Copy-pasted from a few other recommendations of mine for a basic usage laptop. The T530 has great build quality, and offers an above average display.
Lenovo Thinkpad T530 (with the 1600x900 display) through the Barnes and Noble Gold discount
- Sign up and sign in here: http://shoplenovo.i2.com/SEUILibrary/controller/e/na/St...
- Barnes and Noble Gold discount T530 link: http://shoplenovo.i2.com/SEUILibrary/controller/e/barne... (you will need to create a free Barnes and Noble Gold account)
- Start with the cheapest base configuration.
- On the configuration page, upgrade the "Display type" to at least HD+ (1600x900). You should not buy the Lenovo Thinkpad T530 in any configuration that includes the default HD (1366x768) display. 1366x768 resolution in a 15.6" display makes things onscreen large, and 15.6" displays that have 1366x768 resolution tend to have very poor image quality due to low contrast. The availability of the upgraded displays upgrade is part of my reasoning for recommending this computer.
- Recommended: Get the free WiFi adapter upgrade to the "Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2200", because some have reported issues with the stock "Thinkpad 1x1 b/g/n" adapter.
- Note: The Core i5-3210M from the Core i3-2370M isn't a bad upgrade choice, but it is by no means necessary for basic usage and light gaming.
- If you would like to play light/moderate GPU-intensive games, upgrade to the NVS 5400M dedicated GPU. It isn't the greatest GPU, but it's a good step up from integrated graphics.
- In the cart, click the green "Activate eCoupon" button to get your discount.
Alternatively, there is the Thinkpad T430. Configured the same as the T530, it costs the same.
- The T430 is more portable.
- Though the upgraded 1600x900 display doesn't have any better image quality than its stock 1366x768 display (both are comparable to the quality of the T530's 1366x768 display), you should still take the display upgrade for the resolution alone, unless you need the larger text of the 1366x768 display for eyesight. 1366x768 is still a tad on the low side for 14" display, and makes it difficult to use more than one window.
- The keyboards are the same, because neither have a number pad.
The Asus beats the Lenovo in specs that do not matter for the OP's usage (performance specs), but loses in specs that will make a difference (display).
A laptop having a Core i7 and 8GB of memory does not by itself make it a better deal than one that doesn't. In fact, those two specs are often two of the least important to consider. Particularly for basic use.
The T530 also has better build quality than the X53SD.
The extra step up in resolution in no way makes up for losing out on CPU/Memory/Graphics performance by a good margin. I have old eyes for sure and cannot take the strain of 1600x900 resolution. Most people I know young or old can't take it for long periods which you do encounter with a "work" laptop. So they dock their work laptop and use an external monitor when they need that extra resolution. My new laptop will go to 1600x900 and I have to zoom in on everything to read it to prevent eyestrain over time, so while watching movies or youtube look super cool on that higher resolution its still not something used for "work" for most of us out there.
In your case, the higher resolution is a detriment rather than a benefit. But either way, those CPU/memory/graphics differences are not going to affect basic usage, so they should not factor heavily into the decision.
Also, is your 1600x900 display a 14" or a 15.6"? 14" 1600x900 makes things onscreen smaller. 15.6" 1600x900 is often considered to be a good balance. I've only seen a couple of cases where 15.6" 1600x900 made things too small for somebody, and they were both very specific cases.