Finally, for consumers with a bigger budget, the Dell Studio 14z sells for $749, part of Best Buy's Next Class line that comes with included virus protection and Microsoft Office Home and Student.
The PC is very thin, in part because it does not have a built-in DVD drive. However, Spoonauer said students might not miss that feature.
"They don't necessarily need a DVD drive for installing software or watching movies," he said. "They're getting a lot of that online, so you save weight and this particular system actually lasts a long time on a charge. We're talking about over five hours with is pretty good for something with a 14-inch display."
Plus, he pointed out, an optional Nvidia GeForce 9400M card can enable students to perform tasks like editing video.
The pros earned the laptop the tag of "Editor's Choice" from the magazine, but it is not without its cons. The magazine cited "mushy" touchpad buttons and the need for an adapter to use memory cards as two of the laptop's disadvantages.