Improvements in processor technology, widespread wireless adoption, and attractive prices are just some of the reasons so many people are buying portables as their primary PC. We've seen some impressive midrange and high-end systems lately, loaded with enough multimedia features to make a desktop envious. But what about budget-conscious buyers?

We set a price cap of $1,100 and challenged the leading laptop makers to impress us. We're happy to report that even the cost-conscious can benefit from the advances in the industry, as the five value notebooks we received don't skimp on features. For example, the entries from Averatec, Compaq, and Dell included fast 802.11g wireless networking com-ponents, while the eMachines unit has a wide-screen display.

Notably, none of the five systems had the same processor. And though some systems did better than others, performance was still adequate for basic computing across the board. These notebooks won't have all the bells and whistles you might crave—you'll have to fork over more dough for that DVD burner, for example—but for no more than $1,100, you can get yourself a very sweet machine.

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