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publié le 23 avril 2018 Beauté › Hygiène

If you watch a lot of Netflix on your computer or frequently blast music through Spotify or iTunes, expect the experience to be mediocre. The screen on the Stream is bright, but sometimes the color gets a little washed out. Text also isn’t very sharp on the screen, as I noticed black text fading slightly into the white background when reading news articles and browsing the web.The audio also sounded shallow, almost as if I was watching a video through a phone rather than a laptop.But the battery life proved to be pretty remarkable. With mixed usage, the Stream lasted for about a day and half. I left it in standby mode overnight and when it wasn't in use, and I used it sporadically over the course of two work days to stream Netflix and get some work done. Other outlets that perform quantitative battery tests like PCMag reported that it lasted for 9 hours on a single charge. All of these minor gripes aside, the experience you get with the HP Stream is completely passable and satisfactory given its price. It's not the greatest computer, but it's not trying to be. It's meant to be a general purpose laptop that anyone can afford, which is exactly what it is. While the screen may not be the best and the touchpad may not be the smoothest, everything works well enough to justify the purchase.

If you don’t want to invest a lot in a new laptop and really need something for getting work done, the Stream is worth it. But just keep in mind that it’s also worth at least eyeballing some Chromebooks.Buying a budget laptop is an exercise in compromise. There’s no one category of tech where the old “You get what you pay for” axiom rings truer — you simply aren’t going to find many affordable notebooks that are close to being "objectively good" buys the way a Macbook Pro or Dell XPS 13 is. On average, their screens are grainy, their builds are flimsy, and their internals aren’t very fast. Mediocrity is the norm.But they’re cheap. It’s perfectly understandable why legions of plastic $400 notebooks are swiped off of Best Buy and Walmart’s shelves each fall: Even if it’s the safer purchase in the long run, dropping $1,000 on a better-made machine is a schedule-changing investment. And it’s not as if every laptop buyer needs higher-end materials in their stuff.That said, if you’re going to buy cheap, you might as well get the most from your dollar. So instead of writing off the category and demanding you save your money for a better notebook, we dove headfirst into the sea of budget laptops to find the ones that are worth buying.

Not surprisingly, the returns were thin. We settled on a rough guideline of laptops under $550, but since this side of the market is filled with such a diverse range of devices, we included our favorites from a selection of full-on notebooks, 2-in-1 convertibles, Chromebooks, and ultra-affordable Windows machines, like the HP Stream.Per usual, we settled on the following laptops after scouring the web for reviews and performing our own hands-on testing. We assigned them a BI Rating, which you can read more about here. And as always, we plan to update this guide over time to reflect the many new notebooks that'll arrive in the coming weeks.There really aren't many quality options in this price range, so what you’re looking for here are small victories. It's too much to expect a solid state drive, 1080p display, and fast performance in one of these things, but if you can get a few qualities along those lines in a package that isn’t substantially lacking elsewhere, it’s worth considering. You need to to put aside "good," and embrace "good enough." Here are a few notebooks that fit that idea.

Update (1/26/16): We've completed our first major refresh of this guide. Our Asus Zenbook UX305 and Toshiba Chromebook 2 entries are now fully updated to reflect their newest models. The HP Pavilion x360 11t Touch Select has been removed. The Acer Aspire E5-571-58CG makes way for the Aspire E5-573G-52G3 as a midrange desktop replacement pick. The Lenovo Ideapad 100s replaces the Asus Eeebook X205TA as our favorite ultra-budget Windows notebook. We'll continue to keep an eye out for promising choices, and will update further as we continue our testing and research.Actually, let’s hold off a second. Just to hammer home how starved for quality this segment is, we’re quickly breaking the guidelines we set above. If there’s any way you can add a little more to your laptop buying budget, do it, and pick up the Asus Zenbook UX305CA. Value for dollar, it’s nearly unmatched. The difference between it and almost every other general purpose laptop available for slightly cheaper is easily vast enough to justify the higher premium.

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This is a $900-1000 Ultrabook masquerading at a lower price. It’s less than a half-inch thick, it weighs a hair over 2.5 pounds, and it’s sturdily built from a handsome coat of aluminum. It comes with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid state drive, both of which are superb for this price point. Its battery lasts a good 9-10 hours, and its matte 1080p IPS display is sharp, glare-free, and fitted with great viewing angles. The Zenbook packs a ton of high-end components, but costs had to be cut somewhere to meet its mid-range price. Its keyboard, for instance, is generally serviceable, but doesn’t have any backlighting. Its Bang & Olufsen-aided speakers are surprisingly thin and under-powered. Its webcam is rough. And that 13-inch screen, while very nice for the money, has some issues accurately reproducing colors when held up to other Ultrabooks. But for $700, all of that can be hand-waved easily enough. The bigger point of contention is its Core M processor. It’s a new, sixth-gen (or, Skylake) chip, but as we’ve noted in our laptop buying guide, it’s weaker than a more standard Core i5 or Core i3. It’s still far from an entry-level option, so most everyday tasks run just fine, but it’s best to avoid gaming or going all out. On the plus side, having a less intense processor allows the Zenbook to be fanless, making it wonderfully quiet in practice.

Still, if you need more power, it’s worth noting that there’s a UX305LA model that packs a (fifth-gen, but still stronger) Core i5 chip for $50 more. It’s a tad thicker and louder as a result, but it’s still very much a great value among Ultrabooks. It’s also gold.If you absolutely can’t shell out that kind of dough, though, this configuration of the Acer Aspire E5-573G is the most respectable buy we could find around $550. It’s nowhere near as thin, light, or aesthetically pleasing as the Zenbook, but for a 15.6-inch desktop replacement, it’s not as unwieldy as it could be, and its black textile plastic is fine. More importantly, it gets most of the specs right. It runs on a fifth-gen Core i5 chip, along with 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive. Although that’s not the newest processor around, the power and speed here is admirable. It isn’t a headache to multitask and get things done. Support for (1x1) 802.11ac WiFi and a collection of necessary ports help with that as well. Surprisingly, there’s a discrete Nvidia GeForce 940M graphics card on board too. Again, that’s not the latest GPU, but it’s enough to play many newer games on moderate settings should the desire arise. You don’t get that option in the first place with most notebooks in this range.

Likewise, the Aspire E5-573G sports a 1080p (non-touch) display, another rarity among sub-$600 Windows machines. It’s a TN panel, so it doesn’t have the wide viewing angles or general vividity of an IPS alternative, but it’s still sharp, and its contrast is decent for what it is. Since it’s matte, it also does well to avoid glare. All told, it’s a noticeable step up from any 1366x768 option.But again, there are trade-offs. The main issue is bloatware: Asus has fitted this thing with dozens of pre-installed apps, most of which are needless, all of which chew up storage space and slow down performance. It’s worth going out of your way to get a clean install of Windows 10 on here.Besides that, battery life isn’t anything special at about 4-5 hours (or 1-2 if you’re gaming), and the trackpad feels closer to budget-level than we’d like. (A cheap external mouse seems like a good investment.) The keyboard, meanwhile, is pleasant and spacious enough, but lacks any sort of backlighting. There’s no disc drive either, though that’s less of an issue in an age of streaming services.

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Perhaps the biggest reason to hold off, however, is the fact that a newer model just launched. The Aspire E5-574G-52QU throws a sixth-gen Core i5 and a flashier half-white finish onto what appears to be the same package as the E5-573G, so it should be a little bit stronger, a little bit longer-lasting, and a little more futureproof. It, too, is going for $550 on Amazon, but since it’s so new, user feedback is limited. It looks like the better deal on paper, but we’ll confirm in the coming weeks. Based on our latest round of research, though, the E5-573G is still a great get among midrange desktop replacements, especially if you can find it closer to the $500 mark.The 15.6-inch Toshiba Satellite C55-C5241, meanwhile, is probably the most extreme example of the trade-offs you have to consider at the bargain bin. On the one hand, it’s fairly spec’d out for its $460 asking price, with a fifth-gen Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 1TB HDD (which you can upgrade if you’re handy enough). It’s at least comparable to the Acer above for about $100 less. It’s not an outright blazer, but speaking solely in terms of performance, it’s an overachiever.

On the other hand, it’s an obvious underachiever when it comes to build quality. Its fake brushed metal aesthetic looks nice from afar, but get your hands on its all-plastic chassis and it’ll creak and bend at almost every interaction. That necessitates you be careful with it, which means it isn’t the kind of thing you’ll want to throw in a bag and carry around town.Beyond that, it has a typically middling 1366x768 display, a rigid trackpad, and a keyboard that’s just okay. Its 5-hour or so battery life is fine, but not spectacular. It weighs less than the Aspire, but at close to 5 pounds, it isn’t exactly light either.In the end, this is one of the strongest laptops you can buy for $425, and you’re buying it for that performance alone. If you know you can be gentle with it, it’s one of the few solid values in this sector.The struggle involved in finding a good budget notebook should get you to ask yourself what exactly it is that you want out of your laptop. Maybe you’ll find that most of the things you do with your computer don’t stretch too far beyond a web browser. If that’s the case, you might very well be able to get by with a Chromebook.

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