Editors' note: This review is part of our Winter 2009 Retail Laptop Review Roundup, covering specific configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.
Shopping for a laptop under $600 is a bit like going for the half-priced, late-afternoon sushi special at your local deli--there's a certain risk versus reward calculation that has to occur. While it's not going to win any awards for flair or style, this anonymous-looking 15-inch retail model from Hewlett-Packard offers the best combination of features and performance in its price range.
The $599 HP G60-235DX has a 16:9 display, an Intel Dual-Core CPU (many budget systems use slower AMD chips), and even squeezes in a separate number pad. The system is occasionally offered at a discount by retailers, so keep an eye on the Sunday newspaper sales flyers.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$599|
|Processor||2.0GHz Intel Dual-Core T4200|
|Memory||3GB, 667MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||320GB 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel GM45 Express Chipset|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 4500MHD (integrated)|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Premium|
|Dimensions||14.9 inches wide by 9.9 inches deep|
|Height||1.4 to 1.7 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||6.3/7.2 pounds|
The boxy HP G60 carries over some of the design cues from the sleeker, more upscale HP dv line of laptops, with a large hinge running the length of the display and a one-piece wrist rest, where the touch pad is simply an indented area of the keyboard tray, not a physically separate piece of plastic. It's plain, glossy, black lid screams "budget," unlike the intricate, artistic, imprint designs offered by more expensive HP laptops.
The keyboard tray takes advantage of the slightly wider 16:9 form factor to squeeze in a separate numberpad, something not possible on 15-inch laptops with 16:10 displays. The keys on the numberpad are a bit on the narrow side, but usable, and the keyboard itself is comfortable for typing, but flexes a bit too much toward the middle. There are no media-control or quick-launch buttons, so you'll have to control functions such as audio volume through function-key commands.
The 15.6-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,366x768 native resolution, which is standard on this screen size (and comparable with the 1,280x800 found on 16:10 models). It's readable, but most documents and Web pages will require some scrolling. We were also bothered by the overly glossy screen, which was very reflective, even in moderate lighting conditions.
|HP G60-235DX||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA-out, HDMI|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi,||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
Most of the laptops in the Entry Level section of our Winter 2009 Retail Roundup (covering laptops up to $599) have AMD processors. These systems, for the most part, were slower than the two entry-level Intel-powered systems we tested, this HP G60-235DX and the Dell Inspiron I15-156B. Unlike some of our previous low-end Intel versus AMD comparisons, it wasn't a blowout, and the real-world performance difference will be minimal. The G60 was, overall, the best performer in this category, but also the most expensive (along with the Toshiba L355D).
The HP G60 ran for 2 hours and 20 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, the best score of any entry-level retail systems in this roundup. That's still not particularly impressive for a 15-inch laptop, but at least passes the 2-hour mark, and more than 20 minutes better than the closest competitor in this roundup.
HP includes an industry-standard, one-year, parts-and-labor warranty with the system. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, an online knowledge base, and driver downloads. Retail stores offer a variety of extended warranty plans with your laptop purchase, but they're generally expensive, and we do not recommend them.