One cheap laptop with everything, please.
January 6, 2009 9:10 AM   Subscribe

Cheap, lightweight(ish) PC laptop with an optical drive? Or should I just spring for a MacBook?

Yes, this is another cheap laptop question. And it might be that what I'm looking for is unreasonable. But here goes:

I need a new laptop. A small one. I don't want to spend more than $600. Normally I would just buy a MacBook, because I prefer OSX to Windows, but the budget is pretty tight and so I'm exploring my other options.

I was all set to buy a netbook (an eee PC 1000 or Samsung NC10), until I realized that they don't have optical drives, which is important to me (I like to watch DVDs on my laptop). Boo.

Other than that, I'm your standard Word/Excel/internet/mp3 computer user. Nothing fancy.

So here's what I'm looking for:

- Under 6 lbs
- Screen under 14"
- Optical drive
- at least: 120 GB Hard drive
- Under $600 (under $500 would be even better - I really don't want to go any higher unless it's a Mac)
- Long battery life would be nice but is not essential.
- No Dells, unless I can be persuaded their machines and support have improved drastically since 2004, when I had a disastrous Dell experience.

I've been stalking fatwallet, slickdeals, etc etc and I have found lots of computers with some of these things under this price point: Netbooks that are small and light but have no optical drive, larger notebooks with all the bells and whistles but weighing closer to 10 lbs. The closest thing I've found (from this question) is this HP dv5t, but it's a bit big for my purposes.

If it turns out it's impossible to find a small, light, fully-functional notebook for under $600, I will just suck it up and buy the MacBook, but if it's possible to save some money, that would be great!

And if you want to say, "it sounds like you really want a Mac," you're right, but $1000 is pretty steep on my current budget.
posted by lunasol to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This comes close, I believe:
Acer Extensa
posted by Grither at 9:18 AM on January 6, 2009

You could, with an external DVD player, rip DVDs to your hard drive and then watch them whenever you want sans DVD.
posted by wfrgms at 9:23 AM on January 6, 2009

It sounds like, based on many of your needs, you really do want a netbook. Have you considered just getting a USB DVD drive? The combined cost of a netbook + external drive would fit your budgetary needs.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:26 AM on January 6, 2009

Also, if you do go netbook, I can't recommend strongly enough that you look into the SYlvania G Meso--the specs are equal to the eee that you're looking at, but it comes with ubuntu netbook remix which is easy to use and has Mac-ish (that is to say, non-windows) security for much, much cheaper. Ignore the early reviews. Mine's been terrific--feel free to memail me any questions if you have them.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:35 AM on January 6, 2009

Response by poster: I've considered getting an external drive, but to be honest, that sounds like kind of a pain. For instance, watching a movie on a plane with a DVD drive dangling off to the side. Am I wrong about this? Are they actually easier to deal with than I think?

BTW, wfrgms, that notebook looks pretty good, thanks!
posted by lunasol at 9:36 AM on January 6, 2009

The emergence of the netbook has all but eliminated the low-end of the sub-14" market. If a 14" or 14.1" wide screen is acceptable, there should be a handful of lower-power machines that fit your needs and price range. Here are a couple: One. Two.
posted by toxic at 9:38 AM on January 6, 2009

I've considered getting an external drive, but to be honest, that sounds like kind of a pain.

That's why you'd want to rip them to your hard drive beforehand using an app like DVDShrink.

It's not an ideal solution, but if you want a netbook sized computer, and don't want to pay for Steve Job's next colonoscopy, it's one option.
posted by wfrgms at 9:45 AM on January 6, 2009

how 'bout this for $699

HP Compaq 2230s Laptop plus 1 GB RAM FREE - Intel Core 2 Duo T5670 1.8GHz, 1GB DDR2, 120GB HDD, 12.1" WXGA, Vista Business/XP Pro Downgrade, 1024MB PC6400 DDR2 800MHz SODIMM Memory
posted by geos at 9:59 AM on January 6, 2009

If you want a "NetBook," the MSI Wind is the one to beat (currently). Of course, if you're willing to go over-budget a bit you might find a good deal on a Sony VAIO TX series and get a "real" processor. :)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:25 AM on January 6, 2009

I have an iMac and a new MSI Wind. I love the wind it has 120gb of storage and is so light and easy to take where ever. And you can hack it to run OSX (if you're willing to sacrifice some capabilities).

With 120gb of storage, you could easily rip the movies and transfer them to your netbook using a service like Dropbox . Works for me!
posted by ginagina at 10:35 AM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Take a look at Lenovo. You might be able to find deals thru slickdeals or dealnews. I recently got my lenovo sl400 for $595 including tax and shipping. It's very awesome!
posted by majikstreet at 12:31 PM on January 6, 2009

Best answer: You can also look at the Lenovo outlet, which allows you to choose between new (canceled orders) or refurb.
posted by clerestory at 12:52 PM on January 6, 2009

I think the eee 901 is still the netbook to beat rather than the MSI Wind. Although I its strengths may be more pure netbook than small laptop. Still excellent with the following provisos:

I prize portability above a 10" screen

I have small fingers so the keyboard is OK

I don't want to keep big amounts of music / vids and for reasons of portability/ knockability prefer a SSD to a HDD.

Anyway, bought one a month ago and it's the best gadget I have bought in four years (Nikon D70 previous holder); truly it has rocked my need-for-cheap-and-constant-distraction-western-consumer world. But I would type on it first. The keyboard could be a deal breaker for the sausage fingered.
posted by rhymer at 1:21 PM on January 6, 2009

Response by poster: Clerestory, the Lenovo outlet has some amazing deals! Are Lenovo refurbs generally reliable?

As for the netbooks, I finally got my hands on an EEE 1000 and it seems like it's about the smallest I'd be able to manage. So it looks like I may have to go for more of a hulk.
posted by lunasol at 5:21 PM on January 6, 2009

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