Budget Machines

Laptops in this category are usually popular among students and users who need something more powerful than the average netbook without hurting the wallet. Budget notebooks offer a good blend of price and features, but slim form factors are not necessarily a priority. These commonly equip 14 or 15-inch displays -- 10- to 11-inch for netbooks but we've avoided those -- integrated graphics and essential connectivity options.

For around $450 to $600 you can expect to find an Intel Core i3, i5 or AMD A/E-Series processor, integrated graphics, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, a DVD burner, and around 4 hours of battery life.


Samsung Series 3 305E5A

The Samsung Series 3 features a brushed metal look exterior with brushed chrome trim. Although it features a 15.6" display the thin bezel allows for a smaller chasis overall compared to other 15.6" laptops. Inside you'll find an AMD A-Series chip, which isn't quite up to par with Intel's latest Core i5 offerings, but it does have an edge when it comes to graphics performance and it's a steal at $430.

There was a similar model with an A8 processor, 6GB RAM and 640GB hard drive for $500. It appears to be sold out now but if you shop around you'll likely find a pretty good deal on a Series 3.

Additional views:

Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $430
Processor: AMD A6-3420M 1.5GHz Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 6520G
Memory: 4GB DDR3 Storage: 500GB 5,200RPM HDD
Display size: 15.6" (1366 x 768) LED-backlit display Optical: DVD Super Multi
Weight: 5.07 pounds (2.3 kg) Battery: ~4 hours


Lenovo Essential G570

The Lenovo Essential G570 features a simple, no-frills design with a plastic and blocky chasis but the built quality is solid enough for a budget laptop. It offers a full sized keyboard with number pad that's in line with recent IdeaPad models and a good size touch pad, in addition to a bright and clear display. This machine is powered by a previous-generation Sandy Bridge processor (it seems Ivy Bridge is taking its time to trickle down the budget segment) but still offers enough performance for basic computing tasks.

For around $600 on Lenovo's website you can get the G570 with a faster Intel Core i5-2450M processor and 8GB of RAM.

Additional views:

Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $500
Processor: Intel Core i3-2350M 2.3GHz Graphics: Intel HD 3000
Memory: 4GB DDR3 Storage: 500GB 5,400RPM HDD
Display size: 15.6" (1366 x 768) LED-backlit Optical: DVD RW
Weight: 5.73 pounds (2.6 kg) Battery: ~4 hours


Acer Aspire AS5560

The Acer Aspire AS5560 offers quad-core processing performance through an AMD A-Series processor and integrated Radeon graphics for a responsive PC experience. Although it's not a gaming machine you'll be able to play some modern games with modest graphics settings and use the HDMI-out port to watch movies on the big screen. In terms of design this laptop won't turn heads -- as is the case with most budget laptops -- but for $550 it's a good deal.

Additional views:

Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $400 ($550 as configured)
Processor: AMD A-Series A8-3500M 1.5GHz Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 6620G 512MB
Memory: 4GB DDR3 Storage: 500GB 5,200RPM HDD
Display size: 15.6" (1366 x 768) LED-backlit display Optical: DVD Super Multi
Weight: 5.74 pounds (2.6 kg) Battery: ~4.5 hours


Lenovo IdeaPad U310

This one is priced a bit outside of what we would normally consider a budget laptop but if you can spend the extra $200 you'll get an Ultrabook-style machine with a sleek design, great built quality and solid performance. The machine is powered by a third-generation Intel Core i5-3317U processor with built-in HD 4000 graphics and its 500GB HDD is complemented with a 32GB SSD for faster boot times and snappier overall performance.

Additional views:

Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $700-$750
Processor: Intel Core i5-3317U 1.8GHz Graphics: Intel HD 4000
Memory: 4GB DDR3 Storage: 500GB 5,400RPM HDD, 32GB SSD
Display size: 13.3" (1366 x 768) LED-backlit display Optical: none
Weight: 3.7 pounds (1.67 kg) Battery: ~5 hours