The Only Laptops That Mattered In 2012

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Photo: Daniel Goodman / Business Insider

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.

MacBook Pro with Retina display

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.

Click here for our review of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display >

Price: Starts at $1,200, but prices vary depending on specs

MacBook Air

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

Asus Zenbook Prime

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.

Price: $1,180

Lenovo's ThinkPad X230

Don't let the throwback design fool you. Lenovo's ThinkPad offers killer battery life and an Intel i5 processor in a three-pound package. Simply put, the price is right for this one.

Price: $849

Toshiba Satellite Ultrabook

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.

Click here for our full review of the Toshiba Satellite >

Price: Starts at $1,100

Lenovo Yoga

Lenovo's new Windows 8 machine, the Yoga, can bend to almost any position. The screen also flips over to become a fully touch-functional Windows 8 tablet.

Price: Starts at $999

Alienware M17x

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.

Price: $1,538

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

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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