Reliable, cheap bare-bones laptop for an academic

Hi! Last time I was here people were very helpful, so I hope y'all can pitch in with advice again. I also hope that this threat can be of use to other academics / grad students like me - so it's not entirely for selfish reasons that I'm posting.

I already have a great desktop. I am looking for a cheap, reliable and portable laptop to take to the library to do work on. I was thinking of netbooks, but the screen on them is just too small for doing the amount of reading and writing that I have to do on a regular (daily) basis without getting eye/brain/soul strain.

1_What is your budget?

Say < $600. Aim low!

2_What is the size of the notebook that you are considering?

Say 12 / 14 inch - I want a medium size screen.

3_What screen resolution do you want?

Doesn't matter.

4_Do you need a portable or desktop replacement laptop?

portability is key. My desktop works great.

5_How much battery life do you need?

As much as possible - 5 / 7 hours would be great. Would settle for 4.

6_Do you want to play games with your laptop? If so then please list the games that you want to with the settings that you want for these games. (Low,Medium or High)?


7_What other tasks do you want to do with your laptop? (Photo / Video editing, surfing the web, playing music, watching movies, Etc.)

None of the above - it has to be able to handle the following very basic stuff:

Microsoft office (word)
Adobe Reader (or equivalent for PDF's)

ie. nothing that will tax the CPU greatly.
It needn't have a DVD drive or burner.
It needn't have firewire.

I recognise that every existing laptop can do these things with ease. HOWEVER - I want something with a fast startup, and speedy, smooth, reliable usage for all these things most days, in and out, for a few years. I will be customising the installed software so it's absolutely minimal. This is for seriously basic software, but it should be built like a tank (but quick).

8_How much storage (H.D.D Capacity) do you need?

Doesn't matter. I have portable hard drives and can transfer stuff easily over. Say 30GB.

9_If you are considering specific sites to buy from, please post the links to them.

open to suggestions.

10_How long do you want to keep your laptop?

At least 3/4 years - I do not want some cheap piece of rubbish, but something that will last and be reliable. Hence my not going straight to Dell. I am looking to trade in extra bells and whistles (why have Blue Ray on a laptop fer the love of Mildred!!) for something ultra reliable and stable.

11_If you would like to mention some other things about purchasing your ideal laptop, post them.

My ideal laptop would be thin and light as possible, not have overheating issues like every Dell I've ever known. Basically I want a MAC that is a PC.

12_Please tell us about the brands that you prefer to buy from them and the brands that you don't like and explain the reasons.

Bad experience with Dell. Don't trust Gateway - their stuff always looks and feels cheap and dodgy. But feel free to change my mind on that.

13_What country do you live in?


Thanks in advance everyone!!


(a struggling graduate student in Chicago)
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