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Toshiba's Satellite A505-S6960: our back-to-school retail laptop roundup "budget" pick

In our current roundup of retail-specific laptops, we've divided our 30-plus systems into four different price categories, from sub-$500 entry level models to high-end ones that cost more than $1,000.

In our current roundup of retail-specific laptops, we've divided our 30-plus systems into four different price categories, from sub-$500 entry level models to high-end ones that cost more than $1,000.

In that budget level category, covering laptops between $500 and $699, we we found systems that in many cases offered only modest improvements from their slightly less expensive entry-levelcousins, leading us to crown Toshiba's Satellite A505-S6960 the winner, as it the offered a true Intel Core 2 Duo CPU (instead of a slower "Intel Dual-Core" model), along with a big 320GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM.

Two important notes -- on this particular page we're *only* talking about a handful of retail-specific models that cost between $500 and $699. For a roundup of retail laptops in all price ranges, check here; for our latest MacBook reviews, check here.

Check out details of each system below:

HP Pavilion G60-445dx
The good: Good keyboard and touch pad; decent 16x9 screen.

The bad: Worse-than-average AMD processor and battery life; no Bluetooth.

The bottom line: For $549, the HP Pavilion G60-445dx has a mediocre processor and performance in a package that's not much of a bargain.

Read the full review here.

Toshiba Satellite A505-S6960 *BEST*
The good: Long battery life; solid performance for the money; great-sounding speakers; HDMI out.

The bad: Glossy design is fingerprint magnet; slick keyboard; no Bluetooth.

The bottom line: Good components and a big battery push the Toshiba Satellite A505-S6960 in front of other retail budget laptops.

Read the full review here.

Toshiba Satellite M505-S4940
The good: Good speakers; decent screen for music/video playback.

The bad: Uncomfortable touch pad and keyboard; outdated processor.

The bottom line: Equipped with great speakers and a good screen but an inferior processor and keyboard, the Toshiba M505-S4940 just isn't a good enough buy for the money.

Read the full review here.

Toshiba Satellite M505-S4945
The good: Good speakers; decent all-around performance; included 3G antenna.

The bad: Uncomfortable touch pad and keyboard; no Bluetooth.

The bottom line: Positioned as an affordable design-conscious Core 2 Duo laptop for less than $700, Toshiba's Satellite M505-S4945 is better for media than it is for all-day office work.

Read the full review here.

Toshiba Satellite P505D-S8930
The good: Attractive design; large LCD for the money; touch multimedia controls; great speakers.

The bad: Slow performance; short battery life.

The bottom line: The Toshiba Satellite P505D-S8930 is perfect if you need a large-screen portable computer, but you're not too much of a multitasker or in need of a long battery life.

Read the full review here.

Check out the rest of the 2009 Back-to-School retail laptop and desktop roundup here.