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Sony, $749

★★★★ Sony’s lat­est ver­sion of the YB note­book is a solid work­horse. It’s about the same size as a MacBook Air, at 11.6-inches, but with a full-sized key­board. The new YB runs an AMD pro­ces­sor that adds a graph­ics pro­ces­sor which turbo-charges its per­for­mance — es­pe­cially when play­ing videos — and uses much less power. Ex­pect to get about six hours, which is great con­sid­er­ing its screen size and 1.6GHz grunt. Its fit and fin­ish is also im­pres­sive and the ad­di­tion of 64-bit Win­dows 7 helps. The YB takes a lot of its style cues from the Air — in­clud­ing the black matte keys on full-sized key­board — but while its size is com­pa­ra­ble, its bat­tery life is longer. Add that to the $450 cheaper pric­etag and this might be the best back-to-school lap­top in the group.

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