What kind of laptop computer do I get?
September 16, 2011 10:15 AM   Subscribe

What kind of laptop computer do I get?

So, I will use the computer for school and I'd like it to be relatively light, tho within reason. Nothing I'm going to do with it will be too technical or consume too much storage. I'd like to spend, I don't know, $600? I could spend up to $800 or so if it's necessary. I want it to have a cd-rom drive, or whatever those are called. Battery life is moderately important. I want it to hold up well and I'd like to have decent support for it or ability to get it fixed pretty easily. I'll use my iPod and phone and all of that with it. I'm not sure what all you have to consider when getting a computer. I've never picked one out myself and have only owned two in my entire life. One was a compaq desktop ;).
posted by anonymous to Technology (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You can get a refurbished Lenovo T series laptop, which are good computers and are liked by the metafilter crowd here.
posted by TheBones at 10:18 AM on September 16, 2011

ARM-based laptops would be my dream laptop. Too bad it doesn't exist in the "mainstream" market. I would stick to a refurbished Samsung or HP laptops.
posted by sanskrtam at 10:21 AM on September 16, 2011

Until September 20th you can use a 'student' deal to get the 11" macbook air for $950 with a $100 gift card to the app store. Above your price range, but it's also a really nice computer. here.
posted by Buckt at 10:34 AM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Dell Inspiron 14Z fits your range, is thin and light, and pretty current specs.
posted by pupdog at 10:51 AM on September 16, 2011

My recent playing at Fry's leads me to believe that you should only consider three options right now: Lenovo, Asus or Apple. These three brands have rapidly earned their loyalty and are making good products. Support will be easy on any of them. Repairs on Asus or Lenovo can generally be done by anyone. Apple should only go through repair places that know Apple.

Apple: Others have mentioned the pricing. $950 gets you an 11" MacBook Air. A 13" MacBook will cost more. If it is what you want, then get it. Macs are quite well-built, clean and loved by their fans. Battery life will be way better on these than any PC. I am not an Apple user but I understand why people are willing to pay the price premium for them.

PC: I played with all brands and types at Fry's last weekend and found that there are certain sweet spots with pricing right now. There's a whole slew of laptops sitting at $500 which almost all have the same specs: Pentium Dual Core or Core i3, 320GB or 500GB Hard Drive, 4GB RAM. Today's Fry's ad has a Lenovo 15" with the Pentium Dual Core at $300. This is the type of deal you would want.

The next price level seemed to sit at around $750-800. This got you 500GB Hard Drive, faster processors (usually Core i5), 8GB RAM, better screen resolution, maybe a Blu-ray drive and usually a bigger battery.

The next price level above that is in the $1000+ range, and I can't justify anything there unless you are a power user, gamer, etc. And I sense that's not you.

PC Brands I would personally avoid: Dell, HP, Compaq, Gateway. Brands I'm indifferent about: Toshiba, Acer, MSI, Sony. Brands I love: Asus, Lenovo.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:58 AM on September 16, 2011

Macbooks have the best hardware, but tend to be expensive. Macbook Airs do not include a CD or DVD drive, though you can use an external drive if necessary. My recommendation would be to stretch your budget and buy a Macbook Air and possibly an external CD/DVD drive, but only if you can't live without it. You can run Windows on it if need be, though it will end up costing you another $100 or for the license and $50 to run Windows inside Mac OS X.

If you're looking to save money, check Dell Outlet, Dell Auction or Dell Financial Services Direct for cheap off-lease or scratch and dent Dell Latitude computers. These are business systems, which tend to be better built and have less junk installed than PCs sold in retail stores. It's not out of the question to find a decent three year old laptop for $300.
posted by cnc at 11:25 AM on September 16, 2011

Newegg has a great feature where you can adjust sliders to determine your cost, screen size, storage, memory, processor speed, etc. It's a great starting point, although it's usually my ending point as well, since their pricing and service is generally the best.
posted by hypersloth at 11:56 AM on September 16, 2011

To clarify, here at Newegg, and then on the left where it says "Narrow Results", click "Advanced" to get the sliders.
posted by hypersloth at 1:44 PM on September 16, 2011

Have it and love it. I believe this particular machine is only available from Best Buy as they contracted with Toshiba to provide them a laptop based on an analysis of what customers wanted. It has received excellent editorial and user support. Similar machines are available directly from Toshiba, and less so, from other vendors. I do not think you will be disappointed in battery life, keyboard, screen(Apple is better) weight or features.
posted by rmhsinc at 2:34 PM on September 16, 2011

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