Buy a laptop now, or wait a few months?
September 24, 2013 2:42 PM   Subscribe

I'm in the market for a new laptop, but have been completely ignoring hardware improvements and release cycles for years. I'm looking for something under $700. Are new models on the horizon? Should I buy something now, or wait a few months for a better deal? I'm not in any particular rush, so if new processors are coming out soon which will drop prices on old models substantially, I'm down to wait a month or two. What should I buy and when should I buy it? Requirements insides.

I'm looking for something sub-$700 in a 15". Cheaper is better, but I still want something high quality. My last two laptops have been Toshibas and I haven't really been that impressed with their quality. I'd like something light, dependable, and sturdy feeling. Do I have to get Windows 8 now? Is it decent, or is it still widely considered to be terrible?

I'll mainly use it for word processing, web browsing, video watching, torrenting, managing my mp3s and podcasts, and video chatting. If it can handle gaming, fantastic. But the graphics options are probably the lowest priority. Priorities in order 1) Price 2) Build quality 3) Weight , 4) HDMI out, 5) Graphics support for gaming.

i3 vs i5. Intel vs. AMD. Celeron vs i-series? Help! I know nothing!
posted by Arbac to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
There are ALWAYS new models on the horizon, and it's easy to get stuck in the "I'll wait for something better" mindset. But if you need a new laptop to be more productive or make your life easier or whatever, then there's no good reason to wait, especially since you are unlikely to notice any significant or relevant performance difference by waiting for something "newer".

Since you are in the US, you can look for in-store deals at major retailers on ShopLocal.
posted by Dansaman at 2:51 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

For what you're wanting almost anything will do, spec-wise.

Get as big a harddrive as you can - I'd think 2 Tb would be a good target. Processor speed is largely irrelevant for your purposes, but get a quad core; Intel is best in breed and AMD is solid-budget. Memory you want 4 gig, with 8 gig as future proofing. Be aware you need 64 bit windows to take advantage of more than 3 gig of memory.

Windows 8 is fine; it has a new Start screen interface that's been annoying people because it's targeted at touch screens, but behind the scenes it's just a tweaked windows 7 (which is still great). Have a play round and see which you prefer.

As for reliability, I think Asus gets good marks. Dell comes out well in this survey, which doesn't match my experience; our cheap Dell is still ticking along after five years, but it's got a bunch of stuff wrong with it and it's always felt a little tinny.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:54 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've been coveting the Lenovo Yoga series for awhile now. The Yoga 11s (not the Yoga 11!) is 11", light, powerful enough, and can act as a tablet. Starts at $699. It's respectable in terms of processing, RAM, disk space, and even graphics. Also, having played with one, fairly sturdy.

Worth saying that Lenovo has been making some strong business machines for a few years now. I'm a big fan of the Thinkpad, and I think these will stay strong.
posted by jander03 at 3:13 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you are buying something new now, be sure it uses a "Haswell" core Core i3 or Core i5 CPU, not the previous generation ("Ivy Bridge"). The Haswell CPU is less power hungry and faster.
posted by thewalrus at 3:29 PM on September 24, 2013 [5 favorites]

Buy now, and like @thewalrus said, make SURE it has a Haswell processor. Battery life is much, much better on Haswell. Also, do yourself a favor and get a touch screen, even if you don't think you'll use it. Windows 8 is a pain without a touchscreen, and 8.1 is only a little better. I imagine you can probably get what you want with your budget.
posted by cnc at 3:39 PM on September 24, 2013

Best answer: Look through the lenovo outlet store, this link will die soon but this is a great example of something that would check all your boxes for cheap.(AMD A8 APU, lots of ram, etc. Would do everything you want including moderate gaming... for $315. Yes, seriously)

Yea, you don't get the absolute latest CPU or anything, but the prices just can't be beat for systems that are generally a generation behind at most. There's machines on there that include an SSD and a hard drive for under $400, sometimes even under $300. You get an intel core 3rd gen cpu too(example, link might also die)

The stock churns quickly so you'll have to check repeatedly until you see an awesome deal, but the prices on there seem to regularly beat anywhere else online including the used market. It's bonkers.

I just don't really point anyone anywhere else anymore.
posted by emptythought at 3:55 PM on September 24, 2013 [19 favorites]

Holy hell those are good deals.

I think I'll go there for my next laptop, even with shipping to New Zealand that is still crazy cheap.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:16 PM on September 24, 2013

Nothing big on the laptop horizon that i have heard of. Especially at the low end. If you don't have money left over after spending 700 bux, you are a slacker shopper.

I'm partial to lenovo, for PCs. If you wanna bump your high limit a bit, I don't hear many/any complaints about macbook airs. a grand, more or less.

If you were spending serious bux for a desktop, Apple is coming out with a Mac Pro that looks killer, but is likely to be very dear, pricewise. Cool enough that for the first time in a long time, I am thinking about it hard. Way too much horsepower for me, but i buy once every 5-6 years.

people are giving me decent laptops these days. multicore, ram packed, large hard drive brand names. it's hard not to trip over quite useful boxes for next to nothing.
posted by FauxScot at 4:41 PM on September 24, 2013

Came in to recommend the Lenovo Outlet. They seem to have retained their quality. They aren't sexy, but they're workhorses.
posted by theora55 at 4:54 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you wait until the holiday sales season you'll be able to find a slightly better deal than now but there's no major technology bumps between now and then. I tend to buy from Dell Outlet which was sometimes ridiculously low prices - the Haswell chips are new enough that they're not going to have refurbs of them quite yet, so that might be a reason to hold out.
posted by Candleman at 5:50 PM on September 24, 2013

I agree with many others. Go with the Haswell parts. They are very energy efficient. For what you're wanting to to, an i3 or i5 processor should be plenty powerful. Also, like others, I think Lenovo makes great laptops. They have the best keyboards by far. After that, I like Dell.

I'm not a huge Windows 8 fan, but if you get a laptop with a touch screen (possible within your budget) it makes a little more sense. There are very inexpensive third party products to put the start menu back into Windows 8 and mimic the feel of Windows 7 if you can't stand the new UI. (And I can't.) Since Win 8.1 will be released in the middle of next month, I'd sit tight until Thanksgiving.
posted by Crotalus at 8:23 PM on September 24, 2013

Go for Haswell. I would *not* go for a touch screen. For your budget, better spend the money elsewhere.
posted by devnull at 1:15 AM on September 25, 2013

Best answer: The Haswell laptops are the newer ones. They're currently released in less than half of models. Pros to haswell ones: +50% battery life, better onboard GPU.

So, either you get a haswell laptop, or a laptop with a discrete GPU (since you say gaming.)

If you care about battery life, get a haswell laptop. This may require waiting a little longer for more to be released. I'm currently waiting for this to get myself a new laptop...

If you don't, buy one of the older models that is going cheap to be replaced by haswell.

Among students the laptops that seem to have lasted the longest are always the lenovo thinkpads, and students are very hard on their laptops. Get one of them (their current ones are being replaced by Haswell next month or so.)
posted by Ashlyth at 1:56 AM on September 25, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for all the tips! The Lenovo outlook looks fantastic. I'll probably end up with something from there. Are those laptops likely to have the Haswell chips everyone's suggesting? Or are they too new to be in the outlet yet?
posted by Arbac at 10:05 AM on September 25, 2013

Best answer: Arbac: none of the laptops listed on the outlet seem to have haswell CPU's (i just checked myself..)

The CPU model for haswell's start like:

wikipedia link: haswell models

As you suggest, they're likely too new to show up on the outlet.
posted by escher at 11:53 AM on September 25, 2013

Response by poster: escher - Thanks for the model number tip! I wasn't sure how to tell the difference.
posted by Arbac at 1:07 PM on September 25, 2013

Best answer: Are those laptops likely to have the Haswell chips everyone's suggesting? Or are they too new to be in the outlet yet?

Too new, but i'd rather spend $250-400 and have a laptop where the battery only lasted 6-7 hours than spend $900 for the same exact machine but updated to get like 9-11 hours of battery life. Haswell CPUs are a bit faster, but unless you're doing serious pro stuff or intense gaming on a dedicated machine built for that... it's kindof a difference you won't notice. It ends up being like driving a ferrari Vs a BMW 60mph on the freeway or something.

I would spend that extra gigantic pile of cash on like, an external hard drive for backups(or a couple years of backblaze to protect all my shit) and then you have enough leftover to buy a nice HDTV or even just you know, not spend it.. You also won't be finding the new models all upgraded with extra ram and SSDs like a lot of those outlet models have either.

A lot of the outlet ones come really properly specced out. 4gb+ of ram, SSD as i said, and many of them have the pay-extra upgraded CPU options.

It disappeared while i was writing this post, but i just saw an X1 carbon. The first time i loaded the page there was an identical one in the low 500s but that one sold almost instantly.

You will never see a new haswell machine for that cheap. Those always cost more than macbook airs, and are some of the most nicely constructed machines i've ever seen that i wouldn't doubt would last 10 years like the old thinkpads(my friend was issued one from work, and i spent about an hour playing with it). That, and the U series models with the SSDs i saw are exactly why it just isn't worth it to buy the latest and greatest. You won't notice the small difference, and you can get a much higher quality/durable machine that will probably outperform the new stuff as well since you're comparing the new low to low-midrange stuff with the old midrange+extras to high end.

Then again, i'm weird and always purposely avoid getting the latest of anything since i think it's a waste of money. I'm always using stuff from a year or more back(with the exception of, occasionally, smartphones). You get 80% of the new features and performance for sometimes as little as 30% of the price. Everyone else can rush the gates, i'll happily sit here at the back enjoying my cheap stuff that does everything i want.
posted by emptythought at 3:02 PM on September 25, 2013

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