Find me a just-so laptop
July 6, 2016 9:47 PM   Subscribe

So I'd like a laptop that is generally not crap, has a discrete GPU, weighs 4 lbs or under (approx) and costs under $1000 (in the US). Any suggestions?

So most laptops with discrete GPUs are expensive or monstrous. Anything out there break that pattern?
posted by GuyZero to Computers & Internet (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Start with Wirecutter's reviews. Their current recommendation for an Ultrabook is the ASUS ZenBook UX305UA
posted by blob at 9:55 PM on July 6, 2016

Response by poster: Sorry to threadsit but Their current recommendation for an Ultrabook is the ASUS ZenBook UX305UA: this machine like most ultrabooks has an integrated intel GPU. Their recommended budget gaming laptop with a discrete NVIDIA GPU weighs 7 lbs. Thus my question.
posted by GuyZero at 10:01 PM on July 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

Newegg's filters will get you the category you're looking for--I've added the 4-5 pound category just because the filters break right at 4. It looks like all the ones that are actually under 4 pounds run ~$1200 and up on Newegg, but some of the 4.5 pound models might be your speed.
posted by Polycarp at 10:06 PM on July 6, 2016

Fast. Cheap. Good.
Choose any two.

discrete graphics cost money, produce more heat, and use more battery.

I can easily find you a discrete GPU laptop under $1000, but it weighs 5.3 pounds. The Acer Aspire E5-574G would fit that.

Good luck
posted by blob at 10:07 PM on July 6, 2016

If you have something like Freegeek, you might be able to find a refurbished laptop that was probably better than what you could comparably get today for a lot less. These places offer a guarantee on their work and although the gear isn't model year, your description sounds like they might fulfill your needs
posted by CollectiveMind at 10:26 PM on July 6, 2016

The high-end MacBook Pro model has discrete graphics. While it is over your budget, it almost meets your weight requirements and is generally understood by the tech crowd not to be crap (particularly in battery life). You may need to make some compromises or spend more. As another commenter points out: fast, cheap, good — pick any two.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 11:14 PM on July 6, 2016

My 15" Dell Inspiron 5000 series is ~4.75 lbs (without the PSU) and has a tolerable 4GB ATI dedicated video card and a few niceties like backlit keyboard while being easily in your price range. What is most important to you? If you're willing to go up to around 4.5 lbs, there's options, but even the widely praised XPS 15 is going to put you above 4 lbs.
posted by Candleman at 12:09 AM on July 7, 2016

You also need to consider whether your GPU is going to do anything. I am also laptop shopping at the moment, and a model that nearly hits your requirements in kg and £ would be a Lenovo Thinkpad E460. I can find a configuration that costs £520 ($680), weighs 1.9kg (4.1lb) and has an AMD R7 M360. However, that's probably not what you're looking for, because the discrete AMD chip is really feeble; the integrated Intel graphics on the CPU actually gets better benchmark results on than the discrete graphics. Is that worthwhile all the same? I don't know, but it's not likely to enable you to play graphically intensive games.
posted by Urtylug at 12:13 AM on July 7, 2016

As others have said, you're going to struggle with getting something that meets all of those requirements.

Best I can offer up is the 3.9lb Dell XPS 15 (non-touch, core i5, 8GB, 1TB HD with 2GB GeForce GTX 960M) which meets three of your requirements - but is sadly $200 over your budget at $1,199.99.
posted by mr_silver at 4:28 AM on July 7, 2016

Take a look at Sager. The build quality is lower than something like Asus or Apple, but they sell a number of variants that have decent discrete GPUs and are not horridly expensive. I don't have the model number to hand, but we identified one for a work project that was relatively small/light and had a 970M GPU, for around $1500. Not sure if this meets your criteria for "less expensive" but it was definitely cheaper than big-brand competition (which tended to be $2000+) and lighter than, say, those Asus ROG monstrosities.
posted by Alterscape at 8:06 AM on July 7, 2016

Have a look at this $749 ASUS at 4.4lbs. That price gets you an i7-6500U, 8GB DDR3 potentially maxed at 16GB, a 950M 2GB, a 256GB SSD with a removable panel for an additional 2.5" SATA drive, a full HD 15" screen, ethernet and 802.11AC, but a relatively poor 3-cell battery, so if gaming while travelling without a power source is a concern, there's your weak point there. There are several alternative configurations available over on Newegg: one, an upgrade to the resolution to 4K at $919; and two, a 1080p edition with a 960M for $849, but that one seems prone to getting hot quickly, so I'd certainly consider a cooling pad.

If budget is a concern and the weight limit is at all malleable, consider this Acer at 5.3lbs. $549 will get you an i5-6200U, 940MX 2GB, 8GB DDR4 with a max of 16, 256GB SSD with a removable panel as well, and a full HD 15" screen. $699 is a i7-6500U CPU. USB Type C to charge a fairly-large 2800mAH 6-cell battery, 802.11AC and an ethernet port, a solid webcam, a backlit keyboard. Graphics card is definitely the lower end of the spectrum, so be advised, but for day-to-day and minor gaming it could be great.
posted by a good beginning at 9:07 AM on July 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you don't give a crap if it's an older mac, i'd be hot on fire to buy like, a 2013-14(or even newer, check craigslist/offerup/etc) 15in retina macbook pro. The specs are still pretty strong. Solid nvidia graphics, haswell i7, SSD stock, and should be right around ~$800. I just almost helped a friend buy a used one for $700, but she went with the 13in model that sadly does not have a dedicated GPU which i would buy so fast if it did.

I've had my slightly older one(2012) of the same model for four years and see utterly no reason to replace it yet. The GPU can still do all the gpu-y things i'd want(plays games fine at medium settings, does video rendering stuff from premiere or whatever), the CPU is still VERY close to top of the line in performance, and the battery life is awesome. It's light and easy to pack up despite being a 15in, and built like a freaking brick. The newer ones are all those things but with more GPU power, and they run a lot cooler/quieter.

If i didn't want one of these, i'd be looking at one of the smaller razer blades for basically all the same reasons.

If you look at what most tech bloggers/vloggers are using as all-around machines, it's usually one of these two...(MKBHD, linustechtips, etc)

I would absolutely be looking exclusively at the used market though. High end machines from a year or so ago are going to stomp the crap out of upper-midrange machines in the $800-1k range. I got my 15in macbook for a bit over 1k when the exact same model was selling for over 2k, and it wasn't even an entire year old. Laptops depreciate like freaking luxury cars, and performance gains have seriously slowed down since 2012-13.
posted by emptythought at 12:50 PM on July 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

emptythought: If your mac is a Macbook Pro MD101/LL-A from mid-2012, I just bought myself one yesterday. There was a good article on why this 4yo machine is still so popular. A couple of the points is that it's upgradeable easily, not so proprietary as the newer Macs, and it has a CD/DVD slot. Both of these were important to me. The specs are good. I bought mine on ebay for $560 and it has already been upgraded with an SSD and El Capitan and comes with Microsoft Office 2016 and another suite. Newegg had one for $600, Amazon gets $900 for this model. I think it's a winner.
posted by MovableBookLady at 1:57 PM on July 7, 2016

I was just looking for something like that recently. I ended up just fixing my current laptop, but the two strongest contenders were:

1. Dell Inspiron 15 7000
$850, 6th Gen i7 6700HQ (up to 3.50 GHz), 8GB RAM 1 TB HDD, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M 4GB GDDR5, 5.67 lbs

2. ASUS RoG (this, or something like it)
$999, 6th Gen i7 6700HQ (2.60 GHz), 8 GB RAM 1 TB HDD, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M 2 GB, 4.54 lbs
posted by wym at 1:58 PM on July 7, 2016

Please disregard that ASUS I'd recommended in favor of this year's update. $799 would instead buy a 960M and 512GB of SSD with 8GB of DDR4, now. Weight's apparently the same. This is a tempting discovery for me; I think it's nearly a sweet spot.
posted by a good beginning at 2:43 PM on July 7, 2016

I can't recommend a specific model, but keep in mind that depending on your comfort level and the ease of getting inside any particular laptop model you can shave off a considerable amount of money by buying the cheapest stock RAM and hard drive available and then upgrading using third-party manufacturers. Also, many laptop manufacturers and model lines have fan communities (especially subreddits) and you can often find discount codes floating around. I saved nearly $700 on my ThinkPad T460 by doing this. No discrete graphics available for it, though.
posted by schroedinger at 6:25 AM on July 8, 2016

Seconding emptythought- get a used MacBook Pro. I picked up a 2014 15" MacBook Pro on Craigslist for $1100 (SF Bay Area). It meets most of your requirements.
posted by guster4lovers at 9:59 AM on July 8, 2016

One caveat, a separate GPU may mean heat issues. The reason so many gaming laptops are heavy is the cooling system. The newest systems may be better, but at least with the high end systems, there are still heat problems. Definitely check reviews for heat issues before buying your laptop (and if you find one that does heat well, go for it).
posted by Hactar at 12:56 PM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: So for future searchers: The Samsung Notebook 7 Spin. Apparently under a grand, but on the heavy side.
posted by GuyZero at 3:55 PM on July 13, 2016

Response by poster: So again for future searchers: I got the 15" Samsung Notebook 7 Spin which is a bit heavier but still a pretty reasonable weight - it feels about the same as an older Macbook Pro although it's a bit heavier on paper. The different sizes makes them feel different. The thermals on it seem pretty good - my son ran a few hours of Skyrim and it's didn't start to melt anything. And list price was $999. And it can accept a SATA SSD apparently. It is still pretty huge compared to the 13" Macbook Air I use every day but otherwise it seems like a solid buy. It has a 940MX which seems more capable than I would have predicted.

Thanks for everyone who chimed in - I looked at all of the suggested models but this just came out a week ago so seemed like a good purchase.
posted by GuyZero at 9:40 AM on July 18, 2016

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