Affordable small modern laptop for a teacher?
November 25, 2018 11:51 AM   Subscribe

New laptop needed, budget £500 or less, for teaching work and some video viewing - but certainly not heavy gaming! Strangely, there seems to be a bit of a gap in the market for compact machines with a screen smaller than 15 inch between the really cheap netbooks (too unreliable in my experience) and the better-specced machines which only start upwards of £750.

Weirdly, several 2-in-1 machines or computers with a 360 degree flip screen are available in this price range but I'm actually just looking for an ordinary laptop which - theoretically - should be both cheaper and more robust. Does such a creature, preferably from a reputable maker, actually exist?

I have been googling this for over an hour now, and am disappointed to find neither market test reviews nor distributors sites are actually much help. The last time this type of question was asked here on MeFi is quite a few years ago, too.

I've also checked some sites (including Apple) for refurbished products but good machines seem to be reduced only about 10 percent in price cf. new - or are way too old - and that's still out of my budget/comfort zone.

Any up-to-date and knowledgeable comments would be much appreciated!
posted by kairab to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: This is actually meant to be a gift for our daughter whose laptop has given up the ghost ... bonus points if we can have it shipped to Madrid ASAP.
posted by kairab at 11:55 AM on November 25, 2018

I don't have a specific recommendation, but I would recommend looking on NewEgg. It has a really good filtering system so you can pick the exact specs you want and see what you get. I find the reviews and ratings on this site are quite helpful as well. When I'm purchasing computer-related stuff, I always buy on NewEgg rather than Amazon. (I linked the UK site, but there's one for Spain as well.)
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:02 PM on November 25, 2018

Will the teaching work involve using A/V setups, either in classrooms or at conferences? If so, you'll want to make sure your choice has sufficient ports of the right type(s). HDMI is increasingly standard, but a surprising number of academic institutions still run on VGA, so you'll want to make sure the machine meets her needs and that she has any and all necessary adapters. (And remembering to bring the correct adapter(s) can be a pain, the adapters can go bad/get lost or forgotten/be a pain to replace -- as a teacher, ports are often my bane.)
posted by halation at 12:20 PM on November 25, 2018

I've had 2 cheap Chromebooks in the past 6 years and have been extremely pleased with both of them, fwiw.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 12:40 PM on November 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

Have you looked at Wirecutter? They have pages for Best Laptop Under $500 (which recommends an Asus thing as its top non-Chromebook), or if you can stretch to £700, the budget pick for the their favorite Ultrabook may be worth it.
posted by caek at 1:21 PM on November 25, 2018

If most/all of the work is done online, I would recommend a Chromebook. $500 will get you a very good mid-range Chromebook, with fewer hassles than running Windows or Linux. You can get an "acceptable" one for less then $200 now.
posted by meowzilla at 1:31 PM on November 25, 2018

Hi. You should buy this. It has SSD, which is amazing all day every day and 20x faster than the old harddrives. The tablet mode is lovely for watching movies and stuff, but if you don't want to use it, you don't need to -- literally just don't flip the lid back.

I am sitting next to one of these right now, and typing on the next model up. We buy nothing but Yogas now and they are so, so great.

(You can add more RAM; I think my husband did. It's cheap and easy if needed.)
posted by DarlingBri at 2:35 PM on November 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

You aren't going to find a retail Mac at your hoped-for price range. You may find a used one on Kijiji or Craigslist or eBay or something like that, but that comes with the usual worries.

If you want to get your daughter a laptop in Madrid, the fastest way is to order from a store in Spain. has a variety of models in their Cyber Monday sale, with most arriving by 30 November. Also see FNAC.

In this range, the Dell Vostro 3568 seems to be okay. It has 8gb of RAM, and 256gb SSD. (Get SSD, not rotating disks.)

Note that if you purchase it in Spain, you'll have a Spanish keyboard. If she wants a UK keyboard, you'll need to purchase it in the UK, hopefully by finding a store which will ship to Spain. has a variety of laptops available and will ship to Spain.
posted by blob at 3:48 PM on November 25, 2018

Regarding the the need for adapters - my organisation is between connection standards and shall we say - it’s a mess. But one that can be dealt with with something like this. I now have one at home on my desk and one in my laptop bag.

If she can touch type the country keyboard thing is less of a concern. You can set up more than one keyboard language and switch as required.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:16 PM on November 25, 2018

Response by poster: Thanks folks, many good pointers in the above, will decide in the next day or two and a flip machine like the yoga line does seem to be in the mix. We have the same issues with adapters on my fairly new MacBook which only has a single USB-C port (which is at the same time the charging port) - simply crazy! I knew I could depend on fellow MeFites to ride to the rescue ... thanks!
posted by kairab at 10:11 PM on November 25, 2018

Depending on her needs, I'd go with a decent Chromebook (the really cheap ones have bad keyboards, but otherwise even those are fine for typical Google Apps/web usage.

A used T series Thinkpad might be a good alternative since they're common, relatively reliable, and easy to repair/find a competent person to repair. Urgency would favor buying new unless you happen to know someone selling theirs or you know of a good used computer shop nearby that sells laptops they have refurbished in house.
posted by wierdo at 12:19 AM on November 26, 2018

Seconding NewEgg for a place to filter and buy.

I'm a teacher and the school-provided IBM laptop just doesn't cut it for me, so I bought my own! I got a Lenovo Flex 14 (similar to DarlingBri's recommendation). It has a small but perfectly fine 128GB SSD, 1 HDMI output for the smart board in my classroom, 2 USB regular ports and 1 USB-C so it's future-proof. The only drawback is the i3 processor; it's kind of weak. The flippy touch screen is pretty cool though I barely use it. Things I specifically wanted that led me to this purchase: no DVD/CD drive, light, SSD hard drive for energy efficiency, HDMI/USB/memory card reader, and the battery lasts a long time, maybe 5-6 hours of regular use, new (not refurbished), 802.11 a/c, bluetooth, and a backlit keyboard.

I've found that the 2-in-1s as they are called are much better deals. This one was $500 at Costco, a kind of membership wholesale place. I'm not sure about the equivalent in Europe or the UK. I'm looking at returning it for a better Cyber Week deal, but the upgrade to 256GB and an i5 processor is still around $600, a little more.

The size is amazing. It's really light and fits in my briefcase easily, much better than my old 15.6inch huge laptop. Get one!
posted by Snowishberlin at 11:22 AM on November 26, 2018

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