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The slim Lenovo Z series starts low, offers high-end options

A basic multimedia laptop starting under $600, with higher-end display, graphics, and storage upgrades.

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Dan Ackerman
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Dan Ackerman

Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming

Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times

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Lenovo

Semi-slim Windows 8 laptops at decent prices, say, under $700, are not that hard to find. But most feel too stripped-down, have cheap-feeling plastic bodies, or else compromise performance and features, leaving you feeling like you overpaid no matter the price.

Lenovo's lineup at CES 2014 (pictures)

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Starting at $599, the latest Lenovo Z-series laptops are the latest to attempt to thread that needle. The 14-inch Z40 and 15.6-inch Z50 are described by Lenovo as striking the "perfect balance between performance, colorful design, and affordability."

Lenovo

Options are plentiful, but will also drive up the price; they include processors up to Intel's current Core i7, Nvidia GeForce graphics, and full 1080p screens. Of course, a midsize laptop, no matter the price, should have a full 1,920x1,080 screen these days, so unless you want a 1,366x768 display, you'll probably get away from that $599 starting price quickly.

On the hefty side at 4 and 5 pounds, respectively, the Z40 and Z50 look and feel generic, but that's to be expected at these prices. The more gamer-friendly Y-series is more visually interesting, although the choice of black, sliver, and white in the lid color on the Z-series does add a little variety. Both the Z40 and Z50 will be available in March 2014.

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