Cheap laptops often feel disappointingly slow and underpowered, but not the Acer Aspire V3-571G (*Est. $775) . "Pure performance," writes an impressed tester at CNET. This level of power "normally costs well north of $1,000."
That's because stuffed inside the Acer's cheap-looking plastic shell are the guts of a $1,000-plus laptop. You get a 2.3 GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM quad-core processor, 6 GB of RAM, 500 GB hard drive and Nvidia GeForce GT 640M graphics with 2GB of VRAM. Note that Acer offers other configurations of this laptop, with different processors, graphics capabilities and more or less memory, but this is the component lineup that most reviewers look at -- and love.
Naturally, this Acer V3-571G blows away other budget laptops in tests. 3D gaming is "kick-ass" at Laptop Magazine, powering through some games on their highest settings (some still need to be turned down for best results, though -- this isn't a $2,000 gaming rig). Tester Sherri L. Smith then opens eight Google Chrome and Internet Explorer tabs, runs a virus scan and streams a Netflix video. No problem. The speakers sound surprisingly rich, and the battery's good for four or five hours.
Acer has to cut costs somewhere, though. There's the aforementioned chintzy plastic chassis. The screen takes a hit -- it's a roomy 15.6 inches, but a little dim, glare-prone and not full HD. The keyboard and touch screen seem unresponsive to some testers, although Smith thinks they're fine.
Another caveat: This isn't the best laptop for toting around. At nearly 6 pounds and over an inch thick, "we don't envision many students lugging this around from class to class," Smith says. But for maximum power at a minimum price, nothing beats the Acer V3-571G.