Millions of laptops are wrapped and tucked under Christmas trees, but just as many are sitting in digital shopping carts or on a wish list as many consumers are waiting to see what the gift cards hold and if Santa delivers one more price drop before his big day.

For those last-minute shoppers and post-holiday shopping scouts, the last quarter of 2014 has seen the refresh and initial launch of value-packed laptops on every feature tier.

Yes, laptops from a year ago rival and even best many that have been recently released. But for the sake of making this roundup easy to digest, the focus rests upon laptops released in the fall of 2014.

Instead of listing some of the best laptops in a set of categories, this roundup will pit rivals against one another for a market perspective.


Because Chromebooks don't offer the full laptop experience that many users want and need, we're comparing products that make the most of what these Chrome-powered devices boast: value. Beyond $300, a Chromebook essentially loses its pricing value and a Windows-powered device becomes more sensible.

First up in Chromebook territory are two options selling for about $229. The hardware inside the Samsung Chromebook 2 and Acer 13 Chromebook are only on par in RAM and solid-state storage space: 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage space.

The Acer and its 13-inch monitor beats out the Samsung's 11.6-inch display. The Acer boasts a full HD display and Nvidia Tegra graphics processing power to back it up, making it more ideal for gaming and watching high-resolution video. In contrast, the Samsung's display is 720p.

Winner: Acer 13 CB5-311-T9B0

Business Laptops

A mere $50 separates the retail prices of the $579 HP 17-f113dx Pavilion and the cheaper Lenovo Z50. Above the 14-inch size of display, the user experience all comes down to comfort. The Lenovo has a 15.6-inch display output boasting a resolution of 1366 x 768, while the 17-inch pixel output scales up to put out a robust 1600 x 900.

The HP has 4 GB of RAM and is powered by an Intel i5-4210U 2.7GHz, dual-core processor, while the Lenovo has 8 GB of RAM and rocks a Kaveri A10-7300 quad-core CPU that's clocked at 1.9 GHz. When benchmarked for performance, the processors end up in a tie.

For storage space, the Lenovo has 500 GB and the HP has 750 GB. With the HP holding the edge in storage space and the Lenovo getting a leg up with RAM, temporary memory rules the day for business users as RAM installations are simple, but 128-GB flash drives and memory cards are even easier to plug in.

Winner: Lenovo Z50


The last pair of contenders pits the $1,200 MSI Computer GE60 APACHE-629 against the $1,294 Acer Aspire V17 Nitro Black Edition. Both laptops deliver full HD, though the Acer bears a 17.3-inch display and the MSI has a 15.6-inch screen -- as mentioned above, this plays into comfort.

The MSI goes the traditional route in terms of storage, as it includes 8 GB of RAM and 1 TB of hard disk space. The Acer looks beyond gaming to media production tasks, boasting 12 GB of RAM and 128 GB of solid state drive space.

Both laptops are powered by a Core i7 4710HQ 2.5 GHz, quad-core processor and Nvidia GPUs. The Acer steps out in front with its GTX 860m, which is noticeably more powerful than the MSI's 850m.

Winner: Acer Aspire V17 Nitro Black Edition

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