While tablets are all the rage, students looking for a physical keyboard, gobs of storage, and enough processing muscle for serious multitasking should still make a laptop their primary computing device. But which is the right notebook for your budget? The good news is that you can find plenty of versatile machines for the same price as a slate—or less. As you go up the price ladder, you’ll find faster dual- and quad-core CPUs, discrete graphics for playing the most demanding games, and Blu-ray drives for watching the latest HD movies. Some of these systems are so powerful that they can easily double as your dorm’s entertainment center.
Here’s our top 14 laptops for the back-to-school season in every size and price range, from under $400 to $1,500.
Weighing just 3.2 pounds, Acer’s new 11.6-inch laptop provides plenty of punch and portability for under $400. The Aspire A0722 features a 1-GHz AMD C50 Fusion processor with ATI Radeon HD6250 graphics, 2GB of memory, and a 500GB hard drive. This notebook’s six-cell, 4400 mAH battery should last up to seven hours. Color options include Espresso Black or Aquamarine, and the system has a molded lid that looks like a pond after you’ve dropped a pebble into it, making it one of the more stylish netbooks we’ve seen at this price.