Looking to buy a laptop for next semester. I have a desktop for gaming, so I just want to be able to surf the wifi on campus and take notes. What is the lowest price I could figure for a good piece of hardware, and do you have any suggestions?
I've seen laptops advertised as low as $350 in the past few days. Netbooks are available for a little less than this. For what you are talking about, you don't need much power or any of the latest hardware, you would even look for used machines on places like craigslist.com.
I agree with the Netbook approach. Either an HP 2133 (metal case, sturdy and light) or an MSI Wind (Intel Atom, faster, but plastic). Stay away from the netbooks using flash sticks for storage. You'll regret it. Get one with a normal 2.5" SATA drive. You can put in a super-fast solid state drive and have an awesome, fast PC that has no moving parts. Perfect for school!
I bought a Dell Mini 9 for exactly what you're discussing doing here. I just use it for web browsing, typing up some notes, and viewing powerpoint. I got mine a little cheaper on Black Friday than what they're priced at now, but a netbook should suit your needs fine. And don't forget they're cheap. You definitely should go to a store and test out the keyboards first, though.
But here's the thing: Performance-wise, how does the average "netbook" compare to the Pentium M generation notebooks that can be bought for similar price, say a ThinkPad T40? (or for similar size, albeit lager than a "netbook", the thinkpad X sries?) I would say that even a 4-5 year old notebook (hello discrete graphics!) is as good or better, performance wise, than your typical "netbook" and is the same price or cheaper. The only caveat is battery life is-- well-- make sure to get a new battery.