Intel's Sandy Bridge architecture has trickled down to the sub-$400 notebook segment courtesy of two machines from HP and Toshiba. Listed at Best Buy for $350, the 4.7lb Pavilion g4-1104dx is potentially the cheapest Sandy Bridge notebook around with a 2.0GHz dual-core Pentium B940, which carries a 650-1100MHz IGP (Best Buy's product page claims it's the HD 3000, but we're not sure if that's accurate).

It also features a 14-inch 1366x768 LED-backlit display, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, a 320GB 5400RPM hard drive, and a DVD burner. There's wired and wireless network connectivity, three USB 2.0 ports (no USB 3.0, but again, we're talking about a $350 notebook here), HDMI and VGA outputs, a card reader, a built-in webcam and mic, Windows 7 Home Premium, and a six-cell battery that offers up to 4.25 hours of battery life.

sandy bridge

Meanwhile, the pricier $380 Toshiba Satellite L755-S5216 comes in a slightly larger 15.6-inch, 5.7lb package (same resolution) that gets up to 5.75 hours of battery life, but the core configuration is largely identical. Again, neither system is equipped for heavy media consumption or gaming, but they should prove adequate for basic productivity sessions, and it's no coincidence that the back-to-school season is underway.