Ultraportable Laptops?
February 18, 2010 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Help me choose and buy a thin and light (ultraportable?) laptop or netbook.

Going back to school in the fall and need a laptop. I will be using it in class for note-taking as well as written examinations. I have a powerful desktop at home with a 23" monitor, so gaming or other high-powered tasks are not going to be done on the laptop. I may watch a movie or TV show on it once in a while, but that's it.

I don't think a netbook is right for me, but I could be convinced if others have successfully used them for school. Given that I'll be doing a LOT of note-taking and writing, I think the cramped keyboard is kind of a deal-breaker. I think 13" "ultraportable" or "thin-and-light" models are kind of the sweet spot here (disagreements welcome). I would like to spend around $500, but would go as high as $800 if it's worthwhile. Obviously, cheaper is better!

Good battery life, an extremely usable keyboard/trackpad, portability, and good wireless connectivity are very important.

I have been looking at the Acer Timeline series, and have also been steered towards this Toshiba and the Asus UL30Vt. The Asus looks like it's a little more geared towards gaming than I need, however.

Any suggestions are welcome. If it's advisable to wait until July to make this purchase, I am fine with doing that as well.
posted by jckll to Technology (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I absolutely love my Lenovo T61, with the 6-cell its gets great battery life, plenty powerful for most anything besides serious gaming, excellent keyboard. Its pretty thin and lightweight, and one of the most durable laptops I have owned. This thing will take all kinds of abuse.

Since the model line is a few years old you should be able to find it in your price range. It also seems levono is running a sale on the new T series as well, try customizing a T400 to fit your specs and price range.
posted by token-ring at 9:59 AM on February 18, 2010

Response by poster: I absolutely love my Lenovo T61

Actually I'm typing this on a T61. A little big for me to tote around every day, and a little more "oomph" than I think I need for basic MS-Office/Internet usage. It is nice though; thanks.
posted by jckll at 10:03 AM on February 18, 2010

there's also the acer 1810t and the Lenovo U150
posted by ennui.bz at 11:00 AM on February 18, 2010

I just spent two hours with my friend helping her choose a computer at Best Buy. If you can, I strongly urge you to actually test out the laptops you're considering. What she discovered is that a keyboard is a keyboard, but the touchpads would vary wildly in terms of their sensitivity and ease of use.

For what it's worth, I'm typing this on my Lenovo x61 which is perfect and has served perfectly for the last 1.5 years of my law school life. With perfection.

Also, most schools have special sales and deals on laptops. What I didn't know is that sometimes, so do stores generally. The Best Buy I was at gave my friend 10% off of her laptop because she's a student at the university next door. I suggest you spend five minutes calling the electronics stores next to your school to ask about similar deals. You could save a lot of money that way.
posted by prefpara at 11:16 AM on February 18, 2010

I know you say you don't think a netbook is right for you, but I would suggest looking at them anyway, since it costs nothing to look. My fiance needed a laptop for school a year and a half ago, and we ended up going to a bunch of stores to look at various computers in the sub-$500 range. We found that the 9-inch netbooks were definitely too cramped, but the 10-inch ones were quite usable. We went with the latest 10" eee, which she still loves and uses to this day. In fact, she loved it so much, her mom ended up getting one for her own classes 6 months later (nearly the same specs and keyboard layout, but different processor and better battery life).

Also, realize that not all netbooks have the same keyboard. It's important to note subtle differences, like the number row being shifted or the right-shift key being in an odd place. Either way, I wouldn't discount all netbooks based on the keyboard for one model.

No matter what, prefpara's right: it's definitely a good idea to get some hands-on time with many different models if you can, even if you end up ordering it online.
posted by mysterpigg at 12:20 PM on February 18, 2010

If you like your T61, one of the X series is a no-brainer. I have an x60 I bought used for about $350 which has survived several drops & spills and works perfectly. Try the lenovo outlet. I bought mine on ebay but that's a crapshoot.
posted by alexei at 12:31 PM on February 18, 2010

Take a look at the new Lenovo Thinkpad Edge. 3.6 lbs, up to 8 hrs battery life (for the Intel processor option), and nicely spec'd (although you'll need an external optical drive). It's towards the higher end of your price-range, but you will probably get a discount through your school.
posted by Susurration at 1:18 PM on February 18, 2010

I am using the Toshiba now and I love it. $749 is much higher than I paid before Christmas so I would price check it on Amazon.
posted by mickbw at 1:28 PM on February 20, 2010

If you can wait to buy a new computer, wait. Prices always go down.
posted by kenliu at 5:47 PM on February 22, 2010

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