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Are there good budget laptops for limited usage?

Last response: in Laptops & Notebooks
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May 26, 2012 4:46:51 PM

Hello,
We want to replace my wife's Dell Inspiron 15.6" laptop--it has been very unreliable and very slow almost since we bought it in 2006. Because she had so many problems with the Dell, she would prefer some other brand, though we know that's not entirely logical.

Her's is not the only computer in the house, and she uses it primarily for email, going online, and uploading photos. She will never play any games on it, and she will probably never use it for movies or TV viewing. She may take it on weekend trips, but so long as she can carry it to the car or, very rarely on an airplane, portability is not terribly important. Battery life is not crucial, as it usually be plugged in somewhere in the house. Becasue the Dell has been maddeningly slow, she would love one that was a bit quicker.

We don't want to buy more than she needs, but we are not sure how to translate that into specs like processor speed and RAM and HD. And we don't know whether, for her limited purposes, things like 4G wi fi, SATA, and HDMI are important (we guess probably not).

Someone told me most laptops are made in the same factory in China where they slap different brands on them--that is probably figurative, but I suspect brand name is not the most important criteria.

We would like to spend $400 or less, though we would go a bit higher if it makes good sense. There are several in the $350 to $425 range, too many to compare. We can find very few of the specific models that Consumer Reports ranks; the ones we find are similar but have different model numbers.

There are probably no definitive answers to our questions--we have not found answers by searching online--but we will appreciate guidelines you more knowledgeable folks are willing to share.
a b D Laptop
May 26, 2012 5:25:39 PM

Asus or HP.
(Toshiba has poor tech support, and Acer has poor build quality)

I recommend you go to the Best Buy website as it's easy to filter your wishes.

Basically you have to decide on Intel vs AMD CPU to start:

Intel - more processing power, but runs hotter. GPU is not as good (if using on-die Intel CPU)

AMD APU - less CPU processing power but more GPU. better balance. runs cooler and quieter than Intel.

Personally, I recommend one of the quad-core APU's they're a nice balance of processing power vs heat/noise.

i.e.:
1) screen size (15.6" or 17")
2) AMD APU (quad-core)
3) HDMI output
4) HP or Asus
5) 4GB RAM

That should basically cover it. You can get a pretty nice laptop for as little as $450.

*This is a 17" monitor, not sure if that's too large but it has the advantage of a 1600x900 resolution screen. It also has great reviews, runs very quiet, quad-core APU, HDMI output etc.

only $430

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/HP+-+17.3%26%2334%3B+Pavili...
a c 406 D Laptop
May 26, 2012 5:58:08 PM

I go probably go with the following 15.6" Lenovo G570 for $400

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Lenovo is a Chinese company so guess what... ? Their laptop division formerly belonged to IBM (famous for the ThinkPad series) until they decided to get out of the consumer market and focus on enterprise software solutions.
Related resources
a c 248 D Laptop
May 26, 2012 6:57:18 PM

Hi :) 

For $400 you are going to get a piece of junk....far worse than the Dell...

I own computer shops in the uk and a lappy repair company, so I do know what I am talking about...

My lappy repair workshop is FULL of cheap laptops that are around 13 months old...just after the UK warranty ran out...

If you want a laptop that will last years....spend as much as you can afford....NOT $400...

All the best Brett :) 
May 26, 2012 7:37:07 PM

Hi aw8887, welcome to Tom's!

First let me start off by saying that while Tom's Hardware forum is a great place to get advice on technology, there is a very common problem that tends to plague it. That would be two or more people trying to give someone advice and disagreeing which is the best way to go. Unfortunately, that's what's about to happen, but I will try to layout my reasons why as best as I can so you can hopefully figure which is the best route to go for you and your family's new purchase.

Quote:
For $400 you are going to get a piece of junk....far worse than the Dell...


That's not necessarily true. There are bad products at virtually any price segment. And while they are more common at lower prices, good products still exist at the $400 range.

Quote:
Basically you have to decide on Intel vs AMD CPU to start:

Intel - more processing power, but runs hotter. GPU is not as good (if using on-die Intel CPU)

AMD APU - less CPU processing power but more GPU. better balance. runs cooler and quieter than Intel.

Personally, I recommend one of the quad-core APU's they're a nice balance of processing power vs heat/noise.


It's true that you need to choose between AMD and Intel. They are the only 2 CPU companies around these days. Where me and him differ though is in our conclusion. AMD's offerings in the mobile space certainly have their appeals. Their quad core APUs breathe a lot of new life into low budget gaming. However, you said your wife isn't interested in gaming, and I'm willing to bet uses no programs that stand to benefit from a quad core CPU. Intel has been king of the hill in processor efficiency for some time now. I don't know where photonboy got the idea that they were hot or noisy, they're neither. For single threaded tasks, which is the bulk of what is done on computers, you simply cannot beat a good Intel CPU right now. To sum it up, if your wife wanted to do a little low end maintsream gaming, get an AMD APU. If she wants to surf the web and just do other basic things, Intel is where you want to go.

For your purchase, I cannot recommend www.newegg.com enough. They have a huge selection, and also have very powerful sorting tools, as well as prices that others do well just to match.

And finally, here's my recommendation to you...

Quote:
I go probably go with the following 15.6" Lenovo G570 for $400

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6834246483

Lenovo is a Chinese company so guess what... ? Their laptop division formerly belonged to IBM (famous for the ThinkPad series) until they decided to get out of the consumer market and focus on enterprise software solutions.


Exactly what he said : )

Lenovo is an excellent company, and that laptop seems perfect for your wife's needs.

Intel Core i3-2350M 2.3GHz
-Very quick little CPUs, more than powerful enough to take care of day to day computer needs.

4GB DDR3 1333 RAM
-4Gb is more than enough for what your wife will ever need.

Intel Graphics 3000
-This is the integrated graphics on the CPU. Good enough to do just about anything except mainstream gaming.

5.73 lbs.
-So its not very heavy at all

15.6" and 1366 x 768
-Personally I think that resolution and screen size is the sweet spot for laptops.

5400 RPM 500Gb hard drive
-Really, this is the only part of the laptop that I have any problem with. The size is great, but 7200 rpm hard drives do offer a noticeable speed difference in some tasks. Still, I wouldn't worry about it too much.


If you have any other questions or concerns I would be glad to help!
June 2, 2012 5:46:41 AM

I have been out of town for a few days with no acces to email, so I just now read each of your responses. We do sincerely appreciate each of you taking the time to share your thoughts, and we will weigh them all. I knew there was probably not any definitive answer, but you all have given us a lot of info we did not have, especially about the choice that has to be made between Intel and AMD.

One thing I wonder about is whether it might be worth taking the Dell to a repair shop; I have been told that computers are obsolete after 3 years, but I doubt that is true if all you want to do is send and receive email, upload photos, and surf the net.

Many thanks. I will try to respond to each of you individually, too, if I can figure out how to do that, ha.
June 2, 2012 5:48:17 AM

This is very specific and helpful, especially about the comparison between AMD and Intel. Thank you for taking the time to share your expertise.
June 2, 2012 5:48:52 AM

jaguarskx said:
I go probably go with the following 15.6" Lenovo G570 for $400

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Lenovo is a Chinese company so guess what... ? Their laptop division formerly belonged to IBM (famous for the ThinkPad series) until they decided to get out of the consumer market and focus on enterprise software solutions.



Thanks for the suggestion and the link.
June 2, 2012 6:00:10 AM

Grand_Admiral_K said:
Hi aw8887, welcome to Tom's!

First let me start off by saying that while Tom's Hardware forum is a great place to get advice on technology, there is a very common problem that tends to plague it. That would be two or more people trying to give someone advice and disagreeing which is the best way to go. Unfortunately, that's what's about to happen, but I will try to layout my reasons why as best as I can so you can hopefully figure which is the best route to go for you and your family's new purchase.

Quote:
For $400 you are going to get a piece of junk....far worse than the Dell...


That's not necessarily true. There are bad products at virtually any price segment. And while they are more common at lower prices, good products still exist at the $400 range.

Quote:
Basically you have to decide on Intel vs AMD CPU to start:

Intel - more processing power, but runs hotter. GPU is not as good (if using on-die Intel CPU)

AMD APU - less CPU processing power but more GPU. better balance. runs cooler and quieter than Intel.

Personally, I recommend one of the quad-core APU's they're a nice balance of processing power vs heat/noise.


It's true that you need to choose between AMD and Intel. They are the only 2 CPU companies around these days. Where me and him differ though is in our conclusion. AMD's offerings in the mobile space certainly have their appeals. Their quad core APUs breathe a lot of new life into low budget gaming. However, you said your wife isn't interested in gaming, and I'm willing to bet uses no programs that stand to benefit from a quad core CPU. Intel has been king of the hill in processor efficiency for some time now. I don't know where photonboy got the idea that they were hot or noisy, they're neither. For single threaded tasks, which is the bulk of what is done on computers, you simply cannot beat a good Intel CPU right now. To sum it up, if your wife wanted to do a little low end maintsream gaming, get an AMD APU. If she wants to surf the web and just do other basic things, Intel is where you want to go.

For your purchase, I cannot recommend www.newegg.com enough. They have a huge selection, and also have very powerful sorting tools, as well as prices that others do well just to match.

And finally, here's my recommendation to you...

Quote:
I go probably go with the following 15.6" Lenovo G570 for $400

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6834246483

Lenovo is a Chinese company so guess what... ? Their laptop division formerly belonged to IBM (famous for the ThinkPad series) until they decided to get out of the consumer market and focus on enterprise software solutions.


Exactly what he said : )

Lenovo is an excellent company, and that laptop seems perfect for your wife's needs.

Intel Core i3-2350M 2.3GHz
-Very quick little CPUs, more than powerful enough to take care of day to day computer needs.

4GB DDR3 1333 RAM
-4Gb is more than enough for what your wife will ever need.

Intel Graphics 3000
-This is the integrated graphics on the CPU. Good enough to do just about anything except mainstream gaming.

5.73 lbs.
-So its not very heavy at all

15.6" and 1366 x 768
-Personally I think that resolution and screen size is the sweet spot for laptops.

5400 RPM 500Gb hard drive
-Really, this is the only part of the laptop that I have any problem with. The size is great, but 7200 rpm hard drives do offer a noticeable speed difference in some tasks. Still, I wouldn't worry about it too much.


If you have any other questions or concerns I would be glad to help!


Grand_Admiral
You have already helped a great deal. We really appreciate the time you have taken to break down and respond to the other suggestions people made. Having read carefully your thoughtful advice and information, I have one question if you have the time to respond--I am guessing, maybe incorrectly, that it would not cost a great deal to buy this Lenovo but upgrade to the 7200 rpm hard drive (unless, at this low end of the budget, you can't do that kind of a-la-carte customizing)?

Thanks again,

aw8887

Thanks, again,

June 3, 2012 3:03:34 AM

I'm glad I could help!

To answer your question, a hard drive replacement will run you about $100. The only thing that I haven't been able to find, is whether that laptop uses SATA II or SATA III. You would be able to find that out after you purchase the laptop though. Other than that you are just looking for a laptop HDD, 2.5 inch, 7200 rpm. This link has the search results narrowed down for you...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=P...
June 3, 2012 3:09:26 PM

Grand_Admiral_K said:
I'm glad I could help!

To answer your question, a hard drive replacement will run you about $100. The only thing that I haven't been able to find, is whether that laptop uses SATA II or SATA III. You would be able to find that out after you purchase the laptop though. Other than that you are just looking for a laptop HDD, 2.5 inch, 7200 rpm. This link has the search results narrowed down for you...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=P...



Thanks again--very helpful and we are grateful.
--aw8887
!