The traditional view of the entry-level laptop often involves cheap, low-powered machines that can barely handle simple office tasks.
However, times have changed. Intel's development of its powerful yet highly affordable range of Core i3 processors has meant that budget notebooks can pack power too. So what's the best Core i3 laptop?
The Intel Core i3 has two independent processing cores on each chip allowing you to smoothly multitask your software applications, and combined with HD graphics, it's now easier than ever to enjoy rich high-definition multimedia on the most affordable machines.
We've brought together four sub-£499 laptops, all powered by Intel's Core i3 processor range. Anyone looking for an entry-level portable that doesn't skimp on performance need look no further.
1. Lenovo G560 - around £310
Boasting impressive usability and performance, the Lenovo G560 () is one of the best laptops we've seen at this price point, and its few small quirks (such as an average battery life) don't detract from an excellent overall user experience.
Intel's first-generation Core i3-350M powers the G560, and though it isn't as potent as the latest Sandy Bridge chips, it's still more than capable of keeping up with most everyday home uses.
The Intel integrated graphics mean that playing the latest games is out, but HD video looks great on the 1366 x 768 display.
2. Packard Bell EasyNote TS13 - around £450
The EasyNote TS13-HR-035 is a great and cheap way of enjoying and editing your media on the move. Performance is strong thanks to the inclusion of Intel's Sandy Bridge Core i3 processor, and the display is satisfyingly vibrant.
There's no discrete graphics card, so Intel's integrated chip is all that's on offer for gamers, but when you consider that the TS13 comes with a dedicated button for launching a social networking app, you realise that hardcore gamers aren't really its target market. For everyone else, it's got more than enough power, and a few other handy features.
3. HP Pavilion DV6-3112sa - around £450
If you're looking for a powerful home machine, the HP Pavilion DV6-3112sa (around £450) is a fantastic buy, and is one of the most capable budget machines on the market.
The first-generation Intel Core i3 processor is plenty powerful, even if it isn't a Sandy Bridge chip, but it's only a small part of the DV6's secret sauce. It's combined with a whopping 6GB of RAM and a dedicated ATI Radeon HD 5470 graphics card, blowing all of the laptops reliant on Intel's integrated chips out of the water when it comes to gaming.
Those combined specs really are an incredible bargain when you consider the price, and the resulting performance is hugely impressive.
4. Medion Akoya E6221 - £480
The Medion Akoya E6221 offers tremendous value for your hard-earned cash. With impressive performance that exceeds the low asking price, a strong TFT screen and long battery life, this is a fantastic bargain that will suit students and cash-strapped yet demanding users.
The trick to its success is including Intel's latest Sandy Bridge technology in the form of the Core i3-2310M processor. This is coupled with a handy 4GB of RAM and Intel's much-improved integrated graphics technology. All this combines to make a machine that only those using extremely resource-intensive applications or high-end games will find limiting.
Best Core i3 laptop: The verdict
When it comes down to a balance of performance and price, there can be only one winner here.
For such a relatively budget price, we're just astonished at the hardware HP has packed into the Pavilion DV6-3112sa. It's the only laptop here to feature a dedicated graphics card capable of running new games, and that hefty 6GB of RAM means even HD video editors may find it a capable machine.
Of course, the DV6 isn't even really designed for gaming or advanced editing. It's really for home use, and with this much power, home users will never find themselves waiting for it to catch up.
Article continues below