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Laptops For Less: 25 Notebooks Under $600

Our handy guide to the best and latest low-cost notebook computers from Acer, Compaq, Dell, Everex, Gateway, HP, Lenovo, and Toshiba.

With portables supposedly outselling desktop PCs last year, obviously someone considers them an intriguing proposition. To be honest, once you realize that you can take it with you -- good or bad as that might be to your personal life -- it’s easy to understand the attraction.


Acer Aspire

(click image for larger view)


Acer's Aspire AS4520-5582 comes with an AMD Turion 64 TL-52 and Windows Vista Home Premium.

View the entire laptop gallery

What no one typically mentions, however, is equivalence: A portable that performs as well as an equivalent desktop will cost considerably more than the desktop system and, within the subset of all available portables, will have a shorter battery life and weigh more than you probably want it to if you’re carrying it for any prolonged period of time.

Determined to keep a lid on spending, we’ve ducked those issues entirely and focused on laptops that cost $600 or less. These are not Road Warriors or Productivity Studs and certainly not gaming environments by any measure. They are meat and potatoes (and, in some cases, just potatoes) computer buddies. In fact, when you get down to the $450 and lower models, you’ll actually be in a world of throwaways (or, hopefully, hand-me-downs) that will let you gauge what you really need in terms of portable computing abilities without the risk of making a costly mistake right off the bat.

As you look through the list, there are several things to keep in mind:

  1. Linux is still not a mainstream operating system, and, if you're already comfortable with Windows, it could end up being counterintuitive no matter how "Windows-like" the user interface is made to look.
  2. More memory is always better than less, especially with Vista.
  3. Solid state disks (SSD) are trendy hard disk alternatives but, for their price, you get far less capacity than with a mechanical drive. Despite the power savings SSDs offer, that's never been a good situation in computing.
  4. Smaller screens generally mean smaller, lighter, and easier-to-carry portables. They’re also tougher on older eyes at anything but the most modest resolutions. Young of heart is great. Young of eyes can sometimes be better.

Best of all, none of these systems should be beyond your consideration. As with any utensil, what you can do with one of them depends on whether you’ve selected the correct one for the job you want to get done. Forks and soup don’t usually match up well. A spoon, on the other hand, can provide a marvelous experience in context.

All of the specifications were gleaned from the product Web pages at their manufacturers’ sites or from reseller sites. Some of these portables may no longer be available from their original manufacturers, but they still have a significant presence in the retail channel. Time may not be "of the essence" but procrastination isn’t such a great thing either. The pricing listed is the lowest price found at the time this was written.

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