Alienware M11x (Core i7, Optimus)

Editors' rating: 4 out of 5

The good: Solid gaming performance in a very compact form; improves on the original Core 2 Duo version; automatic Nvidia Optimus graphics switching; impressive built-in audio.

The bad: The Core i7 ULV processor is still slower than normal Core i7 processors; higher-end configs get too expensive; no optical drive for installing games.

The bottom line: Equipped with Nvidia Optimus technology and new Core i5 and i7 processors, the updated 11.6-inch Alienware M11x has improved performance, but it takes a small step forward, not a quantum leap.

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Price: $1,099

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Asus EeePC 1215N

Editors' rating: 4 out of 5

The good: Includes Intel's dual-core Atom CPU, plus Nvidia Ion graphics and Optimus graphic-switching technology; good game and video playback performance.

The bad: Other low-cost ultraportables with AMD's dual-core Neo are faster; flimsy keyboard; stiff mouse buttons.

The bottom line: The Asus Eee PC 1215N combines Intel's dual-core Atom CPU with Nvidia Ion graphics and Optimus GPU-switching for an impressive overall package, but one that still feels a bit too much like a Netbook.

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Price: $499.99

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Asus U33Jc-A1 (bamboo)

Editors' rating: 4 out of 5

The good: Beautiful bamboo design; includes USB 3.0; Intel Wireless Display; switchable discrete graphics.

The bad: No optical drive; Intel Wireless Display and Nvidia GPU can't be used at the same time.

The bottom line: A welcome change of pace from the usual glossy plastic and brushed-metal laptop styles, the bamboo-clad Asus U33Jc-A1 looks great and also packs in some very useful technology.

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Price: $958-$999

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Toshiba Satellite M645-S4055

Editors' rating: 3.5 out of 5

The good: Nvidia Optimus graphics; great Harman Kardon speakers.

The bad: Underwhelming battery life; no Blu-ray.

The bottom line: The Toshiba Satellite M645-S4055 has a great combination of audio/video quality and fast graphics, but its short battery life compromises the equation on what's otherwise a rock-solid midrange laptop.

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Price range: $965-$1,132.99

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Gateway ID49C08u

Editors' rating: 3.5 out of 5

The good: Slim design; automatic GPU switching; Core i5 processor; good graphics performance.

The bad: Short battery life; flimsy keyboard; poorly designed touch pad.

The bottom line: The Gateway ID49C08 combines speedy Core i5 performance and automatic-switching Nvidia graphics in a small package at a reasonable price, but several small annoyances take away from the experience.

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Price: $849

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Asus N82Jv-X1

Editors' rating: 3 out of 5

The good: Above-average Nvidia graphics; fast Core i5 processor; USB 3.0 port.

The bad: Poor battery life; quirky multitouch touch pad; confusing energy-saving settings.

The bottom line: For $999, Asus' graphics-boosted 14-inch laptop lacks battery power, and has few distinguishing features that push it over similarly priced (or less expensive) alternatives.

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Price: $999

Photo by: Sarah Tew/CNET

Asus UL80JT

Editors' rating: 3 out of 5

The good: Nvidia Optimus switchable graphics; slim design.

The bad: Weak battery life; low-voltage Core i3 processor is slower than other Core i3 laptops; too much keyboard flex.

The bottom line: A thin design and Nvidia Optimus automatic-switching graphics make the Asus UL80JT-A1 an initially appealing laptop, but looks can be misleading: the underwhelming CPU and battery life are both serious negatives.

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Price range: $834-$899

Photo by: Sarah Tew/CNET

Asus UL80J-BBK5

Editors' rating: 3 out of 5

The good: Good graphics performance; slim design.

The bad: Weak battery life; low-voltage Core i3 processor is slower than other Core i3 laptops; too much keyboard flex.

The bottom line: The thin design and Nvidia Optimus automatic graphics switching on the Asus UL80J-BBK5 are appealing, but the underperforming CPU and battery life on this compact 14-incher are disappointments.

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Price: $749

Photo by: Sarah Tew / CBS Interactive

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