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Cheap, Excellent Laptops

ElvenshaeElvenshae Registered User regular
So, my office manager (a really nice lady in her 50s) just got laid off.

Her only computer access has been through work and a really old laptop her sister loaned her.

She is in need of a more permanent laptop solution. Help me, MSTT! You're one of only several hopes I have!

Her current plan is to go to Best Buy and get whatever they're offering. I think that this will likely end up a suboptimal solution. So, I turn to you guys. She needs something that offers:

Excellent portability
Good-size screen
Heavy MS Office usage
Internet browsing

She won't be playing any screaming games on this, but bang-for-the-buck is important. I'm not 100% certain of her budget, but I expect something around $500 - $800 will be the most she can spend (she was, after all, just laid off, and this is coming out of her severance pay).

Since I know practically nothing about who's who in laptops these days, what brands should she be avoiding, looking for, etc.? What specific systems do y'all recommend?

Thanks in advance for your help! :)

Elvenshae on

Posts

  • ButtcleftButtcleft Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Need to find ou what she wants to do, if all she wants to do is basic word processing/web/email, why waste money on a full laptop when there are netbooks that can do it for a couple hundred.

    that's it, I'm shutting this entire forum down, everyone thank buttcleft
  • chasmchasm Ill-tempered Texan Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    I've just recently picked up this. I love it as a jack of all trades.

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  • SatsumomoSatsumomo Rated PG! Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    If I were to get a laptop that gave me the most for less, with no heavy gaming intended, I'd go with this.

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  • theclamtheclam Registered User
    edited July 2010
  • Recoil42Recoil42 Registered User
    edited July 2010
    http://computers.toptenreviews.com/laptops/laptop-reliability-survey-reveals-asus-is-best-and-hp-worst.html

    http://www.pcmag.com/image_popup/0,1871,iid=242801,00.asp

    http://www.pcworld.com/article/187407/reliability_and_service_technologys_most_and_least_reliable_brands.html


    Avoid HP, Dell, Gateway, and Compaq.

    Go for Toshiba, Lenovo, Asus, and Sony.

    You want a 15.6" screen. Ignore anyone telling you to get her a netbook -- she's not a college student, she's in her 50s, and eyesight isn't the same. Everyone I know around that age prefers larger screens, often kicking their resolution lower just because it artificially makes screen elements larger. That's a big deal, and if you get her a netbook, you'll be screwing her over in this respect. Without the benefit of optical drives, netbooks also require a bit more technical experience to maintain.

    Watch for keyboard and touchpad -- they're a deceptively important part of the user experience, and unlike on a desktop, on a laptop they're irreplaceable. They're also something that for some reason after 20 years, laptop manufacturers STILL can't get right. Luckily, Sony, Asus, and Lenovo all mostly have great ones. (Toshiba is hit or miss, I've seen some great and some subpar)

    Finally, look out for battery life factors -- since she's not using this for games, stick to something that uses Intel integrated, preferably a core i3 or i5 if you can get one for the price. They'll be better on battery, and you don't need the graphics. And always make sure that battery is a six-cell -- all too frequently, vendors like to smuggle four-cell batteries into the cheap laptops; they simply aren't sufficient for most uses. Especially if she's planning to spend any appreciable amount of time at cafes or the library doing job-hunting.

  • MugsleyMugsley Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    I highly recommend the www.notebookreview.com forums as well. There are separate boards for nearly every laptop type and model.

  • ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    My step-mom, in her 50's, loves her 11'' netbook. Netbooks are a great option, you should have her check some out in person to see if she is okay with the screen size.

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  • lowlylowlycooklowlylowlycook Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    My step-mom, in her 50's, loves her 11'' netbook. Netbooks are a great option, you should have her check some out in person to see if she is okay with the screen size.

    My mom is older than that and loves her netbook. That's mostly because it's easier for her to use it while laying in a comfortable position. She has Parkinson's, so that can be an issue.

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  • ElvenshaeElvenshae Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Buttcleft wrote: »
    Need to find ou what she wants to do, if all she wants to do is basic word processing/web/email, why waste money on a full laptop when there are netbooks that can do it for a couple hundred.

    As I mentioned, she'll need it for heavy MS Office use - Excel, Word, FrontPage, PowerPoint - and not just basic word processing. Also, I don't want to recommend that she get a netbook with a screen that ends up too small for her to read.

    I'll mention them as a cheaper, less powerful, smaller-screened option, but I think she'll still be happier with a real laptop.

    Thanks for the suggestions, everyone; damn, this is a fine board. :)

  • ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    You'd be doing her a disservice to recommend them in a negative light. They are more than powerful enough to run the things you've listed, some have 12 hr batteries, and I wouldn't call an 11'' screen too small for nearly anyone or anything.

    She can check out out in stores and decide for herself if its too small.

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  • ElvenshaeElvenshae Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    The first point I'm sending her is:

    You might want to consider a netbook. I say "might" because, as I posted there, I don't think it has the horsepower or the screen size to be as useful as you want it to be when it comes to doing actual office (like Microsoft Office!) stuff. However, it will be, generally, cheaper than a real laptop (like, "half-the-price" cheaper). In exchange, it will have a much smaller screen and keyboard (making it harder to see but much easier to carry around), less powerful (everything will run more slowly - but since you aren't going to be doing large database work, it may be fast enough anyway), will have a longer battery life (so you don't have to plug it in as often), and will probably be a little bit less reliable (i.e., more likely to break). I, personally, would not get a netbook unless I already had a working laptop, but that's just me. You should try one out in the store and see if you like it.

    Copacetic? :)

  • ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Most of that is a lie.

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  • ElvenshaeElvenshae Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Do tell, then.

    Given that I just read a study that demonstrated that netbooks were less reliable than notebooks, that isn't a lie.

    The screen is demonstrably smaller, so that isn't a lie.

    Netbooks tend towards single cores at lower clock speeds and have less memory, so it's demonstrably less powerful.

    Netbooks are available starting at $200 to $300, which is about half the price of the recommended laptops in this thread, so they're about half the price.

    And, you just mentioned the longer battery life as being a point in their favor, so I assume you weren't lying then ...

    So, where's the lies?

  • ArcSynArcSyn Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Given your examples of usage, I would say a netbook would the be perfect choice. If screen size is an issue, they can be had in 11-13" models, though my mom, mother-in-law, and wife all get by with 10" netbooks perfectly fine. And both my mom and mother-in-law are teachers who do a LOT of word processing and letter typing.

    The processing power is plenty for any of those situations. Office uses NIL when it comes to processing power, unless you're talking about large Powerpoint presentations with heavy video/audio usage or something? I don't think Word or Excel are going to be an issue. Computers these days (and essentially have been for years) are overpowered when it comes to consumer use. They really are. Even netbooks are overpowered for most of what people use them for. Now, if she wants to use it to watch DVDs, then I can understand wanting something larger with a DVD drive. Otherwise, she is the target demographic for a netbook.

    I wouldn't spend less than $300 on a netbook though unless it's on sale. You are probably going to want a 2GB RAM model with Win7 on it, and they usually run $350-500. I've been pleased with the ASUS Eee models, though the Samsung and Gateway models have worked fine for the people I know who have them as well. Oh, and netbooks are often coupled with a year of "cloud" storage she could use for keeping backups of her important stuff. Or you could set her up with Live or Google for documents as there is Office Online or Google Docs available which would keep them available in case something did happen to her netbook.

    If you really want a nice, new "full"-sized laptop (13.3" but has Core i3 and DVD drive), the new Toshiba Portege R705 just got glowing reviews on Engadget for it's design and build and runs $800. It's available at Best Buy as well so she can go see it in person.

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  • LoneIgadzraLoneIgadzra Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    For me there are two defining issues for a laptop:

    1. battery life
    2. ergonomics

    Battery life is self-explanatory, but ergonomics you can only evaluate by using one. Hell, it's half the reason I just buy Apple all the time - I know I can count on Apple to have non-shitty keyboards and trackpads that are actually suitable for a day's work. 90% of PC laptop manufacturers can't even get the damn trackpad anywhere close to right (recessed mouse buttons that can only be pressed using your other hand are my personal favorite design gaffe), and include amazingly-shitty driver software for the "scroll strip" that doesn't even work half the time.

    I am surprised at everyone recommending netbooks. I have 20/20 eyesight and I can't stand them and definitely wouldn't recommend one for my mom (though a lot of my hatred has to do with the difficulty of typing on them). You should have her try one to make sure though.

  • ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Are your arms 30 ft long? My face is rarely more than three feet from my netbook.

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  • LoneIgadzraLoneIgadzra Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    I said I have difficulty typing on them, not reading the screen. The small size just feels cramped as hell.

  • SatsumomoSatsumomo Rated PG! Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    I definitely wouldn't recommend a Netbook for ease of use.

    A smaller screen which means less workspace, a smaller keyboard that will tire you out after a long session, and of course even less keys than a laptop.

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  • VistiVisti Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Acer Extensa 5220. I really like mine and the only downside is the GPU, which she is not gonna need. Comes with a gig of RAM which should be quite enough for office work. I paid around 400 usd for mine.

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  • JAEFJAEF Unstoppably Bald Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    I said I have difficulty typing on them, not reading the screen. The small size just feels cramped as hell.
    I have 20/20 eyesight and I can't stand them
    Then why even mention this?

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  • ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Satsumomo wrote: »
    I definitely wouldn't recommend a Netbook for ease of use.

    A smaller screen which means less workspace, a smaller keyboard that will tire you out after a long session, and of course even less keys than a laptop.

    Yea, you don't get a numberpad, I will admit this point. However, most 10'' models have a near full-sized keyboard.

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  • LoneIgadzraLoneIgadzra Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    JAEF wrote: »
    I said I have difficulty typing on them, not reading the screen. The small size just feels cramped as hell.
    I have 20/20 eyesight and I can't stand them
    Then why even mention this?

    Because it feels like looking at postage stamp. And yeah, there is some eyestrain past two feet I find, depending on the shittiness of the brand.

  • ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    So if you're looking at a shitty monitor, your eyes start to hurt?
    Shock.

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  • ArcSynArcSyn Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    I can understand where if someone is used to looking at 20"+ a day and they try to use a 10" monitor that their head will explode. It's a drastic difference. But I think they write it off too quickly as well. Same goes for the keyboard. I will admit though, that anyone could probably get used to anything eventually, but I feel like there are a lot of people who find netbooks quite serviceable (given their sales in the past year) so for the majority of light users out there, a netbook is a perfectly valid suggestion.

    As far as getting used to they keys and screen size, I work in IT on a 22" monitor and full sized ergonomic keyboard with a trackball at work all day. I service computers with 17-19" monitors and full sized normal keyboards and mice. I use a 14" laptop with nearly full size keyboard and trackpad at work and home. I also use a 10" netbook with a 89-90% keyboard at home as well. I don't find any problem switching from one to the next to another. The netbook is just as functional as my work laptop in both ease of use and reading things in the screen, and given that when I'm sitting at my desk my 22" screen is ~3' from my eyes and when I'm home the 10" screen is more 1-1.5' from my eyes, there is even less of a difference. Sure I scroll more, but it's not terrible.

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