Looking over all the portable computing trends of the past few years--thinner systems, solid-state-drive hard drives, 16:9 displays--one overall theme is that high-quality laptops are less expensive than ever.
Some years ago, $1,000 was considered reasonable for a budget-minded laptop, while today, that same Grover Cleveland means you're shopping for a high-end laptop (and in that case, usually a MacBook).
That means that in the run-up to the holiday shopping season--see more about that in our annual Holiday Gift Guide)--there are plenty of excellent laptop options for every budget, from $400 ultraportables to $1,700 multimedia powerhouses. We've collected a handful of suggestions in the budget, mainstream, and high-end categories, concentrating on recent laptops that should be easy to find online or on store shelves.
All of the laptops highlighted below are solid choices, and in particular Dan likes the HP Pavilion dm1z, a budget ultraportable that at $450 is almost a stocking stuffer. Scott is partial to the budget end of the spectrum as well, calling the Dell Inspiron 14z one of the best current all-around laptop values, with good battery life and a thin (for a midsize system) design.
- Budget (up to $599)
- Dell Inspiron 14z [4 stars]
- HP Pavilion g4-1215dx [3.5 stars]
- HP Pavilion dm1z (fall 2011) [4 stars]
- Lenovo Essential G570 [3.5 stars]
Mainstream ($600 to $999)
- HP dv7-6b55dx [3.5 stars]
- Samsung QX411-W01UB [3.5 stars]
- Asus U46E-BAL6 [4 stars]
- Toshiba Portege R835-P70 [4 stars]
- Toshiba Portege Z835 [3.5 stars]
- Apple MacBook Air (11-inch, summer 2011) [4 stars]