The Best Workstation Laptops For Your Money and The Best General Computing/Family Laptops.
January 16th 2012 update:
This update brings new recommendations for the best budget gaming laptop and netbook.
I also added recommendations for RAM, HDDs/SSDs and sound card upgrades.
The best laptops for your money?
By that, I mean the laptops that offer the best performance at a given price. Why would you want that, you ask?
Because you want the best bang for the buck, because you want the best possible laptop for your hard-earned money and because you want the best features possible!
If you have the time to do research… but who does in this crazy world?
If you have the time, reading detailed laptop reviews and specs are a lot of fun. However, most of us don’t have the time to do the research and just want the answers. In other words, what we want to know is what is the best laptop for our budget and requirements.
So if you don’t have the time to do the research, or just don’t care to do it, don’t worry. I’ll come to your help with this series on the best laptops for your money.
Keep in mind:
- This list is based on the best U.S. prices from NewEgg and/or Amazon that I’ve seen on January 16th 2012. Prices and availability change everyday. I can’t keep up with accurate pricing everyday, but I can suggest to you great laptops that you won’t regret buying at the price ranges that I list.
- All prices are based on new laptops prices, no refurbished or open box laptops are listed; they might be a good deal, but they come with trade offs, such as missing accessories, higher failure rate, limited return policy, limited warranty, etc.
- I recommend a few different types of laptops, such as General Computing, Gaming and Ultra-portable. Each type has its pros and cons, so make sure to read the details to figure out which type suits you best.
- This specific article on budget laptops has a price ceiling of $500 for the laptop. We also have an article on The Best Mainstream Laptops and on The Best High-End Laptops.
Click on these links to jump to the section that interests you.
Alternatively, scroll down to see them all, in this order.
- Personalize your laptop with a skin:
- Upgrade the RAM, the hard drive or the sound card:
About General Computing laptops:
General Computing laptops generally come equipped with the very common 15.6″ size screen and are equipped with a fairly powerful CPU.
They are perfect are for people who want a laptop that can handle a bit of everything, without costing a fortune.
On the downside, these laptops are slightly less portable than smaller 10.1-13.3″ models, by being larger and heavier. Not a problem if you’re only moving from one room to another, but it can annoying if you’re carrying your laptop around all day long.
About the HP ProBook 4530s XU015UT:
- Brushed aluminum finish: This laptop is more solid than the average budget laptop.
- Spill-resistant keyboard, perfect for accidents at coffee shops
- Numpad: Very useful for spreadsheets.
- 720p Webcam: Great for Skype and other IM programs, or simply for video recording.
- Relatively powerful dual-core (with Hyper-Threading) Intel CPU based on the SandyBridge architecture.
- 7,200rpm hard drive allows for faster booting and faster program launches than a slower 5,400rpm hard drive.
- Finger-print reader: Additional layer of security.
- Matte screen: Allows you to use your laptop even with direct sunlight.
- Somewhat limited video card (Intel HD 3000) performance. Fine for older games or some newer games with low-resolution/minimum details settings.
- Average battery life. Expect about 5 hours of web browsing.
- A student who needs a laptop with enough power to last him/her through a few years of school, without ruining him/her.
- Small businesses.
To avoid for:
- Someone who’s traveling a lot and who wants an highly-portable, lightweight laptop to carry around all day.
- Someone who wants to play a lot of video games.
Compared to similar laptops:
The majority of budget general computing laptops are no where as solid nor as professional looking as the HP ProBook 4530s (with its Brushed aluminium and spill-resistant keyboard).
Most of them also come with either previous generation Intel processors or simply slower AMD processors, that don’t offer the same level of CPU processing power. In other words, the HP ProBook 4530s is one of the most solid, best looking and most powerful budget laptops available on the market today.
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||Hp Probook 4530s|
|OS||Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit|
|CPU||Intel Core i3-2310M Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.1GHz|
|15.6″ 1366 x 768 LED backlight, matte anti-glare
Yes: 720P (1280 x 720)
Intel HD 3000
|4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 1333MHz
2 Slots, maximum 8GB (2x4GB)
|Storage||320GB Hard Drive running at 7,200RPM|
|Optical Drive||DVD+/-RW SuperMulti DL LightScribe|
|Audio||SRS Labs Premium Sound
Bluetooth 3.0 + HS Combo
|Ports||6-in-1 Card Reader
Headphone and Microphone 3.5mm jacks
4 x USB 2.0
|14.76″ x 10.1″ x 1.13″
|6-cell (47 WHr) Li-Ion
The Best Gaming Laptops now have their own updated article, which can be found here:
The Best Gaming Laptops For Your Money
The Best Ultra-portable Laptops now have their own updated article, which can be found here:
The Best Ultra-Portable Laptops For Your Money
If you want to personalize your laptop, get a laptop skin from Skinit.com.
They even make it easy for you to upload your own photos and to create a truly one-of-a-kind custom made skin.
Upgrade your RAM, Hard Drive and/or Sound Card
- RAM can easily be upgraded on most laptops. Do note that some ultra-portables cannot be upgraded at all, due to their unique design.
- If you aren’t sure about what you can upgrade to, check the specifications table or feel free to ask me in the comments section at the end of the article.
- Pick one of the following recommendations below, depending on if your laptop comes with a single stick of RAM or two, or if you can have up to 4 sticks.
- My recommendations should be compatible with all the laptops recommended in this guide. DDR3 1333MHz sticks will work in laptops that support DDR3 1066MHz sticks.
- I recommend the most reliable sticks that I can find.
Add a single 4GB stick:
Replace the 1x2GB or 2x1GB kit by a 2x2GB (4GB) kit:
Replace the 2x2GB (4GB) kit by a 2x4GB (8GB) kit:
You can also upgrade your hard drive to a faster and/or a larger hard drive. Alternatively, you can also replace it with a tremendously faster SSD (Solid State Drive), which also consume a tad less power than laptop hard drive, so replacing a hard drive by a SSD will slightly boost your laptop’s battery life.
Do note that most laptops accept hard drives with a 9.5mm height.
Keep your old hard drive for external storage via an USB 3.0 enclosure:
(Note that USB 3.0 is backward compatible with USB 2.0, if your laptop does not have USB 3.0 ports)
When you replace the hard drive that your laptop came with, I recommend putting in this $26 – Kingwin 2.5-Inch USB 3.0 External Hard Drive Enclosure – Aluminum and using it for external storage, such as backups.
750GB Hybrid Hard Drive with 8GB SSD cache
As fast as it gets for a laptop hard drive:
The Seagate Momentus XT 750 GB 7200RPM SATA 6Gb/s Hybrid Drive is a hard drive equipped with a 8GB SSD cache which allows it to be quite a bit quicker than standard laptop hard drives.
1TB, 5,400rpm hard drive:
As large as it gets for a laptop hard drive capacity. Not as fast as the 750GB hard drive above, due to its slower rotation speed (5,400rpm vs 7,200 rpm) and smaller cache.
Western Digital 1 TB Scorpio Blue SATA II 5400 RPM 2.5-Inch Notebook Hard Drive
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Upgrade to a SSD
If you want to upgrade your hard drive to a SSD, I recommend to you the Crucial M4 line-up of SSDs, which offers the best balance of reliability and performance, at a great price.
Furthermore, I recommend these particular Crucial M4 SSDs, for they include a CD with software and an USB adapter, to help you transfer the content of your current hard drive to the SSD, in order to minimize downtime and make your life easier.
- $118: Crucial M4 2.5″ 64GB SATA III SSD with Transfer Kit
- $195: Crucial M4 2.5″ 128GB SATA III SSD with Transfer Kit
- $380: Crucial M4 2.5″ 256GB SATA III SSD with Transfer Kit
- $715: Crucial M4 2.5″ 512GB SATA III SSD with Transfer Kit
Alternatively, I invite you to read The Best SSDs and HDDs For Your Money article, to decide yourself which SSD is right for you.
Backups: Because all hard drives and SSDs are prone to failure!
Remember: No matter are reliable they can be, all hard drives and all SSDs are prone to failure, which is why you should consult the following article, for more backup solutions, including software: Have a Backup System that you can rely on!
While integrated audio on laptops has improved a lot in the last few years, it’s still no match for a dedicated sound chip if you care about sound quality.
The $40 – ASUS Xonar U3 is a USB-stick based dedicated sound chip that will greatly improve sound quality, with its built-in headphones amplifier, Dolby surround support, ASUS GX2.5 and much more.
I highly recommend it if you enjoy high-quality sound, whether it’s for music, movies, games or anything else.
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I hope that you’ve enjoyed this latest edition of the Best Budget Laptops For Your Money.
Feel free to leave a comment below and remember, you can join us on our forums to discuss with everyone else the laptop that you’re planning to buy, ask your questions and join our helpful community!
Category: The Best Laptops For Your Money