Budget Laptops: HP Pavilion g6t vs. Lenovo G580

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We compare two $500 budget notebooks with 15.6-inch displays, Windows 8 and Intel Core i5 processors. What makes one a better choice than the other?

Lenovo G580
HP Pavilion g6t

A laptop budget of $500 won’t buy a backlit keyboard or a fancy graphics card; at this price range we’re mostly interested in reliable performance, a comfortable keyboard and reasonable battery life. The Lenovo G580 and HP Pavilion g6t both fill this tall order. This comparison will highlight specific differences between the two.

Build Quality

Build quality typically suffers on run-of-the-mill notebooks like the two in our comparison; neither impresses in terms of durability and in the Lenovo’s case, even satisfies. We found durability concerns with the G580, especially with the flimsy hinge and noticeable chassis flex. The g6t fares somewhat better as it’s not as flexible but is still covered in the same awful glossy black plastic; it gathers fingerprints and dust too easily for our liking. The edge goes just barely to the g6t.

Keyboard and Touchpad

Lenovo typically does well in the keyboard department and the G580 stays within the rule; the keys have relatively precise action even compared to a ThinkPad but suffer from some flex due to the flimsy chassis. The g6t again fares better in terms of flex — the keyboard at least feels solid but isn’t quite as pleasant to type on. Something to note is the keyboard layout; the G580 squeezes in a numeric keypad but uses 2/3 size keys to do so; the latest g6t has full-size keys. The edge goes a bit more clearly here to the HP g6t.

Display

The display is a tie; as far as the naked eye is concerned 15.6-inch budget notebooks all appear to come with the same display. Unfortunately, that display features a glossy surface and underwhelming 1366×768 resolution (too low for productive tasks; for example it’s not easy to use two windows side-by-side). The glossy surface has annoying reflections anywhere there is background lighting and especially overhead lighting. Neither notebook has the advantage in this section.

Speakers

The plain two-speaker setup of these budget notebooks offer similar sound quality but the Lenovo sounds slightly roomier and gets louder. The edge goes to the G580 if you’re lookig for better audio performance.

Battery Life

These notebooks both come with 6-cell li-ion batteries and deliver around five hours of continuous run time with normal web browsing. You can expect to see about 1/3 less battery life with more intensive tasks such as playing flash games or HD video playback using high screen brightness while the notebook is unplugged.

Conclusion

These near-identically priced notebooks offer a reasonable package of features and usability at the $500 price range. Budget computers have been a commodity for some time now, meaning there’s not a whole lot of differentiation amongst competing products — it’s mostly in the name and design. The Lenovo G580 loses by a slim margin to the HP Pavilion g6t in this comparison for several reasons: the first is that the g6t has a superior keyboard layout with full-size keys in its numeric keypad. The g6t also has a slightly less flexible chassis compared to the G580. Otherwise these notebooks are essentially the same for all intents and purposes. In fact we would take Lenovo if it was $50 less expensive, but given roughly the same price we’d go with the HP Pavilion g6t.

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