Need new laptop
November 4, 2011 9:49 AM   Subscribe

Laptop recs with a $1k budget.

My VAIO turned on for the last time just after the warranty ended. Sadface. Now I need a new laptop, preferably at $1k or under, with these criteria:

- I'll be using Microsoft Office, iTunes, and Photoshop CS5, along with typical internet use.
- Must be able to play Skyrim. That's likely the only game I'll have on it. System requirements.
- 13" to 15"
- Aesthetically appealing
- Durable and long-lasting; this will also be my college laptop, so I'd like to get at least three years out of it before I have to upgrade. I won't be running any engineering programs.

posted by jingle to Technology (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I recently bought a business class Levono Thinkpad with an I7 processor, 8 gig of RAM and a 750 GB hard-drive for under $1,000 Australian dollars.
posted by joannemullen at 9:52 AM on November 4, 2011

Lenovo Outlet has some great dog's dinner deals. I recommend that you check CL for Thinkpad X27. The X27 is far and away the best laptop for range that I have ever owned.
posted by parmanparman at 9:54 AM on November 4, 2011

Pick up an Asus laptop. I believe they have a core i7 with a great video card for under a grand. I have owned multiple brands, but havent been happier with the value, quality and overall build/performance from Asus.
posted by handbanana at 9:56 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've never been *less* happy with the quality and overall build and performance of a laptop than I have been with my Asus. Only about 3 months into owning it, the screen started flashing/going out intermittently when the laptop was doing anything processor intensive, the concave-bumpy touchpad seems designed to intentionally create calluses, the battery barely lasted an hour when I bought it and is now completely dead after just under two years, the DVD drive occasionally fires out for no perceptible reason, and no matter what I'm doing, occasionally running audio/video just kind of glitches out and repeats a 1/4" clip for 2-3 seconds. I'm used to that occurring on my older laptops if the computer has been nudged and the hard drive is automatically stopped so as to protect it from damage, but this happens on my Asus when the computer is across the room from anybody, completely still.

If I had it to do over again, I would have bitten the bullet and spent more money on another ThinkPad, but then I haven't tried any of the models that have been made after the ThinkPad brand was purchased by Lenovo, so I'm not completely sure if Lenovo has maintained the traditionally high ThinkPad quality standards.
posted by stleric at 10:40 AM on November 4, 2011

You could get an 11" Macbook Air for $999, or a 13" for close to that after the academic discount. I don't think you can do much better for the price. You could run Skyrim in boot camp or with VMWare or Parallels. If you're dedicated to Windows the macbook airs can run windows very well, although you'll need to purchase it separately.
posted by iamscott at 10:46 AM on November 4, 2011

The specs I'd be concerned with for you will be, in order:

- A strong video card. The recommended for Skyrim is a GTX 550Ti or Radeon 4890. The mobile equivalent would be a GTX 570M or Mobility 5870 or 6800M. Getting this high on a laptop under $1K may be tricky, but it is possible to get close to this.
- Excellent brand. The MeFi favorites seem to be Lenovo, then further back Asus.
- Core i7, preferably second generation as in Core i7-26XXM processor. This is partially for Skyrim but mostly for Photoshop CS5
- 6 GB of RAM, preferably 8GB RAM. If you find something with 4GB, upgrade it immediately. 8GB (2x4GB) of good quality laptop memory can be had for under $50. Don't fret over installed memory, just consider that you may need to spend $50 to up it to 8GB.

The best I could find:

lenovo IdeaPad Y570. $929 through Newegg. Has a GT 555M with 1GB of GDDR5 VRAM, which is the better version of this video card. This video card is about 3 tiers lower than the recommended video cards in the specs, which implies that you would see a difference between recommended and this video card, but it's not so much that it would make Skyrim unplayable by any means. Core i7-2670QM, a fast quad-core processor. 8GB RAM. 15.6" screen. The only thing that I didn't care as much for on this was that the resolution is 1366x768. The price difference between this resolution and a laptop with 1920x1080 is around $300-350.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:53 AM on November 4, 2011

In the name of holy jobs do not get HP - NOT HP - you will regret HP. The big screens and low prices are tempting: do not succumb to the shiny. Got a bunch of those lately and they are lemons. BSOD on *shutdown* every time, and the USB subsystem is ... is ... I can't think of an appropriate non-profanity to use here.

I'm also not thrilled with lenovos lately: all of mine have keyboard problems (the keys jam up or pop off and are not easy to get back on) and they've all had bad system crashes requiring OS reinstallation.

From what I hear of Skyrim ... you're gonna need to spend over a grand for a laptop, I fear.
posted by zomg at 11:17 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not all lenovos are equal - generally when people praise a lenovo, it's a thinkpad t-series or x-series. I recently got a T520 for under a thousand from lenovo outlet. It's marked as refurbished but looks absolutely new, although cds and manuals were not included. I'm very happy with the laptop, screen is great, touchpad is unbelievably great - I did not know those can work almost as well as mouse; keyboard is excellent, build quality is great. But I think a thinkpad T series with a video card good enough for skyrim is going to be quite a bit more than a thousand.
posted by rainy at 12:21 PM on November 4, 2011

My Sony Vaio does what I need it to, and it had a better video card available without customization than a lot of other cheaper laptops I looked at. There's some available for your general price range. I use those three programs, though not the game you mentioned (though it plays minecraft fine).
posted by ejaned8 at 12:35 PM on November 4, 2011

How long after the warranty did it die?

A couple of years ago I had an HP's screen blow on me ten days after the warranty expired. I emailed HP, told them of my unfortunate situation, and they replaced the screen for me free of charge. They even gave me a laptop to work on while they serviced mine.

I'd consider emailing/phoning Sony first; but don't even bother with customer service reps - go as high up the service ladder as you can.
posted by New England Cultist at 12:49 PM on November 4, 2011

Be aware that if you buy a Macbook and need Windows, it's about $100 for the Windows license and another $60 for Parallels or VMware if you decide to run them side-by-side. That being said, Macbook hardware is generally better than you get from PC OEMs.
posted by cnc at 2:09 PM on November 4, 2011

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