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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.
Apple MacBook Air
You can't have a back-to-school laptop roundup without mentioning Apple. Detractors have long complained that you'll pay more than a similarly configured Windows notebook for the right to own a MacBook, but that hasn't stopped it from remaining the leading brand among students. While deep-pocketed power users will consider the MacBook Pro, most buyers (and their bank accounts) will be satisfied with the MacBook Air, which has recently received its Haswell processor upgrade. For $999, you'll get the 11-inch Air with double the amount of solid-state storage as last year (up to 128GB), while you'll pay a starting price of $1,099 for a 13-inch version. (You'll double the SSD capacity of either for an additional $200.) Note that those prices are before any educational discount you can score as a student (or teacher), which makes the high prices a little more tolerable.