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Six trendsetting PCs that set the bar in 2014

We've rounded up a half dozen laptops, desktops, tablets and hybrids that showcase some of the amazing leaps -- and a few of the disappointments -- that the PC market delivered in 2014.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The might be a year best summed up by the phrase, "There's just one small problem..." In 2014, we saw some groundbreaking PCs, in both mobile and desktop systems, but each step forward was saddled with a flaw or two that, if not fatal, at least dampened our enthusiasm somewhat.

Among the highlights were a shiny new version of OS X , the first Intel Core M products, and an improved wave of Chromebooks. Indeed, the combination of better hardware and the Chrome OS have made Google's upstart laptops a viable option -- so much so that Microsoft and PC vendors have responded with credible full Windows machines that hit that same $200 barrier. But with the full version of Intel's next-gen Broadwell chip and Windows 10 not hitting until the calendar turns, 2014 had a "wait til next year" vibe to it.

Below you'll find the most notable computers of the year -- warts and all -- from the superslim Lenovo Yoga 3 to the stunning new 5K iMac. But, this was also a year without a singular "must-buy" PC, which means you'll have to really do your homework (or read our reviews) to find the right machine for you.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro

With a thin watchband-like 360-degree hinge, this lightweight hybrid was a serious contender for our favorite mobile PC of the year. But the brand new Intel Core M platform inside it led to unimpressive performance and downright disappointing battery life. That said, it still looks and feels great. Read the full review of the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro .

Sarah Tew/CNET

Alienware Alpha

After nearly one year of previews, this console-like mini desktop PC finally shipped -- albeit without the Steam OS, which has been delayed into 2015. It really did make it easy to play PC games on a TV, but the low-end specs may not age well, and console-style interface needs some work. Read the full review of the Alienware Alpha .


Apple iMac with 5K Retina display (27-inch)

Anyone looking for bold new MacBook or iMac designs from Apple this year (or last year) will be disappointed, but the internal upgrade to a bold 5K (as in 5,120x2,880) display on the high-end 27-inch iMac is stunning to see, especially close up. The downside is that unless you're editing 4K video and have a big budget, it's a purchase that's hard to justify. Read the full review of the 5K iMac .

Sarah Tew/CNET

Toshiba Chromebook 2

At first, 2013 seemed like the year of the Chromebook. Now it looks like 2014 is actually when these small, low-cost, online-only laptops finally came into their own, with value-packed models such as this 11-inch from Toshiba with a full HD display. Read the full review of the Toshiba Chromebook 2 .

Sarah Tew/CNET

HP Stream 11

One of the more pleasant surprises this year, the $199 11-inch HP Stream, a full Windows PC that's priced like a Chromebook, was decently constructed and ran for eight hours on our tough battery test. Sure, it won't do much more than surf the Web, but it exceeded our modest expectations by a lot. Read the full review of the HP Stream 11 .

Sarah Tew/CNET

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

After being fairly skeptical about the first and second generations of Microsoft's laptop/tablet hybrid, the third model scores by upgrading to a higher-resolution screen and slimmer body with an adjustable kickstand. The design is so flexible, it works nearly everywhere (except in your lap). Read the full review of the Surface Pro 3 .