Laptop Buying Guide

Mid-Range Computing: $300-400 Laptops

Our $300 Laptop Pick
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HP 15.6" Laptop
  • Model #: G56-129WM
  • Processor: Celeron 900 2.2GHz
  • Memory: 3GB
  • Display: 15.6"
  • Hard-Drive: 250GB
  • Optical Drive: SuperMulti Double-Layer DVD burner
  • Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium
$298.00

This year, making the jump to $298 isn’t going to help you get a significantly better laptop than the eMachines model for $198. The extra 1GB of RAM is nice to have around, but isn’t going to be a significant performance boost compared to the eMachines laptop.

Though both laptops are doorbuster deals, this HP laptop is not as heavily advertised as a doorbuster. If you can’t get the eMachines laptop in time, this one would be a decent second prize – the value is still pretty solid, all things considered. We still expect the laptop to sell quickly at Wal-Mart so this is not a deal you can sit on.

Our $400 Laptop Pick
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HP 17.3" Laptop
  • Model #: G72-227WM
  • Processor: Dual Core T4500, 2.3GHz
  • Memory: 3GB
  • Display: 17.3"
  • Hard-Drive: 320GB
  • Graphics: Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500M
  • Optical Drive: SuperMulti 8X DVD±R/RW with Double Layer Support
  • Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium
$398.00

This is where we start to hit the sweet spot value-wise this holiday season for laptops. While the processor speed itself is not a huge increase, the shift to the Core 2 Duo amounts to a laptop that will perform significantly better for most tasks. When paired with the 17.3 inch screen, 3GB of RAM and 320GB of hard drive space, the value here is a significant boost over the cheaper laptops we previously mentioned. One other area where this laptop shines is the HDMI out port. With HDTVs being commonplace in many homes these days, having the ability to hook your laptop directly into your TV through a cord you already have is nice.

Our $400 Honorable Mention
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HP 15.6" AMD Vision Laptop
  • Model #: G62-347NR
  • Processor: AMD Athlon II Dual-Core 2.2Ghz
  • Memory: 3GB
  • Display: 15.6"
  • Hard-Drive: 320GB
  • Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4250
  • Optical Drive: LightScribe SuperMulti 8X DVD±R/RW with Double Layer Support
  • Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium
$349.99

HP's 15.6-inch laptop is a very close second to the 17.3-inch version. Both have similar specs, with the 15.6-inch winning out on the video card front, while the 17.3-inch has the bigger screen and a slightly faster processor. A 15.6 inch screen may be beneficial to people who are after portability instead of a bigger screen.

The two real reasons to go after this smaller laptop, though, don't involve specs at all. For one, the $50 price difference is over 10% lower than the 17.3-inch offering. Secondly, the smaller laptop is for sale at Radio Shack, a store that'll probably be easier to shop at than Wal Mart on Black Friday.

You can't really go wrong with either of these laptops, though – this year, the deals in this price range are solid.

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Next Page - High Performance: $500+ Laptops

November 19, 2010
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