Help me find a LINE (in) on a cheap laptop
October 20, 2012 6:12 AM   Subscribe

I need a cheap laptop that runs Windows 7 (or 8) and would be good for audio recording. Basically, it needs to run skype and have mini-jack inputs for headphones and a mic. Can you help?

I am finding lots of $300 and under laptops online but the specs on such machines are so fuzzy and I don't know if the brands are trustworthy (Acer, etc). Due to the specs being underwritten for such cheap machines, I don't know which ones have mic-inputs and my experience with mini-jack to USB adapters has been less than good.

Can you help point me in a direction?
posted by arniec to Computers & Internet (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I netadmin a school that's used nothing but Acer machines for the last seven years. I've found them generally good value, quite well designed and built, mostly trouble free and decently supported under warranty.

If you care about audio quality, I would have expected a decent USB DAC would perform better than what's built in to a low-end laptop. But if Skype is the measure of the quality you need, pretty much anything should work.

Avoid low-end HP, Compaq and Dell laptops, which all have build quality issues and poor cooling design. Especially avoid low-end Toshiba laptops, which also draw their cooling air from underneath and are besides a pain in the arse to repair; too many screws in too many sizes and too many badly-placed interior cables that plug into too many inaccessible interior sockets.

Lenovo makes some quite robust workhorse laptops. If you can get a two year old used Thinkpad for cheap it will probably do just nicely.
posted by flabdablet at 7:43 AM on October 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Literally almost any laptop or netbook should meet your needs. I've never seen one without a headphone jack and Mic input (to be distinguished from a Line In, which operates at a different level).
posted by blue t-shirt at 8:00 AM on October 20, 2012

What blue t-shirt says is not quite true. I have an eepc 1015 and it only has one jack for mic/headphones, so you can plug in one or the other, but not both.

I think you would do best to look for "unboxing" videos for whatever laptop you are considering. They usually have a few frames where the person turns the laptop around and shows all the sides of it. Even if they dont mention the audio jacks (though they probably will), you should be able to see them.

But I wouldn't recommend recording direct to a laptop if you want anywhere near decent sound quality. The hum of the laptop itself will give you a lot of noise. Get a small audio recorder instead unless this is some project that requires skype.
posted by lollusc at 6:14 PM on October 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

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