It wasn’t long ago that the “under $500” batch of laptops were thought to cheaply made, with poor battery lives and underpowered processors. But in 2019, this couldn’t be further from the truth, and the current crop of fully loaded affordable laptops can make you wonder why you would even need to pay an arm and a leg for the latest gadget. Over the past three years in particular, many people are now recognizing that the processing power on offer in modern budget laptops far exceeds their daily requirements.
Apple 13″ MacBook Pro, Retina, Touch Bar, 3.1GHz
Experience the innovative interface of the Touch Bar in the mid 2017 silver Apple 13.3″ MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. The Touch Bar places controls right at your fingertips and adapts to different apps to provide useful functions without having to navigate complex menus or memorize keyboard shortcuts. Replacing the function keys in the top row of the keyboard, the Touch Bar features a Retina-quality display and supports multi-touch input.
The power button has been upgraded with a Touch ID sensor, so you can quickly log into your MacBook Pro using your fingerprint. You can also use Touch ID to make purchases over the web, thanks to Apple Pay. Touch ID enables a quick, accurate reading of your fingerprint and uses sophisticated algorithms to recognize and match it with the Secure Enclave in the Apple T1 chip.
The system features a 7th Gen Kaby Lake 3.1 GHz Intel Core i5 dual-core processor, 8GB of 2133 MHz LPDDR3 onboard memory, a 256GB PCIe-based SSD, four Thunderbolt 3 (USB Type-C) ports, a Force Touch trackpad, a keyboard with a 2nd-gen butterfly mechanism, stereo speakers with double the dynamic range of its predecessor as well as improved bass, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2 wireless technology, and even a 3.5mm headphone jack.
ASUS ZenBook UX303UA 13.3-Inch FHD Touchscreen Laptop
ASUS ZenBook series represents the essence of ASUS design spirit, and UX303 takes this to another level of sophistication with fresh and gorgeous new colors including Smoky Brown, Icicle Gold and Rose Gold. The elegant color themes are further enhanced by the iconic spun-metal finish that echoes the spirit of Zen. The classic lines of the ultra-light, all-aluminum ZenBook have been enhanced with a slimmer profile, tapering to just 3mm at the front.
It’s chic, elegant, timeless, and powerful — it’s ZenBook UX303. Experience vivid, crisp graphics with the 13.3-inch Full HD touchscreen display, with its sharp 1920 x 1080 resolution. With 300cd/m2 brightness, a contrast ratio of 770:1 and an anti-glare coating, blacks are deep and whites are stunningly pure.profile, tapering to just 3mm at the front. It’s chic, elegant, timeless, and powerful — it’s ZenBook UX303.
ZenBook UX303 uses a high-quality IPS display with a wide color gamut (72% NTSC), so the colors you see on screen are accurate, vivid and realistic — even at the widest viewing angles! Developed by the ASUS Golden Eye team, exclusive ASUS Splendid technology gives you vivid, accurate colors no matter what you’re watching. It works by automatically fine-tuning various display settings to optimize all kinds of images.
Dell 15.6-Inch Gaming Laptop
The Dell Inspiron i7559-763BLK is an entry-level gaming laptop, that actually has some components that deserve the “entertainment/gaming” label. The system has its gaming credentials in order, including an enthusiast-oriented NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M 4GB GDDR5 graphics card, a speedy quad-core 6th Gen. (Skylake released in August 2015) Intel Core i5 processor, Windows 10 Home (64-bit) preinstalled.
8GB of system memory and 256 GB Solid-State Drive (SSD) for storage, but doubles up in speedy boot times and performance as compared to hard drives. The Inspiron 15 stands out as a great bargain and a good bang-for-the-buck proposition. If the forward-looking capabilities and great design are anything to go by, then the Inspiron 15 is something we can call a step in the right direction. For that, it deserves our nod as the newest Editors’ Top Pick for entry-level gaming laptops.
It is part of the Inspiron 15 700 Series, which is optimized for work productivity and mid-range gaming performance, although it packs some of the latest specs into a light-weight, slick design.The matte black and beautiful Inspiron i7559-763BLK sports a premium-level design measuring less than an inch thick forged with aluminum and diamond-cut beveled edges that make it slimmer, thinner and lighter than other models.
ASUS ZENBOOK UX501VW-DS71T 15.6″ 4K UHD
The stunningly-beautiful ZenBook Pro UX501 doesn’t just lead its class – it redefines it. Using the best materials, the finest craftsmanship and the most advanced high-performance components, ZenBook Pro has jaw-dropping style and breathtaking performance. The timelessly-elegant design of the ZenBook family, with the iconic spun-metal finish echoing the spirit of Zen, is subtly enhanced with brilliant diamond-cut highlights and brushed-metal surfaces that add a touch of sophistication.
The elegant theme is continued in the stylish ripple-effect pattern laser-engraved on its surface. ZenBook Pro is more than an incredibly-powerful laptop – it’s a true work of art. For creative enthusiasts who care about getting everything in its essence, to enjoy a pure, unfiltered experience. The spun-metal pattern represents our symbol – Zen, of being calm, minimal, yet solid from the inside.
It is the perfect balance between the outer beauty and the inner strength. The simplicity keeps our users away from any distractions and focus on every moment. ASUS Splendid technology provides three optimized display settings to satisfy various using scenarios – vivid mode, eye care mode, and normal mode. The vivid mode is optimized for photo browsing and movie playback, while eye care mode being specially-designed for long-time reading that can prevent eye train.
Alienware AW13R2-8344SLV 13-Inch QHD+
Engineered for high-performance gaming anywhere, the Alienware 13 combines an incredibly mobile design with the ultimate at-home experience. Solid-State Drive (SSD): Solid-state drives are similar to the flash-based memory that you find in USB memory devices and have no moving parts, making them more secure and less prone to failure than standard hard drives. SSDs also pull your data from the drive faster and outperform 10,000 rpm Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) in read/write speeds, meaning you’ll also get faster load times on game maps and other information that’s stored on your device.
VAIO S Laptop (Intel Core i5-6200U, 8GB Memory
VAIO devices haven’t changed much since Sony shed the brand. New VAIOs have all the same hallmarks, with premium builds coupled with premium prices. Does the VAIO S laptop meet the high standards set by its predecessors and other devices in the lineup? Can this utilitarian notebook justify its price? Read this VAIO S review to find out. In acquiring the brand from Sony, VAIO wisely kept the brand’s device characteristics.
For notebooks, that primarily means a sharp edge along the rear display edge and two nubs, which act to slightly slope the keyboard with an opened display lid. It’s a minor flourish, but it’s the best kind because it’s both distinctive and offers a real benefit, in this case a better typing experience.
VAIO claims its “molded magnesium alloy and high-rigidity resin ensures long-lasting durability,” and we believe it. Inside, VAIO outfitted the chassis with what VAIO reps call “ribs” that aid in durability and drop protection. The display lid and base flex when stressed, but don’t creek. They’ll absorb the shock of an occasional drop. In fact, VAIO extensively drop tests its S models, so there’s little doubt the VAIO S will survive the daily rigors of office and personal use. Overall, it’s pieced together nicely, with no gaps.
Dell XPS9350-5340SLV 13.3 Inch QHD+
Go beyond Full HD 1080p with the silver anodized aluminum 13.3″ XPS 13 9350 Multi-Touch Notebook from Dell. Featuring a 13.3″ QHD+ InfinityEdge IGZO IPS display, the XPS 13 has a 3200 x 1800 native resolution. The display is also a touchscreen so you’ll be able to utilize the multi-touch gestures incorporated into Windows 10. Since the screen has a 16:9 aspect ratio, it supports 1080p Full HD content natively with no or minimal letterboxing.
The visuals are handled by integrated Intel HD Graphics 520 and the display also has a brightness of 400 cd/m2 and viewing angles of 170°. The system is powered by a 6th-generation Skylake 2.5 GHz Intel Core i7-6500U Dual-Core processor that allows you to run multiple applications simultaneously. If you need more power, the processor also features a burst speed of up to 3.1 GHz.
And the system’s 8GB of 1866 MHz LPDDR3 RAM allows the computer to quickly access frequently-used files and programs, as well as help to ensure efficient multitasking. For long-term storage of your files, the XPS 13 9350 has a 256GB PCIe SSD. For connecting to the Internet, this notebook is equipped with dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
Samsung Chromebook (Wi-Fi, 11.6-Inch)
On its surface, the Samsung XE303C12 Chromebook sounds like a fantastic deal for just $250. The notebook is powerful enough for simple multi-tasking and tasks like web browsing, video playback and word processing while being small and portable enough to be considered a travel companion. The low price and reliance on cloud-based storage also make the Chromebook an excellent secondary notebook for schoolwork or light office work and can even be considered disposable – at least as far as notebooks are concerned.
All the limitations of a Chromebook continue to apply. Potential buyers must keep in mind that Chrome OS is not compatible with Windows or Mac software or even apps and games from Google’s own Play Store. Instead, users are largely limited to the Google Chrome Web Store, which can be either hit or miss in terms of content and options.
The Samsung runs cooler than both the HP and Acer, but has a generally shorter battery life as well. Ultimately, users should pick the Chromebook that best fits their outdoor or indoor lifestyle and workloads. Google’s small class of Chromebooks has been growing slowly but steadily and doubling its US web traffic from 0.1 percent to 0.2 percent in the past half year.