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Intel is working towards software-defined Xeon CPUs

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An Intel engineer has recently published a patch that introduces support for its Intel Software Defined Silicon (SDSi) mechanism in Linux. 

According to Intel, SDSi is designed to activate additional silicon features after a processor has been deployed, and for the time being at least, is meant for the upcoming Xeon processors.

“Intel Software Defined Silicon (SDSi) is a post manufacturing mechanism for activating additional silicon features. Features are enabled through a license activation process,” wrote Intel engineer David E. Box as he put out the patch for review.

Parsing through the patch, Tom’s Hardware notes that the patch does not mention any specific features it will help unlock, and only gives a general overview of the post-deployment feature-enablement mechanism. 

Been there, done that

Interestingly, while SDSi seems to be a major initiative, Tom’s suggests it isn’t Intel’s first attempt at offering software upgrades to its processors.

One example is Intel's Virtual RAID on CPU (Intel VROC) technology, which banks on the Intel Volume Management Device (VMD) hardware built into the CPU, and is designed to be activated using a special key. 

Phoronix chimes in to add that Intel tried a similar approach to offer software upgrades to its hardware with the Intel Upgrade Service about a decade ago, which never offered Linux support and eventually fizzled out.

The patch isn’t of much help either, since all it does currently is to lay the groundwork for the authentication process for SDSi, and doesn't expose what Intel may pursue in regards to the feature upgrades.

Via Tom’s Hardware


29 Sep 2021



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  • The best cheap laptop deals in October 2021

    Things are a little underwhelming this week when it comes to the best cheap laptops deals. Sure, there are still a number of great prices out there but nothing that we're desperate to share loudly. That said, we've scoured the net to pick out the very best below so you can be sure to find a laptop deal that suits your needs.

    From Best Buy to Walmart, Dell to HP you'll find all the best cheap laptop deals right here. That means we've weeded out all the discounts that aren't worth your time to bring you only the highest quality budget laptop deals on the digital shelves. You'll find all the key specs and features listed out for each model as well, so you can find the perfect machine for you.

    What could explain the dearth of offers? Well, we are now in October and that means we're drawing ever closer to this year's Black Friday laptop deals. Perhaps most retailers are having a brief pause before the deluge of bargains arrives in the coming weeks.

    Cheap laptop deals by budget

    If you want to buy now, there's a wide range of cheap laptop deals on offer here, from traditional laptops under $500 and the best Chromebooks made for browsing, to powerful working from home machines. So, whether you're after a budget laptop for web surfing or a more capable rig with the latest processors and speedy SSDs, you're sure to find the model for you in the laptop deals below. 

    If you're a gamer, you'd be better suited to check out our selection of gaming laptop deals, as the models on this page are not usually built with gaming in mind. If you're after a cheaper web-based machine, check out the latest Chromebook prices and deals.

    This week's best cheap laptop deals

    Cheap laptop deal of the week

    HP 14-inch Chromebook: $279.99 $229.99 at Walmart
    Save $50
    – If you've got around $200 to spend on a new laptop for light work or school then we'd suggest the small step up to secure this HP 14-inch Chromebook from Walmart. There's currently $50 off the usual price, which makes this a terrific cheap laptop deal. 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage are great at this price point, while its 2-in-1 capabilities give you the flexibility to also use it as a tablet.

    More cheap laptop deals

    Cheap laptop deals under $200

    Samsung CB4 Chromebook: $299 $127 at Walmart
    Save $170
    – Samsung Chromebooks are usually at the pricier end of the scale compared to its competitors. This massive $170 discount on the CB4 model, then, is easily one of the best laptop deals this week. It's a very basic machine, with 4GB RAM and 32GB storage, but if your budget is tight it's ideal for simple work or school tasks.

    Lenovo IdeaPad 3: $219.99 $169.99 at Amazon
    Save $50
    – This Lenovo IdeaPad 3 is now down to an all-time low price at Amazon. With an Intel Celeron processor and 4GB RAM, it's a basic model that's best suited to the simplest work or school tasks. The jump to 64GB of storage is a welcome boost if you don't want to rely too much on the cloud for your files.

    Cheap laptop deals under $400

    HP 14-inch Chromebook: $279.99 $229.99 at Walmart
    Save $50
    – If you've got around $200 to spend on a new laptop for light work or school then we'd suggest the small step up to secure this HP 14-inch Chromebook from Walmart. There's currently $50 off the usual price, which makes this a terrific cheap laptop deal. 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage are great at this price point, while its 2-in-1 capabilities give you the flexibility to also use it as a tablet.

    HP 15.6-inch laptop: $379 $249 at Walmart
    Save $130 -
    This 15.6-inch HP laptop is available for just $249 right now. Considering there's an Intel Celeron N4020 processor, 4GB RAM and a 128GB SSD (solid specs for everyday browsing and lighter work) you're getting a great deal here. Plus, a full-sized 15.6-inch display isn't usually found at this price either.

    HP 14-inch laptop: $399.99 $299.99 at HP
    Save $100 -
    If you're after a cheap laptop deal but still want the speed and storage of something more substantial, this 14-inch HP machine is well worth a look. For just under $300 you're getting a 128GB SSD and an AMD 3020e processor, however, there's also 8GB RAM here where we may previously have only seen 4GB.

    Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Laptop: $534.98 $391.99 at Dell
    Save $143
    – Here's almost $150 off an excellent mid-range Dell laptop. For a spec that features a fast i3 processor, 8GB RAM and 128GB storage you'd usually pay above the $400 price bracket. It's a great price for a solid all-purpose device for general home or work tasks without compromising on any components.

    Cheap laptop deals under $600

    Asus VivoBook 15: $749.99 $529.99 at Office Depot
    Save $220
    – The saving on this Asus VivoBook 15 is truly massive. Even with the big discount, it's not lacking in terms of specs. You'll find an excellent Intel i5 processor, a huge 16GB of RAM and a fast 256GB SSD. We very rarely see all three of these in the same machine at this price so no sacrifices need to be made with this cheap laptop.

    HP 15.6-inch laptop: $749.99 $599.99 at HP
    Save $150 -
    With $150 off the MSRP, you'll find an excellent $599.99 price tag on this powerful 11th generation i7 HP laptop deal this week. While the 256GB SSD is a little mid-range for this price tag, you're picking up a pricey CPU here and the sacrifice in storage is well worth it if you're after a zippy experience. Plus, there's 16GB RAM inside as well. We were previously excited to see this configuration at $649 (and $699 before that), so an extra $50 off is even better value than normal.

    The best laptop deals over $600

    Dell Inspiron 5000 laptop: $879.99 $679.99 at Best Buy
    Save $200
    – A huge $200 saving is ready and waiting on this Dell Inspiron 5000 2-in-1 laptop at Best Buy this week. You'll get an excellent mid-range i5 processor and loads of storage with a 512GB SSD. It's a small shame the laptop only comes with 8GB RAM but this is more than enough to handle multiple apps, programs and browser tabs at once while maintaining fast performance.

    MacBook Air M1 (256GB): $999 $949 at Amazon
    Save $50 -
    The 256GB M1 MacBook Air is sadly no longer at its lowest ever price this week at Amazon. After previously dropping to $849 there's now only a $50 saving on the new machine featuring Apple's powerful M1 chip and premium chassis. Perhaps the offer will be back for Black Friday.

    This week's best store-wide laptop sales

    HP: Save up to 45% on laptops, all-in-one PCs, monitors and more
    You'll find savings across a range of HP Pavilion and Envy laptops this week, as well as HP's budget entry level models as well. Not only that, but desktop towers, all-in-one bundles and other accessories are also discounted right now.

    Dell: up to $700 off Inspiron and XPS machines
    Dell is offering some major savings across its range of XPS and Inspiron laptops this week, with up to $700 off some of its more premium machines. You'll find plenty of discounts across the price range, though.

    Best Buy: massive range of laptops now under $500
    Best Buy has a strong selection of cheap laptop deals under $500 this week, with everything from HP to Dell, Acer to Asus either taking a price cut to fit or already available for less.

    Which stores have cheap laptop sales?

    If you're looking for the best budget laptop to see you through everyday browsing, we'd recommend heading over to the generalist retailers - Walmart, Best Buy, and Amazon, for example. If you're after something a little more specialist, Dell, Lenovo and HP will offer far more configuration options with their own discounts as well.

    The best cheap laptops

    The best cheap laptops of 2020

    The best budget laptops are usually the ones offering decent entry level specs (32 or 64GB of storage in a Chromebook or a 4GB / 8GB RAM, i3 processor, 128GB  storage in a Windows machine) at a reduced price. However, you'll sometimes find mid-range specs offering a step up at similar prices on cheaper machines. Below you'll find our top picks of cheap laptops that do exactly that during busy sales periods. 

    cheap laptop deals

    (Image credit: Lenovo)

    1. Lenovo Chromebook Duet

    A cheap grab and go 2-in-1 laptop

    CPU: MediaTek Helio P60T | Graphics: ARM G72 MP3 800GHz | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 10.1" FHD (1920 x 1200) IPS touchscreen | Storage: 64 - 128GB

    Incredibly versatile
    High value 
    Performs well for the price
    Older components

    If you're shopping for cheap laptops, chances are you're not going to be spending too long poring over spec sheets or looking forward to splashing out on the latest processors and graphics. You might be looking for a simple every day web browsing machine light enough to throw into a backpack and flexible enough for comfortable streaming. That's where the Lenovo Duet comes in - a Chromebook that's technically a tablet, but far more powerful than you'd expect it to be. 

    best budget laptop deals

    2. Acer Chromebook 14

    Meet the anti-MacBook Air

    CPU: Intel Celeron N3160 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 400 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 14-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) display | Storage: 32GB SSD

    Top-notch build quality
    Solid keyboard and touchpad
    Full HD display
    Flaky HD video playback

    With its slick lines and a slim silhouette, the Acer Chromebook 14 makes for a subtle, snazzy laptop. Although its display isn't the most attractive we've seen, it’s still acceptable for full HD. On top of that, the keyboard and trackpad adhere to the principle of ‘it just works.’ The battery life is satisfactory as well despite falling a bit south of Acer's 12-hour claim in real-world use. 

    Read the full review: Acer Chromebook 14

    cheap laptop deals

    (Image credit: Asus)

    3. Asus Vivobook 15

    Mid-range specs for entry level prices

    CPU: Up to Intel i7 | Graphics: Nvidia | RAM: Up to 16GB | Screen: FHD (1920x1080) | Storage: 128GB SSD – 1TB HDD

    Versatile and powerful
    Full HD screen
    Regularly discounted

    You're shopping in the $399 - $599 range when looking at an Asus Vivobook, with entry level specs outperforming the vast majority of Chromebooks you'd usually find at this price. Plus, you're getting some pretty premium features in this cheap laptop. A Nano-Edge display keeps everything looking sharp, the option for Intel Optane memory makes sure all your most-used programs and files are well within reach, and a 1.6kg weight on a full sized 15.6-inch laptop is nothing to sniff at either. 

    cheap laptops deals sales

    4. Acer Swift 3

    The bigger, better value proposition

    CPU: Intel Core i3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 14-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) ComfyView IPS | Storage: 128GB – 256GB SSD

    Powerful for the price
    Stellar battery life
    Boring looks
    Down-firing speakers

    Here we have one of the few budget laptops with a processor nearly equivalent to a MacBook Pro from a couple of years back, that is if you opt for the Intel Core i5 configuration. The best part? Among the best Acer laptops right now, it's roughly half the cost of its Apple-branded rival. Now given that it sells at a range of different prices, the Acer Swift 3 can be an obtuse purchase, but lucky for you, the midrange model will get you by just fine. There are often plenty of cheap laptop deals on Acer products so you'll always be in a good position to grab a discount. 

    Read the full review: Acer Swift 3

    Cheap laptops: Spotting the best laptop deals under $200

    One of the first things we often check when shopping for cheap laptops is the amount of storage on offer. As shoppers, we've become accustomed to comparing prices and models based on the number of gigabytes next to the model name. However, there may be more to it than that, especially when you're browsing the cheaper shelves. You may also need to pay attention to your operating system when picking up a budget laptop deal under $200. 

    Some cheap laptops are more worthy of your cash than others, and many simply need to be avoided. For example, you'll easily find a Windows machine that offers just 16 or 32GB of storage, but with update file and software sizes increasing, you may quickly find that insufficient. However, finding a Chromebook with 16 or 32GB of storage for under $200 makes for a great cheap laptop deal. That's because these machines run on Chrome OS which doesn't require updates and operates largely through your browser. 

    Similarly, a lot of laptops hold incredibly low price tags because they are labelled as 'FreeDOS'. This means they don't have an operating system on them already, so you will need to buy Windows 10 to get them set up. 

    How much are the best laptop deals? 

    Shopping for the best budget laptop deals between $50 and $200 will usually have you looking at the excellent range of Chromebooks on sale right now. Running Chrome OS, these budget laptop deals will see you through everyday web browsing, emails, and some light streaming for eye wateringly low prices. You'll be picking up anything from a 16GB SSD to a 64GB hard drive, but you'll also be looking to utilize the cloud for more storage.

    If you're punting a bit higher than $200, you'll be opening yourself up to more RAM, moving from 4GB to 8GB in most models, meaning your cheap laptop will be able to open programs faster, generally retrieving information and multi-task in a more streamlined manner. You'll also be picking up far more storage for your cash, with prices this week including either a 128GB or 256GB SSD. This SSD further streamlines your storage, acting as a lightning-fast drive to keep everything you need instantly attainable.

    Once you search for laptop deals above $400, you may well start to find 16GB of RAM on offer as well as a few models with a 512GB SSD. Along with improved processors, that means exceedingly fast storage potential, keeping your cheap laptop zippy however many programs you have open. Laptops above this price range are also better suited to media editing than cheaper models.

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