Best budget laptops: We rate the best-selling portables on Amazon and Best Buy – PCWorld

Ever get that text message out of the blue? You know: “Hey, I’m at Best Buy right now. What do you think of this Acer laptop versus this Dell laptop? One says it has four cores, while the other has 8GB of RAM. Help!”

Yes, it’s that time of the year when friends and family hit you up for computer-buying advice. Their kids are going off to college, and they need your all-knowing tech help right now. Because great computer knowledge comes with great responsibility, I always wade into the specs, and provide quick-take buying recommendations based on what I can discern from the configurations and prices.

So, in the spirit of offering you the same expert advice I’d give to my nearest and dearest, I’ve combed through the best-selling laptop lists from both Amazon and Best Buy, and weighed the pros and cons. Both lists change quite rapidly, so I’m basing this on a snapshot in time—namely, the best-selling laptops on the morning of August 8, 2016.

Are these reviews? Absolutely not. But I still think there’s a lot of value in helping out those who can’t tell a Pentium from a Core i7.

Amazon’s Top Five

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Amazon’s best-selling laptops change rankings often, but some remain at the top for long stretches of time.

Acer Aspire E 15

Amazon Best-Seller Rank: No. 1

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The Acer Aspire E 15 has been the top-selling laptop on Amazon for weeks, and I can see why. You get a whole lot of value and whole a lot of performance over most other laptops in its $549 price range.

The E 15 comes with a dual-core, 6th-gen Core i5-6200U with 8GB of DDR4 RAM, which is pretty typical of laptops that cost $400 and up. For most people, that’s already more than enough, but where the E 15 really excels is in graphics and storage. Most budget laptops give you “just good enough” integrated graphics from the CPU, but the E 15 has an Nvidia GeForce 940MX with 2GB of GDDR5. That means it can handle entry-level gaming and will school any other budget laptop with integrated graphics.

A 256GB SSD also helps the Aspire E 15 earn a big thumbs up: While most consumers will skip an SSD because they want a 1TB hard drive, that’s a huge mistake. SSDs make everything faster.

You also get a 1920×1080 15.6-inch screen, as well as an optical drive. At 5.3 pounds, the E 15 isn’t super light or compact, but you’re getting a lot of bang for the buck here.

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