How do I EXCEL at a used "Laptop" Purchase?
November 24, 2020 7:08 AM   Subscribe

Hey guys, I am struggling with a laptop purchase. I tend to be a power user of machines by having lots of apps running and doing multiple things at a time. I have a MacBook Pro 2015 15" with 16gb of ram. However, running windows with 8gb and another 8gb on mac just doesn't cut it. Excel (on Windows) is slow to respond at times depending on usage of the system.

I need a used laptop machine that I can keep hooked up to an external monitor, yet have it be portable to do work if needed. Something that can be okay with my speed or usage of Excel while running a few other apps. I don't plan to do any video editing on that machine.

Snowflake part here:
What will follow is that once I use excel that much, I will want to use OneDrive as well and access and do other kinds of work on it. So, I need something that can be somewhat of a power horse but again no video editing.

I am thinking
Ram:16gb of ram at the lease
SSD:256gb at least
Processor minimum i5, minimum 7th gen? This is where I get lost....

Price point maybe 350 AT MOST.
posted by iNfo.Pump to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
Note, I am looking for a windows laptop.
posted by iNfo.Pump at 7:09 AM on November 24, 2020

I would get a used Thinkpad. At that price point you might have to buy & swap in RAM and/or a bigger SSD yourself (or add an SSD, depending on the machine--some can handle an additional drive in the right configuration) but that's not hard with Thinkpads.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:23 AM on November 24, 2020 [4 favorites]

@need_more_cowbell - which thinkpad though? :)
posted by iNfo.Pump at 7:25 AM on November 24, 2020

"Somewhat of a workhorse" and "$350 USD max" are not really compatible. My gut says that if you're not happy with a 2015 Macbook Pro with 16gb of RAM, you are unlikely to be happy with any other laptop you can buy for $350 today. Processors are faster, but I don't think so fast that the budget shitbox category will compete with even a 5-year-old MBP. You're going to be looking at used options, and even then, as needs more cowbell says, you are likely to need to set aside cash to upgrade.

It sounds like you are running Windows apps via Parallels or another VM solution, since you mention "8gb for MacOS and 8Gb for Windows." Have you looked into booting direct into Windows instead? Do you already have an SSD? I think MBPs were SSD-only by 2015; if not, OtherWorldComputing used to sell SSD upgrade kits, and those might be worth looking at.
posted by Alterscape at 7:33 AM on November 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've been casually shopping around for a used replacement for my own laptop with a similar budget recently. In that price range I think the max you'll be able to get if you shop around is a T470 or X270 or maybe maybe T480/X280 if you get lucky. The T4XX line is 14", X2xx line is 12". There's also sometimes T5XX, which is 15" and sometimes these are actually cheaper because they're less portable and tend to have less-good displays.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:09 AM on November 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

@Alterscape - I am looking to "add" another machine to run windows side by side my mac.

Yes, I have tried booting directly and enjoy it but my task management is managed using Omnifocus which is a mac only app and I prefer other Mac Apps.

And, used should meet that category of budget and workhorse because I am focusing on "used".

And, yes on SSD and have upgraded the same.
posted by iNfo.Pump at 8:33 AM on November 24, 2020

I've been doing a lot of laptop shopping this year and what you want may be a unicorn unless you're willing to roll the dice on a potential scam "used" from a private seller rather than a refurbished unit from probably-not-a-scam rebuilders.

I would recommend not getting too fixated on a specific model, but decide your priorities in terms of specs (for me that would be RAM, I'd want 16 upgradeable to 32, but you almost only find those on i7 and up machines, and I don't think you're getting anywhere close to your budget on an i7, and even an i5 will be tough). The market is extremely depleted thanks to lockdown, nobody is dumping unwanted product because it's all extremely wanted. This year I've bought a mid-grade laptop (i5) and a mid-grade desktop (i7, last December before covid), both refurbs, both around $700.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:23 AM on November 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

@Lyn_Never - Thank you for the input - that is a very good point, covid inflated prices but with the economy being down - it makes sense.
posted by iNfo.Pump at 10:19 AM on November 24, 2020

For $350 at most in the COVID era (sucks,sorry) you can get a Lenovo T450 with the SSD you want off eBay, and a large enough set of dimms from another seller to get there. But ebay is ebay , and you'd want to do your research.

You might just find a t460 or a t450 with enough ram. Maybe.
posted by wotsac at 11:41 AM on November 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

I got a used Thinkpad W541 (paid more than you specified, sorry), and I think it fits your requirements. Maybe include that in your search, just in case you find a bargain.
posted by amtho at 12:09 PM on November 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

A couple of things--
If you're primarily a windows user, absolutely use Bootcamp instead of Parallels, so you can use nearly all of that 16GB for Windows. (Windows will dedicate a piece of that to video memory, I believe.)

Second: SSD replacement. I just replaced my SSD in my MacBook Pro late-2013, which is excellent hardware for running Windows on. What I learned is that SSDs in Apple are not standard with the rest of the world (to nobody's surprise). The connector of each SSD is about an inch wide and has a notch (called a key) in it somewhere. The Apple SSDs appear to be called 12/16, meaning there's room for 12 contacts, the key, and then 16 contacts. However, most off-the-shelf NVMe SSDs (the kind that you can use in a MB or MBP) you'd buy using the much wider M.2 standard have something like 5 contacts, a key, and then 29 contacts, and this key is called M-key. (yes, there's a disparity in the number of contacts but it's not a problem that needs worrying)

So, you need a converter, which is thankfully cheap. Here's the one I bought, but while it's no longer available, there are many like it. Don't worry, it'll fit in there without messing with the length.

And you'd probably want to pick up a cheap toolkit for Mac like this one Which has the Torx 5, Torx 6, and Pentalobe 5 (T5, T6, P5) screwdrivers that you're likely to need for the operation. Replacement Macbook screws can also be purchased from Amazon, if needed.
posted by Sunburnt at 12:15 PM on November 24, 2020

If you're not going for a used ThinkPad, I have sa leftfield answer: cloud-hosted runtime for some of your heavy lifting, many years of work available remotely for less than $350.
posted by k3ninho at 1:45 PM on November 24, 2020

I'm on Team Used Thinkpad. I've bought a few on ebay and local Craigslist. The worst I've experienced is one that has a wonky fan. Instead of returning it, seller gave me a rebate; it has worked well for several years; I occasionally have to pull the keyboard (easy) and give the fan a nudge; okay for a 75US laptop. Really large and complex spreadsheets can take time to process, buy the most processor you can, bump the RAM to 16.
posted by theora55 at 2:15 PM on November 24, 2020

@k3ninho - how do I do that?
posted by iNfo.Pump at 10:38 AM on November 25, 2020

I'll add to the used ThinkPad chorus. I have a T440p that I got refurbed from MicroCenter about a year ago. Might be worth looking at their site.
posted by kathrynm at 5:08 PM on November 25, 2020

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