A laptop computer can easily set you back $1,000 to $3,000 or more, but you don’t need to spend that much. Here are today’s cost-effective alternatives to high-end laptops for three kinds of users…

Basic home or business use. High-end option: The Apple MacBook Air ($999) is a great-looking and powerful machine. With a 13.3-inch screen, 8 gigabytes (GB) of RAM (the memory used to run programs and applications) and a fast, reliable 128-GB solid-state drive for storage, the MacBook Air breezes through web browsing and basic business applications such as Microsoft Office.

Affordable alternative: At $359, the Acer Swift 1 has a 13.3-inch, high-­definition screen that not only is superior to the screen of most computers at its price point but also rivals the brightness and resolution of the screen of the ­MacBook Air.

The Swift 1 has half the memory and storage of the MacBook Air and a less powerful processing chip, meaning that it’s less adept at running professional photo and video applications. But it’s powerful enough to surf the web, handle basic productivity applications and stream videos. And while it has limited storage of 64 GB, you can easily store larger files on a removable memory card or in the cloud. And you’ll have more than $600 in your pocket versus the Mac.

Photo and video work. High-end ­options: The Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch ($2,399) and the Dell XPS 15 ($1,299) with an Intel Core i5 processor are media workhorses. Their processing power and graphics cards help them excel at memory-intensive activities such as video editing and the 3-D modeling done by artists and architects.

Affordable alternative: The Lenovo IdeaPad 320 15-inch ($699) has a full-HD screen and the same Intel Core i5 processor as the Dell XPS 15. It’s perfect for touching up family photos and putting together videos for friends and colleagues using software such as Movie Maker, which can be downloaded for free from the Microsoft store, and Adobe Photoshop Elements.

Gaming. High-end option: The Alienware 17 ($2,599) has amazing power and configurability for hard-core video game players. At this price, it features a best-in-class graphics card that works in concert with a 17.3-inch, high-definition screen displaying images at 120-frames-per-second for extremely smooth game play.

Affordable alternative: The HP Omen 17t ($879) has a less powerful graphics card than the Alienware laptop and “only” a high-definition (1080p) 17.3-inch screen, but it features a similar processor, memory and storage options. In terms of performance, most gamers won’t experience a noticeable difference between the two—except in their wallets.

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