Intel isn't the only game in town when it comes to processors, and there are several manufacturers who produce low-cost AMD-based laptops that they tend to sell through specific high street stores or online retailers such as Saveonlaptops. At just £239.97, the Compaq CQ58 is one of the most affordable budget laptops running Windows 8 we've come across. It's not, of course, the fastest or most stylish laptop we've ever seen, but it'll do the trick for checking your email or doing some web browsing in a coffee shop.
The black plastic casing does have a rather cheap and cheerful feel to it, and the keyboard tends to rattle a bit when you're typing. However, it does feel sturdy enough to cope with the occasional bump in a backpack and the keyboard is firm enough to let you type at speed in Microsoft Word, even if it does get a bit loud at times. Our one real concern about the build quality is the tray of the internal optical drive, which seems extremely flimsy when it pops out from the side of the machine.
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But, for the most part, the CQ58 gets the basics right. The 15.6-inch display provides 1366x768 resolution with a bright, clear image. The vertical viewing angle is a little limited, and if you're viewing full-screen video then you may need to tilt the screen occasionally in order to improve visibility, but it's not bad enough to be annoying, and it's not a problem when you're simply browsing web pages in Internet Explorer.
The speakers, likewise, are fairly basic, producing a rather thin, tinny sound when playing music, but they're adequate for watching lolcat videos on YouTube, and there's a headphone socket if you want to listen to some decent music. And one advantage of the lightweight plastic casing is that the CQ58 only weighs 2.3Kg, which is below average for a 15-inch laptop with a built-in DVD drive.
Performance is fairly modest, though. The AMD processor used here is an E1-1200 running at 1.4GHz, which produces a score of just 1094 when running the PCMark 7 benchmark. And, with just 2GB of memory and 3200GB hard disk, it's safe to assume that the CQ58 is not going to be a good choice for gaming or video editing. It definitely feels a bit sluggish when opening multiple applications but – to be fair – it's still adequate for web browsing and running Microsoft Office, and there's a 4GB option available that costs just £20 extra if you think you'll need it.
Battery life was also quite respectable, providing just under five hours (285 mins) of streaming video, which makes it one of the longer-lasting laptops in this price category. See also: best budget laptop.