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The Best Mainstream Laptops: Holiday 2009 Edition

written by: M.S. Smith•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 11/23/2009

Mainstream laptops are becoming ever thinner and lighter. As a result, the selection of great mainstream laptops is better for the 2009 holiday season then ever before. The three laptops here are among the best mainstream laptops and are good gifts for students and travellers.

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    The Present that Travels

    Laptops, while somewhat expensive, are always a great gift. They are particularly good for students, people who travel frequently, and anyone who enjoys spending a Saturday afternoon in their local coffee house. There are thousands of laptops available, but due to the complexity of laptops, a surprising number of them are not that hot. This laptop guide picks out three laptops which are sure to be a hit.

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    Lenovo T400s

    The Lenovo T400s has classic Lenovo build quality When it comes to heritage, the Lenovo T400 has it in spades. Perhaps no other line of laptops has lasted as long and has been as iconic as the Thinkpad laptops. The T series has always been the flagship Thinkpad. They are thin-and-light, and the T400s is the best T series laptop yet. The base T400s has a 14.1 inch display with a resolution of 1440 x 900, 2.4Ghz Core 2 Duo processor, and weighs a hair under 4 pounds.

    More importantly, the T400s has the famous durability of the Thinkpad series. The keyboard gives great feedback and doesn't feel at all flimsy, a common problem with light laptops. The T400s also includes trackpoint, an alternative pointing device used in the Thinkpad line. It isn't for everyone, but some will find it to be a wonderful addition. But that's just the start. Opt for the 9 cell battery and you'll have battery life better then most netbooks. A multi-touch screen is available for those who want touch functionality, and SSD upgrades are available.

    The T400s isn't the best looking laptop and at a base price around $1500 dollars, it isn't the cheapest either. But for those who want a durable, capable laptop with a great keyboard the T400s is heaven.

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    ASUS UL30A

    Netbooks are great, but for many their performance and small keyboard size can be an issue. This has spurred the release of new ultraportable laptops which come in above the traditional price of netbooks but are less then traditional full-fledged ultraportables, and the ASUS UL30A is the best example of this new breed of machines.

    The ASUS UL30A is powered by a 1.3Ghz Core 2 Duo low-voltage processor. This processor is key, because it provides much better performance then an Atom processor but is almost as miserly when it comes to sucking battery. As a result, the ASUS UL30A has a battery life of up to 7 hours with the 8 cell battery.

    It isn't as if they're skimping in other areas, either. The UL30A also has a 500GB hard drive, a 13.3 inch screen, and 4GB of RAM. Its build quality isn't the best, but is acceptable considering its price of $829. And if you shop for holiday deals I'll bet you can grab one for a good bit cheaper then that.

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    ASUS G51Vx

    The ASUS G51Vx looks like a gamer's machine without being tacky Rounding up this list we have the ASUS G51, a powerful gaming laptop. The specifications are instantly impressive, with lots of numbers and letters arranged in a fashion that brings up images of fast cars and machine guns. Its 2.53Ghz Core 2 Duo is supported by a Geforce GTX 260M GPU, 4GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive. Its screen is a 15.6" model with a massive resolution of 1920 x 1080.

    If that doesn't impress you, perhaps the price of about $1300 dollars will. It is hard to find a gaming laptop at all at this price, much less one as well equipped as the G51Vx. Of course, if money is no object, ASUS offers a host of versions with even beefier hardware and appropriately beefy price tags. No matter which you choose, however, you'll receive the same subtle but attractive exterior, a good keyboard, and a beautiful screen. Just be careful if you intend to lug this around often, as, at a weight of 7 pounds, it can become a bit of a bear.