Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display (2013, 15-inch screen)stars
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Apple MacBook Air (13-inch)
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Toshiba Chromebook 2stars
For its second Chromebook, Toshiba shaved off as much chassis as possible without sacrificing...
Entry-level notebooks are usually remarkable in a design sense only in that they're usually as bland as the manufacturer figures they can get away with. We'll probably never know the exact costing at a manufacturer level for putting wonky grey stripes across the back of a notebook case, but as long as customers will pay extra for it, vendors will keep charging more for prettier notebook cases. HP's Compaq Presario CQ42-136TU doesn't even have a pretty name, and the triangular inlaid pattern on the notebook case is pretty unremarkable. Then again, at an AU$699 price point, you're not likely to get inlaid diamonds.
While the visuals lack any particular level of shiny appeal, the design is otherwise quite sensible, with a comfortable keyboard that's well spaced below the 14-inch, 1366x768-pixel screen. The trackpad sits flush with the wrist rest. It's one of those features you'll either like or hate. We found in extended testing that we'd nudge it a little more than we'd like.
A moderate price point equates to moderate-level components, and underneath the keyboard you'll find lurking a 1.9GHz Intel Celeron T3100 processor, 2GB RAM, a 250GB 7200rpm hard drive and Intel's 4500M Graphics Media Accelerator. Optical duties are covered by a LightScribe SuperMulti DVD±RW with Double Layer Support, and connectivity includes three USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, VGA, 100Mb Ethernet, modem, five-in-one card reader and headphones. This is a base-line system through and through, and as long as you keep that in mind you're unlikely to be disappointed with it.