What's the best laptop available at Best Buy for about $1000?
January 11, 2008 1:11 PM   Subscribe

What's the best laptop available at Best Buy for about $1000? My girlfriend has a credit to spend on a new laptop at Best Buy that will come to about $1000. This means that her options are limited to brands they carry: Acer, Compaq, Gateway, HP, Sony, and Toshiba. She would like something for basic email, internet, and word processing use. A light laptop is preferred over a speedy one, if that trade off is necessary.

Best Buy provided the credit because her current computer is just dead.

Best Buy also carries Toshiba and Apple but... her dead computer is a Toshiba, so that brand has been eliminated from consideration. I think she also wants to stay with a Windows computer because she already has the Office suite and other software for it.

If there's a truly fantastic computer that costs a little bit more, that would be okay, too.

Thanks for your suggestions.
posted by scottso17 to Computers & Internet (27 answers total)
I saw an ad three seconds ago saying they have Dell computers now too. I'd go in to the store to really get a good idea.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:13 PM on January 11, 2008

According to their website, they also sell Macs now.
posted by box at 1:16 PM on January 11, 2008

I bought a Sony Viao at Best Buy in the fall for about $700. It went on sale the next day and they gave me $120 credit upon request. It's a bit on the heavy side but meets our (fairly basic) needs. Check the circular in the Sunday paper.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 1:18 PM on January 11, 2008

(Oops, should've read more closely. Still, though--since Best Buy doesn't sell Thinkpads, the Macbook is almost certainly the best laptop they carry.)
posted by box at 1:21 PM on January 11, 2008

My 7-year-old, bottom-shelf Toshiba Satellite is still ticking along just fine. Perhaps you got a lemon - try again?
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 1:27 PM on January 11, 2008

And, since all new Macs will come with Boot Camp, allowing your GF to run Windows natively at full speed, she can use all of her old programs, etc. I note that PC World determined that the fastest laptop for Vista was a MacBook Pro ($2400 and up). I realize that this is well above the price point you were asking about, but it may hold true that a $1000 Mac laptop is similarly faster than a $1000 PC laptop. I don't know how MacBooks compare in size to PC laptops though. Happy purchasing!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:28 PM on January 11, 2008

Some stores sell Macs, but not all.

(You'll know whether they do or not if you see a big black wall with a brightly colored/loud plasma display (called a MONOLITH!) )

All stores now carry some Dell products, and I've been happy with my Dell laptop for years. (I know, surprise surprise!)
posted by santojulieta at 1:28 PM on January 11, 2008

erm, some Best Buys, that is.
posted by santojulieta at 1:29 PM on January 11, 2008

Go for an HP Pavilion dv6000z or some such. It's a great system. Make sure you bump up to 2GB of RAM for Vista, though.
posted by disillusioned at 1:30 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Re: The Mac.

If price really is her constraint and Windows office is required, then it's not even close to an option. Apple doesn't sell a laptop below $1100, and she'd need a Windows license (probably not transferrable from whatever OEM copy she's on now).
posted by mkultra at 1:44 PM on January 11, 2008

I think it's worth noting, in addendum to Admiral Haddock's comment, that, while any Mac running OS X 10.5 (Leopard) comes with a free copy of Boot Camp, merely having Boot Camp is not sufficient to run Windows on a Mac. A copy of Windows is also required, as well, and would have to be purchased separately.
posted by esd at 1:46 PM on January 11, 2008

In that list, I'd consider Toshiba to be tops in terms of build quality and robustness, and Sony the worst. The other brands I could take or leave.
posted by zsazsa at 1:47 PM on January 11, 2008

In order to offer a proper recommendation, it's probably good to know a little more about what qualifies as "best" in terms of your girlfriend's needs and usage of the machine. Do you simply want the fastest-processing laptop available for the price, or are things like portability a consideration?

The Thinkpad (formerly IBM, now Lenovo) is generally considered to one of the premiere PC laptops, Best Buy retail stores don't carry them. You can, however, get them at the Best Buy for Business web site, if your girlfriend is able to use the credit online and not just in-store.

On a more general note, in my opinion there is not that much difference in your $1,000-odd laptops. That's not necessarily true as you climb in price, but for that price range, you choose features that you want (processor speed, amount of RAM, video chipset, screen size, etc.) and then they're all pretty much equivalent in terms of build quality, parts, reliability, etc.

One place a manufacturer can stand out is in customer support and warranty. For that level of information, I would recommend going to Consumer Reports or some other major review and testing site, since it's inadvisable to rely purely on anecdotal evidence -- anywhere you go online, you will find people bashing one brand or another.
posted by camcgee at 2:06 PM on January 11, 2008

Since you're stuck with credit, definately check Fatwallet.com for deals. Best Buy deals are pretty common, just look for threads with 'Best Buy' or 'BB'.
posted by mphuie at 2:08 PM on January 11, 2008

Yes, re: needing Windows for the mac. Sorry for my haste, and thanks to the other respondents for pointing this out.

Your GF will need a copy of Windows to run Boot Camp, and if she does not have one, that would make the Mac more expensive (though possibly in the "If there's a truly fantastic computer that costs a little bit more, that would be okay, too." category). She would not, however, need new copies of her programs at that point.

Incidentally, my employer participates in the "Microsoft at Home" program (or something similarly named), which entitles employees to purchase fully licensed copies of Office for Mac or PC direct from Microsoft for just the cost of shipping and media. I bought each of the PC and the Mac versions for $20, shipped from Redmond direct to my home. If Office is the only program suite she needs, she might check with the IT department at her work or school to see if they have something similar. A number of people here have switched to Mac once the entry cost of buying Office has been reduced to essentially zero.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:17 PM on January 11, 2008

"I'd consider Toshiba to be tops in terms of build quality and robustness, and Sony the worst"

Really? I'd say the exact opposite. I have a Toshiba. It's total junk. My girlfriend has a Vaio. It's a really nice machine, as are the other Vaios I've seen. But then I've never used the low-end Sony laptops, either.

I'd say Sony or HP, followed by Dell.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 3:41 PM on January 11, 2008

I had an absolutely awful experience with my Sony Vaio, and their customer service is non-existent. I'd go with HP or Dell, based purely on my biased personal experience.
posted by misha at 5:06 PM on January 11, 2008

I'm a Dell fan. They're like Toyotas, they'll last forever..or at least longer than most brands. You can get a non-souped-up one at Best Buy for $900.
posted by bondgirl53001 at 5:12 PM on January 11, 2008

Re Macs, there will be some new stuff announced in the Jan 15 keynote, so if a MacBook is a possibility it might be good to wait a week at least, just to see what shakes out.
posted by mumkin at 5:17 PM on January 11, 2008

The only Dell you'll find at that price is the Inspiron line, which tend to be inferior to their Latitude line (different manufacturers). From what I see on their site, I recommend throwing in the extra $49 and getting that Vaio. I'm not crazy about Sony after their various abuses of the marketplace, but Vaios are very good quality laptops. They're sold out in a lot of colors, but they still seem to have white which I tend to like.

The cheaper laptops tend to be AMD Turions rather than Intel Core Duo or Core 2 Duo, for good reason: Turions have relatively poor thermal performance; meaning they waste more power as heat for the amount of work they're doing compared to the Intels. Best performance per watt tends to be the Core Duos (note the absence of a 2 there), the Core 2 Duos are just an all around better chip but a bit hotter and more power-hungry. The Turions are the worst deal, hence the price.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:03 PM on January 11, 2008

My wife has a MacBook, so that's what we use whenever we're out and about. As far as light, it fits the bill nicely, and it's nice and thin as well. We were going to get her a Windows laptop, but have found that the "it just works" experience to be more than worth the extra money. It also comes with a nice bit of software already on it. Have her at least take a look if the local Best Buy sells Macs.
posted by azpenguin at 7:31 PM on January 11, 2008

Whichever one you get, make sure the air intake is in the side, not in the bottom. I've had two customers with random shutdown problems on their HP and Toshiba laptops, solved simply by removing the cloth table mat from underneath the machine that was getting sucked up over the air intake.
posted by flabdablet at 1:17 AM on January 12, 2008

If your girlfriend is going to keep the laptop for at least 2-3 years, I would really recommend thinking about an extended warranty. However, if you purchase a 3-year warranty from Best Buy, they'll usually keep their hands off it till the manufacturer's warranty expires.

I had the misfortune to deal with HP's customer support with my first two laptops in two years of college, an HP and a Compaq. Although I have no other companies to compare them to, they were consistently late in shipping me boxes for repair service (1-2 weeks instead of 2-3 business days, as promised) and were difficult to communicate with.

I know that one rant shouldn't necessarily dissuade you from buying from HP. My point is that you should definitely consider researching manufacturers' reputations before making a decision.
posted by scission at 1:12 PM on January 12, 2008

We have had two Sony VAIO desktops and three VAIO laptops. All still work wonderfully. Sony VAIO's come bundled with a nice suite of software.
posted by swarkentien at 8:28 PM on January 12, 2008

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but if you put part of the purchase on a credit card, especially an American Express, you can get your warranty extended for free. So it might be worth getting a computer for $1050 instead of $900, as you'd get more computer (obviously) and an extended warranty. Plus having a credit card company on your side can just be really helpful when it comes to dealing with big bad companies like Best Buy. Consumerist.com is filled with horror stories, so just go in with your eyes open.

My brother had a three year old Compaq that died suddenly, and American Express had him mail it to some service center where they discovered it would be more expensive to fix it, so they sent him a check for like $1500! If you have an Amex, maybe call them up to see if your card has this kind of protection. I have the Starwood, which definitely does.
posted by allen8219 at 8:45 AM on January 15, 2008

Just want to correct myself... Amex will NOT cover your purchase if you paid for part of it with a gift card. Whoops.
posted by allen8219 at 12:46 PM on January 22, 2008

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