Wireless warrior: Buying a budget notebook

Summary:We put four products head-to-head to make your choice easier.

Buying a budget notebook is a tricky task, since the value for money offered by models in the lower price range can vary immensely. To aid you in your quest for cheap and cheerful mobility, we've thrown four sub-AU$1,500 models head-to-head and, after much deliberation, picked a favourite.

BenQ Joybook A33E

Optima Centoris KN
Toshiba Satellite M50

Dell Inspiron 630m

During our testing we found that while performance is similar across the board -- largely due to the fact that all of the notebooks boast similar internal components -- the models differ greatly in terms of battery life, feature-set and design.

Dell's offering steamrolled the competition in this regard, and we were particularly impressed with its battery life, which we recorded at a hair under five hours.

The Optima Centoris KN also served up excellent performance and battery life, albeit some design and feature qualms kept it from inching closer to the Dell.

Toshiba's contender -- the Satellite M50 -- made a valiant effort, but it's hobbled by poor battery life, half the memory of the other notebooks and a relatively small hard drive. Its lack of a FireWire port and memory card reader is also disappointing.

BenQ's Joybook A33E suffered from similar battery life issues, and its feature-set was bare compared to the Dell and Optima models.



BenQ Joybook A33E (15.4-inch, 1.5GHz)

BenQ Joybook A33E (15.4-inch, 1.5GHz)
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The A33E is a reasonable notebook for those on a budget, but its dearth of features and low battery life when compared to some of its competitors is undoubtedly a deterrent.

Screen size: 15.4-inch
Processor speed: 1.5GHz
Memory: 512MB DDR2-533
Hard drive: 60GB
Dimensions (WxDxH): 350 x 250 x 20-30 mm
Weight: 2.8 kg
Graphics: Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900
Video RAM: 128MB Shared
Price: AU$1,299

 

Optima Centoris KN (15.4-inch, 1.73GHz)

Optima Centoris KN (15.4-inch, 1.73GHz)
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The Optima Centoris KN offers top performance and above-average battery life. It's a great notebook, if you can live with the lack of certain features and its added bulk.

Screen size: 15.4-inch
Processor speed: 1.73GHz
Memory: 512MB DDR2-533
Hard drive: 40GB
Dimensions (WxDxH): 363 x 266 x 35 mm
Weight: 2.95 kg
Graphics: Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900
Video RAM: 128MB Shared
Price: AU$1,499

 

Toshiba Satellite M50 (14-inch, 1.4GHz)

Toshiba Satellite M50 (14-inch, 1.4GHz)
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Despite its extremely affordable price and logical design, the M50 fails to stand out in terms of performance, features or battery life.

Screen size: 14-inch
Processor speed: 1.4GHz
Memory: 256MB DDR2-533
Hard drive: 40GB
Dimensions (WxDxH): 343 x 242 x 29.4 (front)/38 (rear) mm
Weight: 2.3 kg
Graphics: ATI Radeon Xpress 200m
Video RAM: 64MB Shared
Price: AU$1,199

 


Dell Inspiron 630m (14.1-inch, 1.6GHz)

Dell Inspiron 630m (14.1-inch, 1.6GHz)
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Dell's Inspiron 630m is undoubtedly the king of the budget notebook hill. Its battery life blitzes the competition, whilst its performance and features are also top notch.

Screen size: 14.1-inch
Processor speed: 1.6GHz
Memory: 512MB DDR2-533
Hard drive: 60GB
Dimensions (WxDxH): 330 x 224 x 31-38 mm
Weight: 2.48 kg
Graphics: Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900
Video RAM: 128MB Shared
Price: AU$1,499

 

Topics: Laptops, Mobility, Reviews

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