Roundup: Notebooks

Apple MacBook

Quick specs: 13.3 inch (34cm) screen, 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB memory, 250GB hard disk, 2.13kg, wireless n, 8x DVD writer

Apple doesn’t really do cheap notebooks, but if you really want a Mac then the stylish MacBook is your best option, starting at $1299. It doesn’t have the power or the features of the MacBook Pro, or the style of the MacBook Air, but it does have a powerful processor for its size and price, as well as an optical drive and plenty of storage capacity.

We like: Lovely design, tons of power
We don’t like: This is as cheap as Mac notebooks get (which isn’t that cheap)

Price: $1299

Compaq Presario CQ61-406TU

Compaq Presario CQ61

Quick specs: 15.6 inch (40cm) screen, Intel Celeron dual core T3100 processor, 2GB memory, 320GB hard disk, 2.68kg, wireless n, DVD writer optical drive

Though it’s more than a little bland, the CQ61-406 is a very affordable full size notebook, rivalling or exceeding many netbooks in terms of cost. You can find it for less than $600 now, which is a fantastic bargain for a notebook with a 15.6 inch (40cm) screen, a dual core processor and plenty of memory and storage. It will even play high definition video, though we wouldn’t try 3D gaming on it.

We like: Very low price, excellent performance for the price
We don’t like: Boring design

Price: $599

Lenovo ThinkPad SL510

Lenovo SL510

Quick specs: 15.6 inch (40cm) screen, Intel Celeron dual core T3000 processor, 2GB memory, 160GB hard disk, 2.6kg, wireless n, DVD writer

Like Apple, Lenovo isn’t known for low cost laptops, but the ThinkPad SL510 is a business-class notebook at an affordable price. Unfortunately, it doesn’t compare well with the Compaq Presarios in terms of bang for buck, and its industrial design seems to have become stuck in the mid-90s.

We like: Solid case
We don’t like: Expensive for the specs

Price: $879

Sony Vaio VGNNW23GFP

Sony Vaio NW23GFP

Quick specs: 15.5 inch (39cm) screen, Intel Pentium dual core T4300 processor, 2GB memory, 250GB hard disk, 2.7kg, wireless n, DVD-writer

It’s not the newest or most powerful member of Sony’s Viao product line, but you can get a great deal on the stylish VGNNW23GFP line right now. It’s thin, boasts an excellent 15.5” screen and plenty of memory and processing power for high-definition video (but not 3D gaming). It also has a quick access button that allows you to start browsing the Internet before Windows even boots up.

We like: Pre-boot Internet access, decent processor
We don’t like: Nothing notable

Price: $850

Toshiba Satellite L500/087

Toshiba L500

Quick specs: 15.6 inch (40cm) screen, Intel Pentium T4400 processor, 2GB memory, 320GB hard disk, 2.72kg, wireless n, DVD writer

It’s chunky and unpretty, but the L500/087 from Toshiba offers unparalleled performance at this price. Indeed, its internal specs rival much more expensive notebooks, and you’ll be able to capably perform most tasks on this all-rounder. If Toshiba made the design more interesting, this would be a top buy.

We like: A lot of power at a very low price, excellent screen
We don’t like: Dull design

Price: $650

Pick of the pack

While prices of netbooks have held steady in the $400-800 range, pressure from these low cost devices has also driven full-size laptop prices way down. Six hundred dollars will now net you a device with a 15.6 inch (40cm) screen, an astonishing drop in price over the last few years. A $1200 notebook is now considered high-end.

As for the standout among the above netbook sampling, it’s hard not be enamoured of the Asus Eee PC T91MT. Although it costs a little more than some other netbooks, it’s a multi-touch tablet device that’s like a combination iPad and netbook.

When it comes to low cost full-size laptops, the Compaq Presario CQ61-406TU is an absolute steal. It’s not the prettiest device, but for $600 you can’t complain.