I have some questions about buying a student laptop
September 23, 2020 1:12 PM   Subscribe

I would like to have some recommendations for a laptop between $400 and $700. The main thing I am struggling with is choosing between Ryzen 5 based Idealabs and i5 based laptops. Some details inside.

My sixth grader is now going to a virtual school; he mainly needs good audio/video/zoom performance, persistent Internet connection to work on Google docs/Canvas and a decent keyboard. Would like to future proof it for 2-3 years, if possible.

- Is one better than the other (Ryzen versus Intel) for this kind of use? Ryzen 5 based laptops seem to have better configuration. I grew up on an Intel based world and would love to have some insights.

- Lenovo has a number of Idealab choices in this price range. I read this thread; the feedback seems largely good. I have never used any Idealab laptop and would appreciate some inputs (Although, I have been using Lenovo Thinkpads at work for several years .. )

Any other recommendations?

Thank you very much for your help!
posted by justlooking to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
My understanding is that AMD tends to have better bang for the buck, while doing slightly worse in specific benchmarks. Given that, I'd say the CPU choice isn't as important as the amount of memory and the overall quality of the laptop.
posted by Anonymous Function at 1:26 PM on September 23, 2020

Best answer: I'm a big fan of used Lenovo Thinkpads. They are business-class machines, meaning they have better components, are easier to repair, are repairable if it comes to that, well-documented. I have bought more than a few on ebay, newegg, local craigslist. Companies lease them for 1 - 3 years, then return them, and most go to resellers who reinstall the Operating System and turn them over promptly.
posted by theora55 at 1:44 PM on September 23, 2020 [7 favorites]

The newest Ryzen processors perform as well or better than the current Intel counterparts (and have better integrated graphics), but CPU as a whole shouldn't matter. I have an Ideapad 5 for general home use and it's great. You may want to consider a Yoga Chromebook as well.

Seconding refurbished Thinkpads as an option.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 1:47 PM on September 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Seconding Thirding ThinkPad recommendation, and adding that they are very cheap on ebay, considering the quality of the laptops and the specs you get. There are numerous vendors that seems to specialize in selling the refurbished ThinkPads, so just be sure to go with one that has many positive reviews, and a good return policy in case something goes wrong.

The only issue I had with one that I purchased was that it ran a bit warmer than normal when doing video-intensive things. It wouldn't have likely been an issue, even if I didn't address it, but I did a quick search on the thinkpad subreddit, found out that it was the thermal paste and easily replaced it. In general, you can find documentation on how to fix almost any component in a ThinkPad very easily, and tons of people online willing to help out. However, as you requested, you should get at least 2-3 years out of a ThinkPad without issues. The low cost and high availability on resale sites also makes the eventual replacement hurt less.

I'm currently using my T450s, which I think I purchased around $230 over a year ago, and is my favorite laptop I've owned.
posted by unid41 at 2:57 PM on September 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have the Ideapad Flex 5 with the Ryzen processor and like it a lot. When I was researching it a few months ago, people seemed to unanimously feel that the Ryzen processor was both faster and more future proof.

I've been happy with the speed and build quality, including the keyboard. Only con I've found is that the webcam is kinda cheap; it works fine but the video is a little grainier than others that I've used and same for the audio quality.
posted by geegollygosh at 2:59 PM on September 23, 2020

Best answer: Another vote for a refurbed Thinkpad. You'll get a lot more bang for your buck and pay the same as you would for a new Ideapad. I have used Thinkpads for 15 years and have been buying refurbed ex-business machines as suggested above for over half that time. I've also bought Ideapads for family members and found them much less hard-wearing and durable.
posted by Chairboy at 3:47 PM on September 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'll nth a used ThinkPad. I'm typing on one now, and it beats the pants off the Toshiba it replaced.
posted by kathrynm at 3:52 PM on September 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you very much!!

I am digging into Lenovo Thinkpad choices on their outlet site and eBay right now.

I am a Thinkpad user at work and yes, other than a general tendency to get heated up (with the current Carbon1 version), I have good experience with them. Wasnt originally thinking of refurb models ....
posted by justlooking at 6:22 PM on September 23, 2020

ask your workplace what they do with off-lease gear, worth a shot.
posted by theora55 at 7:12 AM on September 24, 2020

Response by poster: Hi all, we ended up buying a Thinkpad. My son is veyr happy with the huge difference in performance and connection quality. Much appreciate everyone's inputs here.
posted by justlooking at 5:23 PM on December 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

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