Just in time for the holidays, a slew of new Windows 8 Ultrabooks has arrived to make your shopping list all the more difficult. Not only must you settle on a screen size, you also have touch-enabled machines to consider -- and don't forget those Atom-powered hybrids, which pull double duty as standalone slates and full-fledged laptops. The deliberations may be endless, but we've whittled down the playing field to some prime contenders. Just hold your horses -- some of these slick machines are drumming up extra anticipation with release dates well into the holiday shopping season.
Low-end / mid-range

Sony VAIO T13

The T13 Ultrabook has been around for some time now, but it still stands out for its many configuration options and robust spec list -- including a Core i5 Ivy Bridge CPU, a 500GB hybrid hard drive with 4GB of RAM and a slick 3.54-pound metal chassis -- offered at a surprisingly wallet-friendly price. To usher in the Windows 8 era, Sony recently added an edge-to-edge glass touch display as an option for this 13-inch machine, which makes it an even stronger contender for the students and casual users on your list.
Key specs: 13-inch (1,366 x 768) capacitive touchscreen, Core i5-3317U processor with 4GB of RAM, 500GB hybrid hard drive, Intel HD Graphics 4000, 0.75 inches thick, 3.54 pounds.
Price: $870 from Sony
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Toshiba Satellite U945

The U945 is a bargain-priced Ultrabook, and though it may sport a blue plastic coating rather than a more premium aluminum finish, it packs solid specs: a Core i5 processor, 6GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive paired with a 32GB SSD for speedy boot-ups.
Price: $730 from Toshiba

Samsung Series 5 Ultra Touch

Touch doesn't have to come at a huge premium, as the Series 5 Ultra Touch so deftly demonstrates. For $850, you get a 13-inch panel ready to handle finger input, a 500GB hard drive with 24GB of ExpressCache and a Core i3 Ivy Bridge CPU.
Price: $850 from Best Buy

HP Spectre XT TouchSmart

We're fans of the 13.3-inch Envy Spectre XT, which sports a great keyboard and touchpad and offers impressive performance in an attractive all-metal package. The 15.6-inch TouchSmart is even more enticing -- with a 1080p IPS display (with touch support, of course) a generous selection of ports, Beats Audio and full copies of Adobe Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements. The TouchSmart won't go on sale till December, but you can add it to your shopping list in the meantime.
Key specs: 15.6-inch (1,920 x 1,080) IPS display, Ivy Bridge processors, 0.7 inches thick, 4.77 pounds.
Price: $1,400 (expected in December)
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Acer Aspire S7

Yes, Acer's 13-inch Aspire S7 offers a bright 1080p IPS display, but its panel goes above and beyond with a design that can lie completely flat. Acer sweetens the deal with an included USB-to-Ethernet adapter and carrying case.
Price: $1,375 on Amazon

MacBook Air 13-inch

Viewed alongside the new crop of touch-enabled Windows 8 machines, Apple's ultraportable may have a little less luster. But if the beneficiary of your generous gift giving can live with keyboard input, the Air's Core i5 power, Mountain Lion and best-in-class glass trackpad are a winning combo.
Price: $1,128 on Amazon

HP Envy x2

HP's take on the Atom-powered laptop / tablet craze is an 11-inch slate with a detachable keyboard dock. It's not the form factor that's impressive, though: specs include NFC, Beats Audio and a 400-nit IPS display. There's also pen support, so users can interact with the device via the touchscreen, keyboard or stylus. Beginning November 14th, you'll be able to purchase this lightweight, aluminum-built hybrid for $850 -- hardly chump change, but you get a lot for those buckaroos.
Key specs: 11-inch (1,366 x 768) display, Clover Trail processor, 64GB of built-in storage, 0.33 inches thick, 1.5 pounds / 1.6 pounds with dock.
Price: $850 (beginning November 14th)
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Lenovo IdeaTab Lynx

With a dual-core Clover Trail processor, 32GB of solid-state storage and an 11.6-inch IPS display, the Lynx looks to be a solid standalone tablet. Add in the $150 dock and you get 16 hours of battery life -- when this hybrid hits the market in December.
Price: $600 and up

ASUS Transformer Book

With a spun-metal lid and a sleek silhouette, this convertible looks deceptively similar to the ASUS Zenbook. But detach the tablet from its keyboard dock and you have a Core i7-powered 13-inch slate. Look for it to drop in mid-December.
Price: TBD


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