The Best Gaming Laptops

– The Best Ultra-Portable Laptops

Workstations:

  1. Up to $1500
  2. Up to $2000
  3. Up to $3000
  4. Up to $5000

Personalize your laptop with a skin:

  1. Personalize your laptop with a skin

Upgrade the RAM and/or the hard drive:

  1. Upgrade the RAM
  2. Upgrade the hard drive to a larger/faster hard drive or to a SSD

The Best Gaming Laptops:

The Best Gaming Laptops now have their own updated article, which can be found here:
The Best Gaming Laptops For Your Money

The Best Ultra-Portable Laptops:

The Best Ultra-portable Laptops now have their own updated article, which can be found here:
The Best Ultra-Portable Laptops For Your Money

Workstation:

About Workstation laptops:
Workstation laptops are generally optimized for high-performance and durability. They usually have an average or poor battery life, due to being equipped with powerful CPUs and video cards. These are ideal for professionals who make a living off their laptop and who need a “workhouse”: A powerful and reliable laptop that won’t let them down.

Best Workstation for up to $1500:

Lenovo ThinkPad W520 427637U 15.6" LED Notebook - Core i7 i7-2720QM 2.2GHzLenovo ThinkPad W520 427637U

About the Lenovo Thinkpad W520:

Pros:

  1. Black matte body = No finger prints or light reflections
  2. Chassis is mostly made out of a magnesium alloy for added strength with minimal weight.
  3. Roll cage: An internal carbon-fiber skeleton that protects the components within from flex.
  4. Lid with a rubberish coating
  5. 1920 x 1080 screen resolution
  6. Powerful CPU: Intel Core i7-2720QM Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.2-3.3GHz Turbo
  7. 8GB (2x4GB) of RAM and you have two free RAM slots, for a total of four RAM slots and a maximum of 32GB (4x8GB).
  8. Pro-level video card: NVIDIA Quadro 1000M with 2GB of dedicated VRAM
  9. Nvidia Optimus technology, that turns on the Quadro 1000M when required and uses the Intel IGP when not, for longer battery life.
  10. Matte screen: Allows you to use your laptop even with direct sunlight.
  11. DVD Burner that’s removable (Ultrabay) and that can be replaced by an additional hard drive or SSD.
  12. Sturdy metal hinges
  13. One of the best keyboard available for a laptop
  14. Trackpoint
  15. Spill-resistant keyboard
  16. Noise-cancelling microphones
  17. Two USB 3.0 ports
  18. FireWire 400 port
  19. USB 2.0/eSATA combo port
  20. All-in-One Card Reader
  21. 7,200rpm hard drive allows for faster booting and faster program launches than a slower 5,400rpm hard drive.
  22. Up to 10.8 hours of battery life
  23. Windows 7 Professional 64-bit

Cons:

  1. I guess if you want to be picky, you could say that there’s no SSD, but really, when you look at the price of the laptop and all the 23 pros, there’s isn’t much to complain about in my opinion. Besides, you can always replace the hard drive by a SSD or remove the optical drive and replace it with a SSD.

Ideal for:

  • Someone who needs a laptop that had a pro video card, a powerful quad-core CPU, that’s solid enough to last him/her many years, with an excellent battery life and that’s relatively portable.
  • Businesses.

To avoid for:

  • Gaming: While you can play some older video cards, the video card is designed for precision and reliability, not performance.

Compared to similar laptops:
Most laptops at this price range are build out of plastic, will not feature solid hinges, a roll-cage, a magnesium alloy chassis, a spill-resistant keyboard, a pro-level video card, a matte screen, Windows 7 Professional 64-bit nor a up to 10.8 hours battery life, making this laptop the ideal Workstation laptop if your budget is around $1400.
Click here to go back up to the summary
Specifications:

Components
Lenovo Thinkpad W520
OS Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
CPU Intel Core i7-2720QM Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.2-3.3GHz Turbo
Screen
Webcam
Video Card
15.6″ 1920 x 1080 LED backlight, matte
Yes: HD
NVIDIA Quadro 1000M 2GB + Intel HD Graphics 3000
RAM
Slots/Max RAM
8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 1333MHz
4 Slots, maximum 32GB
Storage 500GB Hard Drive running at 7,200RPM
Optical Drive DVD Burner – Can be replaced by Ultrabay for additional HDD or SSD
Audio HD Audio
Built-in microphones
Built-in speakers
Networking LAN: 10/100/1000Mbps
802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN
Bluetooth 3.0
Ports All-in-One Card reader
Express Card Slot/34

Finger-print reader
1x Headphone/Microphone 3.5mm combo jack
FireWire 400
2x USB 3.0
2x USB 2.0, one that’s a USB 2.0/E-SATA combo
LAN
Displayport Output
VGA Output
Dimensions
Weight
14.7″ x 9.7″ x 1.4″
5.75lbs
Battery Size
Battery Life
9-cell lithium ion
Up to 10.8 hours

Click here to go back up to the summary

Best Workstation for up to $2000:

HP EliteBook 8760w$1929 – HP EliteBook 8760w

 

About the HP Elitebook 8760w:

Pros:

  1. Gunmetal casing and military-grade testing against drop, vibration, dust, humidity, altitude and high temperature.
  2. 1600 x 900 screen resolution
  3. Powerful AMD FirePro M5950 1GB GDDR5 workstation-class video card
  4. Four RAM slots allowing you to upgrade up to 32GB of RAM.
  5. Matte screen: Allows you to use your laptop even with direct sunlight.
  6. Sturdy hinges
  7. Three buttons trackpad
  8. Trackpoint
  9. Spill-resistant keyboard with numpad
  10. 3 years warranty
  11. Five USB ports: Two USB 3.0 and three USB 2.0, including one USB 2.0/eSATA combo port
  12. 7,200rpm hard drive allows for faster booting and faster program launches than a slower 5,400rpm hard drive.
  13. Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
  14. Optical drive can be replaced by a hard drive/SSD using a caddy or filled by a weight saver.
  15. Smartcard reader

Cons:

  1. Fairly bulky and heavy at 16.4″ x 10.7″ x 1.47″ and 7.66lbs.
  2. “Only” a dual-core cpu at this price.
  3. “Only” a 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive, which can be upgraded to a larger hard drive or a SSD though.
  4. Only 4GB of RAM, although you have four RAM slots that can be upgraded all the way to 32GB.
  5. No HDMI Output, although you do get VGA and Displayport outputs.
  6. Short battery life due to the power-draining powerful video card. This is typical of high-end workstations though.

Ideal for:

  • Someone who needs a workstation with a powerful workstation-class video card.
  • Someone who needs a laptop that’s solid enough to last him/her a few years.
  • Businesses.

To avoid for:

  • Very Heavy Audio/Photo/Video editing or very heavy multitasking: The Intel Core-i5 2540M 2.6-3.3GHz Turbo Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading is by no means slow, but it’s still not comparable to the processing power of a quad-core processor.
  • Someone who’s traveling a lot and who wants an highly-portable, lightweight laptop to carry around all day.

Compared to similar laptops:
Few laptops at this price range are equipped with such a powerful workstation-class video card.
Click here to go back up to the summary
Specifications:

Components
HP EliteBook 8760w
OS Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
CPU Intel Core i5-2540M Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.6-3.3GHz Turbo
Screen
Webcam
Video Card
17.3″ 1600 x 900 LED backlight, matte
Yes: HD
AMD FirePro M5950 1GB GDDR5
RAM
Slots/Max RAM
4GB (1x4GB) DDR3 1333MHz
4 Slots, maximum 32GB
Storage 500GB Hard Drive running at 7,200RPM
Optical Drive DVD Burner
Audio SRS Premium Sound
Dual-microphone array
Two built-in speakers
Networking LAN: 10/100/1000Mbps
802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN
Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
Ports Multi-in-1 Card reader
Fingerprint reader

Headphone and Microphone 3.5mm jacks
Two USB 3.0
One USB 2.0 Charging
One USB 2.0
Combo E-SATA/USB 2.0
VGA
FireWire
Displayport
LAN
Express Card/54
Smartcard Reader
Dimensions
Weight
16.4″ x 10.7″ x 1.47″
7.66lbs
Battery Size
Battery Life
8-cell (83 WHr)
Up to 2-3 hours

Macbook Pro Alternative:

Intel quad-core CPU, 5-7 hours of battery life, solid build

Love them or hate them, Macbooks are popular laptops for various reasons, one of them being that they are quite unique.

Here I’m recommending it because it is one of the lightest and most solid laptop to feature an Intel quad-core cpu.

While it does not feature a workstation-class video card, it still features a AMD Radeon HD 6770M with 1GB of GDDR5 video with switchable graphic, allowing the Macbook to boast a very nice 5-7 hours battery life.

The Apple MacBook Pro MD322LL/A 15.4″ Latest version is the high-end-level 15.4″ Apple Macbook Pro based on the late 2011 refresh.

Here’s what it offers:

Pros:

  1. Powerful Intel Core i7-2760QM 2.4-3.5GHz Turbo Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading CPU
  2. AMD Radeon HD 6770M with 1GB of GDDR5 with switchable graphics
  3. 5-7 hours of battery life
  4. Top notch display: Black levels, Contrast, Color Accuracy and Color Gamut % of the AdobeRGB 1998 are amongst the best compared to other laptops, according to AnandTech.
  5. OS X Lion: A pro or a con depending on your opinion. If you never tried OS X, ask a friend with a Macbook or visit an Apple store to give it a shot to see if you like it. Of course, if you’re switching from Windows, there will be a period of adaptation. You can always run Windows 7 on it if you want to.
  6. Mac-only software: Some pros prefer Mac do to some video/audio programs only available on a Mac.
  7. Thunderbolt port: Transfer rates twice as fast as USB 3.0, allows to plug in a monitor and daisy-chain various peripherals.
  8. Top-notch large glass touchpad, with support for inertial scrolling, pinch, rotate, swipe, three-finger swipe, four-finger swipe, tap, double-tap, and drag capabilities
  9. Unibody aluminum frame, making the Macbook one of the most solid laptops available. As solid as the Thinkpad? That’s debatable, but I’d say no.
  10. Backlit keyboard
  11. MagSafe power adapter: In my opinion, the best power adapter out there. The power adapter is held in place magnetically, so if someone trips over it, the cord disconnects harmlessly while the MacBook Pro stays put on your desk. It also has flip out legs for winding the cord for storage.

Cons:

  1. Slower 5,400rpm 750GB hard drive.
  2. Keyboard isn’t spill-resistant
  3. No USB 3.0 ports, although you do get Firewire and Thunderbolt ports.
  4. Can get hot on your lap.
  5. Only 4GB of RAM.
  6. Not a workstation-class video card

Click here to go back up to the summary

Best Workstation for up to $3000:

HP EliteBook 8760w$3029 – HP EliteBook 8760w

 

About the HP Elitebook 8760w:

Pros:

  1. Gunmetal casing and military-grade testing against drop, vibration, dust, humidity, altitude and high temperature.
  2. Powerful Intel Core i7-2820QM 2.3-3.4GHz Turbo Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading CPU
  3. Nvidia Quadro 3000M 2GB workstation-class video card
  4. 1920 x 1080 screen resolution
  5. Four RAM slots allowing you to upgrade up to 32GB of RAM.
  6. Matte screen: Allows you to use your laptop even with direct sunlight.
  7. Sturdy hinges
  8. Three buttons trackpad
  9. Trackpoint
  10. Spill-resistant keyboard with numpad
  11. 3 years warranty
  12. Five USB ports: Two USB 3.0 and three USB 2.0, including one USB 2.0/eSATA combo port
  13. 7,200rpm hard drive allows for faster booting and faster program launches than a slower 5,400rpm hard drive.
  14. Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
  15. Optical drive can be replaced by a hard drive/SSD using a caddy or filled by a weight saver.
  16. Smartcard reader

Cons:

  1. Fairly bulky and heavy at 16.4″ x 10.7″ x 1.47″ and 7.66lbs.
  2. “Only” a 750GB 7,200rpm hard drive, which can be upgraded to a SSD though.
  3. No HDMI Output, although you do get VGA and Displayport outputs.
  4. Short battery life due to the power-draining powerful video card. This is typical of high-end workstations though.

Ideal for:

  • Someone who needs a workstation with a powerful workstation-class video card.
  • Someone who needs a laptop that’s solid enough to last him/her a few years.
  • Businesses.

To avoid for:

  • Someone who’s traveling a lot and who wants an highly-portable, lightweight laptop to carry around all day.

Compared to similar laptops:
Few laptops at this price range are equipped with such a powerful CPU and a workstation-class video card within a solid chassis. The Dell Precision M6600 workstation laptop is an excellent laptop that I can also recommend, although it is currently pricier for similar specifications and features.
Click here to go back up to the summary
Specifications:

Components
HP EliteBook 8760w
OS Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
CPU Intel Core i7-2820QM 2.3-3.4GHz Turbo Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading CPU
Screen
Webcam
Video Card
17.3″ 1920 x 1080 LED backlight, matte
Yes: HD
Nvidia Quadro 3000M 2GB GDDR5
RAM
Slots/Max RAM
8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 1333MHz
4 Slots, maximum 32GB
Storage 750GB Hard Drive running at 7,200RPM
Optical Drive DVD Burner
Audio SRS Premium Sound
Dual-microphone array
Two built-in speakers
Networking LAN: 10/100/1000Mbps
802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN
Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
Ports Multi-in-1 Card reader
Fingerprint reader

Headphone and Microphone 3.5mm jacks
Two USB 3.0
One USB 2.0 Charging
One USB 2.0
Combo E-SATA/USB 2.0
VGA
FireWire
Displayport
LAN
Express Card/54
Smartcard Reader
Dimensions
Weight
16.4″ x 10.7″ x 1.47″
7.66lbs
Battery Size
Battery Life
8-cell (83 WHr)
Up to 2-3 hours

Macbook Pro Alternative:

Intel quad-core CPU, 5-7 hours of battery life, solid build

Love them or hate them, Macbooks are popular laptops for various reasons, one of them being that they are quite unique.

Here I’m recommending it because it is one of the most solid laptop to feature an Intel quad-core cpu and it also offers great battery life (5-7 hours) despite the powerful hardware.

While it does not feature a workstation-class video card, it still features a AMD Radeon HD 6770M with 1GB of GDDR5 video with switchable graphic, allowing the Macbook to boast a very nice 5-7 hours battery life.

The Apple MacBook Pro MD311LL/A 17″ Latest Version is the 17″ Apple Macbook Pro based on the late 2011 refresh.

Here’s what it offers:

Pros:

  1. Powerful Intel Core i7-2670QM 2.4-3.5GHz Turbo Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading CPU
  2. AMD Radeon HD 6770M with 1GB of GDDR5 with switchable graphics
  3. 5-7 hours of battery life
  4. Top notch display: 1920 x 1080 resolution, Black levels, Contrast, Color Accuracy and Color Gamut % of the AdobeRGB 1998 are amongst the best compared to other laptops, according to AnandTech.
  5. OS X Lion: A pro or a con depending on your opinion. If you never tried OS X, ask a friend with a Macbook or visit an Apple store to give it a shot to see if you like it. Of course, if you’re switching from Windows, there will be a period of adaptation. You can always run Windows 7 on it if you want to.
  6. Mac-only software: Some pros prefer Mac do to some video/audio programs only available on a Mac.
  7. Thunderbolt port: Transfer rates twice as fast as USB 3.0, allows to plug in a monitor and daisy-chain various peripherals.
  8. Top-notch large glass touchpad, with support for inertial scrolling, pinch, rotate, swipe, three-finger swipe, four-finger swipe, tap, double-tap, and drag capabilities
  9. Unibody aluminum frame, making the Macbook one of the most solid laptops available. As solid as the Thinkpad? That’s debatable, but I’d say no.
  10. Backlit keyboard
  11. MagSafe power adapter: In my opinion, the best power adapter out there. The power adapter is held in place magnetically, so if someone trips over it, the cord disconnects harmlessly while the MacBook Pro stays put on your desk. It also has flip out legs for winding the cord for storage.

Cons:

  1. Slower 5,400rpm 750GB hard drive.
  2. Keyboard isn’t spill-resistant
  3. No USB 3.0 ports, although you do get Firewire and Thunderbolt ports.
  4. Can get hot on your lap.
  5. Only 4GB of RAM.
  6. Not a workstation-class video card

Click here to go back up to the summary

Best Workstation for up to $5000+:

Dell Precision M6600$4997 – Dell Precision M6600

If you take the $1998 base model Dell Precision M6600 and upgrade it with the following options:

  1. CPU: Core i7-2860QM 2.4-3.5GHz Quad-Core + Hyper Threading (+$240)
  2. RAM: 16GB DDR3 1333MHz (+$555)
  3. Graphics: Nvidia Quadro 5010M 4GB (+$1640)
  4. Screen: 17.3″ UltraSharp 1920 x 1080 (+$85)
  5. Storage: 256GB SATAIII SSD (+$450)
  6. Fingerprint Reader: Intelnal Swipe Fingerprinter Reader (+$29)

You end up with a top of the line $4997 Workstation laptop with a powerful Intel Quad-Core CPU, 16GB of RAM, a top of the line Nvidia Quadro 5010M 4GB Workstation-class video card, a 256GB SATA III SSD and a 17.3″ 1920 x 1080 RGB LED-backlit IPS screen.

The links bring you to the Dell configuration page, so feel free to upgrade the Dell Precision M6600 to your tastes.

About the Dell Precision M6600:

Pros:

  1. Black matte body = No finger prints or light reflections
  2. Backlid keyboard with numpad
  3. Aluminum and magnesium alloy chassis
  4. Designed for durability and MIL-STD-810G tested for extreme temperatures, vibration, dust, altitude and shock.
  5. 1920 x 1080 RGB LED-backlit IPS screen and optional touch display (+$275) that supports stylus and simultaneous four-finger touch.
  6. Powerful CPU: Intel Core i7-2860QM Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.4-3.5GHz Turbo
  7. Top of the line Workstation-class video card: NVIDIA Quadro 5010M with 4GB of dedicated VRAM
  8. Multi-touch touchpad with three buttons
  9. FireWire port
  10. All-in-One Card Reader
  11. 256GB SATAIII SSD allows for faster booting and faster program launches than a hard drive.
  12. Two hard drive bays, allows you to add a second SSD or a hard drive.
  13. Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
  14. Four RAM slots allowing you to upgrade up to 32GB of RAM.
  15. Matte screen: Allows you to use your laptop even with direct sunlight.
  16. Sturdy hinges
  17. Three buttons trackpad
  18. 4 years warranty
  19. Five USB ports: Two USB 3.0 and three USB 2.0, including one USB 2.0/eSATA combo port
  20. Optical drive can be replaced by a hard drive/SSD using a caddy or filled by a weight saver.
  21. Smartcard reader

Cons:

  1. Fairly bulky and heavy at 16.41″ x 10.65″ x 1.3″ – 1.46″ and 7.77lbs
  2. Short battery life due to the power-draining powerful video card. This is typical of high-end workstations though.

Ideal for:

  • Someone who needs a workstation with a powerful workstation-class video card.
  • Someone who needs a laptop that’s solid enough to last him/her a few years.
  • Businesses.

To avoid for:

  • Someone who’s traveling a lot and who wants an highly-portable, lightweight laptop to carry around all day.

Compared to similar laptops:
Few laptops at this price range are equipped with such a powerful CPU and a workstation-class video card within a solid chassis. The HP EliteBook 8760w workstation laptop is an excellent laptop that I can also recommend, although it is currently pricier for similar specifications and features.
Click here to go back up to the summary
Specifications:

Components
Dell Precision M6600
OS Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
CPU Intel Core i7-2720QM Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.2-3.3GHz Turbo
Screen
Webcam
Video Card
17.3″ 1920 x 1080 RGB LED-backlit IPS screen
Optional (+$30)
NVIDIA Quadro 5010M 4GB
RAM
Slots/Max RAM
16GB (4x4GB) DDR3 1333MHz
4 Slots, maximum 32GB
Storage 256GB SATAIII SSD
Optical Drive DVD Burner
Audio Dual integrated noise cancelling digital array microphones
Dual integrated high quality speakers
Networking LAN: 10/100/1000Mbps
802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN
Bluetooth 3.0
Ports 2x USB 3.0
2x USB 2.0
eSATA / USB 2.0 combo
LAN
VGA
DisplayPort
HDMI
FireWire
Express Card/54
1x Headphone and 1x Microphone 3.5mm jacks
Smartcard Reader
Dimensions
Weight
16.41″ x 10.65″ x 1.3-1.46″
7.77lbs
Battery Size
Battery Life
9-cell (97Wh)
Up to 2-3 hours

Click here to go back up to the summary

Personalize your laptop with a skin!

If you want to personalize your laptop, get a laptop skin from Skinit.com.

They even make it easy for you to upload your own photos and to create a truly one-of-a-kind custom made skin.

Upgrade your RAM or Hard Drive

Upgrade your RAM:

RAM can easily be upgraded on most laptops. Do note that some ultra-portables cannot be upgraded at all, due to their unique design.

If you aren’t sure about what you can upgrade to, check the specifications table or feel free to ask me in the comments section at the end of the article.

Pick one of the following recommendations below, depending on if your laptop comes with a single stick of RAM or two, or if you can have up to 4 sticks.

My recommendations should be compatible with all the laptops recommended in this guide, except for the Macs in some cases, as they are particularly picky about RAM as far as I know.

I recommend the most reliable sticks that I can find.

Add a single 4GB stick:

Kingston 4GB 1333MHz DDR3 SODIMM Notebook Memory

Replace the 2x2GB (4GB) kit by a 2x4GB (8GB) kit:

Kingston 8GB (2x4GB) 1333MHz DDR3 SODIMM Notebook Memory Kit

For laptops with two RAM slots or to keep two RAM slots free for future upgrades:
16GB (2x8GB) memory kit:

$175 – CORSAIR 16GB (2x8GB) DDR3 1333MHz SO-DIMM

For laptops with four RAM slots: 16GB (4x4GB) memory kit:

Get two of these kits: Kingston 8GB (2x4GB) 1333MHz DDR3 SODIMM Notebook Memory Kit

For laptops with four RAM slots: 32GB (4x8GB) memory kit:

Get two of these kits: $175 – CORSAIR 16GB (2x8GB) DDR3 1333MHz SO-DIMM
Click here to go back up to the summary

Upgrade your hard drive:

You can also upgrade your hard drive to a faster and/or a larger hard drive. Alternatively, you can also replace it with a tremendously faster SSD (Solid State Drive), which also consume a tad less power than laptop hard drive, so replacing a hard drive by a SSD will slightly boost your laptop’s battery life.

Do note that most laptops accept hard drives with a 9.5mm height. Some laptops, such as the Lenovo Thinkpad X220, can only accept drives with a 7mm height. SSD wise, Intel SSDs, with model numbers ending with 1, are compatible. Some SSDs can be modded to fit too. Do also note that some ultra-portables cannot be upgraded at all, due to their unique design.

Keep your old hard drive for external storage via an USB 3.0 enclosure:

(Note that USB 3.0 is backward compatible with USB 2.0, if your laptop does not have USB 3.0 ports)
When you replace the hard drive that your laptop came with, I recommend putting in this Kingwin 2.5-Inch USB 3.0 External Hard Drive Enclosure – Aluminum and using it for external storage, such as backups.

750GB, 7,200rpm hard drive:

As fast as it gets for a standard laptop hard drive:
Western Digital Scorpio Black 750 GB SATA 3 GB/s 7200 RPM 2.5-Inch Mobile Hard Drive

750GB Hybrid Hard Drive with 8GB SSD cache

The Seagate Momentus XT 750 GB 7200RPM SATA 6Gb/s Hybrid Drive is a hard drive equipped with a 8GB SSD cache which allows it to be quite a bit quicker than standard laptop hard drives.

1TB, 5,400rpm hard drive:

As large as it gets for a laptop hard drive capacity. Not as fast as the 750GB hard drive above, due to its slower rotation speed (5,400rpm vs 7,200 rpm) and smaller cache.
Western Digital 1 TB Scorpio Blue SATA II 5400 RPM 2.5-Inch Notebook Hard Drive
Click here to go back up to the summary

Upgrade to a SSD

If you want to upgrade your hard drive to a SSD, I recommend to you the Crucial M4 line-up of SSDs, which offers the best balance of reliability and performance, at a great price.

Furthermore, I recommend these particular Crucial M4 SSDs, for they include a CD with software and an USB adapter, to help you transfer the content of your current hard drive to the SSD, in order to minimize downtime and make your life easier.

Alternatively, I invite you to read The Best SSDs and HDDs For Your Money article, to decide yourself which SSD is right for you.

Backups: Because all hard drives and SSDs are prone to failure!

Remember: No matter are reliable they can be, all hard drives and all SSDs are prone to failure, which is why you should consult the following article, for more backup solutions, including software: Have a Backup System that you can rely on!

Click here to go back up to the summary

Conclusion

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this latest edition of the Best High-End Laptops For Your Money.

Of course, with this being the first update in a long time and this being such a large article (over 8,000 words!) with many recommendations and alternatives, you may find some typos.

Alternatively, you may believe that there’s a better option than my recommendation.

If that happens, feel free to leave a comment below and remember, you can join us on our forums to discuss with everyone else the laptop that you’re planning to buy, ask your questions and join our helpful community!