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5 laptops from CES that will make you want a new one in 2015

With such a dizzying array of products being revealed, previewed and released at this year’s CES, it can difficult to wade through the horde and figure out what’s most worthy of your hard-earned cash. We’ve decided to cut through the noise and unveil our top five picks for the best portable PCs shown at the 2015 conference.

Acer Chromebook 15

Until recently, Chromebooks have been seen by the tech savvy as more of a “side-laptop” to the real thing. Something portable, light, and cheap that you bring with you when you need basic Web-browsing capabilities and not much more.

The Acer Chromebook 15 is here to change all that. Its large display makes it more appealing to mainstream users. This also means more room for a spacious keyboard and touchpad. Unlike others, this Chromebook is a model that can be used every day as a main machine — if you don’t mind Chrome OS, of course.

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There will be two flavors. One with a 1,366 x 768 display, a Broadwell Celeron processor, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. The second, higher end version sports a 1080p IPS panel, 4GB of RAM and a Core i3 processor. Pricing will start at $249 for the entry-level model, the price of the up-scale version has not been announced.

Alienware 15

Dell’s Alienware division has pumped out a fresh take on one of its most popular products, the Alienware 15.

While most of what you get with the 15 is similar to what its competitors offer (top-tier mobile graphics with the Nvidia GTX 980M, a fifth-generation Core processor, gobs of RAM) what really sets the 15 apart is the company’s Graphics Amplifier, an external bay that can support a single PCI Express graphics card up to 375 watts. We saw this originally with the Alienware 13, but now it’s available on larger laptops.

The Amplifier sits off to the side and adds desktop-level graphics capability to your mobile powerhouse. And you may need the extra grunt, because the all-new Alienware 15 is available with a 4K panel. Even the mighty GTX 980 struggles to handle Ultra HD.

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Users can easily unplug the Graphics Amplifier to get some fragging done on the road, which means that whenever you want to ramp up the texture quality you have that option waiting for you at home, but you can still get a great experience out in the world from the internal hardware alone.

The Alienware 15 is available immediately at a base price of $1,199. The 4K panel adds $200 to the configuration you choose.

Lenovo LaVie Z

The Lenovo LaVie Z is a notebook that’s hard to understand until you hold it. When the company gave us one to try we at first thought they’d mistakenly handed us an empty demo shell, but then the system turned on.

At just 1.72 pounds, the LaVie is far and away one of the lightest laptops ever to hit mainstream production. It makes the Samsung Ativ Book 9, Dell XPS 13, MacBook Air and other lightweight notebooks feel like sumo wrestlers by comparison. Yet it’s also capable, packing an Intel Core processor (rather than the less powerful Core M) and a battery that can deliver up to eight hours of life.

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The lower-end HZ550 model is a standard clamshell laptop (keyboard on the bottom, screen up front), while the upgraded HZ750 (with an optional Core i7) mimics the Lenovo Yoga, sporting a central hinge that converts the clamshell into a touchscreen-ready tablet. Unlike many competitors, though, the LaVie Z is actually light enough to comfortably use in tablet mode.

Lenovo estimates the HZ550 will sell for around $1,300 and the HZ750 will go for around $1,500, but final pricing may change before the anticipated May release.

Dell XPS 13

Bezels. Nobody likes to look at them, and everyone has been trying to figure out the best way to get rid of them since the dawn of flatscreen televisions.

Now, as devices like the HTC One, the Acer H236HL desktop monitor, and LG’s Cinema Class HDTVs have just about done away with them completely, laptops are the next in line to ditch the lip and blur the line between where your screen ends and the rest of the world behind it begins.

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The XPS 13 looks sleeker than any PC we’ve seen, and once you get a glimpse of its gorgeous 3,200 x 1,800 touch-capable screen, you’ll start to wonder how we ever lived with bezels in the first place. Underneath its hood the XPS is powered by a 5th-gen Core i series of processors (depending on your preferred build this can be anything from an i3 to an i7), 4GB or 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD.

The XPS 13 is ready for purchase today at only $799 for the Core i3 model, all the way up to $1899 for the Core i7 equipped with the QHD+ display.

Samsung ATIV Book Blade 9

Samsung has been making a big push to establish itself as a premier manufacturer of laptops over the past few years, and the new ATIV Book Blade 9 is a great example of how far it has come.

The Blade 9 weighs just a hair more than two pounds. While that’s not light enough to beat the LaVie Z, it’s still quiet svelte, and it strikes a solid balance between luxury and weight. The standard model will feature a spanking new Intel Core M-5Y10C processor, which helps the Blade achieve a spectacular 12.5 hours of battery life.

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Other features include a 256GB SSD, a 12.2-inch WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600) LED screen, and a pair of ear-busting 10-watt Dolby Surround Sound speakers to keep your music booming all throughout the workday.

We previewed the laptop earlier this week, and now that we’ve actually gotten our hands on it at the show, we’re confident the Book Blade 9 will be a hot contender in the Ultrabook market. Models start at $1,199.99 retail, and can be configured upwards from there to $1,400 with twice the RAM and storage.

Wrapping up

While there are plenty of other laptop options unveiled by the handful at CES 2015, we think these five are a few of the best.

Whether you’re looking for something that won’t weigh your briefcase down, a mobile gaming juggernaut, or just an inexpensive Web browsing machine, this year’s conference has showcased everything we wanted and more.