Laptop recommendations
July 8, 2024 12:08 PM   Subscribe

Hi. My apologies in advance if someone else has recently asked a similar question, because I searched and didn't find one. Anyway, I'd like to get a laptop for my mom, and feel a bit overwhelmed by the different options, particularly since I'm not very tech-savvy. I'm therefore hoping to get some recommendations based on the following criteria:

-She's elderly, and even less tech-savvy than I am. I'm therefore not looking for anything especially cutting edge, so much as something which, ideally, is fairly user-friendly.

-I'd like it to have as large a monitor as reasonably possible – I'm thinking 17 inches.

-I've ruled out Macs and Lenovos.

-I'm looking for something reliable that isn't likely to crap out on her anytime soon, i.e. bonus points if you use something which has provided reliable, hassle-free service for a number of years.
posted by DavidfromBA to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I know you've ruled out Macs and I'm curious if there was a particular reason. I have found that Macs work well for my mom who isn't very tech savvy. They last a long time (her previous Mac lasted almost 8-9 years before needing to be replaced) are simpler and straightforward to use when compared to Windows, more secure, and come in a variety of screen sizes.

Chromebooks could be an option, but I haven't had any personal experience with them.
posted by starpoint at 12:27 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


Chromebooks are generally really good options for not-savvy users, unless she needs to run some specific software that doesn't play well with ChromeOS. They're also generally still quite affordable even at the highest end of the display ranges.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:33 PM on July 8


Response by poster: @starpoint: Thank you for your suggestion. I guess I'm just leery about it seeing as I used to have one, and was underwhelmed by it, i.e. I didn't feel it lived up to the hype in terms of supposedly being intuitive and hassle-free. Plus I'm not sure that the heftier price tag is necessarily justified. That being said, 8 to 9 years is fairly compelling...
posted by DavidfromBA at 12:35 PM on July 8


>@starpoint: Thank you for your suggestion. I guess I'm just leery about it seeing as I used to have one, and was underwhelmed by it, i.e. I didn't feel it lived up to the hype in terms of supposedly being intuitive and hassle-free. Plus I'm not sure that the heftier price tag is necessarily justified. That being said, 8 to 9 years is fairly compelling...

Yes there is still a learning curve with a mac and all computers will come with at least some hassles. But overall my mom has done well on a Mac. YMMV about longevity but I've managed to get a lot of good years out of all of my macs with good maintenance (although sometimes that involves luck as I've had some computers that have needed faulty parts to be replaced). You're right about the price tag though. Chromebook might be worth looking at too since they are even more simple and straightforward from Macs, based on what I have heard.
posted by starpoint at 12:39 PM on July 8


Response by poster: Thank you @Lyn Never + @starpoint. I hadn't looked into Chromebook, but will now be looking into it.
posted by DavidfromBA at 12:44 PM on July 8


I think a Chromebook would work, maybe the Acer Chromebook Plus 515?

Note that a Chromebook ties your laptop to a Google account(s), only a problem she doesn't use Google services. And without a Mac she won't be able to use Apple-only services like iMessage and Facetime. But she'll be able to use the web and run Android apps.

Also make sure she's comfortable with similar sized keyboards and trackpads. A tablet like the iPad might be better fit for some folks.
posted by credulous at 1:19 PM on July 8


A MacBook Air will, out of the box, go for days of use on a single charge. Odds are it will be supported by Apple for the next 8-10 years. Starting at $1,200 (13", M3, 16GB RAM), it is not cheap and the screen tops out at 15" for an extra $200 or so. You can always set it up to cast to a nearly TV that supports AirPlay if you want to supersize the display. If portability is not needed, a 24" iMac is an option (Starting at $1,500 for an M3, 16GB). Just make sure it is an Apple Silicon based system (M1/M2/M3 chip) for long term support. This is also great if she already has an iPhone or the rest of the family love their blue message boxes Thinking of long term use, I recommend skipping the base 8GB models and getting one with at least 12 or 16GB.

A chromebook is great if she just needs a web browser. Automatic patching, no local data so if it dies you just get another one, etc, etc. Google now advertises 10 years of support from when the particular model was released (not when you bought it), so get one that is relatively new and you will be good to go for a long time. Like the Macbook, you can use ChromeCast to have the screen projected on a nearby TV. Prices range from $200 and up and $400 gets you a decent model. Battery life is often directly proportional to how much you pay. But the best thing is that they are dirt cheap and easy to use compared to just about every other option out there.

A PC is the low cost default we all know and love to hate. Good if you you need to run PC only apps. You have lots of options from various manufacturers. Long term support can be hit or miss depending on where you are in the Microsoft OS lifecycle (rip 7th gen intel system). Battery life is often poor, especially on the low end.

One final note: 17" laptops tend to be heavy and power hungry. I tend to avoid them unless I really need large screen portability.

Personally, my parents have a chromebook so I don't have to think about supporting them. I have a MacBook Air for general portable working (and a Mac Studio desktop for development.)
posted by SegFaultCoreDump at 1:29 PM on July 8


Response by poster: @credulous: Good to know, thanks. She does indeed have a Google account, though she seldom uses it. I don't suppose that's an insurmountable obstacle, however. As for iPads, I hesitate to get anything which doesn't come with a "traditional", full-sized keyboard. She's a good typist on those, since they're not so radically different from the typewriters she learned to type on many years ago in terms of layout.

I can't picture her using iMessage or FaceTime. Her computer needs are very basic: emailing, news stories, occasional shopping, crossword puzzles + Solitaire, etc.
posted by DavidfromBA at 1:31 PM on July 8


Hi-perhaps this site can help you :-)
posted by LOOKING at 2:08 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


For her needs, I strongly recommend an iPad with a keyboard. They require a bit of learning how to use the iOS, but they are so much easier to use than most desktop computers. And they won't come with too much bloatware (there are a bunch of apple programs pre-loaded, but they're easily deleted). You can use the Apple keyboard linked above, or find any variety of 3rd-party ones. She can use it as touch screen on her lap, or set it on a table when she needs to type more. A Pencil or stylus can help with the touchscreen too.

You can get a refurbished ipad for $399, and it will last much longer than most chromebooks. Apple offers a variety of 'learn how to use this ipad' videos too, for an easier transition. If she doesn't have an apple id, though, she'll need to set one up.
posted by hydra77 at 2:24 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


DavidfromBA, what has she been using for checking email, games, shopping, etc.?
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:26 PM on July 8


There is a 17 inch Chromebook... Acer 317. However, it has a pretty weak CPU.
posted by kschang at 4:53 PM on July 8


Response by poster: @Iris Gambol: I don't know much about it other than the fact that it's a 13-inch "ASUS", that it features a Chrome logo on the outside, and that she doesn't much care for it.

@SegFaultCoreDump, @LOOKING, @hydra77 and @kschang: Thanks to all of you as well. I've got quite a lot to consider!

To everyone who has responded: thank you.
posted by DavidfromBA at 5:59 PM on July 8


There's a non-Chrome ASUS 17.3" Laptop (also sold on Amazon, which may have ASUS 16" - 17.3" laptops on sale July 16-17), as your mom is familiar with the layout.
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:38 PM on July 8


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