Help me replace my work laptop - on BUDGET
December 11, 2021 5:50 PM   Subscribe

My job is ending at year end, and I just learned I'll have to return their laptop. I'm currently using their Lenova Thinkpad using Windows 10 Pro with the Windows Feature Experience Pack. If I had the funds, I would simple type the specs into Google and get another one just like I'm using. However, I don't have the money [It looks to be $1000+] or the technical know how to understand where I can cut corners, and have it still be useful for finding and doing full-time remote work without access to tech support.

The specs/and installed software on the computer I'm replacing:

The processor is Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-8565U CPU @ 1.80GHz 1.99 GHz with 16.0 GB Installed RAM. The system type is 64-bit operating system, x64-based processor.

Adobe AcrobatDC
Box Drive
Cisco AnyConnect [VPN connection?]

I typically do document processing using Word and Adobe, reports in Excel and Powerpoint, scheduling and email in Outlook, document retention in Box and Box Drive, and meetings in slack and Zoom. I access remote drives using Cisco AnyConnect.

I cannot emphasize how very much I do not understand the hardware side of things. I legit just copied the specs from the about screen and that's just about my depth of understanding.

Can you please point me to similar laptop computers for sale and how/where to get the software I need on a budget? Is this remotely doable for under $1500?

[I'm used to PC's and don't want to switch operating systems, and I do not have room for a desktop]

Thank you so much for wading through all this and I appreciate any help you can offer!
posted by Space Kitty to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I just got this for my father from Costco for $650 inc tax and shipping. It's an i5 processor, but honestly for your usage it'll be plenty. Same amount of ram and a hefty SSD harddrive.
posted by pyro979 at 6:07 PM on December 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

If you choose something else and want to run it past someone for a sanity check, drop me a PM.
posted by pyro979 at 6:08 PM on December 11, 2021 [3 favorites]


These are all going to be part of Office 365 (recently renamed Microsoft 365, and includes more than just Office), which is a yearly subscription. You may be able to get it free for a year with some purchases, and it looks like it is about $70 per year right now for one person. If you are working with a different group, you may have to use Teams and that is included with 365.
posted by soelo at 6:10 PM on December 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

By the by when my friends previous job ended recently they said "Send the laptop back" and she replied "Sure thing. Please provide me an appropriate shipping box as I don't have one." and they never sent it. She still has the laptop.
posted by bleep at 6:19 PM on December 11, 2021 [15 favorites]

You can get a decent laptop that will meet your needs for about $700, give or take depending on models and sales. The three main specs I would pay attention to are:

RAM (memory): This is how much data your computer can make use of at once. I would try to get 16 GB, and not less then 8 GB.

Hard Drive Size: this is the permanent storage on the computer. It shows how much space you have for programs and files you save. I would aim for at least 500 GB. I wouldn't go below 256. If possible, you want a SSD (solid state drive). These are faster and have no moving parts, but cost a bit more, so tend to come in smaller sizes. I would pick a traditional (non SSD) drive with more space over a 128 GB SSD.

Screen Size: Larger screens tend to add cost, but you can't upgrade that later (without buying an external monitor) so pick something with a screen you are comfortable with.

Keep in mind that Office and Adobe won't come with the computer and will have their own costs(unless an employer provides them). You can get an office subscription for a small monthly / annual cost. I'm not sure about adobe pricing.

On preview, the model pyro979 shared looks like a good example of what I had in mind.
posted by nalyd at 6:25 PM on December 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: That's what I've been hoping for, bleep - but they said it's still under warranty and are tracking it in inventory...
posted by Space Kitty at 6:31 PM on December 11, 2021

Also, some companies just send you the shipping box!

You could ask if they have a depreciated cost they would sell it to you for. Probably they'd disable the Microsoft subscription software immediately, note -- ask about that if you do consider this.
posted by clew at 6:50 PM on December 11, 2021 [6 favorites]

If you are okay with refurbished, (an Amazon company) has a ton of laptops, usually business returns and refurbs, for fairly decent prices.

Example: HP 17.3" refurb with i5-1135G7 CPU, 12GB RAM, 512GB SSD, $599.99

NOTE: You can find the exact model number in a label under the laptop. It'd be in TINY print though. THEN we can look up the exact model and specs.
posted by kschang at 7:52 PM on December 11, 2021

For about the last ten years, including getting a couple of daughters through college, my go-to recommendation has been to buy Lenovo laptops on eBay, usually for around $200. These are typically computers that were leased for 2-3 years, and are now being sold in the secondary market. Lenovos are workhorses, and will probably last several years after you buy them.
posted by yclipse at 8:43 PM on December 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

There are loads of ex-lease business laptops on eBay, maybe three years old, and easily good for another three to five, likely even more. I'm typing this on an 11 year old ThinkPad X201s, and there are even older ones in regular use here. Disks were replaced by SSDs as they all came with conventional hard disks, and most wanted new batteries after a few years, but that was about it.
The steps to get a close replacement for the one you're using is to, as you did, note the hardware specs, including screen size and resolution. Say yours is a T14 or T15, those series numbers indicate the screen size. Then look up their predecessors here (unfortunately, the English-language site appears not to have such a table), and note the numbers for the rightmost and next-rightmost models. With those model numbers go over to eBay and find the vendors selling ex-lease refurbs; those will generally have a dozen or more of a particular model (although not all with the same exact specs, so check that against your notes) and graded by usage state: near-perfect, some cosmetic damage (scuffed, scratches on the outside), or signs of heavier use (chipped corners and other case damage, scratches on screen), with prices to match.

This can buy you a very close replacement for seriously less than the price of a new one.
posted by Stoneshop at 4:38 AM on December 12, 2021 [3 favorites]

On your Thinkpad, probably at the base of the screen on the right, there's a model number; that would be useful to have; maybe you could post it?
posted by theora55 at 5:47 AM on December 12, 2021

Response by poster: This is so helpful, everyone thank you so much.

Additional info:

Lenovo 7th Generation X1 Carbon
Carbon Fiber + Magnesium Chassis
Dolby Atmos Speaker System
Intel Core i7
8th Gen

I don't see a model number anywhere.
posted by Space Kitty at 3:32 PM on December 12, 2021

If you want to get the same model and don't mind used, search "Lenovo 7th Generation X1 Carbon" on ebay, you will get many offers for under $1000. They may vary in certain specs, but X1 Carbons are all pretty much the high end line so will have generally good specs.
posted by roaring beast at 5:58 PM on December 12, 2021

That TP number is the model number. That links to a discontinued item on Lenovo website.

Comparable machines on Lenovo's website with more recent CPUs, starts at 1332 and 1401 USD respectively.

Your model is pretty loaded and a "renewed" one on Amazon is $1298.

You can find it cheaper on eBay, but anything cheaper will likely to be lower-spec'ed. Here's a pretty low-spec one (only 256GB SSD, i5 CPU, and 8GB RAM) for $594.

If you want to check what's in your PC, download "speccy" from and run it. It will tell you more about your hardware in detail than you need to know (how much RAM, how big HD, what type of CPU, etc.). It's from maker of popular CCleaner and is safe.
posted by kschang at 1:46 AM on December 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

How old is the machine? I would definitely ask your company if you can buy it from them at the depreciated price. I have a coworker who left our company after 4 years and she was able to buy her laptop for $100.
posted by radioamy at 4:59 PM on December 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I have absolutely offered to buy the computer, but they said it's under warranty and won't sell it to me. *sigh*
posted by Space Kitty at 9:12 AM on December 14, 2021

The i5 version I linked earlier should run the software you listed fine. Probably not as fast, but should be quite workable for the price. And it should feel the same as it is essentially the same machine with slightly different guts.
posted by kschang at 2:50 PM on December 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Don't worry, it is way more than "remotely doable," even at half your $1500 limit. Computer hardware advances extremely rapidly, and a new machine for half the price will likely significantly outperform the one you are using. The only thing you might be giving up is the "feel" of the keyboard, or a pound or so of weight, or other (probably trivial, considering your use and priorities) luxuries. I would recommend just hopping on and getting something like

Honestly though, it sounds like almost any computer manufactured in the last decade will suit your needs, as you are not doing anything resource-intensive. If budget is your #1 concern, you will likely be fine even if you ended up grabbing the cheapest laptop at your local computer shop or Walmart. Alternatively, if you have a computer-savy friend, or are willing to remove about 4 screws and plug in 2 cables and follow some prompts, you can grab a $50-$200 used laptop or desktop that would be more than enough. I wouldn't stress about it too much. Larger price tags will just get you stuff that is not worth the cash for your situation, like a dedicated graphics card or an ultra leightweight chassis.

You will likely have to pay a couple hundred bucks per year for a subscription to the software you listed from Microsoft and Adobe (after a quick Google search, looks like $15/mo from Adobe and somewhere from $5 to $12.50 per month from Microsoft).

I can give more recommendations with more info, exact budget, wants, etc, but the gist is that a potato will run the software you need, so getting up and running at your budget is no problem.
posted by hypercomplexsimplicity at 5:25 PM on December 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

They are business-class, use better quality components, are made to be repairable and upgrade-able. Businesses lease fleets of them, return them after a few years, resellers buy them up, wipe the drive, reinstall the operating system, sell on ebay or newegg. There is a failure risk, but equipment built for commercial sales has a lower failure rate.

Used Thinkpad Buyer's Guide. It's outdated; I would not consider anything under T450 or T550, so ignore the recommendations for cheap options. Laptopcloseout and woot get recommended here.

The Thinkpad T series is a workhouse and I recommend them, T460 and above. T is the series, 4 indicates 14" (diagonally measured) screen, 60 is the level. I presently use a T440, so 14" screen and a bit older, and it was doing well until the last couple Windows upgrades. Now it gets unhappy with too many tabs open. Of my used Thinkpads, several have had pretty good battery life, current one has @ 1 hr 45. Most Thinkpads have some form of keyboard light, and it is so nice to have. So Nice.
Some laptops don't have a CD; look for Optical drive if you must have one; external options exist.

Stoneshop likes the X series; I have no disagreement, just haven't used them. I suspect it's a nicer machine overall, may look into that if I see one.
Upgrading RAM on a laptop is not hard. No, really, I have walked many people though this, so if you find an okay laptop that's low on RAM, you can upgrade it for @ 60US. It requires a little screwdriver. (I will help by videochat or phone if needed)
Laptop batteries are a consumable item. No one tests them other than as functional.
Some ebay sellers list machines as A, B, C grade.
Older laptops have SATA hard drives, which are slower. Newer SSD drives are way faster.
The Goodwill (thrift) in my area sometimes has laptops with no Windows license; make sure you get a license for Win10.
Get Windows Pro, not Home edition.
If a laptop says the BIOS or UEFI is locked, Hard Pass.
Processors are likely Intel Core i3, i5, i7, in ascending order of speed/competence. I've had the best performance from Intel laptops.
You want at least 8 gb RAM for general use, many will have 4, budget for the upgrade

So, you're comparing: model, screen size, processor, RAM, then the details.
Some examples of laptops that might work for you, based on quick perusal.
posted by theora55 at 6:10 PM on December 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

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