Prices for laptops are all over the map. Some can set you back thousands of dollars, while others cost $300 or less. Just in time for the holidays, Consumer Reports has tested some of the lowest-cost laptops to find out what they offer, and what they don’t.
If you just do the basics like word processing, browsing the Web and streaming video, Consumer Reports says a budget laptops can be a good choice. Some come with Windows 8.1 with Bing that is the same Windows you’ve seen in other systems except that Microsoft Bing is the default search engine, although you can switch to another search engine if you want.
These computers don’t have the faster solid-state drives that the more expensive computers have. So they’re not going to boot as fast, and some of their applications won’t launch as fast. And unlike many more expensive laptops, you won’t find a touch screen, extra USB ports or, in most cases, a DVD drive.
But for no-frills computing, Consumer Reports says the $250 Dell Inspiron 15 Non-Touch is a good value and it gets nearly eight hours of battery life. Also a good choice: the Asus X551MAV-EB01-B for $250.
Another budget option is a Chromebook, which uses Google’s Chrome operating system instead of Windows. All the applications you need are online, so an Internet connection is important. If you wanted to do something very typical like word processing in a Chromebook, you use Google Docs, which is an online word processor.
The $175 Acer CB3-111-C8UB Chromebook is a Consumer Reports Best Buy. It’s lightweight and gets over ten hours of battery life. You’ll pay more for Consumer Reports’ top-rated Chromebook. It’s another Acer with a more powerful processor and twice the storage. It’s the Acer C720-3871 for $350.
Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports’ website. Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org.