NEW YORK – There’s no shortage of laptop computers to pick from this holiday season, even for shoppers on tight budgets. A Chromebook optimized to run Google’s Internet services can be bought for as little as $200, while a few hundred dollars more gets you a laptop that’s not so dependent on having a continuous online connection.
Although smartphones and tablet computers get much of the attention these days, laptops are still more desirable for people who do a lot of typing or other heavy-duty tasks such as photo editing.
For most people, price tops the list of factors to consider when choosing a new laptop. You also have to consider processing speeds, storage and battery needs and figure out how much weight the person you’re shopping for will be willing to cart around.
And then there’s the operating system.
Are you shopping for someone who prefers Windows 8? If that’s the case, you’ll probably want to spring for a touch-screen model. You might even consider a two-in-one, which can switch back and forth between a laptop and a tablet. There are also Windows tablets with attachable keyboards to make them perform much like laptops.
Choices are more limited for fans of Macs or Google’s Chrome system, but the choices that are available are good ones.
The nicest things about these laptops are their small size and low price. But they also offer little functionality. Chromebooks work best as a secondary laptop to take on trips or as a gift for students to do homework. My husband commented that one might also be good for his aging parents, whose computer skills are limited and their needs mostly involve email and Web surfing. Acer Inc. has one of the cheapest I found – a C720, which starts at $200.
• Dell Inc.’s Inspiron 14 7000, starts at $850:
Made of forged aluminum, these laptops are durable. The 14-inch version is considerably thinner than past models, at just over a half-inch. But it’s not particularly light, starting at 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms). Windows 8 runs well on the Inspiron’s high-definition touch screen.
• Lenovo Group Ltd.’s Flex 14, starts at $569:
This 14-inch Windows laptop lacks the grace, styling and processing power found on other Lenovo products, but that’s not surprising for a laptop at this price. What makes the Flex stand out is its ability to, well, flex. You can bend its screen almost all the way back, turning the keyboard into a base. That makes it easy to watch videos in bed or use the computer’s touch-screen functions without the keyboard getting in the way.
• Toshiba Satellite Click, sold exclusively through Best Buy or Toshiba’s website, currently for $600:
This attempt to combine the best of a laptop and a tablet has mixed results. The 13.3-inch (33-centimeter) device feels heavy and bulky even when you’re just holding the tablet portion, which weighs 2.8 pounds (1.27 kilograms). The keyboard adds two pounds (0.9 kilograms), making it the heaviest of the six reviewed. It’s more for watching a movie in bed, not for taking on the train.
• MacBook Air, starts at $999:
This one barely makes the $1,000 cutoff. And this price gives you the 11.6-inch (29.4-centimeter) version, making it more expensive than Windows computers with larger screens. A 13.3-inch (33.8-centimeter) model costs $100 more.
The Air uses solid-state storage rather than traditional hard drives, meaning it stores less than the Inspiron, Flex or Satellite Click.
But that keeps the Air light, at 2.4 pounds (1.09 kilograms) for the 11-inch (28-centimeter) version and 3 pounds for the larger one. It lacks a touch screen, something Apple opposes in laptops.