Value / Budget

Laptops in this category are usually popular among users with limited funds who need something more powerful than the typical netbook. Budget notebooks 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 has basically everything you could want for the money -- you get an Intel Core i3 or i5 processor, DVD burner, 320GB 7200RPM hard drive, 3GB of DDR3 RAM and a 15.6-inch 1366x768 LED display. Some specs upgradeable, including the integrated Intel HD graphics which you can replace with an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470 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 starting price of around $450, the HP G62t offers a surprisingly complete package.

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Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $450 ($635 with specs listed below)
Processor: Intel Core i3 370M 2.40GHz Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470 512MB
Memory: 4GB DDR3 (2 DIMMs) Storage: 500GB 7,200RPM HDD
Display size: 15.6" (1366×768) Optical: DVD SuperMulti
Weight: 5.4 lbs (6-cell) Battery: 6-cell (~4 hours)

Toshiba Satellite T235

Toshiba's Satellite T235 is currently one of the best value-priced laptops on the market with its lightweight and stylish chassis (available in 3 colors), long battery life, snappy performance, and comfortable touchpad/keyboard. This 13-inch laptop comes in AMD- and Intel-powered configurations, so you’ll have to choose between longer endurance with Intel's CULV-based Pentium chips or better graphics through AMD's Neo CPU + ATI GPU combination, though both offer enough horsepower to handle everyday tasks and multimedia needs.

Other specs include 4 gigs of RAM, a 320GB hard drive, HD capable display with 1366x768 resolution, Wi-Fi 802.11n and Ethernet, built-in webcam, HDMI-out port, a 6-in-1 memory card reader, and an eSATA/USB combo port for a total of three USB connections with Toshiba's Sleep-and-Charge technology, which allows you to charge your phone or MP3 player when the notebook is suspended. For its price, you could get a more powerful Core i3 system but if you care about portability this is a great alternative.

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Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $600 (model T235D-S1345RD)
Processor: AMD Turion II Neo K625 1.5GHz Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4225 256MB
Memory: 4GB DDR3 (2 DIMMs) Storage: 320GB 5,400RPM HDD
Display size: 13.3" (1366×768) Optical: DVD SuperMulti
Weight: 3.9 lb Battery: ~5 hours

Acer Aspire AS5742-7120

The Acer Aspire AS5742 closely follows the script for putting together a low-end mainstream laptop. It comes fitted with Intel's latest Core i3 370M 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: $580
Processor: Intel Core i3 370M 2.40GHz Graphics: Intel GMA HD
Memory: 4GB DDR3 (2 DIMMs) Storage: 320GB 5,400RPM HDD
Display size: 15.6" (1366x768) Optical: DVD SuperMulti
Weight: 5.7 lb Battery: ~3.0 hours
Other noteworthy options in this category

Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 14

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

Price range: $500 - $860

Asus K72DR-X1

Powered by a triple-core AMD processor and ATI Radeon graphics, the Asus K72DR delivers great value with a 17-inch display and 1600x900 resolution, 4GB of RAM, 500GB hard drive, and sleek design.

Price range: $725