Need it now. Cheap.
November 6, 2014 5:50 AM   Subscribe

Have never used anything but Macs, and know a bit about Macs, but now suddenly I need to order from amazon a quick, very cheap laptop for emergency use and want to spend as little $$ as possible. **This is only for writing and for writing on google docs. ** Any other feature is a benefit. *Can you use a Chrome book for writing? At least on google docs?* I do not want to buy a used Mac, don't want to spend time researching, and don't want to do anything but get it from amazon right now. This can be a not-great computer that will be a family backup after the repair of normal computer. The thing is, we need it delivered tomorrow for writing. (If we order the cheapest PC will it come with microsoft word or equivalent installed for writing?) Thanks.
posted by third rail to Computers & Internet (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you already plan to be writing in Google docs, then a Chromebook will probably be fine for you, since its whole point is to tether you to Google's online ecosystem.
posted by AndrewInDC at 5:56 AM on November 6, 2014 [8 favorites]

I would recommend a netbook, likethis one. Cheap, but still has an OS.
posted by Dashy at 5:59 AM on November 6, 2014

I did this last year- rushed into a computer purchase because I needed it right away, for taking notes in google docs. I got a horrible laptop that I hate. Even my kids hate it. It was the right price but that is all. I then purchased an ipad and a keyboard. Google docs on the run are mine again! There is peace in my palace.

The cheap laptop only came with a trial version of word, so it was useless to me for writing. The ipad has everything that I need and more. It's dreamy.
posted by myselfasme at 6:00 AM on November 6, 2014

I bought a chromebook almost three years ago and I love it, it works great, long battery life, google docs for writing. This is the one I have.
posted by mareli at 6:04 AM on November 6, 2014

Response by poster: @Myselfsameme (and anyone else) -- at the risk of sounding ridiculous I do have an ipad, and thought of doing this because I've seen others do it with other models of ipad, but I don't see how you can plug a keyboard in to the one I have . The only port in our ipad is the charger port (the size of an iphone charger). Does it require a special keyboard with a cable to fit in that port?
posted by third rail at 6:06 AM on November 6, 2014

If you decide to go for a cheap Windows laptop it's unlikely to include MS Word, but you could then download the Windows version of LibreOffice for free. It's a very capable alternative to MS Office and can read/write Word docs.
posted by duoshao at 6:08 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

You buy a bluetooth keyboard & the ipad will recognize it.
posted by belladonna at 6:08 AM on November 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

You want a Bluetooth keyboard -- it will pair to your iPad and work quite well. I have this one, but any with decent reviews are probably fine.

If you don't have an easel case or some other comfortable way to prop up your iPad, I'd do that as well.
posted by gnomeloaf at 6:11 AM on November 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

Yeah, if you already have an ipad, and are considering a crappy netbook - for about $20-40 you can 'upgrade' your iPad by buying a bluetooth keyboard. You'll have an OS you're used to, it works okay for writing stuff (Spreadsheets are annoying but doable). Probably just as good as a crappy netbook, and you can go to your local computer store and buy it right away. It's also one of those things you can find on the cheap at Winners/TJ Maxx/Marshalls.

Extra bonus is you can get a full-size keyboard if you want!

To activate Bluetooth on your iPad, you will need to go into Settings and turn it on. After that, most bluetooth devices have a little button you press on them to sync up - you press that, and either it'll connect automatically, or you might have to select it in Bluetooth settings on your iPad.

If you need to print to a home printer, that might be more of a pain as it needs to have wireless functionality.
posted by aggyface at 6:15 AM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

The automatically Apple Wireless keyboard pairs via bluetooth to an iPad. The app "iA Writer" is pre ally amazing for writing. And of course, the Google Docs App is a native, free app for iPad. I recommend getting a keyboard with the up-down arrows, as you cannot use a mouse with the iPad.
posted by apennington at 6:16 AM on November 6, 2014

Response by poster: Sorry to threadsit; do the bloothtooth keyboards work with an ipad Air?
posted by third rail at 6:18 AM on November 6, 2014

Yes, iPad Air are bluetooth compatible. It's in the tech specs. :)
posted by aggyface at 6:26 AM on November 6, 2014

posted by Brian Puccio at 6:26 AM on November 6, 2014

I am not necessarily recommending this, but my daughter inherited a cheap Acer netbook from her older brother that was a bit sluggish. We added memory and the Mint version of Ubuntu Linux. It installed easier than windows. Now it is snappy and functional. When I can't figure something out, I Google "ubuntu [thing I want to do]" and figure it out. Walmary has many netbooks of this sort. The Ipad/keyboard solution sounds good. I use Textastic.
posted by mecran01 at 6:29 AM on November 6, 2014

If you already have an iPad, and you just need to write on Google docs, you absolutely should just get a bluetooth keyboard. That will work fine. I use it with my iPad all the time. There are also some nice keyboard/case combos if you want to go that route. Something like this has good reviews and is only $22.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:46 AM on November 6, 2014

The cheaper bluetooth keyboards tend to be quite small and not necessarily comfortable to type on--Apple's or the K810/K811 Logitech are proper keyboards and that's what you should be looking at. I use the K810 with a Samsung tablet as my primary laptop.
posted by Sequence at 6:52 AM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Any apple bluetooth keyboard can pair with the iPad. If you have an iPad charging dock that stands it in front of you, it's an admirably minimalist writing environment, using Google docs or any other text-based, cloud-backed (or dropbox backed) document system. IIRC, WriteRoom has a pretty good iPad version.
posted by fatbird at 7:01 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you want to write and actually archive creating something rather than fideling with a computer. Get an iPad with a stand a a keyboard. You can even connect your existing keyboard with a USB adapter to any iOS device so you cont even have to use a BT keyboard....

Tons of excellent writing apps for very little money available on the App store.
posted by Mac-Expert at 7:29 AM on November 6, 2014

I use this $12 Bluetooth keyboard with my iPad and it's shockingly good.
posted by roger ackroyd at 7:55 AM on November 6, 2014

If you go with the ipad/keyboard combo, do get a full sized keyboard. It makes all the difference.

This is my setup and it works great. (I use it as my only computer.)
posted by Vaike at 8:30 AM on November 6, 2014

If you have WiFi and will be working solely with web-based files and apps you will find Chromebooks to be the cheapest and most competent choice. I was a beta tester for the Chrome OS and have been 100% Chromebook since 2011. But then, all my computing and storage is on the web. There are literally no locally installed apps on my machine. But my cheap little laptop also runs on a Linux kernel and can easily install a complete Ubuntu system using chroot in developers mode. Your mileage may vary...
posted by jim in austin at 8:39 AM on November 6, 2014

More than one person in my writing group uses a chromebook for their work. They like it enough well enough.
posted by Sternmeyer at 8:54 AM on November 6, 2014

I got an Acer C720 Chromebook for writing in Text because I wanted to be able to save locally. The display is passable-- fine for text, but not great for web browsing. Definitely not as nice as a MacBook Pro retina and I think a little worse than an iPad with retina (3, 4, Air, Air 2).

Apple's Bluetooth keyboard has half-height cursor and function keys. Maybe OK, for writing, but it would bug me for editing. I like the C720's compromise: left and right are full size and up & down are half-height.
posted by morganw at 9:43 AM on November 6, 2014

I have a Chromebook. I use it for editing and creating documents in Google docs and for surfing the net. It works terrifically for that purpose, and it wasn't horribly expensive. Just my two cent's worth.
posted by patheral at 10:06 AM on November 6, 2014

if you decide to go with a chromebook, i highly recommend reading The Wirecutter's overview and recommendations for Chromebooks -- their stuff is almost always a good jumping off point!
posted by knockoutking at 10:29 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Amazon is currently offering this:

HP Stream 11 Laptop with Free Office 365 Personal for One Year for $199.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 12:54 PM on November 6, 2014

I'd vote for either (a) bluetooth keyboard and your iPad or (b) a real $200 laptop like the one linked above. Anything cheaper is just going to be a huge headache.
posted by mmoncur at 3:47 PM on November 7, 2014

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