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4 laptops with better-than-HD screens

How are laptop makers competing to bring better computers into the home? One way is by adding pixels on screen to boost clarity and depth of the view. That can be a bonus as more people use computers for streaming movies and videos or for gaming.

New laptops from Apple, Toshiba, Lenovo and others have screens that soar past 1080p, aka full high definition, all the way to 4K. In addition to a sharper screen, you might see an extra few inches or paragraphs on screen when you visit your favorite websites. That could mean less scrolling.

Here are four full-HD laptops that are worth a look.

Toshiba Kirabook

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: The slim, lightweight Toshiba Kirabook (2014) still feels very premium, and it deserves credit for being one of the first Windows laptops to feature a better-than-HD display. Thanks to an updated CPU, battery life is now good enough for all-day use.

The bad: Higher-resolution screens are more common now and available for less. The generic brushed-metal look isn’t particularly distinctive given the price.

The cost: $1,400 to $1,700.

The bottom line: The design of Toshiba’s high-end Kirabook hasn’t changed since last year, but it has aged gracefully. The components get an update and the battery life gets a big boost, making this an all-around excellent but expensive ultrabook.

Razer Blade 14

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: The new Razer Blade (2014) boasts the same beautifully thin design as the earlier model, but it has been enhanced with a sharp 3,200 by 1,800 pixel resolution touch display and advanced Nvidia graphics.

The bad: The battery life is worse than last year’s model’s. Can be pricey depending on how much SSD storage you add.

The cost: $2,199.

The bottom line: Razer’s newest gaming laptop trades extended battery life for a fantastic screen and even better graphics. It’s a trade worth making: This is the best Razer gaming laptop, and the best thin gaming PC anywhere.

Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: The Ativ Book 9 Plus laptop has a sturdy, slim design, an ultra HD touch screen and really good battery life.

The bad: Costs several hundred more than we’d prefer; shrunken HDMI port; and doesn’t convert to a tablet form – it’s strictly a laptop.

The cost: $1,238 to $1,400.

The bottom line: If you’re just looking for an all-around excellently made Windows touch ultrabook and don’t mind that it’s on the expensive side (and doesn’t convert to a tablet), the improved Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus is worth the investment.

Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display (2013) has phenomenal battery life, better-than-average integrated graphics, faster Thunderbolt 2 ports, and a lower price than the previous year.

The bad: Still expensive if you plan to add more storage or RAM; no extra Nvidia graphics option as on the 15-inch version; yes, it’s thicker and heavier than an Air.

The cost: $1,300 to $1,495.

The bottom line: There are other high-resolution laptops out there, but the powerful and affordable 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro is one of the best of the bunch, and makes a compelling case for upgrading from the 13-inch Air.

The following CNET staff contributed to this story: Section Editor Dan Ackerman, Senior Editor Scott Stein, and Senior Editor Laura K. Cucullu.

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