Which laptop should I buy?
November 7, 2018 8:13 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for an affordable laptop (around $1000 CAD). I normally work with Chrome and Firefox running with 5-10 tabs each, using online platforms that play video and let me add text etc.

At the same time, I have a bunch of other applications running: Microsoft Word, a PDF reader, Skype.

I also frequently design things, so I'll be looking into some offline alternative to Adobe CS, and will have to run something that is probably as heavy as CS5, concomitantly to all of the above.

Those are the machines I am looking today:

Lenovo IdeaPad 330
Acer Aspire 5 15"
Dell XPS 15 (refurbished)

I can buy online in Canada or in person in Montreal. I can wait for sales but there's this sale at BestBuy right now, and I'm not sure if I should wait for black friday which is not that a big of a deal in Canada.
posted by TheGoodBlood to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
I really need some help picking a laptop!

I don't know how those machines above compare, and I don't really fully understand their specs or if they're good enough for graphic design. Additionally, I don't know if their price point is OK, or if it's fine to buy a refurbished computer.

I am open to any suggestions for different models up to $1200 CAD (~$900 USD). I am indifferent to the design of the computer, and screen accuracy is not a priority.

Thanks :)
posted by TheGoodBlood at 9:27 AM on November 7

I'm in Canada (Victoria) and frequently look for laptop replacements.

I'd stay away from Acer.
> I think the C$1200 MSRP price point may be a little low, especially if you need more RAM and SSD space to power something like CS5
> The Surface laptop is a couple of hundred dollars extra but would likely work really well
> I've been quite satisfied with Asus, and they have a laptop at your price point on sale at Best Buy Canada
posted by JamesBay at 9:44 AM on November 7

Though the specs on the acer will do you just fine. The lcd panels they put on them are very budget, not good for editing photos or graphic design. (I like mine a lot, but not perfect.)
posted by just.good.enough at 12:31 PM on November 7

I don't really like any of the ones you linked. I'd say this one is better - the Lenovo e480 direct from Lenovo for CA$849 - the one currently on the right of the three variants. The relevant specs for you - it's got a 1920x1080 IPS display, and 512 GB SSD. The Thinkpad and Dell XPS are sort of their commercial grade series, very commonly used by corporations / multinationals and they are built to be more durable than the ones generally targeted at home users. The lower end of the market is for home use and for Lenovo it's the Ideapad (which you have linked) and for Dell it's the Inspiron. Corporations don't really use Asus. I like the commercial laptops because they're built in large volumes and you can get a pretty good price on them and they're pretty durable. I like buying direct from the manufacturer because you generally get good support from them.

There are two types of display technologies - TN and IPS. If the display type is not specified, it's usually the cheaper TN panel. Look at two displays side by side and IPS is immediately superior in terms of color and sparkle, and doesn't lose contrast when viewed off-center.

You also want a high resolution display (the Lenovo you link only has 1366x768 resolution).

An SSD nowadays is almost mandatory: it makes starting the computer, applications and opening files at least 2x faster, in some cases 4x faster.

If possible I would like to get the latest 8th Generation Intel CPU as it's roughly a 20% CPU upgrade over the 7th generation - getting it depends a bit on luck as Lenovo do many slightly different production runs of different specs at different times depending on their customers, an upgrade for $20 may or may not be possible depending on the model. They will build the laptop to order for you if they don't have it in stock, that's what they did with mine.

I also like the fact that most commercial laptops stick with Intel's integrated graphics. Since the 7th gen processor they've been more than good enough for laptop use and even light / casual gaming. Having a dedicated graphics unit in laptops used to be a marketing sales point but their performance is really obsolete and now redundant and all they do is add cost, take up room and use extra power / generate more heat.
posted by xdvesper at 1:54 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]

The folks at my work who were due an upgrade this year got the XPS 15: these laptops have become universally loathed and owners will fight to get a replacement. I've never seen a machine so hated - looks real pretty though! I have a Surface laptop which is superb and highly recommended: the Microsoft store typically does a decent discount on at least some of their Surface line products on public holidays (I got mine discounted $200 USD on Memorial Day).
posted by 7 Minutes of Madness at 7:50 AM on November 9

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