Our top mainstream retail laptop: Toshiba E105

In our current roundup of retail-specific laptops, we've divided our 30-plus systems into four different price categories, from sub-$500 entry level models to high-end ones that cost more than $1,000.

In our current roundup of retail-specific laptops, we've divided our 30-plus systems into four different price categories, from sub-$500 entry level models to high-end ones that cost more than $1,000 .

In the "mainstream" category, covering laptops between $700 and $999, we found a wide variety of systems, from the 12-inch touch screen HP tx2 to the 15-inch Core Solo Asus UX50V. Our overall favorite, was the Toshiba E105, which married solid components and performance with worthy features, such as a backlit keyboard, 500GB hard drive, and longer-than-average warranty.

One important notes -- on this particular page we're *only* talking about a handful of retail-specific models that cost between $700 and $999. For a roundup of retail laptops in all price ranges, check here.

Check out details of each system below:

HP Pavilion dv3-2155mx
The good: Nearly day-long battery life; compact design; includes small Media Center remote control; imprint finish helps it stand out from the laptop crowd.

The bad: Massive 9-cell battery is awkward and uncomfortable; lacks 802.11n Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet; glossy touch pad is uncomfortable.

The bottom line: Its massive battery extends awkwardly from the bottom of the laptop, but the HP Pavilion dv3-2155mx is an otherwise compact thin-and-light laptop that should get students to class and back on a single charge.

Read the full review here.

Asus UX50V-RX05
The good: Head-turning design; roomy 15.6-inch screen with 16:9 aspect ratio; keyboard is exceedingly comfortable and features backlighting; dedicated graphics offer some 3D-gaming capability.

The bad: Core 2 Solo processor can't keep up with dual-core competition; highly uncomfortable mouse button; merely average battery life, despite energy-efficient processor.

The bottom line: With its low-end single-core processor, dedicated GeForce graphics, and 16:9 display, the unquestionably sleek, entertainment-minded Asus UX50V-RX05 is a good fit for a specific user profile: the movie lover/sometime gamer.

Read the full review here.

Dell s1440-022B
The good: Compact, lightweight design; great battery life; full version of Microsoft Office and 15 months of Norton Internet Security; wonderfully roomy keyboard; GeForce graphics provide some 3D power; shockingly decent audio output from integrated speakers; useful selection of ports.

The bad: No optical drive.

The bottom line: If you can forgo a DVD burner on your laptop, the Dell Studio S1440-022B offers a ton of features and a slick design that should make it a frontrunner for any student doing their back-to-school shopping.

Read the full review here.

HP Pavilion dv4-1465DX
The good: Near all-day battery life; Special Edition imprint finish helps it stand out from the crowd without being garish; competitive application performance; includes small Media Center remote control.

The bad: Massive 12-cell battery is heavy and awkward; lacks 802.11n Wi-Fi; glossy touch pad is uncomfortable.

The bottom line: If you're the restless type, or simply away from electrical outlets for the majority of your day, you'll love the long battery life of the HP Pavilion dv4-1465dx. Be warned: such battery life requires you to tote a laptop that's roughly a pound heavier than its 14-inch competitors.

Read the full review here.

Sony Vaio VGN-NW125J/T
The good: HD video looks great on big 15.5-inch, 16:9 display; keyboard is comfortable and spacious; relatively thin and lightweight.

The bad: Disappointing battery life; extra-wide chassis may require a new laptop bag; no media control buttons.

The bottom line: With just about the biggest display you'd be willing to lug around on a daily basis, the Sony Vaio VGN-NW125J/T attempts to be both a low-end entertainment laptop and versatile everyday productivity machine. But for the battery life, it pulls it off.

Read the full review here.

Toshiba E105-S1602 *BEST*
The good: Sturdy construction and pleasing overall design; comfortable keyboard and touchpad; backlit keys; lengthy battery life without bulky battery; a twice-as-nice two-year warranty.

The bad: Uses integrated graphics while other laptops at this price feature dedicated graphics; poor speakers, even for integrated standards.

The bottom line: Toshiba improves on last year's excellent Best Buy Blue Label laptop by slashing the price while serving up a nearly identical machine. Long battery life, a lengthy warranty, and a backlit keyboard highlight Toshiba's winning Satellite E105-S1602.

Read the full review here.

Dell Studio XPS X1340-024B
The good: Upscale look; strong overall performance; integrated graphics provide some semblance of gaming power; backlit keyboard; attractive edge-to-edge glass on the display.

The bad: Poor battery life; runs hot; on the heavy side for a 13-inch laptop.

The bottom line: The Dell Studio XPS X1340-024B is an attractive 13-inch laptop and a capable performer, but it tends to run hot and its poor battery life will leave you cold.

Read the full review here.

HP TouchSmart tx2-1275dx
The good: Good price for tablet functionality; multitouch gestures are fun; flashy but not garish design.

The bad: Poor battery life; mediocre application performance; weighted down with bloatware; a tad heavy for a 12-inch ultraportable.

The bottom line: A fair price, an attractive design, and multitouch support may allow tablet shoppers to overlook the HP TouchSmart tx2-1275dx's middling performance and poor battery life.

Read the full review here.

Check out the rest of the 2009 Back-to-School retail laptop and desktop roundup here.

 

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