Gift Guide: Lots of high-end laptops to pick from

BREE FOWLER AP Technology Writer Published:

NEW YORK (AP) -- Whether you're looking for something thin and light, or want a tablet that performs like a laptop, there's plenty to choose from if you're willing to spend a bit more for a high-end laptop computer.

Regardless of how much cash you have, you need to take into account the needs of the person you are shopping for. Is a super-sharp touch screen important? What about a fast processor? How much weight is the gift recipient willing to cart around?

This gift guide covers laptops with starting prices of more than $1,000, including a class of thin, light Windows laptops known as ultrabooks. If that's too pricey, check our earlier review of budget and mid-priced laptops at http://bit.ly/1bdUMXz . Prices listed are manufacturers' suggestions, and you can often shop around for deals.

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-- Dell Inc.'s XPS 12, starts at $1,000:

What sets this ultrabook apart from others is the way it converts into a tablet. Basically, you pop the screen out of its frame, flip it around and then close the laptop. The move puts the screen on the outside and the keyboard on the inside.

It's a quick and easy switch. But because the keyboard remains connected, you're not dropping any of its 3.4 pounds. While reasonable for a laptop, that's about triple the weight of many full-sized tablets currently on the market.

The XPS might be good for someone who needs a fairly powerful laptop for work, but still wants to kick back in bed without a keyboard getting in the way.

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-- Apple Inc.'s MacBook Pro, high-resolution, 13-inch version starts at $1,299:

There's no touch screen, something that Apple opposes in laptops, but it does offer nearly the same crystal-clear resolution as the latest iPads. The screen is among the best at this price.

And of course, there's no Windows 8, an operating system that some people find confusing to use. The MacBook uses Apple's Mac system and integrates well with other Apple products, including iPhones, iPads and Apple TVs.

Two price cuts this year totaling $400 brings the 13-inch model to $1,299, just $200 more than the less-powerful MacBook Air of that size. For the 15-inch version, you'll be paying at least $1,999.

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-- Sony Corp.'s Vaio Pro 13, starts at $1,250:

The Vaio is exceptionally thin when closed and weighs about 2.3 pounds, making it the lightest 13-inch model I tested. Part of that comes from its carbon-fiber construction, which improves durability while reducing weight. But it also made the laptop feel cheap and plastic-like.

The small size also comes with sacrifices. Sony says battery life is up to 6.5 hours, considerably less than other laptops at this price.

This might be good for someone who wants to get work done on the road while traveling light. You can save $100 by going with an 11-inch model.

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-- Lenovo Group Ltd.'s Yoga 2 Pro, starts at $1,199:

Like its name implies, the Yoga is very flexible.

Besides the traditional laptop mode, you can bend its 13-inch screen all the way back to close it, so the screen is on the front and the keyboard is exposed on the back. In that configuration, it works like a tablet.

You can also bend it into a triangle, laying one edge on a flat surface and having the display angled like a tent. This lets you use it as a tablet, but keep it upright. It's particularly helpful when you're crunched for space.

Or, you can flip it almost all the way around, so that the keyboard is on the bottom and the screen leans back at whatever angle you like. That's good for watching videos while kicking back on the couch or in bed.

The laptop itself feels thin, light and relatively sturdy. Although it weighs more than the Sony Vaio, it's slightly thinner. The rubber edges that give the laptop traction when it's in tent mode are a nice touch.

And if you want your laptop to stand out, the Yoga comes in orange besides the more traditional silver and gray combination.

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-- Samsung Electronic Co.'s ATIV Book 9 Plus, starts at $1,400:

This was one of the more beautiful laptops I looked at. From its metal construction to its high-definition touch screen, it screams elegance and class.

The laptop is super thin, at 0.54 inches thick, but weighs just over 3 pounds, similar to several others I tested. It feels heavy relative to its compact size.

Battery life clocked in at 7.5 hours, considerably less than other laptops at that price. But the trade-off is a super-sharp screen that offers a higher resolution than the MacBook Pro, which already has among the best displays at that price.

You might like this if you want to impress the other mobile workers at the coffee house, don't want a lot of bulk and don't feel the need to replace your tablets.

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--Microsoft Surface 2 Pro, starts at $899, cover with movable keys brings it to $1,029.

Ok, so this isn't actually a laptop, but it does a lot of the same work without the bulk of one.

The Surface Pro 2 is a more powerful version of Microsoft's Surface 2 tablet, and the company is pushing both as replacements for laptops. Just like a PC laptop, it runs Windows 8 and gives you access to all the Microsoft Office programs.

This tablet's kickstand has been redesigned to include two positions -- important because that now makes it practical to actually use on your lap. You're better off paying the extra $10 for the $130 Type Cover 2; the keys on the Touch Cover 2 don't move and are harder to use.

Looking for something cheaper? The $449 Surface 2 runs a lightweight version of Windows 8.1 called RT. But that tablet works only with apps designed specifically for it, not the broader pool of programs available for Windows PCs.

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Follow Bree Fowler on Twitter at http://twitter.com/APBreeFowler

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Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/gift-guide-plenty-laptops-even-budgets