I'll probably just use Office and read MeFi.
August 28, 2011 6:12 PM   Subscribe

Help a garden variety user choose her first laptop.

- Durable, good quality
- Up to 800 dollars
- 6+ RAM
- No gaming capabilities, nothing wow-inducing
- ...but with webcam!
- Has to be sold at Best Buy
- Any size, except huge and heavy

I've been using bestbuy.com's tool to choose one, but I really don't know what brands are better (liked a Lenovo and a Samsung, but I really have no idea), and could really use some advice from computer literate people.

Thank you!
posted by Tarumba to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: This is the Lenovo one. I'm not so sure about the Samsung one anymore.
posted by Tarumba at 6:14 PM on August 28, 2011

I like Lenovo quite a bit. Consider buying something with less than six gigs of RAM, then upgrading yourself. It's easy-peasy. And unless you're attached to BestBuy for some reason, you might consider Newegg and other online retailers.
posted by box at 6:16 PM on August 28, 2011

Response by poster: I have a credit line with them already, so I would like to buy it there (no interest for a year, will pay it off within this time).
posted by Tarumba at 6:19 PM on August 28, 2011

I think the Levano is a fine choice. For all of the detail angst people put into buying laptops, I've always found that if it's the right size, has reasonable specs, and has no hardware issues, I've always been happy with my fairly random choices. I generally choose based on the following criteria in order: cost, specification minimum, reviews, weight. Your selection has a lot of reviews and they are not filled with multiple reports of an underlying hardware problem. I would just go forth and buy at this point unless you have a specific concern. You have to choose at some point!
posted by DarlingBri at 9:39 PM on August 28, 2011

Best answer: I actually work at a Best Buy and you should be able to get 18 months no interest on the products you're looking at.

Tips for shopping at Best Buy in no particular order:

Understand that talking to a good salesman means that you're going to be asked tons of questions about things you might want with the computer. Best Buy doesn't make money on the "core product" but instead accessories, services, and protection plans. With that said, there are some nice deals that you can take advantage of when you do purchase a computer (printers for one. I don't use them, but hey, everyone's different. If you do get one though, get the $99 Kodak. It's on sale for $59 when you get a computer). An incompetent salesman will not be able to answer your questions about simple things like "What is the difference between the i5 and i3 processor" other than the fact that it's faster.

The primary difference between different computers of different brands is the style and quality of build when you look at similar hardware. One serious point to note is that computers that are different in price aren't necessarily better or worse than each other. You should ask how old different computers are when you shop around. The best price/value ratios are with the newer computers.

Before you think about what makes a computer fast, consider that it is mostly the software on the computer that determines what kind of experience you'll get. I'm not suggesting that a $1000 computer is the same as a $300 one, but if the $1000 one starts up with a bunch of processes in the background, has fancy widgets on the desktop, and has a bunch of toolbars in your web browser, it will probably seem just as slow as a clean $300 one. The average user can't tell a difference between a $500 computer and a $1000 computer given a fresh install of Windows 7. When you do look at different computers, get something that feels sturdy and isn't cheap. It seems that you've done a bit of homework and I salute you for that. You'll be much more prepared when you go in there and see each of the different models you saw online.

The protection plans are a convenience. The only reason you should get a protection plan at Best Buy is if you get the Advanced Plan (covers accidental damage) and make sure that before the term is up, you get a battery replacement free of charge. 90% of the stuff I send off under our plan would be (and is) covered by the manufacturer. The plan is good for damage caused by the end user (you) and battery replacements in addition to things that the manufacture would cover.. Your manufacture warranty lasts a year, look into what options your manufacturer has for extension before you jump into the Black Tie Protection Plan. You also have a full 14 days to decide to get it later.

Geek Squad services are mostly a waste of money if you are willing to spend a little bit of time fiddling with your computer. If you're not confident in your ability to work the device, one of the best ways to gain that confidence is to fiddle! Of course the reason we offer services is for people that like the convenience. If you do get GS to set up your computer, specifically tell them that they have the authority to remove everything but the core system components and that you want them to remove all the trial software. Paying to get recovery CD's made is a waste of time as you can easily make them yourself through the software the vendor provides.

Most of the employees at Best Buy (95% of them anyways) are kids in high school and/or college who really don't know the market and/or technology. Don't expect any serious questions to be answered by them. If presented with a question they don't understand, most will simply lie or come up with something that sounds true. This is especially the case with supervisors, management, and Geek Squad. If you have any questions about the product, look for specific answers. Then ask for clarification and reasons. You'll easily be able to tell someone who does know what they're talking about vs those who don't. If possible, try to find someone with another customer who does sound like they're intelligent, otherwise you might as well shop alone in there.

My personal opinions here:

I really like the Asus, Lenovo, HP, Samsung, and Dell computers we sell. I strongly dislike Sony because I deal with their support all the time and having a computer in service for a month is pretty typical. I don't like Gateway and Toshiba because they just seem cheap. If you get a Dell, prepare to remove a lot of software from it, but they are pretty nice. Asus is not a very well known name to most people, though they have some great products and I would feel very confident getting an Asus. More than any other computer we sell, I like the Macs, but they're just out of the stated price range (that's why we offer financing right?).

Sorry for not just telling you to get a particular computer, but honestly, it's going to be a personal decision for you. As far as I'm concerned, all the computers are the same except for the way they look. Just get something that's solid (by the way it feels) and has at least an Intel i5 or AMD Phenom x4 processor (given your price range) and you should be good to go.

Oh, and make sure you get a reward zone card if you don't already have one. Those purchases add up and you would get around $15 in RZ giftcards with that purchase alone.

Good luck!
posted by vmrob at 11:26 PM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Vmrob,
Wow! Thank you for the sound advice. I was thinking about splurging in an apple, but after using them fairly frequently for work reasons, I just can't get used to it, plus I really need to use ms office at work, and I hate all that format conversion . I was considering an asus but dismissed it mostly because I don't know that brand.
posted by Tarumba at 3:46 AM on August 29, 2011

I have a Sony Vaio, which I love. True the customer service sucks, and when my motherboard died, I had to hound the VP in San Diego, but (fingers crossed), I'm very pleased with it. I look at images/footage all day long and I really like the how they look on this computer.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:30 AM on August 29, 2011

I highly recommend Asus because for the most part they come without all the extra bundled in crap software. A fresh and clean computer is going to be faster and reliable than a machine with the same specs but loaded down with HP and Dell bloatware.
posted by cirrostratus at 12:32 PM on August 29, 2011

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