Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

5 budget laptops for college students: We name the best

Michael Brown | Aug. 20, 2013
Being a cash-strapped student requires making a few hardware compromises, but a nice notebook is still within reach.

In addition to WiDi, you have your choice of HDMI or VGA video outputs for connecting to external displays. And like the Acer Aspire, the IdeaPad has three USB ports, but only one of them is the speedy USB 3.0. Lenovo does provide a memory card reader that supports both SD and MMC media, and the company includes Dolby Home Theater technology and a set of decent speakers, so you won't have to rely on headphones for an enjoyable audio experience.

The Lenovo IdeaPad Z400 Touch is a heavy computer for its size, its network connectivity is weak, and its battery life is very poor. But this laptop is a very good performer, with a great keyboard, an optical drive, and the largest, fastest hard drive in this group. It's also the machine I'd recommend if you need a computer in this price range that's rugged enough to tolerate a little rough handling. Overall it finishes a solid second in our roundup.


  • Great backlit keyboard
  • Touchscreen
  • Solid construction


  • Heavy
  • Chintzy network connectivity options
  • Poor battery life

Bottom line

If you tend to be rough on your gear, Lenovo's IdeaPad Z400 is among your best choices among laptops priced at $650 or less.


3.5 stars

Toshiba Satellite L55Dt-A5253

The buyers that Toshiba targets with its luxury Kirabook wouldn't touch a Satellite L55Dt-A5253 if Neiman Marcus was giving them away. That's too bad, because this laptop actually offers a much better price-to-performance ratio.

Toshiba selected AMD's 2.0GHz A6-5200 APU to power this $650 notebook. That chip features an integrated AMD Radeon HD 8400 graphics processor, which helped Toshiba secure a second-place finish in the games portion of our benchmark suite. But the machine's 6GB of DDR3 memory runs at only 1333MHz, which held its performance back in comparison to some of the laptops equipped with Intel CPUs and faster DDR3/1600 memory.

Like most notebooks in its price range, the Satellite is composed primarily of plastic, but Toshiba's attractive material does a nice job of resisting smudges and fingerprints. The computer's lid and chassis also feel more rigid than most, though it does weigh a full pound more than the Acer Aspire E1--a significant consideration if you'll be carrying your laptop on your shoulder for extended periods every day.

The Satellite L55Dt features a 15.6-inch, LED-backlit touchscreen display with a native resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels. The display is attractive enough, if you position it just so. Text appears most legibly when the screen is tilted back; but bring it even slightly forward--as you might have to do when using the computer on your airline tray table, if the passenger in front of you decides to recline--and you may not be able to read it at all.


Previous Page  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  Next Page 

Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.