Last-minute laptop shopping guide: On a budget

There's no shortage of laptop computers to pick from this holiday season, even for shoppers on tight budgets.
By BREE FOWLER Published: December 23, 2013
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There's no shortage of laptop computers to pick from this holiday season, even for shoppers on tight budgets.

A Chromebook optimized to run Google's Internet services can be bought for as little as $200, while a few hundred dollars more gets you a laptop that's not so dependent on having a continuous online connection.

Although smartphones and tablet computers get much of the attention these days, laptops are still more desirable for people who do a lot of typing or other heavy-duty tasks such as photo editing.

This gift guide covers budget and midpriced laptops with starting prices of less than $1,000.

If you're willing to spend more, you can get laptops that are lighter and more powerful.

Google Chromebooks

The nicest things about these laptops are their small size and low price. But they also offer little functionality. Instead of Windows or Mac OS, the computers run Google's Chrome OS software. That gives you access to services such as Gmail, Google Maps and Google Docs, along with Google's players for music and video. You can download other apps from Google and other companies, but there aren't a lot to choose from. And while some functions work offline, the computers are really meant for online use. Forget about a fancy processor. Storage capacity is minimal, too. Most of the processing and storage is done over the Internet. A 14-inch version is available, starting at $299.

Midpriced laptops

Dell Inc.'s Inspiron 14 7000, starts at $850:

Made of forged aluminum, these laptops are durable. The 14-inch version is considerably thinner than past models, at just over a half-inch. But it's not particularly light, starting at 4.4 pounds. Windows 8 runs well on the Inspiron's high-definition touch screen. Options with larger screens and faster processors are available.

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