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Cheap Laptops Buying Guide
Abandoning an old desktop PC in favor of a slim, light laptop can carry a hefty price tag. It's not at all unusual to find models sporting stylish brand names like Apple and Sony that cost well over $1,000.
Our picks for the best cheap laptops are the consumer-facing Dell Inspiron 15R (starting at $550, Amazon), which Dell recently updated, and the business-focused HP ProBook 4440s (starting at $480, Amazon). Both models offer a good combination of performance, features, and value. Dell also recently remade its Inspiron 14z, and the well-reviewed base model released last year (starting at $480, Amazon) has dropped in price. The Toshiba Satellite L775-S5166 (starting at $500, Amazon) rounds out our list of good cheap laptops. We aren't quite so impressed with the Toshiba Satellite P755D-S5172 (starting at $580, Amazon). It's relatively pricey considering its pedestrian features, and its performance lags behind competing budget models.
Comparison shoppers will find that budget laptops tend to be similar on several fronts. Expect a cheap laptop to run Microsoft's Windows 7 (as all of our picks do). Most of the top budget laptops use some variation of Intel's Core i3 processor, although some models, such as the Dell Inspiron 15R, can be equipped with a more powerful Core i5 central processing unit and still come in under our cap of $600. Budget laptops with processors from Intel competitor AMD remain scarce, although the Toshiba Satellite P755D-S5172 has one. Most cheap laptops have 4GB to 6GB of RAM, which is sufficient for most users' needs. Hard drives, on the other hand, vary in size, typically ranging anywhere from 320GB to 750GB. Cheap laptops almost always contain six-cell batteries, but the battery life can vary quite a bit; some of the best cheap laptops can exceed seven hours on a single charge. Our list includes two 15.6-inch laptops and two smaller, more portable models with 14-inch screens. Most laptops have numerous ports and other useful connectivity options, such as USB 3.0 ports, a memory card reader, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, and an HDMI port for connecting a high-definition TV.
Consumers may feel a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of cheap laptops and the assortment of configurations available these days. Gateway, Dell, and other big manufacturers offer a wide array of models, many of which are nearly identical. Some are sold exclusively by certain retailers, and you may find almost the same system at another vendor under a different model number. To reduce at least some of the confusion, we've specified the key components of the best cheap laptops and highlighted critical performance criteria so you know what to look for.
The best way to shop for a cheap laptop is to use the model numbers simply as a rough starting point and then take a close look under the hood when you find one of interest. Pay attention to the computer's key features -- processor, memory, hard drive size, and battery life -- and check for desirable extra features such as an HDMI port, a bright widescreen display, and perhaps a USB 3.0 port. Ideally, get your hands on a laptop before you buy to try out the keyboard and touchpad.
Best Cheap Laptops
Dell Inspiron 15R
The latest version of the Dell Inspiron 15R is available with a speedy third-generation Intel Core processor and comes with more memory and USB 3.0 ports than the competition. Its touchpad is large and accurate, and reviews laud its multimedia performance.Read more »
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Good Cheap Laptops
Dell Inspiron 14z
The Dell Inspiron 14z is a small, slim laptop that reviewers highlight as a good option for bargain shoppers. It's not the most powerful laptop in our mix, but positive reviews point to nearly all-day battery life; a slick, comfortable keyboard; and two USB 3.0 ports.Read more »
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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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