These affordable models are fast and efficient--and they've got extra features to boot. Time for an upgrade perhaps?--John Brandon
This 14-inch ultrabook is priced to sell at $899. It has a 1.8GHz Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 64GB solid state drive. For a cordless set-up, add add the Dell D5000 wireless dock ($189 with the laptop) and the Dell 1601 WiGig card ($37.50). That way, you can connect the ultrabook to your keyboard, mouse, and monitor wirelessly. To re-connect and use the dock, which also has three USB ports, you just need to be in the same room.
For $1449, the Chromebook Pixel is not exactly entry-level. But it has several unique features that will appeal to business users. The 13-inch touch notebook has an Intel Core i5 1.8GHz processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 64GB solid state drive. The biggest surprise: With a screen resolution of 2560 x 1700 or 239 pixels per inch, the Pixel has the sharpest screen I've ever seen. The laptop includes 1TB of cloud storage for free for three years, plus 12 free GoGo Inflight wireless sessions for your next trip. Google also offers a version of the Pixel that does not have Verizon LTE for $1299.
The 12-inch EliteBook 2170p, priced at $999, packs quite a bit of punch into a small package. The entry-level version uses an Intel Core i3 1.8GHz processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB drive. At 2.9-pounds, this is the one of the smallest and lightest notebooks around. While the EliteBook 2170p feels more like an old-school netbook, it has a speedy processor that's suitable for business apps and Adobe Photoshop. The killer feature: The 2170p is rugged, so it can withstand short drops and dings.
The 14-inch ThinkPad T431s, priced at $949, is a classic business notebook with a unique, innovative trackpad. For business users, the basic design remains unchanged--there's even the same red pointer you can use to control the mouse. But the trackpad now lets you swipe, click, and make gestures unlike previous Lenovo models. And, the T431s has carbon fiber reinforcements to make the notebook business-rugged enough to withstands bumps, bruises, and short drops. The base model uses an Intel Core i5 1.8GHz, 4GB of RAM, and 500GB hard disk drive but you can max out with an Intel Core i7, 12GB of RAM and a 1TB hard disk drive or a 256GB solid state drive.
At $749 for the base model, the 15-inch Asus S500 is the lowest priced notebook of the bunch. It has an Intel Core i5 1.7GHz processor, 6GB of RAM, and both a 500GB hard disk drive and 24GB solid state drive. The most unique feature is called Super Hybrid Engine, a technology that manages power and performance. For example, the notebook can resume almost instantly from standby mode. Like the Chromebook Pixel, the S550 comes with free cloud storage for three years--but it's only 32GB.