So you’re looking for a new laptop because your husband’s old one is out of date -or maybe your kids have gotten to the age that they will be responsible for something portable. Fear not -the laptop market this Christmas is a cornucopia of options that will range from tantalizing to terrifying. Before you drop hundreds (or thousands) of dollars for these gadget gifts, you should figure out just how much laptop they are going to need. Once you figure that out, check out our personal selections below!
High schools and colleges are requiring more and more technology smarts to keep up with class projects, presentations and increasing amounts of writing. High school and college students are not only honing their skills with word processing software and researching the web -they are also discovering newer and more demanding ways to entertain themselves (ahem) between assignments.
If price is your first concern, like many students these days, then they are going to have to sacrifice some performance. Having said that, this Acer Aspire 5349-2418 is surprisingly cheap and will get them through emailing professors to beg for an extension while they start the paper that’s due in another tab. At just $364.99 this laptop is a smart gift for the college student who’s living on a budget. It’s even better for athletes who are interested in weight-training and have to walk between buildings, weighing in at just over 5 pounds.
For the High School student, laptop performance is probably going to be outweighed by price and portability. This Samsung Chromebook not only looks sleek and shiny, it’s also affordable enough at $249 to place it in the hands of a minor with relatively little anxiety. Somewhere between a netbook and a general use laptop, the chromebook is feather light at 2.5 pounds and features USB 3.0, USB 2.0 and HDMI outputs.
Whatever their business is, there are probably numerous web apps, social networks and cloud storage options that will make their life easier, and diversify their reputation as a professional. They’ll need something that won’t give them problems in the middle of a big project, will be able to handle all the software they might need and be capable of the multi-tasking that is always required for keeping up with their work.
Performance is not a problem for this Toshiba Protege R835-P94 ultra portable laptop. At 3.2 pounds, it’s comparable to an ultrabook, for considerably less money. This is also a great machine for business travelers or commuters, featuring Toshiba’s “sleep and charge” function, which allows them to charge devices from their USB ports without having to run the machine at all (great for hotel overnights) and a standard voltage core i5-2450M chip that runs at 3.1 GHz. It kind of wimps out in the RAM department, with only 4 GB, but it more than makes up for that with a whopping 9 hours of battery life. This gadget gift is practically a steal at $720.89 from Amazon.com.
If the ultrabook was the evolution of the ultra-portable in laptop history, the new convertible HP EliteBook Revolve just announced by HP is a few steps further up the ladder. It’s 11.6 inch screen fully revolves and folds back to function as a tablet or a laptop -and it still only weighs 3 lbs. It’s design is sleek and sturdy, but it won’t be released until March, and no one knows what it’s going to cost just yet, so plan on wrapping up an IOU if you are giving this as a gift. The EliteBook is fully optimizable; HP offers options like up to 256GB of solid state storage and a gorilla glass touchscreen with or without a stylus, and built in 4G LTE or HSPA+, so no need to search for Wi-Fi while on the road. Customers can even choose whether to run Windows 7 or 8, and choose between core i3, i5 or i7 CPUs. Did we mention it has a dedicated side docking station for connecting to an external monitor or other peripherals?
Let’s face it -standard laptops with onboard video cards just aren’t going to be able to handle the punishment gamers are putting out. If they want their frames-per-second to be tolerable without having to purchase and install a dedicated video card after they get their new machine, you should find one that’s made to take gaming abuse, like this Alienware M17x R4. It may be heavy and they might end up with blisters on their fingers from the heat that the dedicated NVidia GEforce GT 680M will pump out while they are DPSing end game mobs, but it’s completely free of bloatware. It’s significantly cheaper than some of the competition and comparable if not better in the performance department, at $1830 from Newegg. One downside to this gaming laptop is that the battery life is really short -so make sure they bring the power cord.
If they need something fast, furious and visually impressive -with heat control options and a price tag slightly below midrange, this Samsung Series 7 Gamer laptop is quite impressive for $1752. It does come with some bloatware, and the chassis is not quite as solid as the Alienware model above, but the graphics are stunning (with another nVidia GTX 675M graphics card) and the keyboard/touchpad are roomy and easy to navigate.
When duty calls they need to grab their go bag and report to a new assignment at the spur of the moment, they need a machine that’s going to have battery power that lasts longer that most. Gaming and entertainment are a must for active military personnel who may not know where they’re going to crash from one weekend to the next -but most importantly, military personnel need to be able to communicate with loved ones back home.
The Dell Inspiron 15R Laptop is speedy enough to handle their entertainment needs in airports and barracks alike, and it comes with a native HD webcam with a built in mic for video calling and recording. The screen is a bit large at 15 inches, but with the terabyte of HDD space inside a slightly more than one inch thick frame -it will hold enough media and perform well enough to be worth the tussle of hauling it around. The best part? Dell offers an exclusive discount on this model for the military and veterans. If 15 inches of steel is just too much extra to pack into their suitcase or duffel, there are a number of acceptable netbooks on the market that might serve the needs of a hero away from home.
While the idea of a “military laptop” may bring to mind visions of something that looks like it came out of a video game robot’s imagination, the functionality and portability of a smaller netbook are going to serve well for far less money. Take, for example, the Asus EPC1000HE-BLK005X Eee PC 1000HE 10 inch netbook. Despite having possibly the longest product name in history, this little number has just enough capacity (it comes with 1GB, and there’s room to double up later) to get around the web and still includes a built-in video camera and microphone. It may not be able to run programs like the notebooks, but it’s small enough to fit in a briefcase at half the cost.
Editing video or using powerful graphic design programs can take forever on an outdated machine -but there’s nothing worse than firing up a new toy only to discover that it can’t handle the workload. If they’re a designer, they are going to need a machine that can run a creative suite smoothly and still have the storage to keep all those masterpieces saved and ready to showcase. Visual artists and creative types may not require quite as much hardware, but the new notebook/tablet hybrids bring the logistics of creating visual media to a whole new level.
The upper echelon of this category is pretty much owned by the 15 inch Macbook Pro with Retina display. Fully customizable when you visit Apple’s website, this luxury gift is going to cost somewhere in the vicinity of $3,000 depending on what you choose (would they like 8GB of memory or 16?) and perform well enough to justify it’s top ranking on various laptop reviews for designers. Choose the speed of the quad-core intel Core i7 processor (2.6GHz or 2.7) and upgrade anything from the display to the flash memory as well before getting the grand total purchase price. If they think looks are everything, this is probably the gadget gift to end all gadget gifts.
For the artist who enjoys adaptability, this year’s hybrid releases offer innovative design to make life easier. No need to use additional hardware for drawing or displaying your creations -the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 opens like a clam shell, backflips into a tablet or bends backward like a Yoga instructor. With a modest 4GB of memory, it won’t compete in the speed department with the Macbook Pro, but the 13.3 inch touchscreen is great for creating and presenting digital media. It’s lightweight, at just about three and a half pounds, and boasts an above-average (for laptops) battery life of about 5.5 hours. Beyond that, this is one hybrid that feels like a tablet when they want it to, and functions comfortably as a laptop when they want it to -giving them the best of both worlds while looking really cool.
Think our Christmas picks are stupid, or we are missing the “must have” laptop this holiday season, let us know in the comment section below!
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