Attack of the Celerons: Shaving price and performance at once (Compaq CQ60-417DX reviewed)

Budget retail laptops are cutting prices, but sticking older Celeron processors in many of their entry-level models. Be forewarned; you get what you pay for.

Looks the same as other HP laptops, but not nearly as powerful inside. Sarah Tew/CNET

Editors' note: This review is part of our 2009 Retail Laptop and Desktop Back-to-School roundup, covering specific fixed configurations of popular systems that can be found in retail stores.

One thing we noticed when reviewing the lowest-priced entry-level laptops in our retail roundup was the presence of the Intel Celeron 900 processor. Showing up twice (in the Compaq CQ60-417DX and the Toshiba L305-S5955, discussed below), it's an outdated, poorly performing CPU.

The sneaky thing, however, is that this processor shows up in a chassis that also houses more highly powered machines. Perhaps this downgrading and price-cutting has been inspired by the success of Netbooks. Regardless, it can be confusing for consumers. $350 or $399 sounds like a great deal for a laptop, but is it still worth it with an processor that's not much better than a Netbook?

In our Back-to-School retail laptop roundup, we've taken a look at a few real bargain-basement machines. Along with the Toshiba Satellite L305-S5955, the Compaq Presario CQ60-417DX comes in at less than $400. Although it's 50 dollars more than the Satellite L305-S5955, it also has a larger, 15.6-inch, higher-resolution 16:9 screen, comes with a Windows 7-upgrade-eligible Windows Vista Home Premium OS, and has a keyboard and touch pad that were far more comfortable for us. But, you should be forewarned: both systems are nearly identical otherwise, and both come with a pretty bare-bones Celeron 900 processor.

However, for only $29 more, you can get a laptop with a significantly better dual-core processor in the Dell Inspiron 1545-012B, so the underpowered processor at the CQ60-417DX's core can't be overlooked. For your entry-level computing needs, we recommend looking elsewhere.

For the same price, would you rather have a larger screen and Vista, or a Netbook?

Read the rest of our review.

About the author

Scott Stein is a senior editor covering iOS and laptop reviews, mobile computing, video games, and tech culture. He has previously written for both mainstream and technology enthusiast publications including Wired, Esquire.com, Men's Journal, and Maxim, and regularly appears on TV and radio talking tech trends.

 

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