Money College: Laptop bargains for less than $500

College student using laptopSo many little things add up when starting college: from tuition to all the bells, whistles and mandatory add ons that eventually drain every last penny in your name before you even set foot in a classroom. And for most schools, including mine, it's policy that students own a laptop.

My school offered a "deal" through Dell and I ended up spending about $1,500 for the now non-existent Dell Latitude D620. It lasted me until this past summer, when it was viciously attacked by a virus. During its life, it ran well and didn't have many problems.
But now, a new breed of laptops that cost at least $1,000 less promise to perform well --and, odds are, outlast my deceased Dell.

According to, the Asus EeePC 1201N "is the fastest notebook money can buy." It ranges from $478.60 to $499.99, and has 2GB of RAM and 250GB of storage. The processor is an Intel Atom N330 and the processor speed is 1.66GHz. The screen is 12 inches and it weighs 3.2 pounds. The Asus EeePC also contains an awesome graphics card, which won't help when you are procrastinating, because you can play the most demanding games and watch movies in crisp HD. The only downside is the battery life, which at four hours still compares to the older-generation Apple MacBook Pro.

Netbooks represent another great option for a laptop. They are a subdivision of notebook laptops that are lightweight and usually inexpensive. They are perfect for general computing and accessing the Internet. One netbook that received high ratings from is the Toshiba Mini NB350-N410. Prices for the Toshiba range from about $394.95 to $404.12. It has 1GB of RAM and 250GB of storage. Like most netbooks, the screen is slightly smaller, 10.1 inches, and it weighs less, 2.9 pounds. It has a full size keyboard and its mouse pad and buttons are similar to a regular laptop's. Unlike the Asus, it has excellent battery life, up to 8.5 hours.

If you're on a really tight budget but still want a functional laptop, the Acer Aspire One goes for only $298.98 to $299.99. Similar to the Toshiba, the Acer Aspire One has nine hours of battery life. It has 1GB of RAM and 160GB of storage. The screen size is 10.1 inches and the machine only weights 2.7 pounds. Although it is pretty basic, you still get a lot out of your money, especially if your laptop is primarily for general school use.

Another netbook that sells for $299 is the Dell Inspiron Mini 10v. According to it has the "same basic chassis as Dell's more expensive Netbooks." It has 1GB of RAM and 160GB of storage. The downside to the Dell is it has an inset screen instead of the "edge-to-edge" glass that gives most Dell laptops a cool feel and look. It also does not have many of the extras that other Dells come with, but does have an Intel Atom N270 processor and does all general laptop functions.

If you're not interested in playing World of Warcraft or doing massive amounts of Photoshopping on your laptop and just need a reliable computer to get you through your college years, then a netbook may be the right way to go. Functional, stylish and, most importantly, cheap for what you're buying, they'll make a great compliment to the high-powered terminals in your school's computer labs.
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