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Dell Inspiron R series
It may not be as cheap as Dell's basic Inspiron line, but the Inspiron R series still starts at an affordable $599.99, and, unlike the Inspiron 15 and 17, offers Haswell processor options. It also features a 14-inch model (the 14R), which doesn't include a number pad like its bigger 15R and 17R siblings, but still has an optical drive in case you still use DVDs. (We'll assume most students view music CDs as ancient artifacts.) The 14R and 15R flavors include a touchscreen option, while the base configurations for the 15R and 17R include 6GB of RAM instead of the usual 4GB.
Toshiba Satellite P55t-A5202
The Satellite P55t-A5202 is part of Best Buy's "Premium Collection," but at $779.99, it doesn't have a premium price. You'll get a solid mainstream laptop for that amount: 15.6-inch 1,920x1,080 touchscreen, 8GB of RAM, 750GB hard drive, Intel Core i5-4200U Haswell processor, and DVD burner. You also get such niceties as Harmon Kardon speakers, a brushed aluminum lid, and even Nuance Dragon Assistant voice recognition software when you're too lazy to control your computer by using your hands.
Acer Aspire M5-583P-6428
Another Best Buy exclusive, the Aspire M5 might lack some of the Toshiba's sex appeal, but it includes similar specs and a cheaper price tag. The $649.99 configuration includes a 15.6-inch touchscreen, Core i5-4200U Haswell processor, 8GB of RAM, and 500GB hard drive, though it lacks an optical drive. But that helps keep the Aspire M5 fairly svelte at 5.3 pounds and under an inch thick. Media-friendly features include four speakers, Dolby Home Theater v4 technology, and Acer Purified.Voice processing that helps ensure that your video chats sound their best, whether students are chatting with old friends or their family.