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  • s44 - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    Your absurd PC bias is showing. The ARM Chromebook is light, silent, and has excellent battery life -- the perfect $250 device. The clunky Acer is something I wouldn't even use for free. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    I don't like Chromebooks in general -- I'd rather carry an extra couple of pounds to have an Ultrabook that feels ten times as fast and runs all the software I like to use (Office, Photoshop, etc.) If I need thin and light and silent, a tablet works better most of the time; Chromebooks (especially the ARM model) doesn't fill a need for me, though I understand others feel otherwise. Reply
  • yyrkoon - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    Oh, be quiet.

    Jarred is by far the ( should say one of two ) least biased persons on this site. Chromebook type laptops are junk for almost everything. Period. Core Architecture matters little. Unless we're speaking odroid class processor, where you're going to pay more than what you'd pay for the i3 Intel processor it may beat ( in some applications ). Passed that, there are no laptops based on that ARM core.
  • Da W - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    Oh be quiet! This is by far the best review website ever and the authors post serious reviews. I don't mind even if they had a tad of bias which is only human. Reply
  • piroroadkill - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    Uh, but the ARM Chromebook is vastly slower. Reply
  • Alexvrb - Saturday, April 06, 2013 - link

    They should rename them. Cloudbook? "It just works... about as well as any other thin client, anyway." Reply
  • Da W - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    Your absurd Chromebook bias is showing. When all you have to brag about is weight and battery life, it shows you don't know what computing is. Reply
  • MrSpadge - Saturday, April 06, 2013 - link

    :D (+1) Reply
  • Ortanon - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    It's just another netbook. Netbooks always have been and always will be idiotic. Reply
  • Ash282 - Saturday, April 06, 2013 - link

    A laptop without an operating system is no laptop, go get yourself a tablet! Reply
  • Howard - Sunday, April 07, 2013 - link

    I have a feeling you are going to get trolled like crazy on the forums now. Reply
  • efeman - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    Anything in the 14" space? Maybe on the horizon? Reply
  • yyrkoon - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    Jarred, nice article. I always like seeing your laptop reviews, mainly because your views seem to mirror mine. Or mine mirror yours, but whatever.

    I would mention however, that often times if you're willing to wait, you can get $400 excellent deals on just about any bargain type laptop. Last year I picked up an A6 quad 3400 ( yeah yeah I know low clock speed ), with 1GB "dedicated" graphics. The graphics being dedicated in that its still the CPU graphics, but with a dedicated memory daughter card for it. Yeah, do not ask me lol, this is just what I've read when I researched it. Either way it plays games like GTA IV, and the latest XCOM just fine. XCOM it'll even play at the highest settings with little problems. At 1.4Ghz stock CPU speed however, it can choke on some CPU intensive games.

    In the end I have probably spent around $500 on it, since I've added more memory (8GB total ), then bought a DVD->HDD caddy, along with a 1TB drive . . . but I really can not complain. Also despite my disdain for Asus motherboard, this laptop is an Asus, and I am perfectly happy with it.

    Keep up the good work, and sometimes, I would like to see a comparison between Intel, and AMD on CPU graphics. Or maybe there is an article already ? Been busy lately.
  • A Geologist - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    Thanks for the buyers guide, there aren't nearly enough decent guides for the mainstream and budget markets. I'd like to suggest a student laptop guide concentrating on small portable and cheap laptops that students would haul between lectures and practicals all day, every day if you're going to be making the buyers guide a regular feature. I'd also like to put in a recommendation for the ASUS Vivibooks in that category, they're built very solidly with half decent keyboards and they're compact enough to carry around all the time. They're not terribly powerful but mashing out an essay or going through web based lecture notes doesn't need much processing power. Reply
  • coolhardware - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    Nice list Jarred,
    This budget laptop list is particularly handy as one of the most popular question from friends/family is: 'what laptop should I get?' and the budget is generally $500 or less. So this list hits the nail right on the head. :-)

    Since Windows 8 is shipping on virtually all non-Apple, non-Chrome laptops today, may I suggest adding a 'Best Touchscreen Laptop' to the best-budget-laptops list?

    I know there are not many touch laptops available for less than $500 range, but one fine specimen is the ASUS 11.6" series of touch laptops (as usual ASUS has a variety of model numbers for mildly different specifications).

    Specifically, the X202E (available NewEgg, Amazon, etc. or the ASUS S200E (available at Staples) are the best deals IMHO. They can sometimes be had for as low as $399 and are generally right around $449*.

    More info on those laptops* including specs and pros/cons:

    *I would NOT recommend the ASUS Q200E (BestBuy) which looks the same but has an older CPU (Sandy Bridge instead of Ivy Bridge) and correspondingly slower HD 3000 graphics.

    As time progresses I anticipate more entries into the budget touch laptop category but the ASUS is a nice starting point!

    Please keep up these 'best of' posts as they make it easy to stay abreast of good deals and they are a great starting point for recommending hardware to friends/family. :-)
  • coolhardware - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    PS I know I suggested this laptop for the near-Ultrabook category in your inaugural piece last week, so I promise I will NOT nominate this laptop for any more categories. ;-) It is just hard not to recommend it because it is one of the most fun laptops I have had in a long time. It even works well with some of the 'Android on Windows 8 solutions' out there (like BlueStacks). Though it is a very trippy experience switching back and forth from Win8 to Android! Reply
  • Bob Todd - Saturday, April 06, 2013 - link

    It's an interesting laptop, and one I actually looked at to replace a little HP DM1Z I've had since release and it's utterly frustrating E350. Tangent on the Brazos chips for a moment, I know everyone who reviewed it basically said, "this is what atom should have been", but that's really only true on the GPU side with it's good decode engine, the CPU is still unbearably slow even for basic tasks.

    Now back to the VivoBooks. I just picked up something that was substantially worse in a few areas on paper, and way better in others. The last gen Lenovo x131e systems with Sandy Bridge ULV Celerons are available for ~$400. You give up the i3 and and HD4000, but the brutal throttling reported in the S200E notebookcheck review basically resulted in ULV Sandy Bridge Celeron performance anyway. The glossy screen on something that portable was a deal breaker for me, as was lack of gigabit Ethernet (Fast Ethernet needs to die already on anything over $200). With the x131e you get a matte screen, gigabit Ethernet, 2x USB 3 ports, a free slot for an mSATA SSD, a TPM module for Bitlocker WDE, Windows 7 Pro, a free slot for more RAM (4GB single DIMM included), and double the battery capacity with user changeable batteries as well. It isn't as slim, but for what I was after it made more sense.

    I really like the 11" form factor, especially when I need to do real work on planes, so I hope we keep getting more good options. I know I'll probably be replacing the x131e with some form of Haswell or Broadwell (or Richland or..?) convertible in a year or two, with a much better screen and double the cost, but for now I'm really happy with the Lenovo. For anyone in the market for an 11" without all of the ultrabook gotchas it's worth a look. Really it's pretty much exactly what I hoped the E350 equipped DM1Z would be. Small, long battery life, 'good enough' performance that's so cheap I can always have it in my bag and not worry if it gets destroyed.
  • arnavvdesai - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    While I agree with you on Haswell not affecting low cost laptops much, I would like to ask are you guys expecting them to shake up battery life for Windows laptops when they launch. Reply
  • RojC - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    Out of curiosity are there any laptop manufacturers considering a pre-install of Stardocks Start8 or similar, even a trial version, on their Win 8 laptops? I know that would make a Win8 laptop, especially a lower end non-touchscreen unit, a heck of a lot more enticing than having to ditch 30 years of experience with looky-clicky Windowing systems to learn the typey-swipey actions that you need to be productive with Metro. Especially since lower end Windows laptops tend to have less precise touchpads which can make navigating around Metro and between Metro and the desktop a challenge for old-school desktop users ... the few of us still left ... Reply
  • jamyryals - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    If I'm not mistaken, Samsung has a Stardock like start menu replacement available for their Windows 8 laptops. Reply
  • Freakie - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    What? No brownie points for if a laptop has a numberpad or not? It's like us Excel and Calculator users or in the minority or something... Reply
  • A5 - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    The Toshiba has a numpad.

    If you're spending enough time in Excel for that to be a major consideration, you should probably get a docking station with a real keyboard and larger monitor anyway.
  • DanNeely - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    If you're using a laptop for anything other than posting to MyFacePlus or watching video on CatTube you are in the minority... Reply
  • Freakie - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    I was just saying that he didn't mention it, is all. Obviously a few of the models do have numpads and it is a huge consideration for some of us. If I wanted something not portable, I would just get a desktop, but I rather do like having a number pad on my laptop. Also gives you a nice amount of space if you have your computer on your lap and you want to set your phone/graphing calculator or something on the computer for quick access, you can just put it on the number pad, unlike most laptops without one where the keyboard is too centered to leave enough space on either side. It's a random convenience, I know, but I am a random person!

    Only downside to a number pad is having your Home and End keys be farther away. I've noticed that laptops without a number pad but still have an extra row after the Backspace, \, Enter, and Shift keys somehow manage to get Home and End in a better position. Of course I can't actually recall seeing any modern laptop with that extra row in recent memory, which is sad. It was a decent compromise to a numpadless keyboard.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    I didn't specifically call out the number pad, but I was thinking about it when I commented on the ASUS having a "reasonable keyboard layout". The Toshiba is technically a better number pad, but I don't like the glossy keys much. And of course, with me playing with crazy ergonomic keyboards, my definitely of what makes for an ideal keyboard is in serious flux. LOL Reply
  • TrackSmart - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    Thanks! This is a great new addition to the site. Some feedback:

    15.6" certainly gets you the most hardware for your dollar if you don't care about size or weight, but maybe it would be worth adding a more portable option to your budget list (that isn't a Chomebook).

    I agree with other folks (several so far) that the Asus X202 might be a good recommendation for those who want something both budget ($450) and more portable than the 15.6" models. I don't know what else is out there, but I know some folks who have these little 11.6" laptops with touchscreens and Windows 8. They seem pretty darn happy with them.
  • dylan522p - Saturday, April 06, 2013 - link

    Can we get the best Thin and Light Laptops. We never get them, it feels like you guys ignore that whole demographic. I mean we get so much coverage (I love it all) on gaming laptops that weigh a ton and ultrabooks, but never thin and lights. Reply
  • Evil_Sheep - Saturday, April 06, 2013 - link

    Awesome article, I am always asked for notebook recommendations and frankly I mostly find people are just looking for basic useability at low cost, so these budget recommendations are highly useful.

    In that vein, I might ask, what is the best budget thin and light? 13" or so, sub-5lbs, reasonable battery life (5hrs minimum) and $500 or less. In my experience, I've found that there's very little in this category but that this would hit the mark for a lot of laptop shoppers I know. It seems you either get fat 15" notebooks at the $300-500 mark or ultrabooks at $700 and up. That leaves a big hole for those who just need the basic performance of a 15" budget no-frills notebook but in a portable chassis that is actually practical to spend a day out with rather than just using on the couch.

    Maybe you could call this category the ideal student notebook.
  • Joethemusician - Saturday, April 06, 2013 - link

    I've been looking for exactly that sort of a system. And count me in as someone who doesn't do more than webbrowsing, word processing, Outlook, and the occasional Excel spreadsheet. I have been tossing up between the Asus Vivobook X202e and a Lenovo 13.3" U310 (with touchscreen) that is going on sale at Staples tomorrow for $600 - Lenovo model number 59365302. That is an i5-3337U and a 500/24 HD/SSD combination drive. Still has the 1366x768 display, but it is multitouch like the Asus. It seems like a hard deal to beat. If anyone has any other ideas I'm all ears! Reply
  • BenJeffery - Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - link

    If you don't mind refubished laptops, you can get a fairly decent X series Thinkpad for under $500 on eBay. You may not get the latest and greatest CPU, though I'll definitely be looking at them when my current laptop needs upgrading.

    Speaking of which, my current laptop is a Dell Latitude E4300, which can be picked up pretty cheaply. It's an older Core 2 Duo machine, though it handles pretty much everything I need for school with the exception of running a bunch of a VMs. The battery life is around 4-6 hours depending on what I'm doing, it has one of the best laptop keyboards that I've ever used, it's built really well (Magnesium casing, I think) and doesn't weigh a lot. I replaced the HDD with a Crucial M4 and it boots Windows 8 in less than ten seconds. Unfortunately, being old, the GMA 4500MHD graphics drivers aren't well supported in Windows 8, so OpenGL games don't run unless I forcibly install the Windows 7 drivers, which isn't stable at all (Minecraft will cause a BSOD after a while).

    For a student laptop, off-lease / refurbished business grade laptops are amazing.
  • JimmyDeemo - Sunday, April 07, 2013 - link

    Can someone please give me an estimate on the lead time for the above recommendations internationally (UK)? For example no mention of the A10 on the HP or Toshiba sites that I can find. Also which NVidia cards are comparable in both price and performance? Are we talking the GT640M range. Thanks. Reply
  • ShieTar - Monday, April 08, 2013 - link

    Toshiba does not seem to care about the EU anymore, but some models with an A10 are available by HP, Lenovo and Samsung in the UK, see for example:
  • mike8675309 - Monday, April 08, 2013 - link

    It used to be, the best budget laptop was a outlet machine from Dell or other type companies. There you could get a 2 year old device that was a premium machine for crazy reasonable prices. I looked the other day, and nothing compelling anymore. I shop for screen resolution, and at one time you could get a 1920 x 1200 15" laptop that was a little older for around $600. Can you even get such a laptop today for quasi-reasonable price?

    This article came at the perfect time as I was shopping for my wife for a new machine to replace her netbook. Found discounts all over the place, and ended up with a i5 powered 15" lenovo machine for under $500. Depressingly, the resolution no better than what could be had on 11" machines. My wife won't care, but seems I'll be trying to hold onto my E6500 for a while longer.
  • Landspeeder - Tuesday, April 09, 2013 - link

    “Let me know what you’d like me to cover next”
    Jared, if possible I would love if you were to cover the Best 3D gaming laptop (Budget, Midrange, Highend) – even though it is a bit snarly with Nvision/Helixmod, AMD3D/TriDef/iZ3D, Windows 8 Native 3D, Occulus Rift/Vireio/VorpX, it would be of a great benefit to me and many others.
    Thank you!
  • MadMan007 - Saturday, April 13, 2013 - link

    Oh dear, even the tech-savvy writers on an enthusiast site are still QQ'ing over no Start menu. Reply
  • carlwu - Saturday, April 13, 2013 - link

    Who really wants a laptop right now when Haswell and Win8 Blue promises so much more? Reply
  • ytr191 - Tuesday, April 16, 2013 - link

    I have to say, ever since I started using to look at laptops before I buy them I have had a much better buying experience (and I have been able to fight off the "chromebook" hype) Reply
  • el_casey - Saturday, April 20, 2013 - link

    After reading this article on Wednesday, I just bought one of these (ASUS A55A) for my mother as a "nice budget laptop" to upgrade her aging Dell Studio 1535.

    It's now been about 25 hours since I received it via UPS from Amazon. And it's also been four hours since I printed out a return label for Amazon. What a piece of shit this thing is. It won't boot from USB (neither Removable Device nor USB is even mentioned in the BIOS or the boot menu).

    It came preinstalled with Win 8 Home Premium 64-bit ... but it didn't come with a license key for Win 8 anywhere on the machine or anywhere in the documentation. I personally have no inclination to use Windows 8, but I wanted my mother to try it. The factory 8 install is full of crapware (I suppose that's every PC notebook, though) so you can't even do a legal clean install of 8. You can downgrade to 7, but you ain't coming back (legally).

    What a joke. Save your money.
  • askmepc - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    I need help. I have a web design business and create a ton of videos in Camtasia , and also convert DVD's to usable videos for youtube and clients ( of their speaking and TV appearances).
    I have an acer 5741 aspire with a i5 processor a, 500 gb, 2.27 ghz and it has thee WORST sound system ever. It overheats all the time when I am processing videos. and after 3 years so many keys on the keyboard are loose or uneven and cannot be repaired easily.
    Mainly I need a computer that will overheat and can handle the video processing and also I do not want Windows 8 at all. And man I want a normal sound system. This sound is like coming out of an old AM radio, just the worst. I really do not know what to buy. I want to cap the budget at no more than 800.00 Suggestions? I have owned an HP Pavilion, multiple Dell's and got so fed up with their horrible customer service that I bought the Acer, and I had a Toshiba. So I am flummoxed on the best computer for my needs. Thanks so much.

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