If you've been laptop shopping lately, you know many now come with Windows 7, but it's not necessarily a game changer for Windows users.
"Our tests showed Windows 7 starts up and shuts down faster than Vista, but the improvement was minor. And general performance was also faster with Windows 7, but only slightly," described Dean Gallea of Consumer Reports.
Consumer Reports recently tested 20 laptops, rating features like ergonomics, battery life and performance. There are plenty of inexpensive laptops out there, but testers caution to beware of rock-bottom prices.
"Some computer makers are using single-core processors instead of dual-core to save money. But if you buy one of these so-called bargains, you might end up with a slower computer," explained Gallea.
For example, a 15-inch Acer Aspire model 5532 seems like a steal at $330. It is fine for very basic needs like e-mail and word processing but not for creating videos or playing demanding games.
"We found several laptops with dual-core processors that offered solid performance for $600 or even less," said Gallea.
One of the least expensive is the Toshiba Satellite l-505, a Consumer Reports best buy at $530. It rated "very good" in tests and has facial recognition software, which signs you on by scanning your face. Not a must, but a fun plus on a solid-performing laptop.
If you're happy with your current computer and operating system, Consumer Reports says there's no need to upgrade. But if you're a frustrated Vista user, testers recommend upgrading to Windows 7.