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Digital Trends Best of 2011 Awards: Computers

Best-desktops-and-laptops-of-2011This has been an interesting year for laptops. Intel and AMD both released new mobile chips with graphics components built into the processor architecture. The results of this have been noticeable. Though only one of our favorite products of 2011 is a true gaming laptop, all three laptops on this list are capable of basic 3D gaming.

In more recent history, Intel’s Ultrabook specification has finally translated into products consumers can buy. We’ve only been able to review one so far, however, and the general impression is that tsthese laptops still need a little work before they can compete with the MacBook Air.

Meanwhile, the desktop market saw little change. While several new processor lines were introduced, they were either niche (Intel Sandy-Bridge E) or disappointing (AMD’s FX). Still, some products did stand out from the rest.

Of all the desktops and laptops we’ve had the opportunity to handle this year, these are the models that come to the top of the heap.

Make sure to check the rest of our Best of 2011 Awards to see all of this year’s winners.

Apple-MacBook-Air-13-inchApple MacBook Air 13-inch, $1,299 and up

The 2010 revamp of the Air transformed it from a niche product to a slim, mass-market laptop that now commands a significant percentage of MacBook sales. Apple’s update to Sandy Bridge processors this summer cured the Air’s only major flaw — processor performance — without introducing any new disadvantages. Besides connectivity (a classic Apple weakness) the Air is closer to perfection than any laptop ever built.

Read our full Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch Review.

HP-dm1zHP dm1z, $400 and up

AMD’s Bulldozer may not be having much luck with critics, but the company’s Fusion laptop processors are a different story. They offer solid integrated graphics as well as long battery life. One such processor powers the HP dm1z, but the reasons for this inexpensive laptop’s success go beyond that. The dm1z features a display that rivals much more expensive laptops, enjoyable Beats Audio speakers, and a keyboard that’s as large as what is found on some 13.3-inch laptops.

Read our full HP Pavilion dm1z Review.

Origin-GenesisOrigin Genesis, $1,337 and up

Founded in 2009, Origin quickly made a name for itself among boutique custom PC manufacturers. In 2011, the company sent us a high-end example of its Origin Genesis equipped with three GTX 580 video cards and a quad-core Intel processor. It holds our records for the highest PCMark 7 and 3DMark Vantage scores of 2011, barely beating competition from Falcon Northwest and iBuyPower. However, the Genesis was configured with a lower price than either, tipping the scales in its favor.

Read our full Origin Genesis Review.

HP-TouchSmart-610HP TouchSmart 610, $1,350 and up

Gaming PCs aside, the market for desktops is a bit bland, filled with products that are competent but not unique. One exception is the HP TouchSmart 610, an all-in-one featuring a touchscreen, Intel Core processors and discrete graphics. For 2011, HP introduced a new stand for the TouchSmart that makes it possible for the PC to recline, making touch input comfortable from a wider variety of angles. The company’s suite of touch software remains better than the competition, as well.

Read our full HP TouchSmart 610 Review.

Asus-G74SXAsus G74SX, $1,449 and up

Laptop gaming is often the domain of the boutique shops, but mass-market brand Asus has made inroads over the last couple of years. The company’s latest effort, the G74, retains its unique stealth bomber-inspired exterior but is otherwise redesigned, offering the latest Nvidia mobile graphics, a comfortable user interface and effective cooling. Best of all, it’s available for as little as $1449, making it both powerful and (relatively) affordable.