Ideas for my new laptop?
January 31, 2014 7:44 AM   Subscribe

I am in the market for a new laptop but am so far out of the loop that I'd like your tips on what's even possible these days, please!

I do a lot of work on my computer, but my requirements are actually pretty basic. I've been busy with pregnancies and parenting over the past few years and am only just emerging from my sleep-deprived haze to discover two things: my laptop is going to need replacing soon, and; technology is capable of doing much more than it was only a few years back. I would really appreciate some ideas on what sort of machine I should buy.

Thanks to the introduction of Word 365, every type of software I need to use for my job is now available online. I rarely have time to watch movies any more but when I do, I have an iPad and Netflix for that (or my partner has a couple of laptops if it comes to that). I have an iPod which I like to use for audiobooks, but my fairly extensive MP3 collection is not getting a lot of use these days so I no longer feel like I need to keep that in an easily-accessible place like an actual laptop. Spotify and a hard drive will do the trick. Other than that I am mostly browsing online.

Could I get by with a Chromebook? Or is there anything else in particular you'd suggest? I have the feeling that a Chromebook is all I need now but I'm worried that I might be missing something. I guess I would need to sync my iPod on a different machine or buy another device, but other than that I can't see an issue - can you? Are there any other options you'd suggest?
posted by rubbish bin night to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I am OK with my chromebook purchase, but it's shit in a lot of ways:

I literally could not plug in an external CD drive and have it Just Work. I couldn't listen to an album or rip it. Stupid and crazy.

It uses a non-standard keyboard that changes things that have been mostly consistent forever, even when you consider Apple.

The build quality is OK, but you're not getting actually good components in any area. The screen in particular is difficult for me to enjoy. I have the HP 14, which is a high-end (eye roll) chromebook, and the screen is still crappy. Large and clear, but terrible viewing angles. If you can afford it, you owe it to yourself to get a machine with an IPS screen.

The ARM chromebooks are neat, but the performance isn't there yet. Make sure you get the haswell x86 chromebook.

They are also heavy. The Acer is exactly the same as the HP 14 I decided to purchase, except smaller, and it's still 3 pounds. That's a lot of weight for what you get.

Two things make me happy-ish with the purchase: it came with 200MB of free monthly data via T-Mobile, and crouton allows me to install multiple real linuxes via chroot so I can actually get work accomplished when I need to.

If you can afford more, I think you should get more.
posted by jsturgill at 8:13 AM on January 31, 2014

You can get a Lenovo at their outlet site for pretty cheap.
posted by theora55 at 8:36 AM on January 31, 2014

I also suggest you take a look at Lenovos.
posted by magullo at 8:54 AM on January 31, 2014

I'd recommend anything BUT a Chromebook. Get a Macbook new or used, made in the last four years, or any of an infinite number of new or used Windows laptops. I like Dell Outlet, Dell Financial Services or Dell Auction if you're interested in Windows. If you get Windows 8, get a touchscreen laptop. It's frustrating without one.

Generally speaking, you're going to pay significantly less money up front for a Windows laptop. If you're not careful, you can end up with malware, in which case you should look at a Mac.
posted by cnc at 12:51 PM on January 31, 2014

Thirding Lenovo, especially any model in the T or X series. Also, does some of the most thorough laptop reviews I know of, though they don't review everything.
posted by pont at 3:50 PM on January 31, 2014

I've had a (loaned) chromebook pixel for the last few months. (If you're unaware, the Pixel is their high end model.)

- The screen is outstanding, and it has a good touchpad.

- It crashes frequently (a couple of times a week) - and being chrome OS, this is somewhat harder to fix than it might otherwise be. This is frustrating. Also, since everything is essentially a web app, everything you have open has now crashed. Mostly this is a problem with cookies/logins/web forms/intermittent internet.
- The modified keyboard is irritating, depending on what keys you actually use (Delete, Page Up/Down, Home, etc. are not there)
- The battery life is ok but not outstanding for similarly priced hardware.

I wouldn't buy one for myself, and I won't miss it when I no longer have it. Chrome OS isn't quite there - yet. Any more mainstream OS is going to be the least hassle - so a Mac or a Lenovo is probably where you want to look.
posted by Ashlyth at 2:06 AM on February 1, 2014

Don't get a chromebook. For the same kind of money you can have a nice, not very much used machine. I'd also recommend anything in the Lenovo T or X series. The build quality is excellent and they last a really long time. Another bonus is that they're extremely easy to upgrade, so if you want to replace the hard disk with a solid state disk (which is a huge performance upgrade), you can. Not all manufacturers make things like this easy.

Of course, you could look into refreshing/upgrading your existing machine, by maxing out the RAM, installing an SSD, reinstalling Windows or switching to something snappier like Elementary OS. I'm amazed by how many people buy a new machine when it's really not necessary. And if your needs are really as basic as you say, you probably don't need something new at all.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 7:12 AM on February 1, 2014

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