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.


Dell Inspiron 15R

The Inspiron 15R base model sports a dual-core 2.4 GHz Intel Core i3-370M processor (3 MB cache) and comes equipped with a 15.6-inch 720p HD LED display, 320 GB internal SATA drive, and 3 GB DDR2 memory. It weighs in at 4.96 lbs.

Features
Graphics: Intel 4500MHD
Networking/Wireless: 802.11g/n Wi-Fi, BlueTooth 2.1+EDR, 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, up to 4 hrs., 2 mins.
Other: 1.3 megapixel Webcam; HD audio 2.2; one year LoJack for Laptops standard theft protection
Software
Operating System: 64-bit Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium; Roxio Burn 1.0

Dell Inspiron 14

The G42T sports a dual-core 2.3 GHz Intel Pentium T4500 (1 MB level-2 cache per core, 800 MHz frontside bus) and comes equipped with a 14-inch (1,600 x 900) display, 250 GB internal SATA drive, and 2 GB DDR2 memory. It weighs in at 4.96 lbs.

Features
Graphics: Intel 4500MHD
Networking/Wireless: 802.11n 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: 9 cell lithium ion battery, up to 8 hrs., 10 mins.
Other: 1.3 megapixel Webcam
Software
Operating System: 64-bit Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium

Toshiba Satellite Pro T110-EZ1110

Running on a single-core 1.3 GHz Intel Intel Celeron 743 processor (800 MHz frontside bus, 1 MB level-2 cache), the Satellite Pro T110-EZ1110 comes equipped with an 11.6" HD (1,366 x 768) widescreen display, 250 GB internal SATA drive, and 2 GB DDR3 memory in a machine weighing 3.49 lbs.

Features
Graphics: Intel 4500M GMA
Networking/Wireless: 802.11n Wi-Fi, 10/100 LAN
Connectivity: 2 USB 2.0 ports; 1 combo eSATA/USB 2.0 port w/sleep and charge
Display Ports: HDMI
Card Reader: 6-in-1 shared memory card reader (Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, MultiMediaCard, xD Picture Card) (adaptor may be required)
Battery: 6 cell lithium ion battery, up to 8 hrs
Other: Webcam with integrated microphone; touchpad pointing device; Energy Star
Software
Operating System: 64-bit Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium

Toshiba Satellite T215D S1150

Toshiba Satellite T215D-S1150

Sporting a dual-core 1.3 GHz AMD Athlon II Neo K325 chip (1 MB level-2 cache per core), the Satellite T215D-S1150 offers an 11.6" HD (1,366 x 768) widescreen display, 320 GB internal SATA drive, and 2 GB DDR3 memory. Weight: 3.3 lbs.

Features
Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4225
Networking/Wireless: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100 LAN
Connectivity: 2 USB 2.0 ports; 1 combo eSATA/USB 2.0 port w/sleep and charge
Display Ports: HDMI, VGA
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, up to 5 hrs.
Other: Webcam with integrated digital microphone; multi-gesture touchpad; Energy Star
Software
Operating System: 64-bit Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium

Toshiba Satellite C655D S5080

Toshiba Satellite C655D-S5080

Sporting a single-core 2.3 GHz AMD V Series V140 chip, the Satellite C655D-S5080 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; modem
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: Integrated Webcam with digital microphone; 10-key number pad; multi-gesture touchpad; Energy Star
Software
Operating System: 64-bit Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium



Gateway NV55C35u

Powered by a dual-core 2 GHz Intel Pentium P6100 (265 MB level-2 cache per core, 3 MB shared level-3 cache), the NV55C35u offers a 15.6" HD (1,366 x 768) widescreen display, 250 GB internal SATA drive, and 4 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 T215D-S1140

Powered by a single-core 1.7 GHz AMD Athlon II Neo K125 chip, the Satellite T215D-S1140 comes equipped with an 11.6" HD (1,366 x 768) widescreen display, 250 GB internal SATA drive, and 2 GB DDR3 memory. It weighs 3.3 lbs.

Features
Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4225
Networking/Wireless: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 10/100 LAN
Connectivity: 2 USB 2.0 ports; 1 combo eSATA/USB 2.0 port w/sleep and charge
Display Ports: HDMI
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, up to 5 hrs.
Other: Webcam with integrated digital microphone; multi-gesture touchpad; Energy Star
Software
Operating System: 64-bit Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium

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