We looked at 5 current multimedia notebooks. The Lenovo ThinkPad E590 continues to convince with current, computationally strong technology. It scores with a high-quality and compact design. But there are also a few new recommendations, like the Asus VivoBook S15 with its screenpad.
A multimedia notebook is the right thing for you if you have different demands on your notebook: Playing and editing multimedia content, using office applications productively, surfing the internet quickly and smoothly and sometimes even gaming in respectable details – and all this for a reasonable price. So multimedia notebooks are real all-rounders that stay within their price range: you can get good models from just 650 Dollars.
We fought our way through the sheer gigantic range of multimedia laptops and took a closer look at the most interesting models for you.
Compared to more expensive top models, you can’t expect them to do everything perfectly. Especially those who prefer smaller, thinner and lighter laptops must be prepared to spend more money for similar performance. Our recommendations on this can be found in our other reviews. And for special applications, like playing elaborate PC games, there are special gaming notebooks for which we also have reviews.
Ranking First: Lenovo ThinkPad E590
- Wide model range
- Good keyboard
- Cutting-edge WLAN-AX module
- Fingerprint sensor
- Antiquated design
For a multimedia notebook, a good display is just as important as the overall performance of the components – and the Lenovo ThinkPad E590 doesn’t disappoint with its 15.6 inch Full HD display. The notebook also has a strong Intel Core i7-8565U and eight gigabytes of DDR4 memory under the hood, which provides balanced power. Additionally, an AMD Radeon RX 550X is used, which is why even less complex games hardly present a challenge.
The price may seem quite high at first, but in return the notebook delivers a consistently good performance. Additionally, a pre-installed Windows 10 Pro and a fast SSD make loading times a rarity.
We own the quad-core Intel Core i7-8565U processor with its convincing performance, which makes our everyday life easier. We can always work smoothly in office mode, even with professional programs like Photoshop or Lightroom. But all other everyday situations, such as surfing the Internet, are also quick and easy with the multimedia notebook.
Not optimally suited for all games
The Lenovo ThinkPad E590 has enough power to watch movies and also to play the one or other game from time to time. But unfortunately the notebook doesn’t quite do justice to current titles. The real gaming fun is therefore only created when you drastically lower the graphic settings.
In return, somewhat older titles run smoothly even with details set quite high. The AMD Radeon RX 550X does a good job and is a more than decent solution for a multimedia notebook. Together with the two gigabyte GDDR5 graphics memory, a lot of performance is available on demand.
If you only want to watch one or the other stream from time to time, you’ll get your money’s worth here. Because thanks to the fast WLAN-ac module, the transmissions can be enjoyed in high resolution and also without jerking. The integrated Bluetooth 5.0 also allows high-quality audio transmissions to wireless headphones or speakers.
You don’t have to do without good sound either, because the integrated stereo speakers cut an acceptable figure when gambling or watching movies.
Workmanship and features
Lenovo relies on high-quality materials for the 15.6 inch notebook. A noble aluminum plate is used on the display lid and the metal-reinforced wrist-rest has a pleasant coating. The Lenovo ThinkPad E590 only weighs 4.5 lbs. We like the especially high-quality equipment very much and promise a high durability.
The matt display can also convince us with its IPS panel, because it doesn’t only provide a high-contrast picture but also an adequate brightness.
The case offers four USB ports, one of which is in the modern type C version and is equipped with the extremely versatile USB 3.1 Gen1 standard. This not only allows you to connect all kinds of adapters to the ThinkPad E590, but also to connect additional monitors. Unfortunately, Lenovo also uses this connection for the charger, so that the practical functions can only be used in battery mode. An HDMI and a 3.5 millimeter jack connector complete the package. However, the card reader can only accept microSD cards, so that users might have to change over here.
Thanks to the energy-saving technology, the Lenovo ThinkPad E590’s battery life has improved once again. If you move around a lot in the WLAN and stream videos over the Internet, for example, you’ll have about nine hours before the notebook has to be plugged in again. The 45 watt hours strong lithium-ion battery lasts even longer for simple office use. This means that the charger can be left at home.
Two fans inside provide the necessary cooling of the multimedia notebook. In normal office mode, these are usually switched off and only start up after a longer working time. The noise level is very bearable and doesn’t increase even under heavy load. The fans turn up audibly in gaming mode, but don’t disturb us significantly during gaming. Thus, the multimedia notebook Lenovo ThinkPad E590 is not only perfectly suitable for classic office applications, but also for occasional gaming of less demanding games. In our “Best computer for email and web surfing” list the E590 makes the first place based on performance.
Second: Dell Inspiron 15 7580
- Long battery life
- Very silent
- Nice design
- Low colour fidelity
In the updated new edition, the Dell Inspiron 15 7580 offers a similar equipment as our favorite, the Lenovo ThinkPad E590. The same powerful CPU is also used here. However, Dell relies on Nvidia’s GeForce MX150 as a graphics solution, which is also suitable for the smooth display of older titles on high and newer games on low graphic levels.
Modern connections, like a USB type C port, are also available to the user here. This is also not used for charging, but finds its place in the case as a separately accessible port. The SD card reader also accepts the same in a large format and the 256 gigabyte SSD is complemented by a 1 terabyte mass memory.
The Full-HD display again works with an IPS panel, which scores especially well with its high viewing angle stability. The brightness is also quite high and the contrast values are strong. The keyboard’s pressure points unfortunately turn out rather spongy again and many a user might wish for a somewhat crisper feedback here.
The case is completely made of aluminum and thus appears high-quality and robust. Moreover, the Dell Inspiron 15 7580 is quite thin with a thickness of only 0.8 inches. The battery life has improved considerably in comparison to the predecessor. This is now sufficient for at least six hours of surfing the internet or streaming video.
That the Dell Inspiron 7580 hasn’t become our favorite is mainly due to the high heat and noise development. The fans are very loud and the color display leaves a lot to be desired. If you don’t mind, you’ll get a notebook for just under 1,000 Dollar in which the large memory doesn’t have to be upgraded afterwards. On our “Best computer for email and web surfing” list the Inspiron 15 makes second place based on a great price-performance-ratio.
Third: Microsoft Surface Book 2
- Very high resolution display
- High working speed
- Very persistent
- Very quiet
- High price
Notebook and tablet in one: Microsoft’s unconventional mobile computer Surface Book 2 can be taken apart and therefore used in many ways. Our test shows: If you need a powerful computer with a long battery life on the road, the Surface Book 2 is the right choice. The device, which costs around 1,200$, is convincing almost without exception and only reveals small quirks.
Disassembled at the touch of a button
Not just a notebook, but a convertible: At the touch of a button, the display of the Surface Book 2 can be disconnected from the keyboard and then used as a tablet. This works smoothly, the computer can be easily converted and is still stable as a unit. When switching from convertible to tablet, the keyboard and touchpad switch off automatically. However, energy from the battery is required for decoupling; the button does not work mechanically, but electrically. We tested the 13.5 inch model with the i5-7300U processor, 8 gigabytes of RAM and 256 gigabytes of internal memory.
Tip: Test results for many other mobile computers can be found in our test databases tablets and laptops, convertibles and tablets with keyboard.
Double pack delivers long battery life
The detached display isn’t overly handy and weighs 720 grams, almost twice as much as some ordinary tablets. The keyboard weighs 0.9 lbs., and the Surface Book 2 weighs a total of 3.2lbs. The batteries also contribute to this. The device has two – one in the keyboard unit and one in the display. That’s worth it. Both batteries are really strong in a double pack, so the runtime when playing videos is just under 13 hours. The Surface Book 2 thus lasts significantly longer than many other notebooks or convertibles. In return, the battery in the display is meagre. Under the same conditions, it already runs down after almost 4 hours, and even after two hours when surfing the internet in maximum brightness. The tablet usage is therefore quite limited. The batteries can’t be changed, and charging takes just under three hours in both the tablet and the car.
Verdict: Ideal for office workers, also convinces gamers
In addition to the pleasing battery life, the high computing power of the processor is the big plus of the hybrid computer. It is nimble and even well suited for more computationally intensive tasks such as photo and video editing. The Microsoft calculator performs very well in office applications. The Surface Book 2 is even well suited for playing simple 3D games. The front and rear camera are good, they record videos in HD quality. UHD videos are not possible. The rear camera has an image stabilizer, which ensures that videos are less blurred. On our “Best computer for email and web surfing” the Surfacebook 2 makes third place.
Fourth: Acer Swift 3 SF314
- Very low weight
- Fancy case
- Large and fast SSD
- Display with stable viewing angle
- Display with pale colour reproduction
- No SD card reader
The Acer Swift 3 SF314 is cheap and comes with modern technology from AMD. Just like the predecessor model, the Ryzen 5-3500U processor is a so-called APU (Accelerated Processing Unit), which combines four CPU cores with eight powerful Graphics Compute Units (Graphics Compute Units) of the Radeon RX Vega 8 type in one chip.
This enables high performance in multithreading, i.e. when calculations are distributed over several CPU cores, and is equal to the performance of our favourite. However, only the internal RX Vega 8 graphics unit is available for graphically demanding applications. It doesn’t have its own video memory but uses the laptop’s RAM. Therefore, current games can only be played smoothly, if at all, with very low settings, but older titles also run smoothly on higher graphic levels.
The Acer Swift 3 is even a bit more noble than we expected thanks to its metal case and clean workmanship. The connections correspond to the Acer Aspire 5, so Thunderbolt 3 isn’t on board here either. The manufacturer also provides the Swift 3 with a keyboard light and a fingerprint sensor, which enables secure logins. The notebook can also be screwed on quite easily, but then you can only retrofit another M.2 plug-in card or clean the interior. The RAM is firmly mounted and doesn’t allow any changes, but works in the faster dual channel mode.
We also find it a pity that the battery life still turns out quite meager: A good six hours of WLAN surfing is simply too little. Moreover, the IPS display is too dark and the color rendering is only mediocre. In return, the display surface is now matt, so that there are no more annoying reflections. Moreover, the Swift 3 is quite light at 3.2 lbs. and is much easier to carry around than our favorite with its 14 inch screen. Those who can get over the few negative points will get a powerful notebook for a great price with the Acer Swift 3. On our “Best computer for email and web surfing” list the Swift 3 makes fourth place.
Fifth: Asus Vivobook S15
- Very high working speed
- Display with very high color fidelity
- Mostly quiet
- A lot of memory
- Decent gaming speed in Full HD
- Screenpad somewhat immature
A very useful feature makes its way into the notebook world with the Asus Vivobook S15: A display integrated into the touchpad. This is already the 2nd generation of the underlying technology. Many problems have therefore already been eliminated. For example, the small screen is bright, responds well to input and the use has been greatly simplified. An Android-like user interface is extremely helpful, but an extended Windows desktop can also be displayed on it.
Aside from the screenpad, the multimedia notebook from Asus shows itself with a well-processed plastic case. The overall impression nevertheless reflects the rather low price. The base plate can be removed with some effort, under which there is still a free slot for a second fast SSD. The RAM can also be replaced, which is quite suitable for users who like to tinker.
In order for everything to run smoothly, Asus relies on the economical Intel Core i5-8265U as processor and an Nvidia GeForce MX250 for more demanding image content. In combination with 8 gigabytes of RAM, image and video editing as well as one or two games can be executed, but you have to live with lower graphic settings. Old titles also run smoothly on higher levels. The matt screen lacks a bit of contrast, but the brightness is sufficient to be able to sit outside in the shade on the laptop.
The Asus VivoBook S15 also has to accept a bit of criticism: The keyboard reacts a bit spongy and the white backlight is not always optimal. The screen of the screenpad is also a bit grainy, which sometimes makes content look blurry. You can also hear the fans clearly under full load, which can be very annoying especially in quiet environments. Moreover, the battery life is quite short, so that a power outlet should be close by again after about 5 hours. On our “Best computer for email and web surfing” list the VivoBook S15 makes fifth place, which doesn’t mean it is a bad laptop, it is not, it is actually quite good, but the competition is just stronger. But then it is a whole lot cheaper, also.
Buyer’s Guide: Laptop for Email and Surfing
There are many laptop models on the market today. Convertible, 2-in-1 device, Ultrabook or a mobile gaming computer? We have concentrated on laptops that are suitable for office, university and everyday use. At the same time we wanted to cover different price segments and also offer additional alternatives. In order to give you the best possible overview, we based our own assessments on user reviews and other test institutions such as Chip or Notebookcheck
Laptop purchase advice: What do I need to pay attention to?
First think about what you will use your laptop for. Your laptop should at least have these technical specifications to be halfway future-proof, depending on the area of use:
|Use-cases||Email, surf the Internet, office programs, casual games||Video editing and graphics-intensive games work, but not always at maximum settings||Graphics-intensive applications and games, video editing, rendering, parallel operation of virtual machines|
|Display size||from 14 inches||from 15 inches||from 17 inches|
|SSD||256 GB||512 GB||512 GB SSD (+ 1 to 2 TB HDD)|
|Random Access Memory (RAM)||8 GB||8 to 16 GB||16 GB|
|Connections||USB-C port and several USB ports, possibly headphone jack, HDMI etc.||USB-C port and several USB ports, possibly headphone jack, HDMI etc.||USB-C port and several USB ports, possibly headphone jack, HDMI etc.|
|Processor (CPU)||Intel Core i3||Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5||Intel Core i7 or AMD Ryzen 7 and separate graphics cards (GPU)|
|Price||Up to 500$||Around 800$||1000$ and up|
How large should the display be?
Regardless of all the technical specifications, you first need to know how big the laptop screen should be:
Big screen: More comfortable to work and play with, but heavier.
Small screen: More manageable and mobile, but in the long run more uncomfortable working and playing.
But also consider that a laptop with 14 inches and a weight of up to approximately 3.2 lbs. is still relatively easy to handle. Here you have to make a trade off. Gamers must also think about the built-in graphics card.
We recommend a screen from 14 to 17 inches, depending on the application. If you do a lot of office work on the road, 14 or 15 inches are useful. If you use your laptop as a gaming computer or use programs like Photoshop or Premiere, you should choose at least 17 inches.
Does the display reflect?
Laptop displays are available matt or reflective. In general, matt displays are preferable because they do not reflect their surroundings, which can be very annoying. However, if it has to be a laptop with a reflective display because the other technical specifications are suitable, there are also matt films that you can stick onto the laptop display. Usually the touch input (if available) will still work after that. When buying, make sure you have the correct size of your display and the foil (inch specification).
How big should the hard drive be?
For modern laptops we definitely recommend a Solid State Disk (SSD) instead of a Hard Drive Disk (HDD) – they are much faster. The M.2 format with a fast PCI Express connection is ideal. In order not to run into memory shortage later, the SSD should have at least 256 GB of memory. Even better is 512 GB or even 1 TB. An SSD with 256 GB will also do it if necessary, even if no storage-hungry programs, games or similar software are installed. If you do buy a laptop with a 128 GB SSD, you should make sure that you can install a larger SSD later, if necessary.
Which connections are useful?
Does the laptop have enough connections for the way I work? Are there modern USB-C ports or the older USB-A ports? Is the laptop charged via USB-C cable or with its own power supply? Is there a card reader for (micro)SD cards? Do I need an HDMI port to quickly transfer the laptop image to the TV? If you connect many peripheral devices to the computer during your work and have hardly any connections, you will have to switch to USB adapters or dongles later. That’s not much fun on the road.
How much memory (RAM) do I need?
Laptops are not as easy to upgrade as full-size PCs. If you buy too little RAM, you may not be able to change that later. To be future-proof, a laptop with upgradeable RAM memory is worthwhile.
How much RAM do I need?
We recommend at least 8 GB RAM for new laptops. If you also want to play games with maximum graphic settings or use graphics-intensive applications such as Photoshop or editing programs, you should even have 16 GB. For pure office laptops that surf the Internet from time to time, 4 GB may be sufficient. However, this is not very future-proof.
How powerful does my laptop have to be?
This is about the built-in processor (CPU), which determines the performance of the laptop. This information is sometimes somewhat hidden. Then look at data sheets or downloadable PDF manuals to find out the type of processor. We recommend at least an Intel Core i5 processor or an equivalent AMD processor. If you use graphics intensive games or programs on your laptop, it’s better to have a separate graphics card. An Intel Core i7 or an equivalent AMD processor would also make more sense.
Difference between Intel i3, i5 and i7 explained
More and more new devices are now equipped with AMD processors. The AMD Ryzen 5 and AMD Ryzen 7 are the two counterparts of the Intel CPUs mentioned above, which also have an integrated graphics chip and are particularly impressive due to their low power consumption.
But also keep in mind that a more powerful laptop consumes more energy under load, which affects the battery life. Both Intel and AMD therefore have special CPU series in their range that are particularly economical and optimised for long runtimes.
Repair, upgrading and warranty?
Two important points that many people often forget when buying a new laptop: the repairability and the warranty conditions of a laptop. This type of equipment is becoming more and more compact and often the consequence is that important components such as the battery, memory or hard drives are increasingly difficult to access. Repairs are therefore becoming increasingly complicated or even impossible for laymen.
It would therefore be advisable to find out before buying whether the laptop contains permanently installed or soldered components. Equally important is the question of whether it has a maintenance cover – in most cases, this will allow the hard disk and memory to be replaced easily. In some cases, however, every repair comes too late and then, ideally, the warranty becomes effective. However, the manufacturers grant this for different lengths of time. Here, too, you should inform yourself in advance and, if necessary, extend the warranty in advance.
Before buying: Are there problems with the selected laptop model on the Internet?
If you have decided on a laptop, you should search the Internet for problems related to this model before buying. In particular, look at negative customer reviews, if any. For example, your chosen laptop may often have problems with the WLAN or Bluetooth module – and that would be very annoying. If you do not find any major complaints, this is a good sign.