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Cheap Laptop Computers
Laptop Computers Battery Life & Display
Laptop battery life is key for thrifty consumers who frequently use their cheap laptop computers away from home -- and away from an outlet. Most cheap laptop computers now use six-cell batteries, although you may come across a laptop with a smaller four-cell battery or even a nine-cell battery.
All the cheap laptop computers we picked use six-cell batteries, which should provide from four to six hours of battery life on a single charge. According to reviews, that number tends to be closer to four hours than six for the typical budget laptop, although there is one notable exception among our picks. A reviewer at Laptop Mag clocked the Dell Inspiron 14z at seven hours and 15 minutes in testing. A CNET expert recorded five and a half hours but still considers that a pretty impressive result. The HP ProBook 4440s claims up to seven and a half hours of battery life, but we'll believe that when we see an expert put it to the test. A Laptop Mag reviewer put the Toshiba Satellite L755-S5166 through a battery test and the machine managed to last for about five hours. At PC World, an expert came up with a similar result for the Toshiba Satellite P755-DS5172, which lasted four hours and 42 minutes in tests. The battery in the Dell 15R tops out at just under four hours, according to a reviewer at About.com. However, the model the site tested had an Intel Core i5 processor, which will drain a battery faster than a less powerful Intel Core i3 processor.
Display.The screens on full-size laptops tend to range in size from 13 to 17 inches. Cheap laptop computers generally fall toward the low end of that range. The largest models on our list are the Dell Inspiron 15R and the two Toshibas, which have 15.6-inch displays. All of our budget laptops have widescreen displays with 1366 x 768 resolution, which is sufficient for high-definition 720p video (but not 1080p).
We saw few complaints about the screens on any of the cheap laptop computers we picked. A reviewer from Laptop Mag admires the rich colors and sharp video displayed by the Dell Inspiron 15R. The Toshiba L755-S5166 earns kudos for its display, which a CNET reviewer calls better than average. He notes that the colors pop, although the viewing angles aren't very good -- a common problem with cheap laptop computers. An expert from PC World likes the display on the Toshiba Satellite P755D-S5172 but complains that the sheen makes it difficult to avoid reflected images. In another review from PC World, an expert cites the evenly lit screen on the 14-inch HP ProBook 4430s, the forerunner of the 4440s, as a pro. A Laptop Mag reviewer appreciates the sharp text and vibrant colors of the 14-inch display on the Dell Inspiron 14z, and an Engadget expert praises the crisp image quality.
Keyboard and Touchpad.Reviewers expect a cheap laptop computer to have a keyboard that's comfortable and sturdy and a touchpad that's responsive and large enough to use easily. The Dell Inspiron 15R has a comfortable, responsive keyboard, according to an expert at Laptop Mag, although a reviewer from About.com notes that the keyboard flexes a bit when you push down in certain areas. The Laptop Mag expert does like the relatively large touchpad. The solid feel of the HP ProBook 4430s impresses a PC World reviewer, who reports that the touchpad is nice and responsive. Reviewers from CNET and Laptop Mag compliment the feel of the keyboard on the Dell Inspiron 14z and describe it as roomy. However, the Laptop Mag reviewer warns that using multi-touch gestures on the touchpad is a little tricky. A reviewer from About.com notes that the keyboard on the Toshiba Satellite L755-S5166 includes large delete, enter, and right shift keys for a laptop but isn't as comfortable as the keyboards on competing models. A CNET expert reviewing the same Toshiba model found the touchpad too small and narrow. A PC World reviewer isn't impressed with the touchpad on the Toshiba Satellite P755D-S5172 because it doesn't reliably register touches and the buttons are too stiff.
Don't Bother Cheap Laptops
Toshiba Satellite P755D-S5172
This laptop comes with some fancy features but disappoints when it comes to essentials such as its processing power and battery life, especially given the relatively high price tag. Budget buyers might just as soon do without extras such as a Blu-ray drive and opt for a cheaper system that delivers better performance. Read more »
Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M5 Review
Toshiba Satellite P755D-S5172 Review
Dell Inspiron 14z Review
Toshiba Satellite L755-S5166 Review
Dell Inspiron 15R Review
HP ProBook 4440s Review
Toshiba Satellite L745-S4210
Dell Inspiron 14R
HP Pavilion g6-1a69
Dell Vostro V131
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