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There's plenty of debate over whether you should consider a Chromebook for your primary laptop, but students, with their limited budgets and familiarity with storing everything digital in the Cloud, can't dismiss it out of hand. For just $249, you can get Samsung's version that runs Google's Chrome operating system. While the specs are paltry -- 2GB of RAM, a mere 16GB hard drive -- that's beside the point if you just want to take notes, write papers, and surf the Web. ZDNet's James Kendrick calls the Samsung Chromebook the "best $249 you can spend." Use the money you save on textbooks or some posters to liven your dorm room walls.
HP 2000 series
If you want a dirt-cheap Windows laptop, HP's 2000 family of portables can be purchased for as low as $300. Instead of relying on Intel, the lowest-cost 2000 notebooks use AMD's E series processors, though other, slightly pricier models use Pentium or Core i3 CPUs. Even if it doesn't deliver maximum computing punch, the HP 2000 lineup still comes with 4GB of RAM, at least 320GB of hard drive space, and a 15.6-inch screen for a budget price.