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Laptops

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.

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.

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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