Students can certainly find a suitable laptop for general campus use for less than $1,000. Of the retail models we've reviewed this summer, we'd point you to the $979 Dell Studio 1535, the $799 Gateway T-6836, or the $679 Sony Vaio NR430 . Of course, with Apple's education discount, the entry-level MacBook costs only $999--a campus favorite and one we endorse (we reviewed the higher-end black MacBook after the last update). The higher-priced laptops you'll see on retail shelves are a specialized lot, by and large. You'll see big, feature-packed 16- and 17-inch models that are better bets for consuming media at your desk than tossing in your backpack as you head to class, while the addition of a Blu-ray drive turns the otherwise mainstream 15-inch Pavilion dv5-1015nr into a tony $1,249 system.
Therefore, choosing an overall favorite among this high-end group isn't has clear cut as it was with the budget and mainstream back-to-school laptop groups. Yet, the Gateway P-7811FX stands out. You simply won't find a better deal on a desktop replacement. For a very reasonable $1,449, this 17-inch laptop serves up a very fine 1920x1200-pixel resolution and combines Intel's latest Centrino 2 mobile platform with high-end Nvidia GeForce graphics. It offers all-around excellent performance, including very playable 3D framerates. Our only gripes are minor: it lacks Bluetooth, and, well, given its native resolution, a Blu-ray drive would be nice.
Runner-up: the HP Pavilion dv7-1025nr, another fully loaded Centrino 2 desktop replacement. It trades some graphics horsepower for a slightly better look than the Gateway P-7811FX, while knocking $150 off the price.
See more laptops in CNET's back-to-school gift guide.