When it comes to 13.3 and 14.1-inch models, well, the offering is quite limited. Most products are business oriented, i.e. expensive, while some 13.3-inch notebooks are fashion items, i.e., even more expensive.
In spite of that you can get a 13.3-inch Lenovo Thinkpad SL300 or an LG E300 for €655 or €656 respectively. Both weigh just over 2kg, both are powered by T5xxx Core 2 Duo CPUs, albeit the LG boasts 3GB of memory versus Lenovo's 2GB, and has 200GB of storage compared to 160GB on the Thinkpad. The LG also looks a lot better, and ladies will appreciate its piano black finish with a touch of red.
The trouble with 14.1-inch models is that the affordable ones weigh almost as much as 15.4-inch machines, and end up costing more than them. Vendors seem to be focusing their efforts on 13.3-inch machines instead, and interestingly, affordable 14.1-inch units are few and far between. Frankly, you're better off going for a 13.3-inch unit if you're after portability, or a 15.4-inch one if you want to save some money.
The offer of a 15.4-inch notebooks is immense, and if you can live with the bulk it's easy to find something suitable for your needs. On the budget side, FSC offers outstanding value for money with its Esprimo Mobile V5535 Edition. It packs a dual-core Pentium T3200 at 2GHz, 1GB of memory and 160GB of storage, all for a silly €353. You probably think it weighs as much as a small European country, and at 2.7kg it does, but so do most cheap notebooks. It's rather ugly, too, but at this price, few will complain about its looks. It's easy to find a cheap, brand name 15.4-inch under €400, so we won't waste much time describing all of them.
If you're looking for something that can cope with some casual gaming, the Asus X57VN with Geforce 9650M graphics with 1024MB of memory, a Core 2 Duo T5800 2x 2.0GHz, and 2GB of memory will cost you €727. AMD/ATI fanboys can go for Acer's Puma-based Aspire 5530G. It's powered by a Turion X2 Ultra ZM82 at 2.2 GHz, has 4GB of memory, 320GB of storage and HD3650 graphics with 512MB of memory. It's big and heavy, but not too ugly, and it costs €747.
Now, if you cancel your gym membership, you'll probably save enough cash to get yourself a 17-inch notebook in no time. If it doesn't break your back, it will make you stronger, and you probably won't miss your desktop much. With its o.book 5, Belinea offers the best value for money, without a doubt. There are only three problems. First of all, it's a Belinea, which immediately brings us to the next problem - it's rather hard to come by. Finally, it ships without an OS. However, if you want to go cheap, €549 will buy you a Core 2 Duo T5800 at 2.0GHz, 2GB of memory, a 250GB hard drive, Nvidia 8600M graphics with a 512MB frame buffer, HDMI and a DVB-T tuner. It weighs 3.6kg; but who cares? You're not going to carry it around a lot, anyway. If you want full HD, the Asus X72VM is probably the best choice. At €1080 it's not the cheapest HD model on the market, but it's powered by a Core 2 Duo T9400 2x 2.53GHz, has 4GB of memory, 2 320GB hard drives, Geforce GT9600M and it could easily put most desktops to shame.
Anything over 17 inches is not a notebook, but rather a portable desktop, so we'll wrap up here. 13.3-inch notebooks are the new black, the offer of 14.1-inch units is rather limited, and most of them don't offer great value for money. The 15.4 market is also interesting, as you can get a decent machine for the price of a netbook, and investing more than €500 will get you a well speced machine with discrete graphics. We don't like 17-inch machines much, but we have to admit that they are becoming interesting, mainly due to growing competition and acceptable pricing on the part of the vendors.
Notebook holiday shopping guide, part 1
Published in News
Notebook holiday shopping guide, part 2
Xmas deals: 13 to 17 inches of cheapness