In our current roundup of retail laptops for the back-to-school season, we noticed that the most common price was $799. Halfway between the single-core systems and the high-end desktop replacements, there was a surprising amount of variety, with Intel Core i3 and i5 CPUs, and screen sizes from 13.3 inches to 15.6 inches.
At that $799 sweet spot, you can get a very capable mid-range system that should be fine for any kind of schoolwork, plus reasonably heavy multitasking and HD video playback. Harder to find are features such as Blu-ray or discrete graphics, although we did find a couple of models with these high-end extras.
Two of the standouts were the
The picture is muddied somewhat because several of these laptops were originally listed at $799, but within the past few days, they've been bumped up to $829. But because they were (and may be again) widely available for $799, we're including them here.
Besides the Toshiba R705, two other notable laptops that hover between $799 and $829 are the
Note: Also see our roundup of retail laptops in all price ranges.
Check out details of each system below:
The bottom line: The Dell Studio s1558-5691MSL offers a little more for your money than competing laptops, though it's a bit bulky and short on battery life for a day in a backpack.
The bottom line: The HP Pavilion dv5-2045dx is a respectable mainstream laptop, but it's only a good deal if you need Microsoft Office and antivirus software.
The bottom line: HP's slick and powerful Pavilion dm4-1065dx offers great core performance, long battery life, and an eye-catching design at a very competitive price, making it a very attractive back-to-school laptop.
The bottom line: The Toshiba Satellite L645D-S4030 is a decent all-around budget laptop. However, with its short battery life and cheaper options available from the competition, it's not an overly impressive deal.
The bottom line: Toshiba's Portege R series has always impressive, and the new 13-inch Portege R705 is close to a perfect balance of design, price, and performance.
The bottom line: Comfortable and feature-packed, with an eye-catching design, the Sony Vaio EA24FM/W and its combination of Blu-ray and Intel Wireless Display make it an affordable multimedia winner.
The bottom line: An impressively designed surprise, the Samsung Q430-11 is a feature-packed, fast laptop that looks more expensive than it is.