There will be no better time to buy a laptop this year. Intel announced its new version of Centrino yesterday, so it doesn't take a magician to work out that the next few weeks will see retailers shifting their old stock as new laptops hit at the higher price levels.
PC World , for example, has the Compaq C542EA laptop for £450 featuring a 1.6Ghz Core Duo processor. It might not be one of Intel's latest chips, but it's more than enough for most duties - and Windows Vista Home Premium is also included.
The Compaq has 1 GB of memory (which we'd definitely recommend for Windows Vista) and an 80GB hard drive.
Unless you want your laptop for just word processing and basic web functionality, don't go for Windows Vista Home Basic. It's supplied with many low-end laptops but it lacks a lot of the media functions - such as the Media Center interface.
If you really think a Vista Basic laptop is for you then Comet 's Fujitsu Siemens Amilo LI 1705 impresses for £349 - it has a 1.6 GHz Intel Celeron, 80GB hard drive and the all-important 1GB of memory.
As for XP machines, the Acer Aspire 5612WLMi is available from shoplaptop.co.uk. It has a 15.4-inch widescreen and 1.66GHz Core Duo for your £386, but only 512MB of memory - though that'll work fine with the included XP Media Center OS.
There are even better bargains to be had from other sites - if you don't want Vista or a powerful dual core processor. A 1.4GHz Celeron M (basic use only) Compaq is available from laptopshop.co.uk (a different site) for £300. Dual-core laptops at the site are around the £400 mark.