By Louis DeNicola, Cheapism.com
As back-to-school sales wind down, things start looking up for anyone thinking about buying a new laptop. Decide.com, which tracks prices for consumer goods, has pinpointed the end of September and the second half of December as two of the best times to find a deal on a laptop. The site's CEO told Forbes that consumers should shop after the back-to-school rush. And of course Black Friday always brings discounts.
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Can't wait for a deal? Cheapism has pored over reviews in search of affordable laptops that earn experts' favor. Sale or no sale, you can snap up one of these models for well under $600.Now might be the best time to look for a laptop.
- The new Dell Inspiron 15R (starting at $550) features a 750GB hard drive, 6GB of RAM, and four USB 3.0 ports with fast transfer speeds. This 6-pound laptop has a 15.6-inch screen and comes with a second-generation Intel Core i3-2370M processor (2.5 Ghz). For more processing power and a price that's (barely) still under the $600 mark, you can upgrade to a third-generation Intel Core i5-3210 processor (up to 3.1 GHz). Doing so also downgrades the hard drive to 500GB, but it's a worthy tradeoff: Experts laud the faster version and 500GB is still on par with the size of the hard drives on other top budget laptops.
- The smaller 14-inch HP ProBook 4440s (starting at $480) has 4GB of RAM and only a 320GB hard drive, but that's still enough room for a lot of files. Although this laptop is geared toward mobile professionals, it should appeal to home users as well, with features such as a second-generation Intel Core i3-2370M processor (2.4 GHz), two USB 3.0 ports, and an SD card reader. Reviews of a previous version highlight the style and quality of the construction, which includes a metal chassis and a spill-resistant keyboard.
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- The Dell Inspiron 14z (starting at $499) has a 14-inch screen and weighs in at a relatively light 4.23 pounds, making it easy to throw into your bag for the day. Reviews also cite the standout battery life, which one expert measured at more than seven hours. The laptop comes with a second-generation Intel Core i3-2350M processor (2.3 GHz), 4 GB of RAM, two USB 3.0 ports, and Bluetooth 3.0 support.
- The Toshiba Satellite L755-S5166 (starting at $520) is a good example of what you can expect from a typical laptop at this price. It has a 15.6-inch screen, 4GB of RAM, and a second-generation Intel Core i3-2350M processor (2.3GHz). It also features a good-size 640GB hard drive. Reviews indicate it should be able to handle any basic task you throw at it.
The screens on all these laptops have a resolution of 1366 x 768, so they can play high-definition video at 720p (although not 1080p). They have HDMI ports for connecting to an HDTV.
As for gaming, the integrated graphics chips in budget laptops aren't capable of handling the intensity of modern 3D games at the highest settings. However, they deal perfectly fine with everyday tasks.
If you want a budget laptop that can accompany you on the go, keep battery life in mind. Most laptops in this price range come with six-cell batteries, but some, such as the Dell 14z, last longer than others.
Laptop prices are sure to fluctuate between now and the holidays, so start figuring out what exactly you want in terms of specs and functionality, and then keep an eye out for a deal.
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