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Budget laptop reviews

Last updated: 10 December 2015

You don't need to spend a fortune to get a good basic laptop, or even a hybrid model that does double-duty as a touchscreen tablet. We test and review 10 budget laptops including four convertible (hybrid) models with a built-in touchscreen. Our laptop buying guide goes into more detail about what to look for and how we test explains what goes on in the CHOICE computer labs.

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Our expert testers give every computer a thorough workout to help find the models that:

  • are the best performers
  • are easiest to use
  • cost the least to run
  • have the best display.

Our interactive comparison tool helps you find which computers have all the specs you need, such as HDMI inputs and outputs, SSD or HDD storage and the type of processor. Our CHOICE Buys will help you see quickly which models come out on top.

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Brand

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List of brands we tested in this review.

Price

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Price paid in October 2015.

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Operating system supplied
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The OS (operating system) that comes installed on the computer, usually a version of Windows, OS X (Mac), or Linux. All laptops were upgraded to Windows 10 for testing.

Available user space (GB)
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The storage space available to the user after drive formatting and installation of the standard operating system (OS) and supplied software.

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Test results

Battery life score
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The battery life score is based on light and heavy usage test scenarios. Assessment starts with each battery being conditioned to achieve optimum life. For the heavy usage test, the power management features are set to maximum performance and screen brightness to 100%, with Wi-Fi turned on and connected to a network. For light usage testing, the power management features are set to the most economical setting, with screen brightness at 50% and Wi-Fi turned off.

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Display score
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The display score is based on assessment of colour (45%), glare/surface reflections (35%) and angles of view (20%).

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Ease of use score
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The ease of use score is based on the assessment of connectors, input devices, design flaws/advantages, overall style, and mobility.

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Performance score
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Testing includes benchmarking each laptop using a variety of software tools. These measure various aspects of CPU performance, memory performance and memory bandwidth, video performance, 3D graphics and storage speed. The benchmarking software is designed to measure performance under a variety of simulated workloads.

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Features

HDMI
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HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) is a compact interface designed to carry the large amounts of data needed for digital video and audio, via a single cable.

USB 2.0 ports
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The number of USB 2.0 ports present on the device in total (including screen and keyboard sections where detachable)

USB 3.0 ports
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The number of USB 3.0 ports present on the device in total (including screen and keyboard sections where detachable)

Specifications

HDD capacity (GB)
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Hard disk drive (HDD) - uses magnetic spinning discs to store information. Capacity is measured in gigabytes (GB) or terabytes (TB). One TB is 1000 GB.

RAM (GB)
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RAM (random access memory) is the main memory used by the CPU and is measured in gigabytes (GB). These days 4GB of RAM is considered a standard starting point for most laptop or desktop PCs.

SSD (GB)
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SSD (Solid State Drive) - Unlike a hard disk drive (HDD), which writes information to a magnetic spinning disc, an SSD has no moving parts, but instead stores information on solid-state flash memory (chips). SSDs offer much faster read and write speeds than HDDs and work silently, generate less heat and use less power. They are generally much more expensive than HDDs and offer far less capacity.

Wi-Fi (GHz)
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The local area wireless networking (Wi-Fi) bands used by the device - 2.4GHz (most common) or 5GHz (faster). Devices that can use both bands are called dual-band. Devices that can use both bands at the same time are called simultaneous dual-band.

Included in this review

Members-only access
  • CHOICE Buy
  • Overall score
  • Ease of use score
  • Battery life score
  • Battery life score (tablet only)
  • Performance score
  • Display score
  • Available user space (GB)
  • Weight without keyboard (g)
  • Weight with keyboard (kg)
  • Weight of power supply (g)
  • Average battery life - heavy usage (h:min)
  • Average battery life - light usage (h:min)
  • Wi-Fi standard
  • Good points
  • Bad points
  • Brand
  • Model
  • Security lock slot
  • Availability
  • Price
  • HDD capacity (GB)
  • SSD (GB)
  • RAM (GB)
  • Processor type
  • Video processor type
  • Operating system supplied
  • Body type
  • Screen size (in)
  • Maximum screen resolution (px)
  • Size HxDxW (mm)
  • Rotation lock button
  • USB 2.0 ports
  • USB 3.0 ports
  • Ethernet port
  • Wi-Fi (GHz)
  • Memory card reader size
  • Headphone/microphone port
  • HDMI
  • Camera front/rear
  • Backlit keyboard
  • Light sensor for auto screen brightness
  • Website
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