Monday, November 18, 2013

Laptop buying guide 2013: How to find the right notebook for you

PCWorld - Anyone in the market for a new laptop this year has a lot to consider before parting with some cold hard cash. You still have to weigh the usual choices—display type, CPU, memory, graphics, hard disk, battery life and weight/footprint. But entirely new form factors give you even more to choose from. New mobile CPUs from Intel and AMD have upped the ante, too—not only in terms of processor speed, but with graphics performance and battery life as well. 

Most of the innovation this year appears in the thin-and-light notebook market, and one of the most exciting trends is the blurring of the lines between tablet and notebook. Some new laptops offer touchscreen displays that swivel, pivot, or detach from their keyboards to transform into tablets. Dell’s XPS 12 Ultrabook Convertible, Lenovo’s Yoga 11S, and Sony’s VAIO Tap 11 are three of the most interesting examples of this new form factor.

If you think you can live outside the Windows ecosystem, you’ll find some interesting Chromebook choices. These notebooks run Google’s Chrome OS as well as browser-based apps. The most interesting examples include the high-end Chromebook Pixel, the inexpensive HP Chromebook 14, and the dirt-cheap Acer C720 Chromebook (which is priced at just $199). 

Mainstream notebook prices, meanwhile, always seem to start at about $400 and rise to $1500-plus as they become thinner and lighter, or as their displays get bigger. And the sky’s the limit with mobile workstations and high-end gaming PCs. Still, for your 2013 budget, you can walk away with a computer that’s lighter, thinner, and more powerful than anything you could have bought last year. In the 2013 edition of our laptop buying guide, we’ll look at form factors first, and then do a deeper dive into specs.    More