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Best back-to-school computers

On the market for a computer for your child or teen? Check out our back-to-school lineup.

By Christina Tynan-Wood

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Dell Alienware M14x

Ages: High school and up

Got a good student who is also a game-addicted teenager? Since he's earned terrific grades and mowed the lawn whenever you asked, you're so proud of him that you want to get him something he really wants. This is it: a laptop that fulfills all his homework needs, but is also a go-to gadget for gaming. Sure, the Alienware M14x ($1,099) will be the perfect tech tool for writing papers, keeping track of assignments, and helping him cram for finals. But when the work is done and it's time to annihilate some aliens, this affordable, all-purpose system will not lag, crash, choke, hesitate, or disappoint. Oh, how his friends will burn with jealousy when he cracks this out at study group! You'll definitely get a hug — or two — for this one.

Bottom line: Want to make your strong student and serious gamer happy? Go straight for the e-ticket game machine.

Christina Tynan-Wood has written for Better Homes and Gardens, Popular Science, PC World, PC Magazine, InfoWorld, and many others. She currently writes the "Family Tech" column in Family Circle and blogs at