Best 5 Notebooks for 2010 Grads, from $299 to $1,199

You’re so proud. The child you once diapered is now graduating high school, or entering the workforce. It’s only natural you’d want to be sure he or she is equipped with what they need to face the next stage of their life. And step one of that equipment is the right laptop. So, we’ve rounded up five great options for the new grad in your life.

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Best Mainstream Budget Laptop: HP G62t
Hands down, this 15.6-inch laptop is the best you’ll find for less than $600. We loved everything about it, including its sophisticated matte, taupe design, fast and large 500GB 7,200 rpm hard drive, zippy overall performance (you get 4GB of RAM and an Intel Core i3 processor), loud Altec Lansing speakers, and its relatively long four-hour battery life. The only people who might be disappointed are gamers; graphics performance isn’t its strong suit. 

Best Mac for Your Money: MacBook Pro (13-inch)
Macs are definitely visible on college campuses. The cool factor helps, as does the fact that Apple offers 10 percent discounts to college students year-round, along with special back-to-school bundles over the summer (free iPod and printer, anyone?). If you’re going to get a Mac, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the one to get: unlike the white MacBook, which costs $999, this one has a sexy, durable aluminum body. It performs better too: for a reasonable starting price of $1,119, you get fast performance, thanks to 4GB of RAM and powerful Nvidia GeForce 320M integrated graphics. It also lasts much longer than your average thin-and-light, enduring more than six hours on a charge.

Best Budget Gaming/Multimedia Machine: Samsung R780
This $799 desktop replacement, available exclusively at Best Buy, holds its own against notebooks that cost hundreds of dollars more. First off, it looks more expensive than it is: its red-to-black ombre pattern mimics a trend seen on the runway recently. Multimedia junkies will appreciate the strong gaming performance and gorgeous 17.3-inch (1600 x 900) display. And just about any student will benefit from the fast performance, thanks to a Core i5 processor and 4GB of RAM. The only person who this notebook isn’t for: people who want portability and long battery life.

Best Ultraportable for Class And Gaming: Alienware M11x
The M11x is the only one of its kind: an ultraportable powerful enough to tote to your next LAN party. With chunky, rainbow backlit keys, it looks like a shrunken version of the larger Alienware rigs you’re used to seeing. And with switchable graphics and surprisingly loud speakers, it performs like one too. What makes the M11x practical, though, is that its Intel ultra low voltage processor can handle paper-writing and web surfing and also last an impressive 7-plus hours unplugged.

Best Netbook Bargain: ASUS Eee PC 1001p
Three years after ASUS introduced the first netbook, these pint-size laptops come a dime a dozen. But ASUS still rules the roost: its Eee PC 1001P netbook is the best on the market right now, in large part thanks to its particularly low price of $299. Even without such a competitive price, this would make our shortlist: we like its smudge-proof design and comfortable keyboard and its long eight-plus hours of battery life.

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