Ten 15in notebooks for under 400 quid
Back to school, boys and girls
Product Round-up As much as Intel would like us all to rush out and buy an expensive new Ultrabook, the fact remains that the top-selling laptops for most manufacturers are still low-cost 15.6in models. Laptops for £400 or less have back-to-school appeal written all over them, but the mix of components varies enormously to appeal to different needs.
There are some basic similarities of course – a resolution of 1366 x 768 seems pretty much standard on these 15.6in models, and battery life rarely edges past the 3-4 hour mark. Yet the devil is in the detail and you'll need to check the processor, memory and storage options to get your money's worth at this end of the scale. With a keen eye on the specs, we've been shopping around to find 10 budget laptops that merit pride of place in the backpack this autumn or, if needs must, doing the business for undemanding office work.
Acer Aspire 5733
If Acer can manage an Ultrabook for £500 then it should have no trouble producing something worthwhile for less than £400. The Aspire 5733 certainly gets off to a good start, with a 2.53GHz Core i3 processor – albeit the 2010 Arrandale model – and respectable four-hour battery life. However, the 3GB memory and 320GB hard disk are a little disappointing – even at this price we’d expect any Windows 7 machine to have 4GB of RAM.
The screen and keyboard are perfectly adequate, but the machine is a bit hefty and won’t be very backpack-friendly at a full 2.6kg.
Reg Rating 70%
More info Acer
Advent Monza S200
Advent is the in-house brand of laptops produced by the Dixons group, so you’ll find these low-cost laptops in most high-street branches of PC World and Currys. Available in smart red and blue colours, the S200 feels quite solid for such an inexpensive machine, and has a bright, attractive 1366 x 768 screen. My only complaint is that the trackpad is rather small and felt a bit fiddly.
The AMD-E450 processor only runs at a modest 1.65GHz, but it’s backed up by integrated Radeon HD6320 graphics, so should be perfectly adequate for running MS Office and other routine computing tasks, such as playing video or a spot of photo-editing. Battery life isn’t great, though, only rated at a maximum of three hours.
Reg Rating 70%
More info Advent
Next page: Asus A54C
My advice would be to rummage through the bargain bins at your local PC outlet (or virtually) and buy last year's model. There's very little difference in spec, and you should be able to get comparable performance for <<£300. Look for a 4GB system with a free memory slot - a 4GB SODIMM costs just over £10 and is generally the best and simplest performance boost.
Don't forget to reinstall your preferred OS to eliminate all the bloatware the manufacturers love to load these babies with. You really don't need a 6-month 'free' trial of McAfee AV.
Ultrabook = ultra profit. It's Intel trying to convince everyone to spend more.
Unless your wanting to play 3D games then even the cheapest new laptops you can buy these days will do the stuff most people want to do, internet, email, photo editiing, streaming videos, office, can even do video editing just not as fast as the more expensive laptops.
The comment about one of the laptops only having 3Gb of RAM? I am using a laptop with 'only' 2GB and i can't remember the last time i had a problem with low memory, even with thunderbird, libreoffice and firefox with about 10 tabs open
I find an SSD is the single most effective performance upgrade at work. I've got 1 and 2 GB RAM single core laptops that are outperforming £1K+ laptops simply by swapping the HD for an SSD.
Higher Quality Kit For Cheap
I also agree about the second hand laptop for kidlets going off to school. Given the condition of the machines that come through the door of our shop for emergency repair work through the school year on the weekend.
Better yet - make the kids pay for the machine and repairs out of their own money cause chances are your going to slop down the better part of tuition and boarding for them anyways.
Pick up something like an old stock or refurbished Acer TimelineX or Thinkpad X200 series on the cheap - toss in the cheapest SSD you can get your hands on, pick up a handflul of the back to school thumbdrives that float around for next to nothing and you'll have a fairly strong runner that you (or they) won't have to worry too much about.
Plus with a slighly older laptop you have a good idea of relability over time - tons of reviews - known bugs/design flaws - compaitibility with certain things.
If going to school is anything like back when I went - its all about the drinking and the ladies anyways then bashing out homework at a coffee shop on the morning it is due through the haze of a hangover or best case while still drunk.