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.
No oil painting
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, 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, 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.