The Compaq Presario CQ60-615DX follows the tried-and-true budget laptop formula, supplying an Intel Celeron processor, 2GB of RAM, integrated Intel graphics, a 250GB hard drive, and a 15.6-inch display for a bargain basement price. In fact, this $349 laptop features the same core specs as the Toshiba Satellite L455-S5975, which sold for $330 when we reviewed it last fall. We’re not thrilled with paying more for basically the same laptop three months later, but we still think this Presario is a good value, in large part for its solid construction, comfortable keyboard, and roomy display. We recommend it more than the much slower and slightly cheaper Acer Aspire AS5532-5535.

If the cramped keyboards and small screens have kept you from picking up an inexpensive Netbook , then you should give the Compaq Presario CQ60-615DX a look. Like Netbooks, the Presario CQ60-615DX uses a single-core processor, which limits application performance, particularly when multitasking. However, for basic tasks it offers smooth performance. Note that laptops with dual-core CPUs, including the Asus K60I-RBBBR05, the Dell Inspiron i1545-4266iBU, or the Toshiba Satellite L505-ES5018, cost $150 to $170 more and offer significantly better performance.

The Compaq Presario CQ60-615DX doesn’t look or feel like a low-end laptop. It has an overall polished look with a glossy lid with a simple Q logo in its middle, a matte black screen bezel, and a silver wrist rest. A long, sturdy hinge runs nearly the width of the laptop to hold the display in place without much wobble. The keyboard feels spacious, even with a dedicated number pad to its right. The keys have a matte finish and have just the right amount of travel. The recessed touchpad has the same glossy finish as the rest of the wrist rest, but it’s not the high-gloss finish common to HP’s Pavilion laptops, so your mousing finger doesn’t experience the same annoying drag on the glimmering Pavilion models. The Presario’s mouse buttons, however, are a tad on the stiff side.

The laptop weighs 6.2 pounds, slightly heavy for a 15.6-inch laptop. Most laptops of this size weigh between 5.5 and 6 pounds. The 15.6-inch display has a 16:9 aspect ratio, 1,366×768-pixel native resolution. The screen is bright and crisp. With its resolution, the screen can display 720p video. Its Intel GMA 4500M graphics were able to deliver a smooth video experience.

The Presario CQ60-615DX features Altec Lansing stereo speakers, and we were mildly impressed with their output. They are loud and clear enough at max volume to hear movie dialog, but like nearly every laptop speaker set, they lack the depth to deliver satisfying music playback. Still, they are clearly superior to the tinny speakers of the Acer Aspire AS5532-5535.

Not surprisingly, the Presario CQ60-615DX lacks higher-end–though increasingly common–connections such as HDMI, eSATA ports, and an ExpressCard slot. We were surprised to find a media card reader absent, too; the cheaper Acer Aspire AS5532-5535 features this convenient slot. However, neither system have a Webcam. The Presario does supply an always-appreciated Wi-Fi on/off button, along with another that disables the touch pad. Lastly, some entry-level laptops cut a corner by using 802.11g Wi-Fi, but the CQ60-615DX has wireless N support.

The Compaq Presario CQ60-615DX is based on the single-core Intel Celeron 900 processor clocked at 2.2GHz. That speed helped it outpace the Acer Aspire AS5532-5535, which uses a single-core AMD Athlon 64 QL-62 processor clocked at 1.6GHz. Also in the Celeron’s favor is its 1MB of L2 cache; the Athlon 64 QL-62 has only 512KB. The Acer Aspire does feature 3GB of DDR2 memory to the Presario’s 2GB, but the extra gigabyte of memory didn’t help the Acer’s cause in our tests. The Presario completed CNET Labs’ multitasking test in nearly half the time the Acer Aspire took, and it was 32 percent and 47 percent faster than the Acer on our Photoshop and iTunes benchmarks, respectively.

Looking the other way, the dual-core Toshiba Satellite L505-ES5018 costs $150 more than the Compaq Presario CQ60-615DX and was 58 percent faster than the Presario on the multitasking test, 41 percent faster with Photoshop, and 22 percent faster with iTunes. In anecdotal testing, we found that the Presario CQ60-615DX provided acceptable performance when writing this review in Word while researching the budget laptop playing field in Firefox. Generally, when running basic apps in Windows 7, the system feels peppy and responsive. It’s only when you begin running more intensive, multithreaded software like Photoshop that you notice some sluggishness.

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