Help me pick a laptop-printer-office software combo.
August 31, 2015 5:15 PM   Subscribe

If I were to spend $400 to $500 (bargain basement, I know) on a laptop and printer/scanner, what would you suggest?

Some details on what I require:

What I will be doing with this setup

* Web surfing
* Some occasional printing of documents less than 50 pages long
* Some occasional scanning of documents less than 15 pages long
* Netflix and/or Hulu viewing
* Possibly connecting said Netflix and/or Hulu viewing to a projector
* Writing documents
* Creating spreadsheets
* Viewing photos, possibly minor photo editing
* Using USB connections
* Using it remotely and on the go

What I will not be doing with this setup

* Gaming
* Saving large amounts of music or other media files to a hard drive
* DVDs and CDs

Other considerations/questions

* I really, really hate a slow boot time. I like to fire it up and get working
* I am not good interested in Linux OS situations
* Google Docs and Open Office are not options for me as primary office applications.
* I am on the fence between needing MS Office on my computer and being open to using Office Online with a Chromebook. Can anyone relate experiences, positive or negative, with relying on Office Online?
* I don't need a huge screen and keyboard, but I also don't want a really tiny screen and keyboard.
* For the laptop, portability matters to me.
posted by kensington314 to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Let's clarify - your budget for a laptop AND a printer/scanner is $400-$500 combined?
posted by Tehhund at 6:47 PM on August 31, 2015

Correct, before taxes.

The laptop is not going to be my primary computer, and I am going to get a fairly low end ink jet scanner/printer, obviously.
posted by kensington314 at 6:57 PM on August 31, 2015

Well, here's the Wirecutter on printer/scanners, with their best inkjet model available for $80. See also this laser model, currently on sale for $100.

As for the laptop, that looks more expensive. Maybe try to go used/refurb?
posted by asperity at 7:32 PM on August 31, 2015

At that price, you're not going to be able to get something great, but Paul Thurrot liked the HP Stream 13, which retails for about $250. If it were me, though, I'd probably try to go for a refurb laptop priced around $350-400 that isn't stuck with an Atom processor, which is really where you're going to see the worst in performance. Here's a Newegg search you might use as a starting point. Or if you must have a new laptop but are willing to sacrifice a bit on processor speed, here's another search.

Also, if you're worried about slow boot times, you should look for a computer that comes with or that you can upgrade to Windows 10, which will substantially improve boot times for most users.

As for the printer, the Wirecutter recommendation already given above looks solid to me.
posted by Aleyn at 9:36 PM on August 31, 2015

If you don't want the Stream 13, I'd go with a refurb business laptop. Lenovo is always a good bet, but Dell very frequently has sales on its refurbished laptops.

That deal (if it's still valid) is 50% off $399 or more. Right at $399 is your best bet. It's a Core i5 laptop for $200. Their Grade A laptops will look basically brand new, and they come with a 90 day warranty. I'd strongly recommend buying an SSD to replace the hard drive. Performance will be way, way better with the SSD (under 20 second boot for sure). A 120GB Samsing SSD is $70 and a 240GB SSD is $100. The Windows 10 upgrade will be free. This would be a fast laptop that will do everything you're asking for not much money.
posted by cnc at 10:19 PM on August 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's worth noting that the HP stream comes with a year of Office 365 (the online version) for around $200. It includes Outlook as the mail client.

Add something like the Epson WF-3620 for $200 (or $80), and you're close to your budget.

I would not recommend a Chromebook with your needs. Chromebooks rely on Google's Cloud Print service to print, which typically adds price (they need a wired or wifi ethernet connection) and a full time net connection. It's a bit of a cludge, IMO. A windows system just needs a USB cable from laptop to printer.

Even so there are significant compromises to accept:
- Office is the online version only, and is an annual subscription deal, around $70/yr. To buy standalone office with Outlook costs around $220.
- HP is one of the vendors that festoons their new systems with trial and ad ware. This is especially true on these low end systems. This would likely be true for any Windows vendor in this price range. You'll want to run a "decrapifyer" when you get it.
- Aggravatingly, most printers are NOT sold with a usb cable. Be sure to add that to your pricing. A cable from monoprice or amazon is only a couple of bucks, but it's really annoying to wait that extra few days for it.
posted by bonehead at 9:25 AM on September 1, 2015

BTW last I looked, Hulu doesn't work directly on a Chromebook, and I can't find it in the Google Chrome store.

Also for Viewing photos, possibly minor photo editing, I'd suggest Pixlr. They have a bunch of online apps from an Instagram filter thing through to something that's close to Photoshop Elements. They have off-line versions too, but those cost money.
posted by bonehead at 9:29 AM on September 1, 2015

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