As technology evolves prices of once expensive technology can drop. Laptops are a perfect example, once costing thousands you can now pick up budget netbooks for under £200. But what are these computers like and can you really get a good, full size, laptop for under £350?
We’ve got three laptops all for under £350 [as of 12/11/2013] to compare: They are the Asus X551CA, Asus X102BA and the Toshiba Satellite C50-A-166.
But first let’s start out with a few basics:
A £350 laptop will not be suitable for everyone, if you’re using a laptop for video editorial, high end graphics or gaming these models aren’t for you. The computing power is simply not high enough and you could become frustrated.
Having said that not everyone will need such power in a laptop. If you’re a student or class yourself as a ‘standard user’ e.g. Browse the Internet, edit pictures, work on office documents, chat online, watch movies etc… budget laptops can be the perfect option for you.
How do you measure a laptop?
The three key features to look out for on a laptop are the Processor, RAM and Storage. These three things dictate the speed and storage capacity of your computer- As a rough guide the higher these aspects are, the more expensive & faster the laptop is[This is a rough guide for these purposes].
To complicate things a little, there is the additional aspect of a Graphics Card– but this is usually reserved for higher-end laptops that require high quality moving images. Screen size and additional benefits may also raise the price, but not usually change the speed.
When we talk about suitability for roles, what we mean is the power of the laptop and its capability to run programmes at an “acceptable speed”. So as you can imagine a £1500 gaming laptop has more processing power to play a complex game. One at £250 would still play the game but the speed would be unacceptably slow.
What’s included in the price?
Unless stated otherwise, laptops come as stand-alone machines. You will get the laptop, charger and battery, with the current operating system installed (Windows 8 at the moment). All you need to do is turn it on and input your details.
What you need to consider, is that in most cases you will need to add some office software- Anti-Virus and any additional programmes you want. Many laptops have their own built-in software so always check in the product description of what’s included.
So let’s have a look at what you can get for under £350;
This is the basic level. You will find laptops under £300 that are perfectly suited to simple office tasks.
The Toshiba Satellite Pro C50-A-166 is great value laptop, it contains a basic Intel Celeron processor, which is perfectly suited for simple tasks and internet browsing. It’s by no means the fastest processor but for under £300 it will do a good job.
The laptop also has 4GB RAM to work with the processor and a spacious 500GB HDD. To put this in perspective a 500GB Hard Drive will store the equivalent of 140,000 songs or 200,000 photos. So plenty of space.
As is standard with most laptops the screen is 15.6″ with a built in Webcam + Bluetooth set, which is always handy for Skype conversations and transferring material, it also comes with Windows 8 64-bit.
The Asus X102BA-Touch is a fantastic value Touch Laptop for under £300. To say touch screens have only been part of the laptop world for around two years, the price point is astounding.
Like the previous laptop this computer is designed for basic office tasks. However this is a far more compact and light machine, ideal for those on the move.
The screen is 10.1” multi touch responsive so you can have the benefits of a tablet with the stability and larger specifications of a computer.
What’s also great about this particular model is that it comes pre-installed with Microsoft Office. A product that can usually cost up to £100 to add.
As we said at the start of the page the value of a laptop is judged usually on its Processor, RAM and Storage. This is why the Asus X551CA Laptop is valued higher that its counterpart.
The Asus is a fantastic value machine for the specifications. The Intel i3 inside the Asus is a middle-to-high end Processor, suitable for a wide range of tasks. The processor is far and above greater than the Intel Celeron or Pentium and is suitable for all office tasks, photo manipulation and simple video editing work.
This is twinned with a beefy 4GB RAM and 500GB hard drive. You can even upgrade for a small amount to the 6GB RAM, 1TB HDD version: that’s over 1000 GB of storage with a lot of memory!
The X551CA has a 15.6” screen with a built in webcam and Windows 8 operating system.
So to answer the question: “can you get a good laptop for under £350”? Yes you can, but always consider what you’re using it for. It’s better to buy bigger now than be left behind in a few years’ time. Remember to cater to your budget and don’t forget you will usually have to add Anti-Virus, Microsoft Office or similar software.