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Last post Author Topic: ~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations  (Read 8321 times)

skwire

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~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations
« on: November 13, 2012, 02:11:08 PM »
Christmas is coming and my wife and I would like to get our oldest daughter an inexpensive laptop/netbook around $300.  Yes, we realise that this is at the low-end of the spectrum.  However, she's only twelve and would be using this mainly for typing her school papers, surfing the web, etc.  Has anybody had a good experience with a lower-end model that you'd like to recommend?

Ath

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Re: ~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2012, 02:17:18 PM »
Only some general advise:
Get a current model, not last-years shop-sale type of a 'bargain'.
Select on the screen quality/brightness, there is a difference; and take home the one that you tested being good...

For a girl of that age, looks do matter, AFAIR ;)

tomos

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Re: ~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2012, 03:08:49 PM »
I dunno will this be of any help as many of the model names & numbers seem to be different between Europe and the States :(

This is just research - I've just purchased a Lenovo Ideapad N581 - it's 'due' tomorrow :p
(It's been a real PIA getting info - you see models on sale, go to the manufacturer's site and there is no information about it or even similar models e.g. ASUS F201, Lenovo Ideapad N581. Often a review site will have a review of one laptop - but not of the other you want to compare it with).

From my notes:
AVOID

ACER 756 11.6" - Runs very HOT HOT HOT (pity, sounds good otherwise)

Lenovo ThinkPad X121e (AMD E-300) - terrible screen

Lenovo IdeaPad S206 - Notebookcheck give very poor review: "Short battery life, mirror TFT, bendable chassis - does not live up to the expectations for netbooks."

Samsung 305U1A-A01DE - great battery life (& screen I think) but HOT; poor build
-
I initially ordered the brand new ASUS F201 (11.6"). There's little or no info out there about it and I *think* it's not available over there yet (if at all?). It's predecessor got good reviews - for the build at least.

But they seem to be having a problem with delivering, so I cancelled that. After reading some very good reviews (reasonably bright screen, reasonable CPU, reasonable battery life) I decided to go for the 15.6" Lenovo Ideapad N581 notebookcheck.net link -
there's lots of different versions of that here (mainly different CPU's) - you could get a model: without OS; 320GB HD; 4GB ram; lower strenght CPU - for around 300 euros (amazon.de).
Tom
« Last Edit: November 13, 2012, 03:21:47 PM by tomos, Reason: added link »

mouser

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Re: ~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2012, 03:12:51 PM »
Whether the laptop is for you or daughter, my advice is the same: The primary deciding factor is the form factor.

If it's going to be used 95% at home on a desk, go for big screen (15.6" or even 17") and don't worry about weight or battery.
If it's going to be carried around constantly, go for small and light, and don't worry about the rest.

40hz

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Re: ~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2012, 03:42:36 PM »
For inexpensive laptops I've had the best luck with Asus and Gateway. If I were in the market for an inexpensive laptop today I'd definitely lean towards one of those. It's hard to recommend a specific model since a "model year" for most laptops seems to be about three months long.

Also +1 with everything in Mouser's post above. If you're not going to be lugging it around much, size, weight and battery life become much less of a factor in your buying decision. Ditto Ath's comments on the screen - which is probably the single most important deciding factor since you have to look at (and live with) the screen more than anything else.

Also keep an eye out for sales and specials. You can sometimes catch a really amazing bargain if you routinely check the websites and big-box store ads. When they get down to one or two left of a less popular or "soon to be discontinued" model they will very often cut the price to rock bottom so they can "retire" the SKU code.

Anything that gets you as close as possible to 64-bit/multi-core CPU/4Mb RAM/ and 500Gb HD is where you want to be.

Luck!

mahesh2k

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Re: ~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations
« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2012, 03:59:22 PM »
Asus and Acer have few netbook models that are worth taking a look at (under 250$ on Amazon). Be careful with toshiba and HP for netbook, not many good reviews and experience for their models.

skwire

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Re: ~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations
« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2012, 05:02:35 PM »
Thanks for all the input so far.

For inexpensive laptops I've had the best luck with Asus and Gateway.

Oddly enough, those were the two brands we were looking at.  Particularly, this model:

http://www.amazon.co...D+1GB+RAM+Netbook+PC

Rest assured, I'd be upgrading that to 2GB of RAM (and 4GB if it allows).


superboyac

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Re: ~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2012, 05:26:08 PM »
Get the Sony Vaio Z...j/k.  That would be QUITE the gift.

mouser

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Re: ~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations
« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2012, 05:57:59 PM »
Quote
Also keep an eye out for sales and specials.


I am usually not one to pay attention to sales, but isn't there some big sale day coming up for electronics in the US (Black Friday)? Might be good timing.

cyberdiva

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Re: ~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations
« Reply #9 on: November 13, 2012, 06:50:48 PM »
Oddly enough, those were the two brands we were looking at.  Particularly, this model:

http://www.amazon.co...D+1GB+RAM+Netbook+PC

Rest assured, I'd be upgrading that to 2GB of RAM (and 4GB if it allows).
Hmmm...three years ago, I bought a Toshiba netbook with some of the same features: Windows Starter, an Atom 1.6GHz processor, and 1 GB of RAM.  I quickly upped the RAM to 2GB, but that didn't really help.  The computer remains incredibly slow.  I imagine the dual core will help (mine isn't dual core), but still, I'd be wary of the Atom 1.6 GHz processor.

bob99

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Re: ~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations
« Reply #10 on: November 13, 2012, 06:57:23 PM »
Quote
Also keep an eye out for sales and specials.


I am usually not one to pay attention to sales, but isn't there some big sale day coming up for electronics in the US (Black Friday)? Might be good timing.

There are also some in store specials going on around here clearing out Win7 laptops & netbooks to make room for the Win8 machines. OfficeMax, Staples, WalMart, etc.

barney

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Re: ~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations
« Reply #11 on: November 13, 2012, 07:01:25 PM »
Actually, you might want to be leery of Toshiba.  They do have a reasonably good product (I'm on one now), but you cannot access their manual(s) online - they want all repairs/adjustments going through them.  Not a bad thing per se, but damned inconvenient for anyone who prefers to roll their own adjustments/repairs.  And damned frustrating for those who have the knowledge and the tools to effect their own repairs, given just that little bit of information.

skwire

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Re: ~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations
« Reply #12 on: November 13, 2012, 07:09:13 PM »
Hmmm...three years ago, I bought a Toshiba netbook with some of the same features: Windows Starter, an Atom 1.6GHz processor, and 1 GB of RAM.  I quickly upped the RAM to 2GB, but that didn't really help.  The computer remains incredibly slow.  I imagine the dual core will help (mine isn't dual core), but still, I'd be wary of the Atom 1.6 GHz processor.

Duly noted, thanks.

x16wda

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Re: ~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations
« Reply #13 on: November 13, 2012, 07:11:06 PM »
Last year about this time we bought my 10 year old a Lenovo G575 for $268.  It was an impulse buy on my part but worked out well, I haven't seen a comparable bargain since then and didn't have to fight Black Friday crowds.  It has 3gb of ram and a 1377x768 screen, an E350 AMD dual core 1.6ghz cpu and a 500gb drive.  My daughter does her school work, Powerpoints, all that fancy web stuff they have kids do these days (Prezi or whatnot), and at least one or two Youtube feeds going all at once and haven't had a problem.  (Win 7 64-bit... no plans to go with 8 without a touchscreen at least!)

When I am asked for a recommendation I always say go for a 7200rpm drive if possible, you WILL notice a speed difference.  Some of the cheap models have not 5400rpm drives, but even lower 4200 rpm!  And get as much memory as possible.

And I'll echo Mouser's recommendation to look at the circulars and sales.  A closeout deal on a Win 7 box would be a double win.  :P
vi vi vi - editor of the beast

xtabber

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Re: ~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations
« Reply #14 on: November 13, 2012, 09:54:17 PM »
All the laptops I've bought for myself or relatives over the past 10 years or so have been ThinkPads from the IBM Certified Pre-owned Laptop site.

I like ThinkPads because they are built like tanks (meaning strong, not heavy), have the best keyboards of any laptops, and being targeted at IT departments rather than the folk who shop at Best Buy or Staples, their on-line support is top-notch if one is technically savvy.  There is also an extensive on-line ThinkPad user community.

Right now, the site is having a 20% off sale and including a 1-year extended warranty for free.  Looking there, I see they list a T400s with a 2.4 Ghz Core 2 Duo processor, Windows 7 Pro, 4GB RAM, 120GB HD, DVD-RW, a/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth and a built-in camera for $369. With 20% off, that comes to $295.20. The model number is listed as T28153YU, which translates to 2815-3YU, so you can go to the Lenovo Support page, enter 2815-3YU in the Quick Path box and find more information (such as that the screen resolution is 1440x900), download user guides and maintenance manuals, etc.

That particular item may be gone by the time you look, but their stock changes daily, so if you keep looking and do your due diligence, you can come up with some great deals.  They also have free shipping and a 7-day money-back guarantee.

superboyac

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Re: ~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations
« Reply #15 on: November 13, 2012, 10:37:07 PM »
All the laptops I've bought for myself or relatives over the past 10 years or so have been ThinkPads from the IBM Certified Pre-owned Laptop site.

I like ThinkPads because they are built like tanks (meaning strong, not heavy), have the best keyboards of any laptops, and being targeted at IT departments rather than the folk who shop at Best Buy or Staples, their on-line support is top-notch if one is technically savvy.  There is also an extensive on-line ThinkPad user community.

Right now, the site is having a 20% off sale and including a 1-year extended warranty for free.  Looking there, I see they list a T400s with a 2.4 Ghz Core 2 Duo processor, Windows 7 Pro, 4GB RAM, 120GB HD, DVD-RW, a/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth and a built-in camera for $369. With 20% off, that comes to $295.20. The model number is listed as T28153YU, which translates to 2815-3YU, so you can go to the Lenovo Support page, enter 2815-3YU in the Quick Path box and find more information (such as that the screen resolution is 1440x900), download user guides and maintenance manuals, etc.

That particular item may be gone by the time you look, but their stock changes daily, so if you keep looking and do your due diligence, you can come up with some great deals.  They also have free shipping and a 7-day money-back guarantee.

Very cool.  thanks.

40hz

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Re: ~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations
« Reply #16 on: November 13, 2012, 10:52:36 PM »
Thanks for all the input so far.

For inexpensive laptops I've had the best luck with Asus and Gateway.

Oddly enough, those were the two brands we were looking at.  Particularly, this model:

http://www.amazon.co...D+1GB+RAM+Netbook+PC

Rest assured, I'd be upgrading that to 2GB of RAM (and 4GB if it allows).



I'm not too big on Atom processors for anything but the most basic business productivity tasks such as email and wordprocessing. Like Cyberdiva noted, they are painfully slow for a lot of things - like viewing websites with heavy media content. Something a student will likely be doing. I'd opt for a dual-core AMD chip instead of an Atom seven days out of seven.

That preowned Thinkpad site xtabber mentioned is definitely worth a look. (And thank you xtabber for sharing that!) Thinkpads are really well-built machines with plenty of power even in the lower end models. I didn't even think of mentioning them because they're expensive when they're new. But an IBM  certified factory refurb is an interesting option to consider if you can find something in your price range. They are built like tanks.


skwire

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Re: ~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations
« Reply #17 on: November 16, 2012, 04:41:00 PM »
Thanks for all the suggestions, folks.  I'm about to pull the trigger on this one ($316 after the discount, plus a free extended warranty and 8GB thumb drive):

https://www-304.ibm....rderItemId=454563417

Thoughts?

mouser

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Re: ~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations
« Reply #18 on: November 16, 2012, 04:45:55 PM »
Seems like a good choice to me.  Memory, HD, CPU all look well suited for what you want.
Good form factor for portability.

wraith808

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Re: ~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations
« Reply #19 on: November 16, 2012, 04:48:06 PM »
I'd not go for a core 2, personally-

Get a current model, not last-years shop-sale type of a 'bargain'.

I totally agree with this, so that's the reason.  Especially with Black Friday deals popping everywhere, you should be able to get an i3 for about the same price.  It looks solid, but that's just my prejudice speaking.

mouser

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Re: ~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations
« Reply #20 on: November 16, 2012, 04:59:17 PM »
one does wonder if it might not pay to wait for the black friday deals.
having said that, i have found the core2duo cpu's to be quite satisfactory; the i3/i5/i7 next generation cpus are obviously better but honestly very few people have need for them.

tomos

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Re: ~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations
« Reply #21 on: November 16, 2012, 05:23:35 PM »
Just some thoughts:

The screen for the T400 has a 16:10 format AFAIK, usually with quite high rsolution -
and I think it's supposed to have a reasonably good quality image (but there's been lots of incarnations of it so hard to say) - probably bright, matt, maybe the blacks not so black though.

I think the screen is important - most screens today are 16:9, usually @ 1366x768, and at that price I dont think you'll get much quality new (you might get similar brightness, but probably not matt, and lower resolution) - but others might be happy enough to sacrifice that for more CPU.
Tom

wraith808

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Re: ~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations
« Reply #22 on: November 16, 2012, 07:01:16 PM »
one does wonder if it might not pay to wait for the black friday deals.
having said that, i have found the core2duo cpu's to be quite satisfactory; the i3/i5/i7 next generation cpus are obviously better but honestly very few people have need for them.

This is quite true.  But if you're buying for a 12 year old and you want it to last, the i3 would get you a few more years for right around the same price, while the core2duo is nearing the EOL in all estimation.

40hz

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Re: ~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations
« Reply #23 on: November 16, 2012, 07:40:00 PM »
+1 on an i3 chip if you can fit it into your budget.  :Thmbsup:

wraith808

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Re: ~$300 Laptop/Netbook recommendations
« Reply #24 on: November 17, 2012, 07:20:28 AM »
You can get near that for a refurbished unit - without the extra goodies, though.  For example:

http://www.newegg.co...Item=N82E16834200684

Dell 15" Refurb for $339 from newegg.

Or new 15" Lenovo for $399 from newegg:

http://www.newegg.co...Item=N82E16834310606