There are many facets to buying a notebook, but when you are on a budget, sometimes the most important one is price. Buying a budget notebook can be difficult, as the old proverb "you get what you pay for" usually proves to be true.
To buy a notebook at an affordable price, consumers have to be willing to compromise, as even the best budget devices are not without their faults. The best method to ensuring that you get the right budget device for you is to figure out what you need and be willing to concede almost everything else. To make this process simpler, we've compiled five of the best budget notebooks under $500, all of which offer their own unique strengths and weaknesses.
HP Pavilion dm1z: $469.85
The HP Pavilion dm1z isn't new, but it remains one of the better budget PCs on the market. Released in 2011, the Pavilion became what so many netbooks strived to be, an affordable portable notebook with acceptable performance. Housing an AMD E-350 1.66GHz dual-core processor equipped with a Radeon HD 6310M, the Pavilion provides better than expected performance for an entry-level portable device. The HP Pavilion dm1z will prove more than adequate for normal functions and word processing, and thanks to the Radeon HD 6310M the device can even play older games like Left for Dead 2, with minimal performance drop. However, newer more performance intensive games and functions will prove to be too much for the budget notebook.
As with every affordable notebook, there are concessions that users will make with the HP Pavilion dm1z. The machine only has 3GB of RAM, so it won't be as proficient at multi-tasking as more recent notebooks, and the notebook's battery isn't as robust as advertised. Additionally, the HP Pavilion is a bit bulky compared to today's notebooks, as this 11-inch device weighs more than many of today's 13-inch notebooks.
Given just how well the machine performs (for a budget machine), its flaws can be overlooked. Even a year after release, the HP Pavilion remains a difficult machine to beat when it comes to bang for your buck.
For more information on the device see the HP Pavilion dm1z review.
Sony VAIO E Series: $430
The Sony VAIO E Series (SVE11113FXW) is similar to the HP Pavilion dm1z, in that it's an affordable cheap 11" notebook that offers an acceptable level of performance for its bargain price.
The VAIO is equipped with an AMD E2-1800 1.2GHz processor, with 4GB of RAM, and an AMD Radeon HD 7340 graphics card. Despite having a slower processor, the VAIO does offer more RAM than Pavilion, so there is a bit of give and take between the two devices in terms of performance. The extra RAM makes the VAIO better at multi-tasking, but the lower processing power lowers overall performance.
The low processing power is the most noticeable issue for this device and it's a bit heavy considering its only 11-inches and weighs 3.3-lbs. However, given the price and overall package, the Sony VAIO E Series is a great option for a budget notebook.
Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E530: $480
The Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E530 is a bit heavier than our previous choices, as the 15.6-inch device weighs in 5.4 pounds. However, the ThinkPad's stout build also comes with more RAM and a faster processor than the Pavilion. The simplistic chassis design of the ThinkPad Edge says it all; this device is a workhorse plain and simple.
Equipped with a 3rd generation i3-2350M 2.3GHz processor with Intel HD graphics and 4GB of RAM this device doesn't offer the most exciting specs, but it is more than capable of taking on basic computing and word processing functions. Additionally, the utility of this device is expanded by the excellent keyboard and touchpad quality that ThinkPad's are known for.
The faults of the Edge come back to its less than stellar design; the machine is a bit bulky and looks rather mundane. Still users who want all substance and no flash will find that the ThinkPad meets their needs.
Lenovo ThinkPad x130e: $380
The Lenovo ThinkPad x130e holds an important accolade; it's the cheapest notebook on the list.
The low price doesn't come free though, as the ThinkPad offers performance at levels that are a bit below the other notebooks here. The ThinkPad is equipped with a 1.3GHz AMD Fusion E-300 with 4GB of RAM and an AMD Radeon HD 6310 graphics card. The device will be able to perform basic functions and word processing, but don't expect much else from this device.
The Lenovo ThinkPad x130e is targeted as an educational tool for students in high school and below and the device is perfect for that. It offers performance levels that are slightly above that of a netbook, with a similar price making it perfect for those on a strict budget.
Acer Aspire V5-571: $470
The Acer Aspire V5-571 (6605) is another solid 15.6-inch notebook that while a bit chunky at 5.1-lbs, offers solid performance making it a great choice for a budget notebook.
Of course, the integrated graphics are not ideal, as users will not be able to perform more graphic intensive processes like gaming, but the device is perfect for people who are simply looking for a machine that is productive. While the Aspire does not offer the same great keyboard and touchpad that the ThinkPad Edge offers, it does have more RAM making it better at handling multiple processes at once.
Saving money is always welcomed, but even more so around the holidays. If your cheap notebook purchase has left you with a few extra dollars to spend, you may want to check out our Holiday Buyer's Guide for more great deals and gadgets.
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