Tech-savvy people: Please help me purchase a new laptop!
July 31, 2014 8:39 AM   Subscribe

My Macbook died on me a little while back, and I need a new laptop ASAP. I was thinking about a new Macbook Air, but I want to wait until the Intel Broadwell chips come out since the last Macbook Air update was pretty minimal. So, I've been looking at Windows machines, but am bad at scouting out deals. Please help me find a quality deal for a PC laptop that isn't under-powered but also won't break the bank. Specifics of desired laptop inside.

I'd like to get this laptop to tide me over until the Broadwell processors come out. After that, I'll probably nab a Macbook Air and make whatever laptop I buy now my secondary PC.

I'd like the laptop to be around 15 inches - 17 is too bulky/heavy for me, and 13 is a bit small. I would go 13 or 17, but only if it is a super-good deal. Also, I'd like the hard drive to be user-upgradeable, as I have an SSD I recently purchased off of Amazon and would like to stick it in there. (I can take my SSD back if the laptop deal includes an internal SSD.)

I'll be using the PC primarily for word processing, surfing the net, watching videos and listening to music. Maybe some gaming from time to time (Civilization 5 primarily). I've heard that a core i5 is the sweet spot processor-wise, but again - I am looking at the best deal I can find so i3, i7, AMD processors are welcome as well.

I've been looking at this laptop, and it seems like a good price considering the discount but -then again - I know nothing about PC shopping:

Any better suggestions, MeFites? Is it even a good idea to buy now, or will there be some back-to-school specials coming out for August?

I appreciate your help in advance, and will update my thread with the eventual winner :)
posted by CottonCandyCapers to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
Response by poster: I forgot to mention - I'd like to spend less than $1000. Preferably below $800. But I am open to some wiggle room if there is, say, an uber-discounted neat-o laptop for $1100.
posted by CottonCandyCapers at 9:04 AM on July 31, 2014

Lenovo is a solid brand. Their warranty is great (when I owned one about six to four years ago) and a lot of the replacement parts are self-serve. The hard drive definitely is. I found that my machine (a 12" ultraportable) got fairly hot, fairly quickly and the battery life declined fairly sharply after just two years. I spent $80 and got a replacement battery. I had the extended life battery both times, and for me, that was absolutely worth it, but it may or may not be depending on how mobile you are. (I was a student traveling and studying abroad.)

The internet says Civ V only requires 2G of RAM, but Windows takes up so much resources that 4G is probably the bare minimum you need to actually have a good experience. If you want to upgrade from the base model, the first thing I would do is get extra RAM. You can usually get them replaced yourself for cheaper than the upgrade on Lenovo's site.

Gaming does take CPU, but nothing you indicated seems to take too much. I wouldn't worry about the processor too much, as long as it's comparable with other recent models.
posted by ethidda at 9:12 AM on July 31, 2014

Don't buy a lenovo that isn't a thinkpad. It isn't a toyota-lexus type difference, they might as well be completely different manufacturers. They don't even take the same power bricks or anything. I utterly hate cheaper lenovos, and think the better ones are merely OK. And i'd recommend a cheaper machine here because...

If you're only camping out til broadwell, i think you're aiming way too high price wise for what you want to do. Buy the cheapest machine that isn't junk which has a current gen I5. The deals have already started too, even though it isn't august.

This is like, the platonic ideal of what you're looking for. Solid manufacturer, solid specs, high quality screen, 15in. It's just out of stock, but more like that(or even that one restocking soon) will come up. That deal has come up before from that same reseller, and it will again.

The intel graphics will play civ 5 and quite a few other similar games fine(IE starcraft 2, league of legends...)

You should be trying to spend under $500, not under $800. Machines similar to the one i linked(that is, in fact an upgraded model of the same, but not nearly as good of a deal) pop up all the time.

Personally, i think this smaller 13in version of the same machine is the best deal i've seen in quite a while, but if you want a 15 just wait for them to restock and buy that. I've pointed several people at that 13in deal though when they asked me what was good to get right now. It's totally solid all around.

The other ones that tend to his this price range are HPs. But never buy an HP, ever. Just don't.

I was going to say buy a mac and resell it, but buy something like this and resell it on ebay later for 2/3 or so of what you paid. That $350 machine will still net you close to $300 when broadwell comes out, trust me. If you just want something basic, which is what the stuff you outlined as your usage is, then get something basic.

I just couldn't justify spending close to a grand on a machine i didn't plan to keep for the long haul, even if i knew i could get most of that back.
posted by emptythought at 3:20 PM on July 31, 2014

Ok, to be fair, I did have a thinkpad. I believe it was an X series. My recommendation is probably completely off for non-thinkpad Lenovos then.
posted by ethidda at 3:27 PM on July 31, 2014

If you want a laptop to tide you over for a limited period of time, the best option in my estimation is to purchase a ThinkPad on eBay from one of the sellers who offer off-lease TPs for around $200.
posted by yclipse at 4:13 PM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I second the motion of buying a used Thinkpad on eBay, with the caveat that you want a T, X (other than the AMD-based X1xx series, I'm using an X120e right now and would not recommend), or W series. Do not get an i, R, L, or S. If it is still under warranty, you can send it to Lenovo to get most anything wrong with it fixed and even extend the warranty for the same cost as if it had been purchased when the laptop was new. Heck, you can even buy a Lenovo warranty for an out-of-warranty laptop, but it's significantly more expensive.

Alternatively, forget gaming, save some money, and buy a Haswell-based Chromebook. You can dual-boot ChromeOS and Ubuntu or whatever other distribution of your choice if you find ChromeOS too limiting.
posted by wierdo at 7:55 PM on July 31, 2014

Response by poster: So, I ended up getting the base model Lenovo Y40. It was the best deal I could find on the Lenovo website, and it has an 8GB SSD cache so I can probably send back the SSD I purchased. I'll probably keep it longer term and maybe wait until Skylake instead of Broadwell.

It came out to $~740 with tax after a 10% discover card rebate + $50 off coupon. I hope I made a wise choice; if anyone thinks I made a huge mistake please let me know!

here is the model I purchased: (The $739 one)
posted by CottonCandyCapers at 7:14 AM on August 1, 2014

I'm actually looking for a new laptop too, so this thread is timely! I have pretty much the same needs, except I really do NOT want Windows 8. I'd prefer Windows 7, under $600, can handle games. I've been looking at Acer, because Consumer Reports seems to like them.
posted by sarcasticah at 8:10 PM on August 1, 2014

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