Laptops to Watch for in 2012

Last month’s CES show made it clear that laptops are set to make a comeback this year, after taking the backseat to tablets for much of 2011. Ultrabooks, extremely thin and light laptops whose style is matched pound for pound by computing power, are just starting to hit the market and creating a good deal of buzz. Over 50 of them were on display at the Vegas trade show, many being unveiled for the first time. If you’re looking to replace your laptop this year, read on for some expert recommendations.

HP Envy 14 Spectre

CNet put this on top of its list for computers and hardware, not least because of its NFC support (for making mobile payments, among other things) and great audio features. They’re far from groundbreaking, but they’re noticeably lacking in the competition. Its supposed selling point is the shiny glass lid, although it can be a turnoff for more mobile users looking for a rugged construction.

Dell XPS 13

For this impressive business laptop, Dell took the sleek profile of the MacBook Air and added the look and feel of its Latitude series. This sets it apart visually from previous models in the XPS line, along with its large, easy-to-use track pad and sturdy Gorilla Glass-covered screen. Technically it’s still a business laptop, although the lines are starting to blur. In any case, at about two-thirds the price of the HP above, it’s a pretty good deal for casual computing.

Acer Aspire S5

At just 15mm thick and under 3 lbs., the Aspire S5 is one of the thinnest and lightest laptops on the market, at least so far. The exterior is magnesium alloy with an Onyx Black finish, adding to its smooth, no-nonsense look. The USB, HDMI, and Thunderbolt ports are hidden away at the back and protected by a port door, which could be great for protection but make connecting peripherals a little complicated.

Samsung Series 9

One of the first touch-screen laptops to hit the shelves, the Samsung Series 9 first appeared in 2011 as an ultrathin laptop that was, as onlookers called it, the closest one could get to a MacBook Air. The updated version was unveiled last month, retaining the skinny 13-inch profile and the fixing some of the obvious creases. An improved trackpad, better display, and lighter construction promise to make it one of the biggest sellers of the year.

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