Value / Budget

For users on a budget that need something more powerful than the typical netbook. Laptops in this category are usually hot sellers in the back to school season as they offer a good blend of price, features and portability. They commonly come with 14 or 15-in displays, integrated graphics, full-sized keyboards, and basic connectivity options. For around $600 you can expect to find an Intel Core i3/i5 or AMD Athlon II X2 processor, 2GB to 4GB of RAM, a 250GB or larger hard drive, a DVD burner, and around 4 hours of battery life.

HP G62t

Despite being a member of HP's budget-minded G60 family of laptops, the G62T slightly resembles the high-end Envy line in terms of appearance with a stylish matte finish. It also has basically everything you could want for the money -- you get an Intel Core i3 or i5 processor, DVD burner, 320GB 7,200RPM hard drive, 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 15.6-inch 1366x768 LED display. Some of this basic hardware specs are upgradable, including the integrated Intel HD graphics which you can replace with an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5430 discrete GPU.

In addition to the aforementioned features, the G62t also has full-size keyboard, VGA and optional HDMI, Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, three USB 2.0 ports, an optional media card reader, a 6-cell battery that runs for about 4 hours, as well as the usual headphone and mic jacks. With a price of around $500, the HP G62t offers a surprisingly complete package.

Additional views:

Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $500 ($635 with specs listed below)
Processor: Intel Core i3 350M 2.26GHz Graphics: ATI Mobiliry Radeon HD 5430 512MB
Memory: 4GB DDR3 (2 DIMMs) Storage: 320GB 7,200RPM HDD
Display size: 15.6" (1366×768) Optical: DVD SuperMulti
Weight: 5.4 lbs (6-cell) Battery: 6-cell (~4 hours)

MSI A6200

Abandoning the stereotype of thick-and-heavy traditional notebooks, MSI's A Series offers a thinner and lighter solution for mobile users. This 15.6-inch laptop combines stylish looks with strong Core i3 performance at an affordable price. The base model is priced at $650 and features a 2.13GHz Core i3 330M processor, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, a 320GB 5,400RPM hard drive, and a 6-cell battery.

Because of its screen's wide aspect ratio, the A6200 has managed to fit in a comfortable keyboard and a numeric keypad on the right. Graphics come courtesy of Intel's integrated GMA HD chip, so don't expect anything more than high-definition video playback and very light gaming capabilities, but the notebook's processor is more than adequate for handling most tasks and allowing multitasking. Other features include a 4-in-1 media card reader, 1.3-megapixel webcam, 802.11n Wi-Fi and a DVD burner drive.

Additional views:

Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $650 (model A6200-038US)
Processor: Intel Core i3 330M 2.13GHz Graphics: Intel GMA HD
Memory: 4GB DDR3 (2 DIMMs) Storage: 320GB 5,400RPM HDD
Display size: 15.6" (1366×768) Optical: DVD SuperMulti
Weight: 5.4 lbs (6-cell) Battery: 6-cell (~4 hours)

Gateway NV7915u

The Gateway NV7915u is a 17-inch desktop replacement made for the price-conscious user who doesn't want to skimp on features or looks. Few systems will give you this much bang for your buck -- besides the large screen and full-size keyboard, you'll get a 2.13GHz Intel Core i3 330M processor, 4GB of DDR3 memory, and a 500GB hard drive. Although such combination of hardware won't match the performance of more expensive desktop replacements like the ones we have listed in this guide, the NV7915u will easily handle your daily web and office tasks.

Like most budget notebooks, graphics performance is handled by an Intel GMA HD integrated chip. This means light mainstream gaming is possible if you are willing to make some compromises, but video playback shouldn't be a problem. Its 17.3-inch display features LED backlighting, a 16:9 aspect ratio, and a 1600x900-pixel native resolution. The NV7915u also comes with a good set of interface and media features, including a DVD burner, four USB 2.0 ports, HDMI and VGA-out, an SD Card reader, and network and modem ports.

Additional views:

Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $650
Processor: Intel Core i3 330M 2.13GHz Graphics: Intel GMA HD
Memory: 4GB DDR3 (2 DIMMs) Storage: 500GB 5,400RPM HDD
Display size: 17.3" (1600×900) Optical: DVD SuperMulti
Weight: 7.4 lbs (6-cell) Battery: 6-cell (~3.5 hours)
Other noteworthy options in this category

Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 14

Lenovo's small-business notebook still delivers power and style at an affordable price. Despite its entry-level status it offers the same kind of top-quality keyboard and screen we've come to expect from its ThinkPad siblings.

Price range: $730 - $800

Aspire TimelineX 4820t

Acer delivers great value with a 14-inch LED-backlit display, speedy processor, switchable graphics, functional form factor and a friendly sticker price to boot.

Price range: $680 - $750