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January 7, 2014

Laptops are insanely affordable now

Here’s a cliché for you: Things change very fast in the tech world. But it can still be a bit of a shock when you look up and realize just how much things have changed. Case in point: The price of laptops and tablets. This has quietly become a golden age of affordable laptops.

Speed, mobility, battery life, and coolness of form factor—by every measure, you simply get more for your money now. (And sorry for saying “form factor.” That’s an unfortunate phrase that just means shape.) To prove my point, I’d like to introduce you to these four devices under $400, some of them a lot under. (Prices were accurate at the time of publication in the US. I can’t guarantee that these devices will remain available at these prices, or that they’re available in all markets.)


ASUS T100TA – $349.99

I’m starting with this one because as soon as you pick it up, you can feel how much bang you’re getting for your buck. Light and solid, it just feels great to handle. But the marquee feature of the T100TA-B1-GR is the detachable keyboard. You can turn this thing into a tablet with the push of a button, and click the keyboard back in to make it a laptop again. With a 10.1 inch display, it’s on the compact size, but still plenty big enough to get things done. One of the things that surprised me was how good the sound is. Especially considering the size of this thing, music sounds remarkably clear and resonant.

At a glance:

· Touchscreen

· 2-in-1 tablet and laptop

· Great camera, microphone, and speakers

· Includes Office Home and Student 2013


Toshiba C55 – $373.00

OK, now to the opposite extreme, size-wise. The Toshiba C55-A5300 has a huge 15.6-inch display. Combined with a 500 GB hard drive, a high-def webcam, and a multi-format media reader (supporting Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, SDXC, miniSD, microSD and MultiMediaCard), it’s a great choice for photos, video, and other media work. It also has a big ol’ keyboard with a 10-key number pad. While still compact enough to take with you, this would make a rock solid home machine or a great PC for a student.

At a glance:

· 15.6-inch display

· Full-sized keyboard

· 500 GB hard drive

· Ports and slots galore


Dell Inspiron 15R – $279.99

Sticking with the bigger sizes, let’s move on to the Dell Inspiron 15RV-953. You could call it a workhorse, because it definitely gets things done fast, with a big (15.6”) screen and 4 GB of RAM. But it’s also surprisingly slick, at less than an inch thick, with a pleasingly textured lid and palm rest. It has a certain designer-y snappiness that makes you feel like you’re getting away with something for the price. Again, you get a full complement of ports (two USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, and HDMI 1.4 and RJ45 Ethernet ports). This is a good choice for road warriors, but would also be more than adequate as your sole PC.

At a glance:

· 15.6” display

· Tons of ports

· Sweet design

· Big hard drive (500 GB)


Acer V5 – $399.00

With both a keyboard and a touchscreen The Acer Aspire V5-122P-0681 is a great way to get the full Windows 8.1 experience. Everyone has their own preferences for the size of a laptop, but I think there’s a lot to be said for the 11.6-inch display of this one, which is a golden mean of portability and productivity. It’s also easy on the eyes. Other than the basic black bottom panel, it has an all-over matte finish that comes in either silver or a very cool powder blue. The touchpad is nice, but you almost don’t need it, as the touch screen lets you take direct, hands-on control of whatever it is you’re working on. (Note: Picture above is the very similar V5 472)

· Touch screen and keyboard

· Backlit keyboard

· 11.6-inch display

· 3 lbs  

It’s pretty amazing what manufacturers are coming out with. And that only scratches the surface. Check out the Microsoft Store or another retailer, because there are a lot more where these came from.