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Sony Vaio Fit series
Sony is known for selling premium notebooks, but the Vaio Fit, and the even cheaper Fit E, makes a nod towards those who want to spend less than a grand on a new laptop. You're still stuck with Intel's third-generation Core processors (a.k.a. Ivy Bridge), but they are capable Core i5 or i7 chips. For $749, you can get a Fit 14 with a 1,600x900 touchscreen, 4GB of RAM, 500GB hard drive and 8GB of solid-state memory to speed up booting times. The Fit 15 is similarly configured, but for $50 more you get a 15.5-inch full HD screen (1,920x1,080). You also get a choice of black, silver, or pink chassis options (the pink is Fit 14 only). The Fit E models are a couple of hundred dollars cheaper, but base configurations lack touchscreens, include slower processors, and don't include the hybrid storage option.
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11S
Plenty of students will already have tablets, but for those who don't and who want to kill two birds with one device, the Yoga 11S may fit the bill. Quickly replacing the Yoga 11 that ran Windows RT and used an ARM processor, the 11S offers a full version of Windows 8 and features Ivy Bridge CPUs instead. It still retains the ability to flip between tablet and laptop modes, however, and at a starting price of $749, is probably a better deal than purchasing a Windows 8 tablet and laptop separately. You get basic notebook components like a Core i3-3229Y processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB solid-state drive, but the touchscreen and 11.6-inch display let you get the most out of the tablet-friendly Windows 8 start screen.
Asus VivoBook V551LB-DB71T
If that summer job paid off a little better than expected, the Asus VivoBook V551LB-DB71T could be worth the splurge. For about a grand, you'll get a laptop that packs more power than a budget portable, from the Core i7-4500U Haswell processor and 8GB of RAM to the terabyte hard drive and Nvidia GeForce G740 discrete graphics card. The 1,366x768 resolution on the 15.6-inch screen is a little disappointing, but you can make use of the touchscreen features of Windows 8 with the display. Students looking more for a desktop replacement than a cheap laptop will appreciate the VivoBook's full features, without being weighed down too much thanks to it tipping the scale at just 5.3 pounds.