Budget Machines

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 and features, but slim form factors are not necessarily a priority. These commonly equip 14 or 15-inch displays -- or 10- to 11-inch for netbooks -- integrated graphics, full-sized keyboards, and all the essential connectivity options.

For around $600 you can expect to find an Intel Core i3, i5 or AMD E-Series processor, 4GB of RAM, a 320GB or larger hard drive, a DVD burner, and around 4 hours of battery life.

HP Pavilion g4

Featuring an attractive design, a spacious keyboard, and SRS Labs-backed stereo speakers, HP's redesigned Pavilion g4 is an excellent machine for bargain hunters who don't have a lot of computing demands beyond surfing the web, checking e-mail, some multimedia streaming, and other basic tasks.

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Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $450
Processor: Intel Core i3 370M 2.4GHz Graphics: Intel HD Graphics
Memory: 4GB DDR3 1333MHz memory Storage: 500GB 5,400RPM HDD
Display size: 14" (1366x768) Optical: DVD SuperMulti
Weight: 4.6 lb Battery: 6-cell (~4.5 hours)

Dell Inspiron 14z

70 10 Reviews Dell's Inspiron 14z notebook features a clean, slim design and is a strong choice at just $600. It offers fast performance for common tasks, long battery life, beefy port selection, and a backlit keyboard. Intel Wireless Display (WiDi) 2.0 is also included, which allows wireless HD streaming of audio and video with the purchase of an additional box that plugs into your TV. As with all Dell laptops, there are tons of configuration options if you need beefier specs.

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Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $600
Processor: Intel Core i3 2330M 2.2GHz Graphics: Intel HD Graphics
Memory: 4GB DDR3 Storage: 500GB HDD
Display size: 14" (1366 x 768) Optical: 8x CD/DVD Burner
Weight: 4.2 lbs Battery: 6-cell (~6 hours)

Lenovo Essential G570

76 4 Reviews Lenovo pitches its G series as "everyday laptops at a great price," and indeed the G570 is a good deal for a 15-inch Core i5 laptop boasting just enough of Lenovo's famed design quality to not feel cheap. You'll get good performance for most common taks, a comfortable keyboard, very decent audio, and good battery life.

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Quick specs | Full specs Starting price: $579
Processor: Intel Core i5 2430M 2.4GHz Graphics: Intel HD Graphics
Memory: 6GB DDR3 (2 DIMMs) Storage: 750GB HDD
Display size: 15.6" (1366×768) Optical: DVD SuperMulti
Weight: 5.3 lbs Battery: 6-cell
Other noteworthy budget options

HP Pavilion dm4t

75 The Pavilion dm4t is an an excellent choice at an affordable price, featuring a stylish durable aluminum chassis, 14-inch screen, a fingerprint reader, solid audio quality, and all-day battery life. It has more than enough power for everyday tasks.

Price range: $560

HP Pavilion dm1z

82 This AMD Fusion-powered ultraportable combines good graphics performance and long battery life at an affordable price. The HP Pavilion dm1z was recently updated with Beats Audio, a better touch pad, and a faster AMD processor.

Price range: $400