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In five years, the back-to-school laptop could very well be dead. By then, perhaps we’ll all be using three-in-one phone-tablet-PCs, or else using virtual reality to take notes directly on our desks.

In the meantime, however, you still need a laptop if you want to succeed in school, and at SpecOut, we’re determined to match you with the best machines available. We started with over 600 current models, held three mock debates, threw four college parties and finally wound up with five finalists—each selected specifically for one type of student. Let’s run it down.

1. The Apple Pick: 13-inch MacBook Air 2015 – $999

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In 2015, you’re either a passionate Apple fan or a firm Apple avoider, with no in between. This category is for the Mac loyalists.

You could go with the flashy new MacBook, complete with its razor-thin profile and optional gold body finish. And at 2.03 pounds, Apple’s latest laptop will weigh less than your cafeteria tray. In the end, however, we can’t recommend the model. You’ll still want multiple USB ports for charging your phone on the go (the MacBook has just one), and the ultra-thin keyboard will grate by your third argumentative essay.

Instead, grab the 13-inch MacBook Air. At $999, it’s still one of Apple’s cheaper laptops, and you’ll love the 12-hour battery life when you need to pull an all-nighter on a term paper. The 11-inch Air might be tempting at $899, but the extra battery and screen space on the 13-inch is well worth the $100.

Finally, why not grab a Macbook Pro? Unless you’re majoring in computer science, you don’t need all that power, and you can match the Pro’s specs in a much cheaper machine (see below). To repeat: if you go Apple, get the 13-inch Air.

2. The Value Pick: Acer Chromebook 13 – $369

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Critics dismissed the ultra-cheap, low-storage Chromebooks when they first hit the market in 2011, but with the proliferation of Wi-Fi and the constant expansion of Google services, the Chromebook is now our favorite low-cost choice—and the critics are finally coming around too.

For the uninitiated, Chromebooks come with little-to-no actual storage, and rely almost exclusively on Google Apps like Gmail, Docs, Sheets, Maps and Chrome. All of your papers are stored in Google’s cloud, and you need to be connected to the Internet to do most of your work.

But all these limitations bring down the price tremendously, allowing you to own a sleek, Google-approved computer for less than $400. And really, who is using laptops without the Internet anyway?

Among the dozens of Chromebook options, we like the Acer Chromebook 13. The laptop has plenty of battery life (13 hours), a sharp screen and enough power to compete with its twice-as-expensive competitors.

3. The All-Around Windows Pick: Dell XPS 13 (2015) – $800

With Windows 10 getting dynamite reviews, some students will prefer a high-performance Windows laptop. Our pick is the Dell XPS 13. Classified as an “ultrabook,” the laptop is thin, light and easy to use, while still packing solid specs and reliable performance.

By the numbers, you’ll outclass your Apple-owning friends, but you’ll pay at least $200 less. Add in 15 hours of battery life, and this is one of the best sub-$900 laptops you can buy.

4. The Laptop-Tablet Hybrid Pick: Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro 2-in-1 – $999

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For students who want the best features of a laptop and tablet, all in one, we like the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro. Take notes directly on the screen, then flip to laptop mode to write the paper back at your house or dorm. With a 2-in-1, you’re also betting on the future—the industry seems to be headed to a world where multiple devices merge into one.

But why not grab the heavily marketed Surface Pro 3? We like Microsoft’s 2-in-1 as well, but we’ve found the Yoga 3 Pro features a slightly crisper display, just enough to edge out its famous rival. The two products are also similarly priced at comparable spec points, so cost is a wash. Go Yoga.

5. The Gamer’s Pick: MSI GE70 – $1,199

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If you’re a truly serious PC gamer, no doubt you know exactly what you want, so a recommendation here isn’t necessary. But for the casual gamer—the student who wants to play a little League of Legends or DOTA 2 on the weekends—the MSI GE70 is an excellent value pick. No, it won’t match up with top-tier rigs from Alienware, Gigabyte or Razer, but you’ll be getting 90% of the machine at half the price. If nothing else, you’ll be able to run Minecraft as smooth as butter.

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