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Laptops

IBM's Lenovo ThinkPad SL410 ($579.99, Best Buy): This computer is ideal for the business traveler. Specs: Intel Centrino Processor, 4GB RAM, 320 GB hard drive, 14-inch screen.

Toshiba's Satellite T135-S1309 ($529.99, Best Buy): This computer is an all-purpose good buy for the price. Specs: Intel Pentium Processor, 3GB RAM, 320 GB hard drive, 13.3-inch screen and up to nine hours of battery life.

Asus K50IJ-RX05 ($479.99, Best Buy): Similar to the Toshiba laptop, this is a budget-friendly all-purpose computer that has all the basics for the everyday user, except this device has a larger screen. Specs: Intel Pentium Processor, 3 GB RAM, 320 GB hard drive, 15.6-inch screen, battery life up to three hours.

Dell Inspiron 4Z ($479.99, Best Buy): Generally, Dell computers are well built and reliable. This one is ideal for students and is easy to use and portable. Specs: Intel Pentium Processor, 3 GB RAM, 250 GB hard drive, 15.6-inch screen, battery life up to four hours.

Apple MacBook Pro (starts at $1,199, Apple.com): This is a more expensive option, but worth the splurge. While the memory is low, you can add memory to the computer for less than $100. Specs: Intel Core 2 Duo, 2GB RAM, 160 GB, 13.3-inch screen.


Netbooks

Dell Inspiron Mini ($349, Best Buy): This is a popular option for casual computing. Specs: Intel Atom Processor, 1 GB RAM, 160 GB hard drive, 10.1-inch screen.

HP Mini 311 ($399, Best Buy): While this is a netbook, this device has the graphics and resolution of a laptop computer. Specs: Intel Atom Processor, 1 GB RAM, 160 GB hard drive, 11.6-inch screen.

Asus Eee PC ($329, Best Buy): This is a less-expensive option on the netbook market but offers much of the same features and speed as its higher priced competitors. Specs: Intel Atom Processor, 1 GB RAM, 250 GB hard drive 10.1-inch screen.


Desktops

HP TouchSmart ($899, Best Buy): This desktop is extremely portable, yet has the hard drive, and all internal components of the computer are built within the screen. The screen is also touch enabled, similar to the technology you use on an iPhone. This is a high-powered desktop PC that is ideal for digital media (photos, videos) editing and viewing. Specs: AMD Athlon, 4 GB RAM, 500 GB hard drive, 20-inch screen.

Apple 27 inch iMac ($1,699, Apple.com): This is a splurge, but well worth it. The 27-inch computer is extremely fast and has a enormous high-resolution screen. Similar to the HP TouchSmart, the computer is a space saver and only requires the screen and a keyboard. Apple also offers a 21.5-inch sibling that is priced at $1,199. Specs: Intel Core 2 Processor, 4 GB RAM, 500 GB hard drive, 27-inch screen.


Tips to Help You Choose

While there are plenty of online electronics sites that offer great deals on computers, it can be helpful to see, touch and feel your options at an electronics store. I would advise that you take a trip to your local electronics or Apple store to visualize your options. Make sure to lift the laptop or netbook to gauge its weight. Play around with the touchpad on the computer to see how comfortable you are with its technology. And for all computers, remember that it's important to buy or download security software to protect your devices from viruses.

As you can see, buying a computer involves a series of decisions. But once you evaluate your needs, the process can be fairly simple and, might I dare say, enjoyable! By keeping these factors and considerations in mind, you can avoid some of the frustration and confusion that accompanies finding the computer that is perfect for you. And at the end of the day, buying a laptop, desktop or netbook device is an exciting decision, and with the proper knowledge, you can find one that not only improves your productivity, but hopefully empowers you to live your best life.


Leena Rao is a writer and blogger at technology news site TechCrunch. Prior to her career as a technology reporter, Leena attended Northwestern University's Graduate School of Journalism and served as a legislative aide for a U.S. Congresswoman. She lives in Chicago with her husband and an assortment of gadgets and laptops.

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