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Tech Tools: The Best of the Best Laptops

Whatever your fancy, there is a laptop for you these days. The current crop includes systems powerful enough to make a desktop workhorse computer blush, and highly versatile tablet-laptop combos. Whether you need a supremely thin and lightweight ultrabook or something more rugged, there are great options gathered here—including some systems for the budget-savvy.

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Best Affordable Laptop:

Lenovo G500 (Lenovo.com)

A decent laptop likely won’t come at a better deal (starting at $369). The exciting thing is the G500 is excellent, not decent. It’s a little shocking just how affordable the G500 is compared to the MacBook Pro, for instance—you’re still getting a full terabyte of hard drive space, a speedy Intel Core i5 processor, a lovely hi-res 15.6-inch screen and 4GB of memory (which can be upgraded to 8 gigs). And just think of what you can do with all the money you’re saving.

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Best in Show:

Apple MacBook Pro (Apple.com)

This 15-inch device is the Ferrari of the current laptop market, from its sleek looks and high performance to its jaw-dropping $1,999 cost. That price tag brings many wonders, the most obvious being a stunning high-resolution Retina display. Under the hood, however, the Intel Core i7 processor and Intel Iris Pro 5200 graphics card perform feats of speed more typically associated with a top-of-the-line industrial desktop, and it can run for eight hours on a full battery charge.

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Best Ultrabook:

Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus (MicrosoftStore.com)

Craving high performance in a superslim profile? This $1,099 Samsung is one of the fastest Windows 8 Ultrabooks you can buy, and it’s barely a half-inch thick when closed. Sporting the highest resolution currently available in an Ultrabook, it features 10-point touch, so you can control the screen with gestures using all your fingers simultaneously. And if you’re a Samsung Galaxy owner, there’s a program to view your phone on your laptop screen and transfer stuff back and forth.

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Best Rugged Laptop:

Panasonic Toughbook CF-C2 (CDW.com)

Most of us don’t need such a durable, shockproof laptop, but if your work often takes you into the field, Panasonic’s Toughbook line is the answer. Built to withstand 30-inch falls, the brand-new CF-C2 ($1,849.99 and up) also promises seamless, reliable connectivity to the Internet. The 4G LTE embedded broadband that comes standard ensures you’ll never be scrambling to get online when there’s no Wi-Fi signal nearby, and the 14-hour battery life is incredibly clutch when there are no outlets around.

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Best Combo Laptop-Tablet System:

Asus Transformer Book T100 (Adorama.com)

For those seeking versatility, the $399 Asus Transformer Book T100 is a formidable—and affordable—option. Pop the screen off its keyboard dock for a fully functional 10.1-inch tablet running Windows 8.1. And to help you forget that it has only 64GB of storage (it is more tablet than laptop, after all), Asus throws in 1TB of cloud storage that’s free for a year.


The Best Laptop Accessories

Ergonomic Mouse

If you work exclusively on a laptop and also spend a lot of time on your touch-screen phone, there’s a chance you have some wrist strain or carpal tunnel-like symptoms. Ergonomic and vertical mouse designs exist to let your hand rest while you work—and many come in wireless options. SUCCESS Pick: HandShoe Mouse ($119 and up; HandShoeMouse.com)

Cloud-Based Storage

Most folks already use some form of cloud-based storage at this point, whether it’s saving a document sent to us via email or backing up the music collections on our phones. But it’s not a bad idea to spring for yearly service to back up all of your data. The cloud is probably a better option for saving files than that spare hard drive at your in-laws’ house. SUCCESS Pick: Apple iCloud (First 5GB free, $20 per additional 10GB each year; Apple.com/support/iCloud)

LTE USB Dongle

These handy products use cellular networks, like Verizon’s, to provide you with Internet access when you’re not near a Wi-Fi hotspot. The pocket-size dongles themselves are typically cheap, but you’ll pay for a monthly service. If you can’t risk being offline, this is an essential accessory. SUCCESS Pick: Verizon 4G LTE USB Modem UML295 (Free with a two-year plan, starting at $30 per month; VerizonWireless.com)

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