Price erosion at the lower end of the laptop market means that many of today's budget machines aren't much more expensive than higher-end netbooks. The HP G62 is a good example. Even though our sample, the G62-450SA, packs in a reasonably powerful Intel Core i3 processor and a 15.6-inch screen, it's currently available online from Laptops Direct and other vendors for a lowly £400 or thereabouts.
The G62 doesn't exactly set the heart racing when you first clap eyes on it. Apart from the glossy screen surround and brushed-aluminium effect on the hinges, the entire shell of the laptop is sculpted from boring, matte black plastic. This gives it a less-than-premium look and, while there's a geometric pattern etched into the keyboard surround and lid, it doesn't really do much to lift the design out of bargain-basement territory.
Nevertheless, unlike Toshiba's Satellite Pro C660, the chassis does feel very solid. We reckon it'll stand up to some long-term abuse. Also, although the matte finish is drab, it's less likely than some other finishes to show up scratches.
Many budget laptops suffer in terms of connectivity, but the G62 doesn't do too badly. It has three USB ports, as well as both VGA and HDMI video outputs. There's also a multi-format card reader, a Gigabit Ethernet port and Wi-Fi connectivity. It does, however, lack extras like Bluetooth support and an eSATA port, which you'll find on more expensive machines.
The laptop's 500GB hard drive provides plenty of space for storing media files like photos, music and videos, and there's also a DVD rewriter so you can burn your own discs.
Rather than opting for a keyboard with isolated keys, as seen on Apple's MacBooks, HP has instead gone with a more traditional set-up. Still, the keys are flat and have a raised centre, so they feel similar to those on an isolated keyboard when you're tapping away on them. We'd prefer the keys if they had slightly more travel to them, though.
Something else to be aware of is that the function-key roles have been swapped around, so, for example, the F10 key is set by default to adjust the volume level -- usually you'd hold down the Fn key and hit F10 to get at the volume control. It's not a huge issue, but it does make shortcuts involving function keys slightly more complicated than usual.
The screen's horizontal viewing angles are rather tight and the glossy coating makes it quite reflective, but it's reasonably bright and even. The 1,366x768-pixel resolution is par for the course on budget 15.6-inch laptops, and text and graphics look reasonably crisp and sharp.
A 2.26GHz dual-core Intel Core i3-350M processor acts as the engine of this PC and is supported by 3GB of RAM, which provides a decent amount of space for the Windows 7 Home Premium operating system to breathe.
The laptop's performance in the PCMark05 benchmark test was good given its modest asking price. It managed to rack up a score of 5,395, which means it'll handle light to moderate computing needs, like word processing or photo editing, without too much complaining.
The Core i3-350M is an older Arrandale processor, however, so it lacks the faster integrated graphics found in Intel's new Sandy Bridge processors. As a result, it only managed to post a score of 1,681 in the 3DMark06 test, whereas laptops that use the newer Core i3 chips, such as the Lenovo B570, generally offer twice the 3D performance. Only the very oldest and least demanding 3D games will run with decent frame rates.
When it comes to battery life, the G62 doesn't really spring any surprises. It's pretty normal for 15.6-inch laptops to last around 1 hour and 20 minutes in the intensive Battery Eater test, which runs the CPU at 100 per cent until the battery conks out. The G62 managed to pretty much hit this target, lasting for 1 hour and 19 minutes. It's no marathon machine, then, but it's not too shabby either.
The HP G62-450SA is difficult to get excited about. It's not a bad laptop but, compared to some of its slightly cheaper rivals, it comes off second best. For example, it's outgunned both in terms of style and performance by the Lenovo B570, yet that model comes in slightly cheaper, leaving you little reason to opt for the G62 instead.
Edited by Charles Kloet