Back-to-school laptops: we have a winner (two, actually)
CNET Reviews picks a winner among the Entry-level and Budget categories for back-to-school laptops.
Perhaps if you are doing nothing more than lounging poolside while working at a part-time job this summer, the season may seem to be progressing slowly. To a workaday stiff like myself with precious few summertime weekends and a boatload of back-to-school laptops to review, I see the calendar soon turning to August and Labor Day fast approaching. As I view it, there's little time left before a busy class schedule will replace your lazy days of summer.
To help you find the right laptop before that happens, we here at CNET Reviews have queued up 27 laptops that you'll likely find on big-box store shelves this month and next. We've broken the laptops into four groups, based on price, and have completed our reviews of the systems in the first two groups: Entry-level and Budget.
(Look for the Mainstream $800-$1000 group to be completed by the end of next week, with the High-end group to follow in August; we're still waiting on some Centrino 2 laptops to arrive at CNET Labs.)
After the break, see our recommendations for the Entry-Level and Budget categories.
You can spend less than $700 and find a very respectable laptop. Our favorite among the Entry-level group is the
If your budget allows you to spend up to $800, we'd point you toward the
A trend we soon discovered after getting these systems up and running in the labs (and you can see clearly illustrated by any of the performance charts in the reviews) confirmed what we've known for a while: Intel's mobile platform is superior to that of its rival AMD. On our multitasking, Photoshop, and iTunes benchmarks, the Intel-based systems clearly outpaced the AMD-based systems. While we'd be willing to give up a bit of performance for increased processing efficiency and better battery life, the AMD systems delivered merely average battery life at best, making it hard to recommend an AMD-based system unless you stumble across one at a deep discount. As it stands now, our current winners and runners-up of the Entry-level and Budget categories feature an Intel Core 2 Duo processor.
Perhaps this trend will change as we move up in price. We'll be posting reviews of the large mainstream category over the next week or so. Check back on this earlier, which lists all the back-to-school laptops we have reviewed and will be reviewing. We'll update it with links to the new reviews as we move along.
See more laptops in CNET's back-to-school gift guide.