Best General Purpose Laptops

by Reads (30,896)

The laptop market was shaken up by tablets and Ultrabooks over the past two years, but the simple fact remains that many people just want an affordable laptop for personal or family use. The editors at Notebook Review have taken a look at some of the most interesting budget laptops and family PCs and compiled our list of top 5 picks based on editor opinions and the scores from our in-depth reviews.

General purpose notebooks range from $250 netbooks with 10-inch displays to 17-inch desktop replacement notebooks with budget configurations in the $600 price range. These systems usually do not have a high-performance processor, discrete graphics or entertainment-oriented features like 1080p displays, Blu-ray drives or high-quality stereo speakers. These budget-priced laptops are intended for basic tasks like browsing the web, sending email, using Microsoft Office, watching web-based videos, balancing your checkbook or playing light games. Most systems are equipped with 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.

If you don’t see the perfect notebook in the list we’ve provided, be sure to seek out buying advice in our “What Notebook Should I Buy?” discussion forum. Our forum members, moderators, and staff will graciously offer their insight in helping you pick the best laptop for your student.


#1 Lenovo IdeaPad Z580


We can say many glowing things about the Lenovo IdeaPad Z580, but to make a long story short we called this notebook “almost the perfect budget laptop” in our full review this year.

Featuring a 15.6-inch display, your choice of Intel Core series processors, a great keyboard and good battery life, this makes a great family laptop starting in the $500 price range.

This is technically a budget laptop but since it’s part of Lenovo’s IdeaPad line it also has some decent multimedia features like Dolby Home Theater software for improved audio. The full-sized keyboard with numeric keypad also makes for a great typing experience. Our only complaint is that there is only one screen option: a standard glossy HD display with 1366 x 768 resolution. Is this the ideal budget laptop for families and students.

Rating Average: 7 out of 10

Read the Lenovo IdeaPad Z580 Review

#2 HP Pavilion g6


Are you looking for an inexpensive, sub-$500 notebook for basic home and office use? The 15.6-inch HP Pavilion g6 delivers some of the best bang for your bucks. This budget laptop is one of HP’s most popular sellers here in the United States … and with good reason; purchasing the Pavilion g6 means you can save money and still buy a reasonably impressive new PC.

Our biggest complaints about the g6 are pretty common for budget laptops: The notebook is covered in glossy plastics (which are prone to fingerprint smudges), the plastic screen lid doesn’t provide the best impact protection, the speakers are average and the screen resolution is limited to 1366 x 768. Again, most budget laptops have the same problems, only most budget laptops have even worse build quality or fewer available configuration options.

Rating Average: 7 out of 10

Read the HP Pavilion g6 Review

#3 Samsung Series 5


The Samsung Series 5 line of ultrathin laptops is available with your choice of either Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processors or AMD A6 or A10 “APU” processors with discrete-class Radeon graphics. The Series 5 is offered in both 13-inch and 14-inch varieties and comes with an impressive array of ports and a starting price of less than $700 in most US retail stores.

Although you have to pay a little extra for the Series 5 compared to a budget 15-inch laptop you’re paying for the thin-and-light design and in some cases a nice boost in overall performance. The Samsung Series 5 with AMD Quad-Core A10-4655M processor and AMD Radeon HD 7620G Graphics is powerful enough to let you play modern video games (which you can’t play on a budget Intel laptop) for a street price of around $650.

Rating Average: 8 out of 10

Read the Samsung Series 5 Review

#4 HP Pavilion Sleekbook 6


If you want a 15-inch laptop because of the nice, big screen but you also want a modern laptop with a thin and light design then the HP Pavilion Sleekbook 6 might be just what you need.

Much like the smaller Samsun Series 5, the HP Sleekbook 6 series is available with either Intel or AMD processors. The Sleekbook was inspired by the ultra-thin Intel Ultrabooks but HP wanted to create a thiner, lighter laptop without the hefty Ultrabook price tag.

Overall, our review of the Sleekbook was rather mixed simply because you can get the same performance from lower-cost laptops like the previously mentioned Pavilion g6 or the Lenovo IdeaPad Z580. The main reason to buy a Sleekbook rather than the cheaper alternatives is you want that thin-and-light laptop design. So, if you plan to travel with your laptop but just want a basic family PC then the thinner and lighter Sleekbook is a better choice than the Pavilion g6 … just be aware that you’re going to pay an extra $50 to $100 just for that thin-and-light design.

Rating Average: 6 out of 10

Read the HP Pavilion Sleekbook 6 Review

#5 HP Pavilion dm1


The netbook category of budget ultraportable laptops is all but dead thanks to Apple’s iPad and because consumers were unimpressed by the poor performance of the original netbooks with Intel Atom processors. That being said, netbooks are still around because many people grew accustomed to small laptops at small prices and now demand these compact laptops with price tags below $400.

The HP Pavilion dm1 is one of the few remaining netbook alternatives and has survived largely because HP found a way to deliver a good balance between performance and price. The dm1 uses AMD E-series processors and graphics to deliver a far superior computing experience compared to netbooks that use Intel’s Atom processor and graphics.

Not only that, but the Pavilion dm1 features an 11-inch screen with standard 1366 x 768 resolution rather than the substandard 10-inch screens and lower resolutions found on most cheaper netbooks. In short, if you’re looking for a low-cost travel laptop that is still powerful enough to serve as your “primary PC” and delivers great battery life then the HP Pavilion dm1 is one of the few options left.

Rating Average: 8 out of 10

Read the HP Pavilion dm1 Review

Want to know which noteboooks are tops in the minds of NotebookReview‘s readers?  Check out our Most Popular Notebooks lists, based on traffic across our site!

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