Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to spend thousands of dollars to get a quality laptop computer. While you may be aware that many netbooks can be purchased at a bargain price, you may not know that some of the best laptops cost less than $500.
If you are in the market to purchase a new laptop, consider a less expensive model. You could save yourself hundreds of dollars and receive the same performance as a more expensive model.
Best Affordable Laptops
1. Dell Inspiron 14z
For as long as I can remember, Dell has been a household name when it comes to both laptops and desktops. And for good reason: Dell manufactures some of the most reliable and functional computers on the market. This is evident in the Dell Inspiron 14z, though there are a few notable issues that keep this unit from being one of my absolute favorite budget laptops.
- Price: Starts at $550
- Pros: This sleek laptop offers users the ability to work in remote locations thanks to a long battery life. It comes in a variety of eye-catching colors, giving users a sense of customization. The processor is plenty powerful enough to handle most tasks, including handling multiple projects in several windows at once. And the back-lit keyboard and 14-inch screen makes it the perfect dorm room laptop for late-night cramming and essay writing beneath the covers.
- Cons: With the Inspiron 14z, what you see is what you get, as there are very few upgrade options available for this model. Your choices for memory capacity, graphics card, and processor speed are limited to a few basic models, but at this price point, there really isn’t a whole lot of room to complain. Hardcore gaming may be somewhat of a struggle, as the processor simply can’t handle the amount of data required to produce a smooth, graphic-intensive program. This same issue holds true for laptop seekers who wish to use other graphics-intensive programs.
The Dell Inspiron 14z is the ultimate back-to-school laptop for college students who plan to focus on their studies versus other extracurricular computer-based activities. This computer is also a great computer for casual users who are looking for an inexpensive way to stay connected to family and friends. The streamlined chassis makes it easy to slip into any backpack or carryall, and the long battery life allows you to take your computing needs anywhere you go without worrying about running out of juice.
2. HP Pavilion dm1z
HP has struggled with a sagging bottom line for the past few years thanks to a multitude of less bulky, faster-processing, inexpensive laptops from other manufacturers flooding the market. This 11-inch ultra-portable laptop combines the power and functionality of a traditional laptop with the extreme portability of a netbook. HP spared no expense on the processor for the HP Pavilion dm1z – as a matter of fact, it was the first laptop to utilize AMD’s Fusion platform, adding energy efficiency to a truly capable processor.
- Price: Starts at $400
- Pros: On top of a great processing platform, HP has added a few niceties, including Beats Audio (considered to be the best audio system out there right now), a highly responsive touch pad, and a vivid 11-inch display. I love the fact that you can’t mar the outside of this model with fingerprints thanks to the matte surface, so it’s stylish no matter where you’ve been. And, of course, the price is right.
- Cons: The battery life is average. You can only expect to be able to go completely wireless (at least in terms of not needing a power supply) for three to four hours at a time, which might not be sufficient for users on the go. The lack of the Intel Core i3 processor makes this computer a lot less powerful than I would have hoped. Once again, average users won’t have any real issues with the lack of a great processor speed, as this laptop is perfectly capable of surfing the Internet, creating Word and Excel documents, and playing your favorite tunes all at once. However, graphics-intensive software winds up stuttering and freezing, which does not provide for a great gaming experience. Video streaming programs, such as Netflix, on this computer is hit or miss – the higher the definition of the video, the more issues you’ll have with viewing it without constant buffering interruptions.
The HP Pavillion dm1z is a great little laptop that packs most of the punch of a full-fledged laptop into the compact chassis of a netbook. It’s disappointing that the slight design wasn’t accompanied by a longer lasting battery, but hopefully this, as well as a better processor, will be available in the next release. All in all, this is a great computer for students heading back to school, casual computing enthusiasts, and Internet connoisseurs everywhere.
3. HP Pavilion g4-1215dx
HP lands yet another decent little laptop on the top budget performers list. The HP Pavilion g4-1215dx is an aggressively priced laptop that offers consumers a completely functional, basic computer for less than $500. This one has a few notable differences from its cousin, the dm1z.
- Price: Starts at $480
- Pros: Price is the number one advantage of this particular computer. Not only is it a capable computer, but it comes with an upgraded speaker package, as well as a graphics card and 14-inch screen that is able to handle some basic online gaming.
- Cons: Even though this computer is equipped with an AMD processor, it’s a little slower than I had hoped it would be. The processor is more capable than many of the bargain basement processors that adorn some of the more expensive laptop models, but you will still notice some response lag time when issuing commands from your keyboard, as well as some image freezing during game play. This is also an issue when trying to utilize some of the most basic programs while running a virus scan program in the background. While the LCD screen is adequate, it’s a little dim for my tastes.
The HP Pavilion g4-1215dx is a solid performer in terms of being able to adequately handle basic tasks and is well worth every penny. It offers much of the functionality of the more luxurious HP models in a much smaller package, and at a much lower price. This computer will be able to meet the needs of a variety of laptop consumers, though once again, avid gamers may be disappointed.
4. Lenovo Essential G570 43342KU
When you think about Lenovo laptops, consider them in much the same terms as you might the Mercedes line of vehicles: There is the E, or economy class cars, and then there are the more luxurious versions.
When it comes to the budget models in the Lenovo lineup, there are two distinct economy classes, the B line and the G line. The B line consists of the most economical entry-level models, while the G class offers a nice mid-grade laptop at a great price. Lenovo did well with the Essential G570 laptop, offering an everyday useable model at an extremely reasonable price.
- Price: Starts at $600
- Pros: Lenovo added the Intel processor and a 15.6-inch screen, the only one in this lineup with these features at a price below $1,000. This means that this laptop is fully capable to handle just about any task you wish to throw at it including word processing, spreadsheet calculating, database creation, and any online tasks you need to address. This is in addition to being able to handle all but the most complex PC gaming, which will please a much larger audience than the other laptops on this list. The bevy of pre-installed hardware, including a facial recognition log in software, is definitely a plus.
- Cons: I was unimpressed by the high-gloss plastic chassis on this particular model. Of course, I would rather see Lenovo spare some expense on the design rather than the functionality, but overall this computer just has a cheap feel to it. The price point is good, but I’m wondering if it’s good enough to trump the fact that for a few dollars more you can enjoy one of Lenovo’s higher-end laptops like the Ideapad or Thinkpad. While this is a solid performer, there is little you can do to customize your configuration, so what you see is what you get.
The Lenova G570 laptop offers consumers, both casual and game-oriented, a solid computing experience for much less than many of its nearest competitors.
If you are looking to break into the portable computing world, there is no time like the present. Long gone are the days when clunky desktops were required to perform more than just basic word processing and Internet surfing. What’s more is that laptops no longer require a significant investment, so cutting the cord is easier than ever before.
What has been your experience with laptop computing? Have you made the switch from a desktop model to a laptop?