Strapped for cash, but want a machine that can still plough through the latest PC games? Here’s a happy medium: cheap, powerful laptops. By taking hits to battery life, weight and extra features, it’s possible to rack up premium components on a limited budget. Here are our top five cheap yet powerful laptops.
5. Toshiba Portege Z935-P300
Ultrabook-sized, ultrabook-weight, but not ultrabook-priced, the Toshiba Portege is a very capable and highly portable device. It’s got a great battery life (around 6 hours), thanks to the Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor, Solid State Drive and sizable battery. On the other hand, it’s pretty small, and Toshiba have cut corners when it comes to the raw materials, leaving the whole device feeling a little flimsy and cheap. User reviews for the product are strong, though. 4/5 stars.
4. Acer Aspire V5
If I read the stats to you: Windows 8, touch-screen, Ivy Bridge i5 processor, integrated graphics, half a terabyte of hard drive space and an HD display, you’d be expecting to pay a fraction over a thousand dollars for the Acer Aspire V5. Handy that the price tag comes in at around two hundred dollars below that, then. It’s got a pretty, Apple-inspired keyboard, but that’s where the quality stops rather abruptly. You see, in slicing off that extra few hundred dollars Acer were reduced to using lower-grade, plastic-y materials and smaller batteries. As a result, your machine will last for about 4-ish hours, and the whole thing has the unfortunate poise of something from a few good years ago. 3.5/5 stars.
3. Acer Aspire M5 481PT
Never a company to run from long, barcode-sounding product titles, Acer do a much nicer, and slightly smaller, version of the V5 for around the same price. The M5 481PT has an all-metal body, which does wonders to surpass the shortcomings of its brother, and a slightly bigger battery. Specs-wise, everything else seems to have remained the same, with the exception of a smaller, 14-inch screen in place of the 15.4-inch display on the V5. Windows 8? Check. Touch-screen? Check. In fact, the only things we’re missing here are dedicated graphics – an absolute must if you’re planning on playing any of the latest games – and LED backlighting on the display. Frustratingly, downsizing also appears to have affected the display quality quite severely: it’s dim, bleed-y and the viewing angles make communal screen-watching impossible. This is a Personal Computer in every sense of the term. 4/5 stars.
2. Dell Inspiron 14z
The Dell Inspiron 14z is a very difficult machine to rate. For one, it packs a ridiculous amount of high to mid-end hardware into an incredibly small device. A 14-inch frame holds Ivy Bridge processors, 8GB of RAM, a 500GB Hard Disk Drive (HDD, somewhere) and discrete AMD Radeon HD 7570M graphics. It’s not chunky, and you can pick it up for under $600 if you hunt around a bit. It really is an amazing piece of kit. Shortfalls? It has them. Battery life is just a tad under what we’d hope at 7 hours, and the plastic shell does not ooze quality in the same way metal-hewn carapaces do. Impressive, but not perfect. 4/5 stars.
1. Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11
A flashy matte orange magnesium-aluminium alloy casing, Bluetooth 4.0, an HD webcam, an 11.6-inch LED-backlit HD display, ultra-low-power Tegra 3 processor and Windows RT pre-installed: the IdeaPad Yoga is teeming with ultra-modern envy-ware making it a cheap yet powerful laptop. It’s convertible to a tablet (although the 2.8-pound weight makes that a less appealing prospect), but carries a well-made, well-housed keyboard for physical must-haves. The quality is figuratively seeping from the case, and that’s why the IdeaPad Yoga 11 is our favourite. There’s a bigger brother – the 11S – on the way, too: so we can only go up from here. 4.5/5 stars.