Toshiba Satellite C660-1J2
The cheaper models in Toshiba’s Satellite range mostly use underwhelming Celeron processors, but this C660-1J2 model provides a more recent 2.53GHz Core i3 processor, as well as 4GB memory and 320GB hard disk, while still sneaking in at just under £400.
The all-black casing isn’t terribly exciting to look at, but the 1366 x 768 display is sharp and clear, and the keyboard has a nice, firm feel to it. Battery life is good, at around five hours, and my only real complaint is that the trackpad is annoyingly small and fiddly. You might get used to it and there's always a mouse alternative. If you're OK with a smaller hard disk you do get a pretty decent spec and build overall, what's not to like?
Reg Rating 80%
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Toshiba Satellite Pro C850
Toshiba gets a second bite at the cherry, as the C850 tackles a couple of my laptop pet peeves. The matt-black casing is finger-smudge resistant, while the screen benefits from an anti-reflective matte finish. Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a trade-off here, as Toshiba has had to skimp in other areas in order to keep the price below £400.
The 2.3GHz Core i3 processor and 320GB hard disk are fine, but cutting the memory down to just 2GB seems like a daft move – especially with Windows 8 looming on the horizon – but at least you’ve got the option of upgrading to a maximum of 8GB in the future. ®
Reg Rating 65%
More info Toshiba
Ten 15in notebooks for under 400 quid
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.