Top 10 laptops under £500

The trouble with laptops is that the good ones just aren't cheap enough - not yet, anyway. You then get faced with two options. The first is to buy a 10-inch netbook and try to use it as a full time machine, and the second is to pick up an older notebook that's not only going to run a little slow but probably also last a year less then a newer model.

Well fear not. Help is here in the form of the Top 10 Laptops for under £500 what you are reading right now. We've tried to pick something for all sizes and any one of them would do you proud if you're in the market for something on the reasonable side. 

Dell Studio 15 (£479)

Screen
15.6", 1366 x 768 WLED

Mass
2.7kg

Memory
2GB

CPU
Intel Core i3

Graphics
1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD5470

Storage
250GB HDD

Extras
2MP Webcam, DVD +/- RW Drive


Say what you like about Dell but nobody else offers the same combination for power and style at low prices. The Dell Studio range is one up from the bottom end Inspiron series and gives you decent user experience plus the option to have a laptop that isn't just another grey box. Depending upon what deals there are on, you can usual up one of the specs for free - most often more memory or better choice of colour or design.

There are 3 USB slots, an HDMI, eSATA, memory card ports and rather tasteful slot-loading optical drive. It comes with a very reasonable keyboard, a built-in SRS Surround Sound system, tasteful sloping design style, on/off button on the barrel at the side and two headphone jacks which is nice if you're trying to watch something with a friend. It comes with a 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Edition and is a very good all-round choice.

Advent Sienna 500 (£499)

Screen
15.6", 1366 x 768

Mass
2.5kg

Memory
3GB

CPU
Intel Core i5 430M

Graphics
Integrated

Storage
250GB HDD

Extras
DVD +/- RW Drive


Advent is rarely high on sex appeal when it comes to laptops and the Sienna 500 is no exception. What it does offer though, is a good bit of grunt for the outlay. The graphics are only of the integrated kind, so perhaps not the best choice if you're planning on heavy gaming or video editing, but there's lots under the hood with 3GB of RAM and a dual-core Intel Core i5 chip at the helm. There are VGA ports, HDMI, 3 x USB and all the rest of the connectivity you could want, but sadly no webcam included. On the plus side, it's the Premium version of Windows 7 this time around and rather nice chiclet keyboard.

Packard Bell EasyNote TJ75-JN-070 (£499)

Screen
15.6", 1366 x 768, LED

Mass
2.7kg

Memory
4GB

CPU
Intel Core i3-330M

Graphics
1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD5470

Storage
640GB HDD

Extras
DVD-RW Drive, webcam


It may look like a simple black-cased laptop but the EasyNote TJ75-JN-070 (catchy name) has lots to get excited about inside. The CPU and a whole 4GB of memory should be enough of an engine room to power your needs, plus the discrete graphics option will help a lot too. Best of all though, there's a whopping storage solution which means that you really can use this thing as a proper media centre. There's all the ports you could want, a multi-gesture trackpad and a webcam built-in as well. Not bags of style but should tick over nicely.

Packard Bell EasyNote Butterfly Touch Edition (£550)

Screen
11.6", 1366 x 768

Mass
1.6kg

Memory
4GB

CPU
1.2GHz Intel Celeron SU2300

Graphics
Integrated

Storage
320GB HDD

Extras
1.3MP webcam, DVD +/- RW Drive, swivel screen, touch-enabled


So, the Packard Bell EasyNote Butterfly Touch Edition may be £50 over budget at the time of writing but if you dig hard enough, you might be able to find it at a little less. All the same, it's a laptop worth breaking the bank for. It's nice and light has an 8-hour battery life as well as a little glitz and glam appeal, as it boasts a swivel touchscreen with auto-image rotation, for all your pseudo-tablet use.

It's not got the world's most powerful processor but there's plenty of RAM, good storage and even a webcam too. You do get HDMI, USB, VGA and Bluetooth as well as Dolby Sound Room for decent listening too. Put all that together with an optical drive and good keyboard and you've got yourself one swanky portable PC.

Asus Eee PC 1201N Seashell (£390)

Screen
12.1", 1366 x 768 LED

Mass
1.46kg

Memory
2GB

CPU
Intel Atom N330

Graphics
ION

Storage
250GB

Extras
0.3MP webcam



Small, powerful and arguably a netbook, the dual-core Asus Eee PC 1201N sits somewhere between full laptop and the travel-sized machines. With the Nvidia ION platform and 2GB of RAM to help out, you get plenty of graphics and performance out of this little guy, unfortunately at the cost of battery life. That said, 5 hours is not to be sniffed at but remember to use it wisely.

It comes packed with Windows 7 Home Premium, Bluetooth and a rather pathetic webcam, unfortunately. Stereo speakers are built in and there's a rather nice trackpad and mouse button bar combo too. A good looking and nice option for the portable side of things.

Acer Aspire Timeline 3810TZ (£430)

Screen
13.3", 1366 x 768 LED

Mass
1.6kg

Memory
4GB

CPU
Intel Pentium Processor SU4100

Graphics
Integrated

Storage
250GB

Extras
Webcam


A rather nice cross of something home-based and portable too is the 13-inch end of the Acer Timeline series. The 3810TZ weighs in at under 2kg, but still has a reasonable integrated graphics offering and some good power from the RAM and dual-core processor as well. There's a well-formed keyboard, multi-touch trackpad, 5-in-1 card reader and HDMI, VGA and USB ports as well. There is a webcam but unfortunately no Bluetooth. If you like the sound of this but want something with a bigger screen, the 4810TZ is the same but 15 inches and still under £500.

Sony VAIO NW20SF/S (£499)

Screen
15.6, 1366 x 768

Mass
2.7kg

Memory
4GB

CPU
Intel Core 2 Duo T6600

Graphics
Integrated

Storage
320GB

Extras
0.3MP Webcam, DVD+/-RW

For most people, the carbon-fibre and magnesium alloy chassis of the Sony Vaio Z series is way beyond budget, however the NW-Series is the bone the Japanese tech company throws in your direction instead.

For Sony, it's a product with very little aesthetic grace but there are a few nice touches in the brushed silver body and the excellently styled keyboard to get excited about. After that, you're relying on the memory and good storage space to carry you through along with a perfectly respectable, if older, Intel 2-core processor. Sadly, the optional extras get a little less exciting as screen size gets bigger when you're working to just £500 but at least there's HDMI and Windows 7 Home Premium to keep you happy. Shame about the poxy webcam.

Samsung R520 (£536)

Screen
15.6, 1366 x 768

Mass
2.6kg

Memory
4GB

CPU
Intel Core 2 Duo T6500

Graphics
Integrated

Storage
500GB

Extras
1.3MP, DVD+/-RW


So it's a smidge over but the Samsung R520 is a very similar creature to the Vaio above with almost identical spec. The key differences, however, are the whacking great 500GB HDD and the better webcam. You might also argue that it has a more modern look compared to the NW's classic design but you'll have to decide that one for yourselves. You can also tuck it back under budget if you opt for a smaller HDD.

Samsung X120 (£350)

Screen
11.6", 1366 x 768 LED

Mass
1.4kg

Memory
3GB

CPU
Intel Pentium SU2700

Graphics
Integrated

Storage
250GB

Extras
0.3MP webcam


At the other end of things for Samsung is a great value portable machine with a dual-core processor and good integrated graphics to boot. Like the Seashell, there isn't heaps of battery running at this kind of spec, so either take spares or just bear it in mind. Otherwise the Samsung X120 has bags of memory, great storage HDMI, VGA and Bluetooth connectivity and hardly any weight to carry around. It's also rather sleek on the outside with a spacious keyboard once you open it too.

HP Pavilion DM3-1060EA (£490)

Screen
13.3", 1366 x 768

Mass
1.9kg

Memory
4GB

CPU
Intel Celeron SU2300

Graphics
Integrated

Storage
320GB HDD

Extras
DVD+/-RW, webcam


What looks like another painfully grey laptop from a distance becomes an actually quite tasteful painfully grey laptop when you get up close to the HP Pavilion DM3 series. The charcoal flap on the overcast box becomes a brushed metal smart top on a crafted, sleek inside with an excellent keyboard thrown in as well. Naturally, there's all the connectivity you could be after and even a DVD writer which is often tricky to find on a 13-inch laptop. Throw in a good spec sheet and a webcam, and you've got yourself a very tidy machine.

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Of course, prices and models change faster than you can blink an eye in laptop land. So, if you see any cracking deals out there that fit the budget, then make sure you chuck the info down in the comments below.



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