Value / Budget

Laptops in this category are usually popular among students and users with limited funds, who need something more powerful than the average netbook. Budget notebooks offer a good blend of price, features and portability. These commonly equip 14 or 15-in displays, integrated graphics, full-sized keyboards, and all the essential connectivity options.

For around $600 you can expect to find an Intel Core i3, Pentium or AMD E-Series processor with integrated graphics, 2GB to 4GB of RAM, a 320GB or larger hard drive, a DVD burner, and around 4 hours of battery life.


Samsung SF510

The Samsung SF510 is a 15-inch laptop intended for design-conscious users looking for an attractive, easy-to-use system that will get the job done. Graphics come courtesy of Nvidia's GeForce 310M, while the dual-core 2.53GHz Core i3 380M processor runs the show along 4GB of RAM and a 640GB hard drive with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit.

Among its notable features are fast boot and wake times, a full keyboard and numeric keypad, good quality speakers, integrated 4G broadband (WiMAX), and built-in WiDi for streaming HD video to a TV. Battery life is pretty decent for a notebook this size, as well, at around 5 hours.

Additional views:

Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $690
Processor: Intel Core i3 380M 2.53GHz Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 310M 512MB
Memory: 4GB DDR3 (2 DIMMs) Storage: 640GB 5,400RPM HDD
Display size: 15.6" (1366×768) Optical: DVD SuperMulti
Weight: 5.5 lbs Battery: 6-cell (~5 hours)



Gateway NV51B0u

Gateway has refreshed its NV notebook series, delivering AMD's Brazos platform in a full size mobile package. The 15.6-inch NV51B0u represents the line's flagship system and is priced at only $469.99, which gets you a 1.6GHz dual-core E-350 Fusion APU with a Radeon HD 6310 IGP. A second system, the NV51B08u, is even cheaper at $399.99 and is powered by the 1GHz dual-core C-50 processor and HD 6250 graphics.

The pricier unit packs a 1366x768 LED-backlit display, 3GB of DDR3 RAM, a 500GB hard drive, an 8x DVD burner, a 2-in-1 memory card reader, three USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and VGA outputs, Gigabit Ethernet, and 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi. There's also a 1.3MP webcam, a mic, and a full-sized keyboard alongside a multi-gesture touchpad. The system is outfitted with a six-cell battery, which keeps the gears turning for about 4.7 hours.

Additional views:

Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $470
Processor: AMD E-350 1.6GHz Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 6310 256MB
Memory: 3GB DDR3 Storage: 500GB 5,400RPM HDD
Display size: 15.6" (1366×768) Optical: DVD SuperMulti
Weight: 5.7 lb Battery: 6-cell (~4.7 hours)



Acer Aspire AS5742-7120

The Acer Aspire AS5742 closely follows the script for putting together a budget mainstream laptop. It comes fitted with an Intel Core i3 380M processor, integrated Intel graphics, 4GB of memory and a 320GB hard drive. It also features a 15.6-inch widescreen HD display with 1366x768 resolution and HDMI connectivity, making this Aspire a solid contender in the mainstream market and a perfect choice for daily computing.

The laptop features a basic black plastic chassis with a crosshatch-textured design on the keyboard deck and lid, while the keyboard itself is roomy enough despite featuring a dedicated number pad to the right. Other features include a multi-gesture trackpad, built-in 1.3-megapixel HD webcam, and a DVD burner, while on the connectivity front you get, Wi-Fi 802.11n and gigabit Ethernet, 5-in-1 card reader, three USB 2.0 ports and VGA-out -- plus the aforementioned HDMI.

Additional views:

Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $510
Processor: Intel Core i3 380M 2.53GHz Graphics: Intel GMA HD
Memory: 4GB DDR3 (2 DIMMs) Storage: 500GB 5,400RPM HDD
Display size: 15.6" (1366x768) Optical: DVD SuperMulti
Weight: 5.0 lb Battery: ~3.0 hours


Other noteworthy options in this category

MSI CR650

This 15-inch (1366x768) system is powered by AMD's E-350 APU and 3GB of RAM, which should offer plenty of performance for standard usage and remain light on power consumption with an 18W TDP.

Price range: $470