Consider the humble laptop: While tablets get all the buzz, more than 300 million of the portable computers get sold every year.And as Apple and Microsoft pluck features from tablets to put into conventional screen-and-keyboard devices, 2012 saw laptops get speedier, more advanced, and more affordable than ever.
Apple brought its high-definition Retina display to its MacBook Pro line. Microsoft released Windows 8, a touch-friendly operating system for both tablets and PCs, and third-party manufacturers stepped in to introduce a number of touch-sensitive devices to take advantage of the sharp new interface.
From basic computers for family members who just want an easy way to get on the Internet to top-of-the-line stuff for yourself, here are the laptops that defined the state of the art this year.
One of Apple's most popular laptops, the 15-inch MacBook Pro offers a beautiful Retina display that displays an image that's better than your HDTV. Upgradable to 16 GB of RAM and 2.7 GHz of Intel i7 processing power, this is a solid choice for a number of applications.
Apple recently released a 13-inch version of the MacBook Pro with Retina display too.
Price: Starts at $1,200, but prices vary depending on specs
If you're not in need of a powerhouse but still want an elegant and capable device, the MacBook Air is for you. Slender and portable, it still packs a reasonable punch under the hood. It comes with an Intel i5 processor and 4 GB of RAM, and you have the choice of 128 GB or 256 GB of speedy flash storage.
Price: starting at $999
Although there are occasional complaints about its middle-of-the-road battery life, the Zenbook Prime has a sharp 1080p screen and a full-on HDMI port to make it a snap to get your video displayed on another screen. As far as Ultrabooks go, its Intel i7 processor makes it capable and its size makes it convenient.
Toshiba's new Satellite Ultrabook is a Windows 8 laptop that can convert to a tablet by sliding the screen over.
It's a funky take on Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system, but it could be useful for someone who wants more choice in hardware.
Price: Starts at $1,100
Gamers, take note: Dell's Alienware has historically made some of the most powerful laptops out there, and this one's no exception. It packs a 2.3 GHz i7 processor and 6 GB of RAM, more than enough to get you eyeballs-deep in whatever game has captured your imagination as of late.
Versatile and perfect for general consumer needs, this new Lenovo Thinkpad offers a 14-inch anti-glare display, 4 GB of RAM, and a 128 GB solid state drive. We think it's more goofy than useful, but as an added feature, the laptop's hinge lets the device open all the way flat.
Price: starts at $1,349
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