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The Best 2011 Windows 7 Laptops for Work and Play

Here are the coolest high-end laptops released in 2011 that take advantage of Windows 7's networking, security, and UI features.

The Background

The iPad and other tablets are transforming personal computing, but most of the world still uses laptops for business and pleasure, and 90 percent of them run Windows. Here are the coolest high-end laptops released in 2011 that take advantage of Windows 7's networking, security and UI features.

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Sony VAIO SB

Of all the high-end business-class laptops, the Sony VAIO SB offers arguably the most bang for your buck. For $999 this machine delivers Intel i5 or i7 processors, a backlit keyboard, Blu-Ray drive and hybrid AMD Radeon HD 6630 graphics that auto-switch between discrete and integrated GPUs, and up to 15 hours of battery life with a second battery. Its specs rival the Macbook Pro, but for $300-$400 less.

Key features:

• 13.3 inch screen

• Intel Core i5 processer, Integrated AMD Radeon HD 6470M + Intel HD Graphics

• 4GB DDR3 SDRAM

• 500GB Hard Drive

• 7 hours of battery life

• Windows 7 Professional, 64-bit

• 4.5 lbs.

• $999

Acer TravelMate TimelineX TM 8372

Considered one of the best and most affordable laptops for both consumers and business users, the Acer TravelMate has extraordinary battery life of 8 hours. It is a bit heavy for a lightweight laptop at 4.6 lbs., but it is not cumbersome. The Travelmate sports a minimalist design, a smooth brushed metal lid, and comes loaded with Windows 7 Professional.

Key features:

• 13.3 inch screen

• Intel Core i5 microprocessor, Intel HD Graphics

• 4GB RAM

• 320GB hard drive

• 8 hours of battery life

• Windows 7 Professional, 32-bit

• 4.6 lbs.

• Starting at $899

HP Elitebook 8460p

The HP Elitebook was designed for mobile business professionals who work in a secure and managed environment, and includes security software such as HP ProtectTools. The Elitebook can also harness the enterprise networking and security features baked into Windows 7 Professional such as DirectAccess, BitLocker to Go, BranchCache and AppLocker.

Key features:

• 14 inch screen

• Intel Core i7 processer

• Up to 8GB RAM

• Up to 256GB SSD

• 6 hours of battery life

• Windows 7 Professional, 64-bit

• 4.5 lbs.

• Starts at $999

ASUS U36SD

It may be small in size, but the soon-to-be-released ASUS U36SD is fast and powerful under the hood with Intel's latest i5 Core processors and NVIDIA GeForce graphics set. Combine this power with 10 hours of battery life and a weight of 3.7 pounds, and you've got a portable notebook that's hard to beat.

Key features:

• 13.3 inch screen

• Intel Core i5 processor, NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M graphics

• 4GB DDR3 RAM

• 640GB hard drive

• 10 hours of battery life

• Windows 7 Home Premium, 64-bit

• 3.7 lbs.

• Pricing not yet available

• Available July 1, 2011

Samsung 900x

The Samsung Series 9 is regarded as the most elegant of the ultra-thin laptops. The 900x boasts a simple, sleek design with a large multi-touch trackpad, LCD display, a backlit keyboard, 3 W Stereo HD Audio and 1.3 MP HD webcam. With a 128GB solid state drive you get faster boot ups and the Core i5 processor delivers on performance. To top it off, you get seven hours of battery. But for all this you must pay $1600.

Key features:

• 13.3 inch screen

• Intel Core i5 processer, Intel HD graphics 3000

• 4GB RAM

• 128GB SSD

• 7 hours of battery life

• Windows 7 Professional

• 3 lbs.

• $1599

Dell XPS 15z

Behind the Dell XPS 15z's sleek and ultra-thin hardware - it looks a lot like a MacBook Pro - is an Intel Core i7 processer, NVIDIA graphics, up to 8GB RAM and a 500GB hard drive. So although the body may be thin, performance never will be. If there's a weak link it's the 4 hours of battery life and high-end price.

Key features:

• 15.6 inch screen

• Intel Core i7 processer, NVIDIA graphics

• Up to 8GB RAM

• 500GB hard drive

• 4 hours of battery life

• Windows 7 Home Premium

• 5.5 lbs.

• Starts at $1199

Lenovo ThinkPad X1

This is Lenovo's thinnest ThinkPad ever at .67 inches thick and 3.7 pounds and has drawn comparisons to Apple's Macbook Air. While the X1 is super thin, it is also rough and tough, passing military specifications so it is guaranteed to travel well. Other nice features include a backlit keyboard and strong multimedia capabilities. Battery life is weak at 4 hours, but otherwise this is a solid lightweight machine for road warriors.

Key features:

• 13.3 inch screen

• Intel Core i7 processer, Intel HD graphics

• 6GB RAM

• 320GB hard drive

• 4 hours of battery life

• Windows 7 Professional

• 3.7 lbs.

• Starts at $1199

Toshiba Portege R835

The Portege R835 is Toshiba's lightest laptop at 3.2 pounds but it is also durable, loaded with a second generation Intel Core processor that delivers up to 8 hours of battery life and powerful graphics, a huge 640GB hard drive, and 4GB of RAM. With such long battery life and a price of under $900, the Portege R835 is one of the most affordable Windows alternatives to the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Key features:

• 13.3 inch screen

• Intel Core i5 processer, Intel HD graphics 3000

• 4GB RAM

• 640GB Hard Drive

• 8 hours of battery life

• Windows 7 Home Premium, 64-bit

• 3.2 lbs.

• $892