Acer Aspire Timeline 1810T -The inexpensive thin-and-light segment really blew up in 2009, and the Acer's Timeline machines are standout examples of the species. Weighing in at just 3.08 pounds, the 11.6-inch Timeline 1810T packs a 1.3GHz Intel SU4100 Core 2 Duo, 3GB of RAM, a 320GB drive, a multitouch trackpad, HDMI out, and Windows 7 Home Premium for just $549. And did we mention that the six-cell battery should last you pretty much all day?
Dell Studio 15 - Dell's Studio 15 doesn't start out as the flashiest laptop in the world, but you can certainly make it that way, with a wealth of custom graphics and colors at your disposal. It's more than solid underneath that 15.6-inch 720p display for its $699 starting price, with a 2.2GHz Intel T6600 Core 2 Duo, 4GB of RAM, and a 320GB drive. Just don't spring for the nail polish option and you'll do fine.
$549 and up - Shop for Acer Aspire Timeline 1810T
$699 - Buy from Dell
ASUS UL80Vt - If you're willing to spend a little more but still aren't willing to break a grand, the UL80Vt offers a compelling mix of battery life and performance for around $825. The 1.73GHz Intel SU7300 Core 2 Duo is paired with both power-saving integrated graphics and a more powerful NVIDIA GeForce G210M, which lets it handle just about any task on it's 14-inch display, web browsing should be a snap, and we actually found the 11-hour battery life rating to be underestimated --we got 12 hours in our tests. Sure, you can get a lot more for just a little extra, but the UL80Vt won't disappoint if you're on a strict budget.
$819 (with $100 gift card) - Buy from Amazon
Oh, you shouldn't have
HP ProBook 5310m - Truth be told, we fell in love with the ProBook's all-business looks the second we saw it.
Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro - Back when we reviewed the cheaper plastic MacBook, we advised potential buyers to save their pennies and trade up the the $1,199 aluminum MacBook Pro, and we're sticking to it. The extra coin buys you sturdier materials and construction, a slightly nicer screen, and most ports, while inside the Core 2 Duo processor and NVIDIA 9400M graphics are enough to handle almost anything you can throw at it. Sure, Macs aren't for everyone, but if they're what your giftee wants, the 13-inch MBP is sure to make 'em happy.
Prices start as low as $699, but here we're much more interested in the $999 model, which features a 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo, 2GB of RAM, a 320GB drive and a Gobi-powered WWAN module that lets you access the 3G network of your choice. Beauty and brains? Can't miss.
$999 - Buy from HP
$1,199 - Buy from Apple
Lenovo X200 Multitouch Tablet - Although there's a been a wave of touchscreen laptops lately, we still think the convertible tablet form factor makes the most sense for touch interaction, and Lenovo's X200t brings a nice12.1-inch multitouch capacitive display to the form factor. Prices start at $1,509 for a 1.4GHz Intel SU9400 Core 2 Duo and 2GB of RAM and scale up from there.
$1,509 and up - Buy from Lenovo
We can't afford the rent now, can we?
HP Envy 15
- Arguably the hottest PC laptop on the market right now both in looks and, uh, radiant heat, the Envy 15 is a 1.73GHz Core i7-powered beast of a machine, complete with 1GB ATI Radeon HD 4830 graphics and a 15.6-inch 1080p display. Yes, it looks like a certain other
laptop. Yes, it will boil water at a hundred paces. Yes, they're going to freak out and love you forever.
$1,799 to $2,299 - Buy from HP
Dell Adamo XPS - Oh, it's weird. Real weird. But it's also the thinnest laptop ever made, and it's proof that Dell can design and manufacture with the best of 'em. Sure, we wish $1,799 bought more than
a 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo SU9400 CPU and integrated graphics, but there's a 128GB SSD to make up for it, and well -- look at it. Better hurry on this one, though: the listed ship date is December 22nd, which means you'll be just under the wire.
$1,799 - Buy from Dell
Apple 17-inch MacBook Pro
- Apple's largest laptop only appeals to a small number of people who need a really big screen, but we're suckers for display real estate. Add in the nice unibody build that truly helps with such a large machine, an integrated (but user-replaceable) battery that lasted nearly five hours in our tests, and your loved one's unabashed Mac fanboyism, and we'd say this surfboard is better than two tickets to paradise.
$2,499 - Buy from Apple