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The winners of our great $500 laptop challenge (photos)

We gave several CNET editors $500 virtual dollars to shop for the best laptop in that price range.

ackermandan-square
Dan Ackerman
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1 of 6 Sarah Tew/CNET

Dan: Dell Inspiron M101z

$549
AMD Athlon II Neo K325 (Dual Core,1.3GHz)
4GB RAM 800Mhz
320GB HDD 7,200rpm
Windows 7 Home Premium
11-inch display, 1,366x786 pixels
No optical drive
> Find it here
> Check out our review of a similar model here.

With some decent 15-inch deals in this price range, I wanted to make sure we represented the ultraportable laptop here. To my surprise, I went with this Dell over the newer HP dm1, because for the money, the dual-core Athlon II Neo K325 is a bit faster than the AMD's new Fusion E-350 CPU. But for light gaming, I'd still go with the Fusion and the HP dm1.


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2 of 6 CNET

Dan: Acer Aspire AS7741Z-4633

$498
Intel Pentium Dual-Core P6100 processor (2.0GHz)
4GB RAM DDR3
320GB HDD 5,400rpm
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
17-inch display, 1,600x900 pixels
> Find it here
> Check out our review of a similar model here.

This was a holiday pick for us (actually a very close sister system was) and is still one of the only desktop replacement laptops you'll find in this price range. I'd rather see it with the same Intel Core i3 as many of the other systems here, but if you need a big screen and keyboard above all else, it's not a bad choice.


3 of 6 CNET

Scott: Dell Inspiron 15R

$549
2.4GHz Intel Core i3-370M
4GB DDR3 RAM
500GB HDD, 5,400rpm
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
15.6-inch display, 1,366x768 pixels
> Find it here
> Check out our review of a similar model here.

Scott Stein was asked to pick a direct-from-Dell laptop. He says, "With a Core i3, 500GB HDD, 4GB of RAM, and 15-inch screen for $549 after 'instant savings,' I'd skip those cheapie Pentium dual-cores and AMD processor options (just being honest)."


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4 of 6 HP

John: HP G42T

$544
2.53GHz Intel Core i3-380M
3GB DDR3 RAM
320GB HDD 5,400rpm
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
14-inch display, 1,366x768 pixels
> Find it here
> Check out our review of a similar model here.

John Falcone went to HP's Web site to build a custom system. He says that although this HP G42T is $544 with an Intel Core i3, you can step back to a dual-core Pentium P6300 for only $494. Also, this model is currently being offered with a 2GB-to-3GB memory upgrade, which may be temporary.


hp_probook_4520s.jpg
5 of 6 HP

Julie: HP ProBook 4520s

$499
2.53GHz Intel Core i3-380M
2GB DDR3 RAM 1066MHz
320GB HDD 7,200rpm
Windows 7 Professional (32-bit)
15.6-inch display, 1,366x768 pixels
> Find it here

Julie Rivera was tasked with looking at online-only retailers and picked this biz-minded model. She says, "It's hot; high-end Core i3; separate numeric keypad; brushed-aluminum metal design; has the ports I need, including HDMI; and has Bluetooth." Note that this has the less-common 32-bit version of Windows 7.


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6 of 6 CNET

Josh: Samsung RV511-A01

$549
2.53GHz Intel Core i3-380M
4GM DDR3 RAM
500GB HDD, 5,400rpm
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
15.6-inch display, 1,366x768 pixels
> Find it here
> Check out our review of a similar model here.

Josh Goldman was sent to brick-and-mortar stores (or their Web sites) to find the best deal in our price range from retail store shelves. He says, "Buying from a brick-and-mortar at this price is a horrible experience. Everything is big with older components or a Netbook. This Samsung is a rare exception. Nice components packed into a nice-looking chassis, too. Built-in 4G mobile broadband and WiDi are nice bonuses."


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