Holiday Gift Guide: Tablets, Smartphones, Laptops

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Notebooks: From Ultrabooks to Desktop Replacements

Why let the phones and slates have all the fun? For those who are in the market for a new notebook, this year's laptop bounty is plentiful if you're shopping for one. Windows 8.1 is out, as is Apple's latest OS X (Mavericks). Plus, consumers have never had as many form factor choices, and battery life figures have never been stronger.

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro: $999
Part tablet, part notebook, and 100 percent powerhouse. It’s a productivity machine at heart, and it’s one of the best convertibles to run Windows 8.1. The Yoga 2 Pro is thinner and lighter than its predecessor, measuring 15.5mm and weighing 1.39kg. Processor options go all the way up to Haswell, and you can also configure one with up to a 512GB solid state drive. Better still, it has a crazy high resolution QHD display at 3200X1800 - it's gorgeous. Need to get work done, while remaining mobile? This one’s worth a look if so.

Alienware 18 Gaming Notebook: $1999+

Dell did a fine job of redesigning the look of the Alienware 18. Not that there was anything wrong with the old design, but this new edition looks classier without feeling dull; the lighting schemes and options are all still present, the keyboard is loaded with toys, and the new backlit touchpad (whose lights you can switch off if you prefer) is just plain cool. There’s really not much one has to say about the Alienware 18 that isn’t borne out in the benchmarks. The machine tore through our spate of tests and took the top score in almost every one, showing off the horsepower afforded by the mighty Intel Core i7-4900MQ processor and the graphics firepower of the dual NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M cards in SLI.

MacBook Pro with Retina Display (Haswell-Powered): $1299+

Apple finally slapped Intel’s Haswell chips into its 13” and 15” Retina-based MacBook Pro range, and the results are impressive. Outstanding battery life, cooler-running machines, and more power than ever before. Plus, it’s the only machine line in our list that can run both OS X and Windows. If you’re into dual-booting, you don’t have many other options if one of those operating systems is going to be Mavericks. Plus, these new rigs have lower price points, gorgeous high-res displays, and a best-in-class trackpad.

Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook: $769+

Dell is proud as peacock about the display upgrade it gave the XPS 13, and it should be. Not only does it boast a Full HD 1080p (1920x1080) resolution providing end-users with more real-estate than is typical from a 13.3-inch display, but it's also an extremely high quality panel. Colors pop off the screen, it's bright and vibrant, and it's not saddled with strict viewing angles. In fact, you can still see the screen very well from the side. More than just a pretty face, the Dell XPS 13 is a peppy little machine. That's evident right from the get-go, as it takes a mere 12 seconds to boot into Windows 8. Microsoft deserves considerable credit for that feat, but so does Dell for pairing the operating system with a high-performance mSATA SSD from Samsung.

HP Spectre 13 Ultrabook: $999+
It’s one of the sleekest Ultrabooks to date, and it’s capable of being maxed out internally, too with SSDs and memory . A gorgeous 13.3” 1920X1080 display, up to 9 hours of battery life, a brushed metal chassis, and plenty of oomph to do more than just work, outside of office hours — yep, it’d make a lovely gift.

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