Consumer Reports tests out low-cost laptops for basic, daily use

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Consumer Reports tested several low-cost laptops that can be used for basic web browsing, word processing and video streaming. (KABC)

Prices for laptops can be all over the map, with some costing thousands of dollars and others priced as low as $300.

Consumer Reports tested some of the low-cost laptops to find out what they offer and what they lack.

Some high-end laptops boast one terabyte of storage and a super-fast processor, which is important for gaming or graphic design. But Consumer Reports says if users only do the basics, such as word processing, browsing the Internet and streaming video then some budget laptops are a good choice.

Some of the cheaper laptops cost $300 or less and come with Windows 8.1 and Microsoft Bing search engine.

Consumer Reports specialist Rich Fisco said these more basic laptops will be slower.

"These computers don't have the faster solid state drives that the more expensive computers have. So they're not going to boot as fast and some of their applications won't launch as fast," he said.

Unlike many expensive laptops, you won't find a touch screen, extra USB ports, or in most cases a DVD drive. But for no-frills computing, Consumer Reports says a $250 Dell is a good value and it gets nearly eight hours of battery life.

Another budget option is a Chromebook, which uses Google's Chrome operating system instead of Windows. All the applications a user would need are online, so an Internet connection is important.

"If you wanted to do something very typical, like word processing in a Chromebook, you would use Google Docs, which is an online word processor," Fisco said.

Acer's $175 Chromebook is a Consumer Reports best buy because it's lightweight and gets more than 10 hours of battery life.

For Consumer Reports' top-rated Chromebook, shoppers should be expected to pay a little more. It's another Acer with a more powerful processor and twice the storage space. It's the Ace C720-3871 for $350.

For those who prefer a laptop with Windows 8.1 and Bing, another good choice is the Asus X551-MAV-EB01-B for $250.

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