On the left, the Dell Inspiron 1420. Dell's 14-inch laptop starts at $699. On the right, the Sony VAIO NR160. Sony's 15-inch laptop starts at $829. In a nice design touch, both models forgo the clunky, plastic hooks above the screen that fit into the dust-and-dirt collecting slots on the base. Instead, the laptops' hinges snap the lid close, and hard rubber pads surround the display to protect the laptops' surfaces when closed.