Product Focus: Laptops for the Price of an iPad

Note: We're sorry but this product directory will not be updated any further and should no longer be considered an up-to-date resource — April 2011.

Now that the holiday frenzy over iPads, tablet PCs, and netbooks is over, let's settle down into a calmer frame of mind and consider the laptop. You remember the laptop, don't you? That breakthrough technology that allowed computing to become portable?

Guess what―it hasn't gone away!

We surveyed the market to see what features one could expect from a laptop priced similarly to today's tablet and netbook wunderkinds. What we discovered is that these days it's easy to get a solid machine with cutting-edge features for less than $500.
The 33 Windows-based models included in our survey are all currently priced at $499.99 and under, and all are categorized as full-size laptops―no typing on tiny netbook keyboards or touchscreens here. And, as we compiled the specs for these models, we noticed that there are a few features that almost all of the laptops at this price point share:

  • All models feature a widescreen HD display.
  • All but one come with the 64-bit edition of Windows 7 Home Premium preinstalled. (Only the 15.6-inch Toshiba Satellite L455D-S5976, priced at $426.99, features the 32-bit edition of Windows 7 Home Premium.)
  • All offer either a 250-GB or a 320-GB SATA hard drive, with the exception of two outliers--the 15.6-inch eMachines eME527-2537, priced at $399.99, features a 160-GB SATA hard drive, while, at the other end of the spectrum, the 15.6-inch Toshiba Satellite C655D-S5088, priced at $479.99, includes a 500-GB SATA hard drive.
  • All models feature a dual-layer CD/DVD±R optical drive, with the exception of the six lightest machines: the 11.6-inch Toshiba Satellite T215-S1150, the 11.6-inch Toshiba Satellite Pro T110-EZ1110, the 11.6-inch HP Pavilion dm1z, the 11.6-inch Toshiba Satellite T215D-S1160, the 11.6-inch Toshiba Satellite T215D-S1140, and the 11.6-inch Dell Inspiron M101z.

To find the best model for your needs, use the links to the right to browse our laptop roundup by product feature. (All laptops are consumer models released in 2010 and prices are the suggested retail price. These lists are based on manufacturers' specifications; we have not done any product testing to verify manufacturers' claims.)

Don't miss "Can an iPad Do That?" a companion story in our February issue, highlighting the standouts in battery life and weight; processor speed and memory; peripheral support; and connectivity.


Gateway NV55C03u

Powered by a dual-core 2 GHz Intel Pentium P6100 (265 MB level-2 cache per core, 3 MB shared level-3 cache), the NV55C03u offers a 15.6" HD (1,366 x 768) widescreen display, 320 GB internal SATA drive, and 3 GB DDR3 memory. It weighs in at 5.72 lbs.

Features
Graphics: Intel HD
Networking/Wireless: 802.11n Wi-Fi; gigabit Ethernet
Connectivity: 3 USB 2.0 ports
Display Ports: HDMI, VGA
Optical Drive: CD/DVD±R DL
Card Reader: 2-in-1 media card reader (Secure Digital, MultiMediaCard)
Battery: 6 cell lithium ion battery, up to 4 hrs., 34 mins.
Other: 1.3 megapixel Webcam; 10-key number pad; multi-gesture touchpad
Software
Operating System: 64-bit Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium

Toshiba Satellite C655D S5086

Toshiba Satellite C655D-S5086

With its single-core 2.3 GHz AMD V Series V140 chip, the Satellite C655D-S5085 includes a 15.6" HD (1,366 x 768) widescreen display, 320 GB internal SATA drive, and 2 GB DDR3 memory. It weighs 5.5 lbs.

Features
Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4250
Networking/Wireless: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100 LAN
Connectivity: 2 USB 2.0 ports
Display Ports: VGA
Optical Drive: CD/DVD±R DL
Card Reader: 4-in-1 shared memory card reader (Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Mini SD, MultiMediaCard) (adaptor may be required)
Battery: 6 cell lithium ion battery, up to 3.4 hrs.
Other: Webcam with intrgrated digital microphone; 10-key number pad; multi-gesture touchpad; Energy Star
Software
Operating System: 64-bit Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium

Toshiba Satellite C655-S5082

The C655-S5082 is powered by a single-core 2.2 GHz Intel Celeron 900 processor (1 MB level-2 cache, 800 MHz frontside bus) and comes configured with a 15.6" HD (1,366 x 768) widescreen display; 250 GB internal SATA drive; and 2 GB DDR3 memory. It weighs 5.5 lbs.

Features
Graphics: Intel 4500M
Networking/Wireless: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100 LAN
Connectivity: 2 USB 2.0 ports
Display Ports: VGA
Optical Drive: CD/DVD±R DL
Card Reader: 4-in-1 media card reader (Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, MultiMediaCard, Mini SD)
Battery: 6 cell lithium ion battery, up to 3 hrs., 34 mins.
Other: Multi-gesture touchpad; 10-key number pad; Energy Star
Software
Operating System: 64-bit Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium

eMachines eME527 2537

eMachines eME527-2537

The eME527-2537 is powered by a single-core 2.2 GHz Intel Celeron 900 processor (1 MB level-2 cache, 800 MHz frontside bus) and comes configured with a 15.6" HD (1,366 x 768) widescreen display, 160 GB internal SATA drive, and 2 GB DDR3 memory. It weighs 6 lbs.

Features
Graphics: Intel 4500MHD
Networking/Wireless: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi; 10/100 LAN
Connectivity: 2 USB 2.0 ports
Display Ports: VGA
Optical Drive: CD/DVD±R DL
Card Reader: 5-in-1 media card reader (Secure Digital, MultiMediaCard, Memor Stick, Memory Stick Pro, xD Picture Card)
Battery: 6 cell lithium ion battery, up to 3 hrs.
Other: 10-key number pad
Software
Operating System: 64-bit Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium

Toshiba Satellite C655D-S5079

Built on a single-core 2.3 GHz AMD V Series V140 chip, the Satellite C655D-S5079 includes a 15.6" HD (1,366 x 768) widescreen display, 250 GB internal SATA drive, and 2 GB DDR3 memory. It weighs 5.5 lbs.

Features
Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4250
Networking/Wireless: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100 LAN
Connectivity: 2 USB 2.0 ports
Display Ports: VGA
Optical Drive: CD/DVD±R DL
Card Reader: 4-in-1 shared memory card reader (Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Mini SD, MultiMediaCard) (adaptor may be required)
Battery: 6 cell lithium ion battery, up to 3.4 hrs.
Other: 10-key number pad; multi-gesture touchpad; Energy Star
Software
Operating System: 64-bit Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium



Toshiba Satellite C655D-S5048

Sporting a dual-core 2.1GHz AMD Athlon II P320 processor (512 KB level-2 cache per core), the Satellite C655D-S5048 offers a 15.6" HD (1,366 x 768) widescreen display, 320 GB internal SATA drive, and 3 GB DDR3 memory. Weight: 5.51 lbs.

Features
Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4250
Networking/Wireless: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100 LAN
Connectivity: 2 USB 2.0 ports
Display Ports: VGA
Optical Drive: CD/DVD±R DL
Card Reader: 4-in-1 shared memory card reader (Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Mini SD, MultiMediaCard) (adaptor may be required)
Battery: 6 cell lithium ion battery, up to 3.8 hrs.
Other: 10-key number pad; multi-gesture touchpad; Energy Star
Software
Operating System: 64-bit Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium

Toshiba Satellite L455D-S5976

The Satellite L455D-S5976 is powered by a single-core 2.1 GHz AMD Sempron SI-42 chip. Weighing in at 5.78 lbs., it offers a 15.6" HD (1,366 x 768) widescreen display, 250 GB internal SATA drive, and 2 GB DDR2 memory. It weighs 5.78 lbs.

Features
Graphics: ATI Radeon 3100
Networking/Wireless: 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, 10/100 LAN
Connectivity: 3 USB 2.0 ports
Display Ports: VGA
Optical Drive: CD/DVD±R DL
Card Reader: 5-in-1 shared memory card reader (Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, MultiMediaCard) (adaptor may be required)
Battery: 6 cell lithium ion battery
Other: Webcam with integrated digital microphone; Energy Star
Software
Operating System: 32-bit Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium

Dell Inspiron 15

Dell's base Inspiron 15 model sports a single-core 2.2 GHz Intel Celeron 900 processor (1 MB level-2 cache, 800 MHz frontside bus) and comes configured with a 15.6" (1,366 x 768) LED display, 250 GB internal SATA drive, and 2 GB DDR3 memory. It weighs 5.5 lbs.

Features
Graphics: Intel X4500HD
Networking/Wireless: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100 LAN
Connectivity: 3 USB 2.0 ports
Display Ports: VGA
Optical Drive: CD/DVD±R DL
Card Reader: 7-in-1 media card reader (Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Secure Digital High Density, MultiMediaCard, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, xD Picture Card)
Battery: 6 cell lithium ion battery
Other: 1.3 megapixel Webcam; HD audio 2.0; one year LoJack for Laptops standard theft protection
Software
Operating System: 64-bit Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium; Roxio Burn 1.0