Will not a tiny *spec* blot out the glory of the world?!
September 8, 2017 9:18 AM   Subscribe

ISO sub-$1000 laptop for coding & light graphics, audio and video work. Point me, MeFi...

Ok, so I come from the Mac ecosystem but *for reasons* I just lost my top-of-the-line workhorse. I need a brand new baby like, yesterday! Open to Linux or Windows, though I'm not keen on klunky interfaces, endless configuration or a litany of bugs & advert apps. I just want to get back to work! I don't mind doing basic mods though.

What are the sweet spots for this price point? I hear the 2012 non-Retina MacBook Pro is a steal, you can soup it up nice with extra RAM and SSD. But what about Linux or Windows? Are there other Mac machines I should look at? Where do I get the best deals?

A typical use case for me is: 50 Chrome tabs, 3 text apps, Adium, MAMP, Terminal, Atom, Photoshop, Spotify, Transmission, external HD, webcam.
posted by fritillary to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I recently bought a new laptop to play games on so needed something with a bit of oomph.

I got this one (Lenovo Y50) from Newegg a few weeks ago. I'm very happy with it in terms of spec and price--it's up to you to determine if it's going to fit your needs. I use macs at work and windows (7) and chromebooks at home, and using this new machine with Windows 10 honestly hasn't pissed me off in any meaningful way. Every question I've had has been easily googlable.

The only thing I did NOT like about it was that buying things from Newegg is awful and I will never ever ever do it again.

It's not the fanciest or newest or flashiest laptop out there, but it's exactly right for my purposes. Oh, a warning though: this model is the peugeot of computers. It is VERY VERY big and heavy. Not portable.
posted by phunniemee at 9:34 AM on September 8, 2017

There's a refurbished 2012 13" MacBook Pro for same on Apple's site for $830.

If I needed a new laptop _now_, and with that budget, I'd snap that up ASAP.
posted by SansPoint at 11:45 AM on September 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

You're very like to get more hardware for your money with a non-Mac, but unless you have other reasons to do so, it doesn't seem worth the trouble to switch working environments to save a couple hundred bucks.

Windows is fine. There is a minimal amount of advertising here and there, which is annoying, but the ads are fairly subtle, so far. Windows is stable and it works. I wouldn't mess with desktop Linux unless you have a good reason to do so. It's somewhere between mildly and terribly fiddly on a desktop, depending on what you need to do.

The biggest problem with that particular Macbook is its low-resolution screen. It's definitely a downgrade compared to anything modern. I'd also put an SSD in it rather than a spinning hard drive. (I'm assuming you can do this on that machine).

Again though, the simplest thing to do is exactly what you have planned. Just buy an older model Mac.
posted by cnc at 11:57 AM on September 8, 2017

Best answer: How strictly do you have to adhere to the sub-$1K limit? The 2012 MacBook Pro is not a bad choice but it's not a particularly good one either. Yes, it's the easiest to upgrade - just pop the bottom cover off, it's pretty dead simple - and you can find 'em pretty cheap but you're also getting no Thunderbolt, a now pretty low resolution screen, a 3rd generation Core i5 chip (we're on 7th gen parts now), and a machine that is getting on to 4 years old so who knows how much longer OS X will support it. You can dump a pretty good SSD and 16GB RAM into it (like this Samsung 500GB one and this 16GB kit of RAM - these are NewEgg links because I've never had any particular issue with them but these things can be found on many other sites) but by then you're actually slightly over the limit anyway. (Though with the benefit that you can do these things later, but the prices - especially for the RAM - may actually go up.)

If you can swing the ~$200 overage, this 13" Retina system is a better deal. You can't upgrade the RAM but you can upgrade the SSD, and you're getting a 6th gen CPU (which will be way faster), an SSD out the gate, much better screen and graphics capability, Thunderbolt 3, and a thinner and lighter machine overall.

It might also be worth checking out other sites, like MacSales (OWC) and MacMall; they usually have a range of refurb/used systems available (though right now it doesn't appear that they have anything really worthwhile there at the moment?). You can still get a new 13" Air for $999 new, too; the screen sucks (it's literally the last non-retina display Apple sells) but it works and you can still hook an external to it. No upgrading on those, though, I think, except maybe the SSD.

Echoing that, if you do go Windows, Windows 10 is generally fine, I haven't had much issue with adware (but then I don't let that crap on there anyway and I tend to remove all the pack-in nonsense) and I've been pretty happy with my 14" Toshiba Satellite convertable (essentially an old version of this) that cost me all of $300. The usual Windows computer nonsense applies, though, the screen sucks (mine's more of a Macbook Air-quality affair with a useless touchscreen), the trackpad sucks but is sorta usable, the internal keyboard isn't very good, the speakers are ok, it's not especially well-built, and they lie about upgradability (it's a lot like the 2012 Macbook Pro really but Toshiba says "no upgrades for you" which is patently false). Mine lives attached to external displays, so the convertible bit is nice - I have it bent around so it stands up as a frame underneath the two real displays.
posted by mrg at 4:41 PM on September 8, 2017

I just unboxed this one from Costco. It is Windows 10, but should probably do everything you need. I don't know if $999 before tax qualifies as sub-$1,000, or if you have a Costco membership, but there is not much else out there comparable unless you add a few hundred more. Latest gen i7, 16Gb RAM, 512GB SSD plus 1TB HDD and 4K touchscreen resolution is hard to beat for a grand.
Also got the 2 day shipping for $23. Ordered late Wednesday night and arrived Friday morning.
posted by Short End Of A Wishbone at 6:45 PM on September 8, 2017

If you do go windows, the new (anniversary update) windows 10 pro comes with Linux included, (ubuntu). That's kind of nice if you need it.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 6:17 AM on September 9, 2017

The Wirecutter's laptop recommendations are a great collection of recommendations.

They include recommendations for cheap, gaming, professional, and even a category for Macs.
posted by blob at 8:54 AM on September 9, 2017

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