Samsung Series 9 (NP900X3A)

samsung_series_9_817925_g2Samsung’s Series 9 laptop isn’t the first Windows-bearing PC to try to steal Apple’s MacBook Air limelight. Remember the troubled Adamo from Dell, set to compete with the first-generation Air? At less than three pounds and 0.7 inch thick, the Series 9 is trying again where Dell slipped up the first time. While the Adamo offered inferior hardware at a dramatically higher price than Apple, Samsung at least gets the hardware part right, and narrows the price gap a little. The Series 9 is costlier than the competing 13-inch MacBook Air with a starting price of $1649 (compared with Apple’s $1299), but it offers mostly superior hardware and is eminently usable.
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Asus U41JF-A1

Asus-U41JF-A1The key to any successful mainstream laptop is to compliment blazingly fast parts with a battery large enough to handle them. There are a few that can strike this tough balance, including the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch ($1,199 direct, 4 stars) and Samsung QX410-J01 ($829.99 street, 4 stars). The Asus U45Jc-A1 ($867 street, 4.5 stars) mainstream laptop knocks it out of the ballpark in terms of performance and battery life, with over 10 hours of battery, and a good CPU and GPU combo. Now meet its successor, the Asus U41JF-A1 ($857 street). The U41JF-A1 has the biggest battery in the mainstream category, only this time it’s paired with the highest-clocked Core i3 processor available and an Nvidia’s GeForce 425M graphics chip. While its 8 hours of battery life wasn’t as impressive as the U45Jc-A1, it still beats the socks off of any of its rivals. Thus, the U41Jc-A1 takes over as the new Editors’ Choice and has made it on our list of best laptops.
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Barnes & Noble Nook Color

barnes-and-noble-nook-colorEver since the ebook reader boom began, consumers have been begging for color displays. Now Barnes & Noble has released the Nook Color ($249 direct) with a 7-inch color LCD display to satisfy this need. Color screens look amazing but these devices, the Nook Color included, come with trade-offs. Does color affect the battery life? You bet it does. And although the device runs Android and can handle some third-party apps, don’t expect the functionality of a full-fledged tablet computer like the Apple iPad ($499 to $829, 4.5 stars) or the Samsung Galaxy Tab ($399-$599, 3.5 stars). Nonetheless, if you are looking for a full-color reading experience that makes the most of graphic media like magazines and children’s books, the Nook Color delivers. And that makes it our Editors’ Choice for color ebook readers.
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