Move over netbooks. The latest crop of budget laptops have large displays, cost less than $500 and have performance that blows netbooks out of the water.
Here are our picks for budget laptops with the best combination of performance, style and price (as of December 5, 2011):
The 15.6-inch Samsung NP305V5A’s brushed-aluminum-texture finish and sharp styling make it stand out from the usual plasticky look of other budget models. Plus, it’s 1.6Ghz AMD A-Series Quad-Core A6 is by far the most powerful of our picks. Includes 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. Weighs 5.5 pounds. Price: $499.99.
Verdict: Best combination of style and power
HP Pavilion g4 ($499.99)
This attractive laptop sports a 14-inch display with a wide viewing angle, a comfortable keyboard and good audio. The HP Pavilion g4's 1.65 GHz AMD Dual-Core E-450 processor is the least powerful of our choices, but the Pavilion g4 is also by far the lightest at 4.6 pounds—perfect for everyday computing and occasional travel. Includes 4 GB of RAM and a 500 GB hard drive. Price: $499.99.
Verdict: Gets the job done at home or on the road
Dell Inspiron 15 N5040 ($449.99)
The 15.6-inch Dell Inspiron 15 N5040 is in the middle of the pack in terms of processing power, with its 2.53GHz Intel Core i3 processor, and it's also the heaviest at 6.02 pounds, but it’s a good choice for those that are looking to perform everyday computing tasks at home. And it's $50 less than our other picks. Includes 3GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. Price: $449.99.
Verdict: Solid performance at a great price.