Help me choose a laptop.
February 3, 2015 4:33 PM   Subscribe

So I'm getting a new (to me) laptop and I've decided that I want a refurbished Lenovo, I'm looking on their website and can't make up my mind. Help me decide.

All I need my laptop for is surfing the internet, streaming Netflix, downloading and watching DVDs. Bluetooth capability would be nice too. I've got a terabyte external harddrive so storage isn't a big issue, but I don't think I want anything less than 320 GB (or do I?). I'm pretty overwhelmed by the choices and I've never used a touch screen laptop and I don't have any experience with Windows 8. Those Flex things look neat, but what do I know.

Some of the laptops don't have an optical drive but I could probably live with that if I bought an external one since I don't really use it that often on my current laptop. Please help me decide, I'm currently using a shitty 5 year old HP that is on its last legs, so I'm sure at this point, I'd like almost anything. My brain just pretty much shuts down when I'm presented with all the choices. Anything less than $400 is good, around $300 or less is ideal.
posted by MaryDellamorte to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Well first of all, you want to look at lenovo outlet. I checked the "optical drive" boxes there, so that search will just show the cheapest models that include that.

Everything i saw there looks fined. Thinkpad edges, some of those flex 15s. They're both right at $300.

Everything cheaper than that has a 10 or 11in screen, and i'm thinking you want a nice sized screen for watching video... so yea, flex 15.

I'll also note i've gotten "scratch and dent" stuff from there before, and it was neither noticeably scratched nor dented. Like the tiniest little scuffs and stuff. It seemed like someone had stacked them up in the warehouse/repackaging shop and forgot to put the plastic sheet between them while they did or something.

The flex 15 has a nicer CPU than those thinkpad edges(although the amd APU isn't junk, it's fine). You'll get better battery life out of the basic pentium/celerons than you will out of an amd, especially if you're just watching video and not pushing it. They excel at that, and run a lot cooler(which translates to quieter as well, generally).

My coworkers wife has a flex 15, it seemed like a decently built machine to me when i checked it out and installed some software for them.
posted by emptythought at 5:32 PM on February 3, 2015

I'd strongly consider visiting this thinkpad forum and perusing their marketplace section.

The wife and I both use T61 models that we bought new and we also have a Tablet 2. The former(s) are workhorses that can be found used on that marketplace for great prices for a bang for your buck laptop that just. won't. quit. The tablet... well I wish we'd have waited for a Yoga, but I digress and have nothing to complain about specifically.

More specifically, those forums have provided me with no less than 5 or 6 used laptops (mostly T series) for family and friends that were in the market at one time or another. Ditto for accessories like new/like new batteries and docks or travel power cord bricks. This brand of laptop is just built to last so well, not to mention that businesses have created a hand-me-down economy I suppose, that you're not at risk of buying a lemon or brokendownbeater like you would be with other laptops.

It's been a while since I dealt with anyone on a buyer/seller basis there but if you want names of the folks I dealt with I'd be glad to dig them up. But really, the community there is amazing and I don't hesitate to recommend them for one second if you're in any way ok with dealing with anyone that isn't officially Lenovo. They can also give recommendations and advice that outstrips anything you'll need (or perhaps want) to know, for me this was mostly regarding screens and types/technology and how it relates to viewing pleasure.
posted by RolandOfEld at 5:37 PM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh and I'd avoid Windows 8 like the plague. Ditto Vista. I'd even consider using something old/trusty like XP but my laptop has no trouble running Windows 7 and it's got many years and miles on it to say the least. Honestly if you're just wanting to use it as a(n?) used internet/video machine then you can probably get by with something like this that went for 200 shipped.
posted by RolandOfEld at 5:42 PM on February 3, 2015

Another option is if you live near an outlet store that sells refurbished laptops. I bought a refurb Thinkpad T61 a few years ago from Microcenter and got a chance to check it out in person. I just had a quick look and they are selling a T410 for $330 which is a good price for a tank of a laptop.
posted by Poldo at 5:49 PM on February 3, 2015

As RolandOfEld suggests, the price of proper T-series Thinkpads is way over your budget when new (because they're priced for corporate sales) but once they're a couple of years old and ex-lease or hand-me-down, they become very affordable. They are solid, repairable and upgradeable.
posted by holgate at 7:28 PM on February 3, 2015

There are a couple of sellers on eBay who buy off-lease ThinkPads, reinstall the OS and freshen things up in general, and then sell them for around $175-225. The one I am using now is in the T series and has been performing like a champ.
posted by yclipse at 7:41 PM on February 3, 2015

After lengthy consideration, I bought a refurbished Lenovo G510 last year from an Amazon retailer with a very good seller rating. Set me back over $500. It's pretty much shit.

The trackpad isn't very responsive, the strip along the edge facing you is sharp and routinely makes my wrists hurt, a key fell off the keyboard after a couple of months and now the rest of the keyboard is screwing up and I'll need to ship this piece of crap back to the manufacturer just to get the keyboard fixed. The tech support is just bad. I should say that I work from home and it's not like I was subjecting the damn thing to heavy wear and tear. It's also just heavy enough to feel bulky and uncomfortable. Reviewers on Amazon had complained about some of these things, but the reviews were good overall so I thought it'd be fine. It was not.

Not a Lenovo fan.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:46 PM on February 3, 2015

I have a lenovo X201T Thinkpad tablet pc which has held up quite well, considering it's had some severe drops.

I think the Thinkpads and high-end machines may have better build quality than the entry-level machines. Magnesium case versus plastic, better keyboard, etc.

Contrarywise, their new light tablet-variants may be robust because when you drop them, there's less force on the case and components.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:50 PM on February 3, 2015

Not a Lenovo fan.

The general feel that I got when buying is that certain lines and models were unliked/liked for various reasons but it mostly fell along the lines of what sebastienbailard said just above this,

I think the Thinkpads and high-end machines may have better build quality than the entry-level machines.

This. All the machines I've had, seen, or proxy bought for others have been T series, mostly of the older flavor and they're tanks and far and away the best laptops I've ever seen at what they do and at their [used] price points. Again, the folks on that forum will know much more than me but I'd shy away from anything not in the T or X line without doing some hard research and soul searching.

There are a couple of sellers on eBay who buy off-lease ThinkPads

I'd also very much forgo ebay (and even the lenovo outlet while we're at it) in this case because, cue broken record mode, that site's marketplace and community is just *that* good. At the very least I'd make a new account and ask them about this or that ebay seller before acting because it's not unlikely that they'll either be a member or know of the seller and have useful information for you before you pull the trigger. Ditto for them being very experienced with the Lenovo, Outlet or not, site, policies, sales, warranties and so on.

They are solid, repairable and upgradeable.

Yep, I love the fact that a layman with any degree of tools/handyness can do most anything up to and including hinge replacement, hard drive replacement, or just an annual breakdown and clean for dust or spills. The only [somewhat] common repairs I'd say might be out of the range of the average joe would be backlight replacement, because fiddly bits and fragile parts, or in-depth motherboard repair, because few people are setup for that level of tech repair anyway. And you can get parts! For decent prices! I know! I've replaced a fan and a hinge with minimal trouble and no blood, sweat, or tears. Because the knowledge base is very accessible and approachable because, /end broken record, that forum is really great.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:27 PM on February 3, 2015

I have a Lenovo T540p, off lease. When you use the Outlet, do not dally. Decide what you want, when it comes up, buy it. I tend to put things in my cart, then try to make sure there's no better deal, and then it would be gone. The cart expires fast. So it took me an extra week to get my laptop. It's in fine shape, has some quirks, and I should get rid of Win8. But it's a sturdy workhorse that meets my need to have 100 tabs open, watch a few videos, get some work done.
posted by theora55 at 9:30 PM on February 3, 2015

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