At the time of writing, the most popular laptop on Amazon.com in the US is the Toshiba Satellite C55-C5241 followed by the ASUS F555LA-AB31. If you are in the market for a new, sub-$500 laptop this holiday season, here are my findings when testing both of these popular laptops under Ubuntu Linux.
The Toshiba C55-C5241 is a $450 USD 15.6-inch laptop that features a Core i5 5200U Broadwell CPU with HD Graphics 5500, 8GB of RAM, 1TB hard drive, and is preloaded with Windows 10. On the down side, this 15.6-inch laptop has a native resolution of just 1366 x 768.
The ASUS F555LA-AB31 is meanwhile $100 cheaper ($350 USD price) and this 15.6-inch laptop has a 1920 x 1080 display, which obviously is much nicer than a 1366 x 768 display. Sad about this laptop, it's powered by a Core i3 5010U Broadwell processor with HD Graphics 5500, just 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive.
It's a trade off whether you want a nice display with a cheaper laptop or a higher-performing laptop but with only a 1366 x 768 15.6-inch panel. Both laptops feature a DVD drive, 802.11n WiFi, and the other laptop basics. Coming in with sub-$500 pricing, the build quality of either laptop isn't too remarkable but just simple plastic. Personally though it felt like the ASUS laptop had a bit better build quality than the Toshiba unit.