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PC Advisor's ultimate guide to buying a laptop

From ultraportables to tablets - we've got them covered

There's a huge array of choice when it comes to laptops, but with everything from netbooks and ultraportables to machines suitable for gaming and those designed to withstand use in rural locations, which should you choose. We've put together the ultimate laptop guide to help you decide.

Budget

There are three things that count when it comes to budget laptops: price, price and price.

Start with a processor such as an AMD Turion X2 or a Celeron, Pentium Dual Core or slower Core 2 Duo from Intel; don't expect a high-speed chip. Mix in 2GB of system memory, a 14 or 15in screen and a 160 to 250GB 5,400rpm hard drive. The problem is that there is little to separate the laptops in this category.

Because they have roughly the same hardware, they all end up weighing in around 2.5kg. That's because cutting weight costs money.

There are a few happy surprises when it comes to configuration, though. Just about every budget machine these days has a good assortment of ports and a DVD-burning optical drive, although some can't handle the latest double-layer media.

Don't expect stellar performance or full-day battery life, but this class of system can easily handle daily tasks such as email, web surfing and tapping out memos and reports. They stutter with computationally intense tasks like video editing or heavy-duty database work.

What's missing from a budget notebook? A lot of the things that we've become accustomed to, such as a high-resolution screen, Bluetooth, a fingerprint scanner and sometimes a webcam. In some cases you can order them as options, but the money adds up quickly - if you want any of these items, it might be a better deal to get a stripped-down mainstream system instead.

Budget laptops at a glance

Target audience: These are great for individuals and companies that can't afford mainstream systems but need reliable computers.

Pros: Price is key here, and these systems deliver just enough performance and battery life to get the job done.

Cons: They're on the large side and miss some nice-to-have features.

Typical size/weight: 381x254x41mm / 2.5kg

Screen size: 14.1 to 15.6in

CPU / RAM: 1.8 to 2.2GHz AMD Turion X2 or Intel Celeron, Pentium Dual Core or Core 2 Duo / 2 to 4GB

Storage: 160 to 250GB HDD

Ports and connections: 3 to 5 USB ports, VGA, audio, Ethernet, sometimes FireWire.

Price range: £300 to £450

Examples: Dell Inspiron 15, Lenovo G530.

Buying tips: Watch out for what's missing, like Bluetooth. Also consider upgrading to a larger or faster hard drive.

NEXT PAGE: mainstream

  1. From ultraportables to tablets - we've got them covered
  2. Ultramobile PCs
  3. Netbooks
  4. Ultraslim
  5. Thin and light
  6. Tablet PCs
  7. Rugged PCs
  8. Budget laptops
  9. Mainstream
  10. Entertainment machines
  11. Gaming machines
  12. Mobile workstations



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