While tablets and smartphones may hog the headlines, laptops remain the workhorses of our digital world and prices continue to fall, meaning good quality laptops are now cheaper than ever. Here we look at three very different budget offerings.
Asus laptops offer a variety of affordable models perfect for most end users. The cheapest most capable laptop they have to offer is the X551M a 15.6″ Windows laptop for just under £250.
The dual core Intel Celeron 1.8GHz CPU may not be the quickest available, but it works perfectly adequately with the 4GB of RAM and the latest Microsoft Windows 8 operating system for all common tasks.
The integrated graphics and 1366x768px display offers a good picture quality for 720P HD movies, whether stored on the 500GB HDD or streamed over the web.
The laptop really shines with its connectivity, however, including USB 3 and USB 2 ports, as well as HDMI, a card reader, and a DVD drive – somewhat of a rarity these days!
The X551M may not be built for gamers, but for all the most common tasks, the laptops manages them with ease and at a price which is very difficult to beat – £249.99.
Google has been quietly gaining ground on Microsoft at the bottom end of the market, with Chromebooks rapidly improving each year, and the Toshiba offering the best cost to quality ratio at the moment.
This 13.3″ Chromebook may appear a little underpowered when compared to the 15.6″ laptops with its dual-core 1.4GHz Celeron and 2GB of RAM, but the lightweight Chrome OS means that its performance matches up quite well.
Squeezing the same 1366x768px into the smaller screen means that images are a little sharper than it 15.6″ competitors, and the laptop is very portable, weighing just 1.5KG and offering a six hour battery life.
While Chromebooks have a lot going for them in looks and size, the main issue with them is their small solid state HDDs cannot hold more than a couple of movies offline, and users are expected to use web based apps rather than directly installed software, which is great if you have fast always-on broadband, but a major issue if you don’t.
Apple Macbook Air
It may not be a budget laptop in the traditional sense, coming in at triple the price of its competitors, but at £750 it is the most “budget” offering form Apple.
The 11″ Macbook Air is beautifully designed and comes with an Intel i5 processor, which offers notable improvements over the more budget offerings. The nine hour battery life also beats the “budget” competition with ease, and with 128GB of SSD storage, you shouldn’t run into the space issues you do with Chromebooks.
However, it is tough to argue that these changes are worth the three fold increase in price. For general tasks, all the laptops will perform perfectly adequately, and while the Macbook Air is definitely prettier and more portable, sacrifices are made when shrinking down a machine to 11″.
If you are looking for a near-perfect ultra-portable laptop then the Macbook Air wins every time, but if you are on any sort of budget then you should look elsewhere.