And now for something completely different: a bit of bright economic news. Several laptops with reasonably robust specs are available for $500 to $700.
It's probably no surprise that laptop prices have continued to fall. But those who need a new laptop now might be heartened to learn that there are some compelling bargains out there. We'll probably see even more this holiday season, as retailers and computer makers--hammered by the gloomy economy--try to push products by slashing prices.
You'll have to make some compromises with a budget laptop. Full-featured notebooks (as opposed to mini-notebooks) in this price range tend to be a bit heavy and not as zippy as the most powerful laptops. Still, when budget is a primary concern, you're not aiming for perfection, right?
If you're in need of a new laptop right now, here are a few worth considering. Next week: tips for saving money when buying a laptop.
Let's start with one of the least expensive laptops on the market, Acer's Aspire AS5735-4624. Not long ago, this laptop was selling for only $400 on BestBuy.com. A recent check found that the site is now offering the laptop at its list price, $500.
Even so, the Aspire looks like a good deal, given its specs. It's an especially attractive price if you compare it to some mini-notebooks, which sell for around the same money but don't offer the same features. Mini-notebooks lack a built-in optical drive, for instance. Also, I configured four other laptops--three from Dell, one from HP--with specs reasonably close to the Aspire's. The Dell Inspiron 1525 was the least expensive, comparably configured laptop, and it cost $117 more (keep reading for details on the Dell).
Briefly, the budget Aspire laptop features:
- Intel dual-core T3200 processor at 2.0GHz;
- Integrated graphics processor (Intel GMA 3400MHD);
- 2GB of memory at 667 MHz, expandable to 4GB;
- 15.6-inch widescreen display (1366 by 768) with Acer's glossy CrystalBrite technology;
- 160GB hard drive (at 5400 rpm);
- Built-in CD/DVD burner;
- Windows Vista Home Premium;
- A weight of 5.9 pounds;
- Three USB 2.0 ports;
- 802.11 b/g/n wireless networking;
- Multiformat card reader;
- ExpressCard/54 slot.
There's really not much missing here, except Bluetooth, S-video output, FireWire, and a built-in Webcam--features I suspect most laptop owners wouldn't need anyway.
The budget Aspire became available in early fall. As of this moment, reviews are scarce (PCW is awaiting a unit for testing), and I can't personally vouch for this laptop's worthiness. However, it's worth noting that some Acer laptops have made it into PCW's top laptop charts. Most recently, for example, the Acer Aspire 5920-6954, currently selling for about $800, received a PCW rating of 82 (very good) and was number three on our Top 10 All-Purpose Laptops chart.
Dell Inspiron 1525
The Inspiron 1525 is another contender for the budget laptop crown. The unit we tested earned a PCW rating of 81 (very good).
As with most Dell computers, you can customize the daylights out of an Inspiron 1525, which you can't do with the Aspire.
Dell's low-cost laptop can be purchased for as little as $499. However, for that price, you only get 1GB of memory, compared to the Aspire's 2GB; an Intel Celeron 550 processor at 2.0 GHz, compared to the Aspire's dual-core chip; Microsoft Vista Home Basic, which is, as the name implies, a fairly basic OS and less attractive than the Vista Home Premium you get preinstalled on the Aspire; and a 120GB hard drive (the Aspire offers 160GB).
Recently, I configured an Inspiron 1525 to closely match the Aspire's specs. The price of the Inspiron I configured was $679, compared to the Aspire's $500.
Dell has a few other budget laptops available. Dell Vostro 1000 configurations start at $399, though a unit reasonably close to the Aspire's specs recently went for $617. Dell Latitude 531 business-class laptops begin at $499. Recently, a unit I configured with approximately the same specs as the Aspire priced out at $783.
HP Compaq CQ50Z
This budget laptop from HP starts around $450 and goes up from there.
Keep on Clicking
- The Best Bargain PCs
- Browse laptops priced between $500 and $1000
- Top Sites for Bargain Hunters
- Laptop Buying Tips, Part 1
- Laptop Buying Tips, Part 2
- Laptop Buying Tips, Part 3
- When to Buy a Laptop
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