Best laptop for the money
Hello, I am a 17 year old girl and my 18th birthday is next week, my dad wants to get me a new laptop. We have been looking around, my friend said Toshiba is the best kind to look at. I would like the price to be lower than $650. I am willing to maybe go higher. I want a laptop that has a numeric touch pad, good webcam, microsoft word and such for college papers, also a nice system I can download photoshop on because I am also into photography, other than that I don't mind. Please help me thanks
First I will say that Microsoft Word (MS Office) is something you will need to purchase separately. I think the student version sells for around $125, but I am not sure. The alternative is to simply use a free office suite includes a word processor. I recommended something called OpenOffice. You can download it and give it a try if you don't like it then you can just uninstall it and buy the student version of MS Office.
Onward to laptop recommendations...
Based on your post you are not going to be doing anything strenuous with the laptop besides PhotoShop so just about any inexpensive 15.6" laptop with a numeric pad should do...
The HP Pavilion G6-2210US uses an AMD Trinity APU and it is pretty affordable at $520. It has a 1366x768 resolution screen which is pretty standard for any inexpensive 14" or 15.6" laptop. I personally find it a bit too low for my needs. I currently have a Lenovo Y470 which has that same resolution and I find it a bit too limiting when I am trying to multitask, research, or study (reading e-books) with such a low resolution. I plan on buying a new laptop with a 1920x1080 resolution, but that is outside of your budget. The 2.5GHz CPU is pretty fast, more than enough for your needs. The integrated graphics core; Radeon HD 7420G is fine for watching HD videos and good enough to play simple games like the Sims 3; just in case that was one of those "unasked questions". It weighs in at 5.46lbs which is pretty average for a 15.6" laptop.
Next up is the Acer Aspire V3-571G-6407 for $550. The major differences are #1) the Intel core i5-3210M CPU, #2) the dedicated graphics card; GT 630m, #3) smaller hard drive. #1 - Even though both the AMD Trinity CPU in the above mentioned HP laptop and the Core i5 in this laptop has the same clockspeed of 2.5GHz, the Intel is more powerful. Without having to go into the technicals it like Person A can read 50 words per minute and Person B can read 65 words per minute. Guess who is going to finish reading a 1000 page book first. #2 - A dedicated graphics card is better than an integrated graphics card for games; if you play games. I believe some features in Photoshop can make use of a dedicated graphics card to improve some effects, but I don't use PhotoShop. #3 - The 500GB hard drive is smaller than the 640GB hard drive that comes with the HP. Not really a big deal though. The laptop is slightly heavier though at 5.74lbs, but it is offset by the higher performance that you get.
Stepping up a bit in price is the Asus K55A-DH51; $600. It has the same Core i5-3210m CPU as in the above Acer. It has a large 750GB hard drive for plenty of storage (for me anything that 500GB or more is fine). It only uses the integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics core, no dedicated graphics card even though this is a more expensive laptop than the Acer. It weighs in at 5.5lbs. Asus is a more recent player in the laptop market than Acer, but Asus generally produces higher quality laptops.
Very close to your $650 limit is the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E530 laptop. This is actually a business laptop instead of a "normal" consumer laptop. What the difference? With regards to Lenovo, customer support for their business laptops (ThinkPad series) tends to be a cut above "normal customer support" of other companies including their own consumer oriented laptop customer support. No real difference in terms of components compared to the Asus above. At 5.47lbs (yeah, I see that it is listed as 5.0lbs), it is average for it's size.
ThinkPad keyboard tends to be better than other laptop keyboards. It is kinda hard to describe though. I really like the keyboard of my old IBM ThinkPad T40 (before IBM sold their desktop / laptop division to Lenovo). All current laptops have the "chicklet keyboard" like my Lenovo IdeaPad Y470 which is okay I guess... Current ThinkPads have something similar to the standard chicklet keyboard but better design. Reviews of ThinkPads' keyboard are mostly positive. While better than the keyboard of the vast majority of consumer oriented chicklet keyboards, they are not quite as good as the old Thinkpad keyboard design.
Above your budget is the TOSHIBA Satellite S855-S5380 for $700. Same Intel CPUs as the above laptop, with the exception of the HP which has an AMD Trinity APU. It has a 750GB hard drive and the main reason why this is above your budget is due to the dedicated Radeon HD 7680M graphics card. Good for playing games at 1366x768 resolution, but if you do not plan on playing games then this is more or less a splurge. Again, I believe some Photoshop effects can make use of a dedicated graphics card to improve performance a little bit. It is more powerful than the GT 630m found in the Acer laptop. It weighs in at 5.5lbs.
Lastly, there is the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E530 (again), but this $692 model has a 1600x900 resolution screen. However, it is currently out of stock, but there are other places to buy laptops. The higher resolution screen makes it worth while to spend the extra $42 at least for me.
All of the above laptops should suit your needs. The HP Pavilion G6-2210US is exceptional because it is inexpensive and I don't think your dad would yell at you for buying a laptop that is under the $650 budget.
The Acer is a well balanced laptop that is inexpensive and also capable of playing some games that are not very graphics intensive. It's the heaviest of the bunch, but not by much.
The Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E530 offers arguably on of the best/better keyboards found on laptops. Customer support is good if not very good should you need to call them. The version with the 1600x900 resolution is above your budget, but I think it is worth it.
Here's a Toshiba Satellite L855D-S5242 15.6" Notebook that comes with an AMD A8-4500m APU for $535. The only thing you really need to know is that it is basically just as capable as the other laptops I recommended above at various price points.