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Laptop for my middle schooler

I'm looking for a lap top for my 12 year old middle schooler. He'll likely use it from homework (papers, slideshows, some photos), web browsing and probably some gaming (the home PC is a old Pentium XP that runs old games fine but is too slow for , say, Oblivion). He'll keep it in the house, I expect so battery life and portability aren't big concerns. I hope he can use it into high school for work so some reliability would be nice. I'd love to get it for $500 or less, if that's possible.
I found the Lenovo Ideapad U400 at New Egg marked down to 500 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834246219. It has only a 14" screen though.
is the 14-15.5" a big difference in user experience?
Any sugggestions on brands, models?
Thanks!
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More about laptop middle schooler
  1. I went ahead and bought a Gateway NV55S28u on advice of a more knowlegable friend. Hope it works out. http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=2889187&CatId=4935
  2. if you can stay away from gaming you could save money and get him a netbook
  3. Best answer
    That Gateway NV55S28u is certainly adequate for the type of workload that you mentioned.
    And at $400 is a good value for a 1st notebook.

    It's not especially strong at running modern games but does well running older titles and will run some less demanding recent games OK.

    This AMD Radeon HD 6520G Review should give you an idea how well it will run games.

    For schoolwork / home entertainment it should get the work done over the next five years.
    If there is a need to run more demanding games at higher graphics settings - that will be the area where it might not remain suitable over the next 5 years.
  4. Best answer selected by splunge.
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