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.