Ask Adrian: Our tech editor tackles your trickiest technology problems
Q I am interested in buying a laptop under €500. I want it for home use only, looking up things on the internet, saving documents and photos. I use Netflix but normally use a Chromecast gadget for my television for that. I also need the laptop for listening to music (I have a Spotify account) and listening to CDs. I don't need it for anything like gaming. Ideally I would like it to have a Bluetooth facility as I want to listen to some podcasts on it. I've had a HP one for years and it generally held out well until the HDMI and earphone ports went. Can you help?
A Yes. I'd advise either HP's Pavilion 14-bk070 (€539 from PC World) or Lenovo's Ideapad 320 (€449 from Harvey Norman). The HP is slightly faster and more powerful and has better battery life, while the cheaper Lenovo offers more storage.
Personally, I'd choose the HP. It's a decent all-rounder with all things you say you need. However, the Lenovo should also work fine, but is designed more for in-home usage as it's a bit heavier and the battery doesn't last as long.
However, it has a 1,000GB hard drive which can hold eight times the amount of data that the HP is capable of. That said, I'm not sure your needs warrant that much storage. Even as an avid photographer and drone video user with thousands of clips and files, I haven't yet gotten to 1,000GB.
Both of these laptops have a decent chip (Intel Core i3) which is important if you want to keep your laptop for a few years. Many other laptops that cost the same have inferior chips.
On one feature you say you want, there's only bad news: a CD player. Very few laptops now come with CD players and those that do are either very expensive or very old.
(So it's a good thing you say you have a Spotify account.)
If Netflix is a big thing for you, a third option might be Lenovo's Yoga 520 (€459 from Currys). The reason here is that it's a two-in-one touchscreen laptop with a screen that can fold right over behind the keyboard so that you can stand it up like a hardback book. This turns it into a much more flexible screen if video is your thing,
For what you say you want, I'd stay away from Chromebooks. Even though they generally have the advantage of being very affordable (usually under €300), they also have limitations. In particular, they tend to have very limited storage capacities (usually no more than 64GB), because their operating model is to use 'the cloud' for everything instead of a physical hard drive. This starts to bite for things like storing photos or downloading episodes of Netflix. They're also quite limited in a situation where you're offline as, again, they're really meant to work in an 'always on' connected environment.
It goes without saying that your budget rules out options such as Apple MacBooks, which start at over €1,000. It also means you won't be getting fancy features such as fingerprint security locks or so-called 'ultra high definition' (also known as '4K') screens.
RECOMMENDATION: HP Pavilion 14-bk070 (pictured, €539 from PC World)
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Two to Try
Nokia 3.1 (€139 from Three Ireland)
If you want to see just how far budget smartphones have come, Nokia's new 3.1 is a perfect example. The 5.2-inch handset has the kind of features that would have been considered premium a few years ago, like a 13-megapixel rear camera, decent 3,000mAH battery and solid build quality. It cuts costs by omitting things like a fingerprint sensor but keeps the beloved headphone jack.
Fujifilm X-T100 (€699 with 15-45mm lens from Conns Cameras)
The main advantage to Fuji's new small 24-megapixel camera is its flip-out touchscreen. It also takes Fuji's excellent X lenses. The downside is that you have more limited manual controls. If you're considering it, go for the combo kit pack (€200 more at €899) which includes an extra (great) XC50-230mm telephoto lens.