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Top Laptops Under $500

These cheap laptops are great values

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It's no longer crazy to think you can get a great Windows laptop for just $400 or so. Any of the notebooks here can serve you well in everyday tasks such as web surfing, number crunching, watching movies, and even playing games. Besides their low and reasonable prices, these laptops have earned rave reviews from consumers and professional reviewers alike, such as PC World, Laptop Magazine, and About.com's own PC Hardware Reviews Guide.

Prices will fluctuate, but at the time of this writing (February 11, 2012), all of these laptops are bargains, with at least a second-generation processor, 4GB of memory, and at least 320GB of hard drive storage space. (For more on specs, see features you should consider for your work laptop.) Here, for your shopping convenience, are the cheap (but decent) laptops, in alphabetical order:

1. Dell Inspiron 14R

Dell Inspiron 14R
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The Dell Inspiron 14R is a budget laptop, but don't let that fool you. About's PC Hardware/Reviews Guide reviewed this laptop's performance as solid and called its keyboard comfortable, while Laptop Magazine was impressed with the notebook's overall specs and capabilities. For about $500 (less if you get in on a coupon deal or shop the outlet section), you'll get a 2.2GHz Intel Core i3-2330M processor, 4GB of memory, and 500GB hard drive storage. With the Inspiron 14R you can even switch lids for some fancy design looks.
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2. HP Pavilion g6t

HP Pavilion g6t Laptop
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The HP Pavilion g6t is an all-purpose, no-nonsense laptop with solid performance according to the major laptop reviewers around the web. The 15.6-inch notebook sports an Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of memory, and a 320GB hard drive, but you can often get some good deals and upgrades like free 500GB hard drive upgrades and instant $100 rebates too (dropping the price to $450 at the HP store) or even grabbing the laptop for $375, depending on your timing.
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3. HP ProBook 4530s

HP ProBook 4530s Laptop
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The HP ProBook 4530s is a business-friendly yet budget-priced workhorse. If you're looking for a laptop primarily for work or just one that will last a bit longer, opt for a business-class laptop. When in doubt, I always recommend going for the business class PC because of the higher quality build and other advantages. The ProBook 4530s is packed with an Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, and DVD writable drive. The 15.6-inch laptop has a sturdy, elegant metal shell, as all ProBooks do, and above-average features such as a fingerprint reader. For under $500, it's a pretty good value for consumers and small businesses alike.
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4. Lenovo ThinkPad E420

Lenovo ThinkPad E420
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The ThinkPad line of laptops has long earned a great reputation for its excellent keyboard--really important for mobile users--and build quality. This Thinkpad, the E420, is a 14-inch lightweight notebook (weighing in at 4.14 pounds) designed for business users (again, that's a good thing). The E420 uses an Intel Core i3-2350M processor, has an anti-glare display, comes with a DVD writer, a 6 hour battery life, and a 320GB hard drive. As of this writing, you can find deals on the E420 for under $450 or at the very least under $500.
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5. Sony VAIO EL2

Sony VAIO E Series Laptop
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Sony's VAIO laptops in general are coveted for their high style and workmanship, and this E series budget laptop doesn't skimp on the good looks either. The VAIO EL2, model VPCEL22FX/B, is a 15.5-inch notebook with a textured, diamond-shaped pattern on the lid and palm rest. Sony manages to keep the price down to under $450 by using a dual-core AMD E-450 processor instead of the more popular Intel chips. The laptop comes with 4GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive, multi-format DVD drive, and the common array of ports you'd expect. Reviews on on Amazon and around the web call the VAIO EL2 a great value laptop (especially for a Sony VAIO) that gets the basics done.
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