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Looking for an affordable, durable laptop

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June 24, 2014 7:11:06 AM

Hello all. I recently bought (and am returning) a Lenovo G510s Touch. The innards are fine, it runs great, but the case is horrible - flimsy in every corner and on every surface. I'm afraid to even close the screen lest the hinges break the case.

I want a computer for less than $1000, and my main concern is durability. I want a strong case most of all, since I intend to use my laptop for years and years (I'm replacing a Dell Vostro 1510 which is six years old, and the only problem is that the new programs overwhelm its 2GB of RAM).

What can you recommend in regards to durable, affordable laptops?

Thank you for your advice!
a c 462 D Laptop
June 24, 2014 7:43:22 AM

When I think durability I the first thing that comes to mind is a Lenovo ThinkPad; specifically the T series. However that is Lenovo's premium line of business laptops, but it is still possible to get one for $1,000 or a little less. Even when pressing down very hard on the laptop it will not flex.

The ThinkPad L series is a value oriented line which is probably better suited for you because as you start adding options to it the price can skyrocket. For example, upgrading from 4GB to 8GB of RAM costs you $80; you would be better off simply buying it with only 4GB of RAM and then buy another 4GB RAM stick from Crucial that is compatible with the ThinkPad for around $50.

http://shop.lenovo.com/us/en/laptops/thinkpad/l-series/...

I have a ThinkPad T40 from years gone past which is even older than your Dell and it still works fine; albeit slow nowadays. I ordered a ThinkPad T530p last year and I would have kept if they shipped the laptop correct specs that I specified.
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a c 462 D Laptop
June 24, 2014 7:54:50 AM

Actually, you should be able to upgrade the RAM in your Dell Vostro since it should have two RAM slots. Each slot can accommodate 2GB RAM sticks. One issue would be the operating system. If the Dell is using a 32-bit OS, then you will only be able to use around 3GB - 3.2GB because that is the limit. To be able to use all 4GB you need to have a 64-bit OS. The CPUs used in the Dell Vostro can run a 64-bit OS, but if it only has a 32-bit OS installed, then you need to upgrade the OS to something like Windows 8.1 64-bit to make full use of the 4GB of RAM.

The following link shows you how to fully take apart your laptop, however that's not necessary to upgrade the RAM which merely requires you to remove a single panel. However, it does come in handy should you want to replace any component or simply clean out dust from the innards.

http://www.insidemylaptop.com/take-apart-dell-vostro-15...

This video specifically shows you how to upgrade the RAM:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jav6lZYoVx0
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June 24, 2014 8:41:30 AM

The very first thing we tried was to replace the RAM - it didn't work. It wasn't compatible or something like that.

I looked at Dell and Acer and HP laptops in the midpoint price range, and none of them were any better than the G510s, so I think the problem is with the price range rather than the brand. I'm willing to go up to $1200. Does that change the game at all?

I will take a close look at the ThinkPad series, even though I had such a bad experience with my 'current' Lenovo.

Oh, another concern - I intent to travel with my laptop, I want it to be light and mobile. SO: durability and portability.
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a c 462 D Laptop
June 24, 2014 9:20:57 AM

The ThinkPads are designed very differently from their consumer counterparts. At least the ThinkPad T series (and likely the W series) is designed to survive a 35 mph impact and still operate long enough to retrieve vital information off the hard drive. Other tests (usually done at electronic Expos when intro'ing new products) are less dramatic like dropping the a T series from the height of and average desk on to a hard floor and dropping from a 9 foot ladder onto a carpeted floor. No visual damage and they still functioned fine.

The main gripe about the T series generally comes from people who have been using older generation T series laptops. Lenovo made a lot of changes in the current generation and that did not sit well with a lot of "traditionalists".

If you go to Lenovo's site and look at the average review of the T series laptop you will likely see an average 2.5 star rating. On the other hand if you look at the reviews for the L series you will see about a 4 star rating. The L and T series basically uses the same kind of keyboard and mousepad which "traditionalist" have griped about.

An alternative would probably be the Dell Latitude series which is Dell's business laptops. I bought a refurbished 15.6" Dell Latitude 3540 back in Jan for around $500; a new one would have cost about $900 with the exact same specs at that time. It feels pretty solid and I have no complaints about it though I wished it had a backlit keyboard.

The current Latitude 15 3000 (aka 3540) series starts at $590 to $840 before options; see link below. The $779 and $840 models have the same specs so perhaps the difference is a touch screen. They don't offer much upgrade options like Lenovo. You can choose a different CPU, it seems you can't even choose 8GB instead of 4GB; you must install the additional RAM yourself. It comes with the AMD Venus Pro 2GB GDDR5 graphic chip which is basically a Radeon HD 8850m and is pretty decent for games roughly equivalent to a nVidia GT 750m if that means anything to you.

http://www.dell.com/us/business/p/latitude-3540-laptop/...

You can buy the $780 model for $701 using the following link:

http://www.logicbuy.com/deals/dell-latitude-15-laptop/4...
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June 25, 2014 7:46:10 AM

I finally decided on the Dell Latitude 5530. It's got good innards, good reviews, a solid case, and some legacy value - Dell created it to replace the Vostro line (apparently). Thank you very much for your advice, Jaguarskx! You really helped clarify my thinking.

PS, the difference between the two Latitude 3000's is that the more expensive one comes with a more expensive warranty.
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