I just researched laptops under $500 for a friend and chose a great deal at Best Buy for her:
15.6″ Toshiba Satellite C655 with Core-i3, on sale for $479.
The CPU is Core-i3 M380 @ 2.53 GHz, which is pretty fast for an i3. It’s not the best system for higher end gaming as it doesn’t have a dedicated graphics card, but it is very fast for normal use. It has a 15.6″ bright screen with native resolution of 1366×768. The screen is glossy, which I can’t stand but it’s not as reflective as some of them can get (Macs for example). Considering that there’s probably no laptops with matte screen in this price range, I still recommended this one. Typing feels OK. It is not the feeling you get with HP business laptops or the Lenovo keyboards, but it is soft and quiet. The keyboard is a bit “plasticky”, but it is accurate. The speakers are not high quality but good enough and in this case they were loud enough.
Low Volume Problem Resolved
Some users had problems with low volume and had to go to sound, speaker properties and make sure “Loudness Equalization” check box is marked in the “Enhancements” tab. My friend didn’t have this problem originally, but it happened a month later and I was able to fix it immediately using the procedure above.
The laptop weighs about 5.5 lbs, which is not bad for a 15.6″ system. Battery life is supposedly 5 hrs.It lacks an HDMI port, Bluetooth and a third USB port, but at this price and with 500 GB HDD, 4 GB RAM and 64 bit Windows 7 Home Premium OS, Toshiba Satellite C655-S5128 is a hot deal. We were were lucky to pick up the last one from a store which is not the closest – the others were sold out after a day and a half. If you can still find one at this price, go for it.