Earlier this year I found myself with a bit of a dilemma. My laptop, a Lenovo G550 that I had bought a couple of years before, had finally died on me. Realizing that fixing the issue would cost about the same as buying a new one, I decided it was time for a new computer. But laptops are expensive, and I wouldn’t have the money for a good one until at least the beginning of the year. This was unacceptable, as I am a writer and so do 90% of my work online, or at least via Word.
My solution was to buy an ‘intermediate’ laptop of sorts, one to last me until the beginning of 2012, when I could drop $1000 on something good. Which is, essentially, that I have been waiting to do for some time. But what model would I choose?
Doing the research, I was surprised to find that there are some really good laptops that cost less than $700, which was my maximum budget. These are some that have received consistently high ratings, and might actually be worth it if you don’t want to spend a small fortune, but still need quality and durability.
Acer Aspire TimelineX – While it is nothing special, this is a nice little laptop that will meet all basic needs for those who don’t need a whole lot features. It has a 1.46 Ghz dual core processor, along with a 500 GB hard drive and 4GB of on board RAM. The battery life is decent, though while it claims an 8-hour life on full charge, it reaches closer to 7-hours. Which is still decent. As is standard on Windows 7 (which it obviously runs) you can customize the energy usage and specifications. Without energy saver, the battery has around 4 and a half hours.
Pros: Stable; user friendly; well priced.
Cons: Small screen, at 11.6-inches; speakers are pretty awful.
HP Pavilion dm1z – I have never seen much difference between the HP and Dell style brand laptops, especially in specs. This laptop has a 1.6 Ghz dual core processor, only 250 GB hard drive (a major problem if you are a media fan), and 3 GB of on board RAM. They claim a full 9-hour battery life, but this is easily disputed, like with the Acer. I have heard most people say they get closer to 6 hours, unless they change the settings to high energy saver, which might bump it closer to eight. But this could be a subjective opinion, and not the norm.
Pros: Pretty good graphics; very lightweight; affordable.
Cons: Once again, a small screen at 11.6-inches; not enough hard drive space, so you may want to invest in an external hard drive.
ThinkPad X120e – I never know quite what to think about Lenovo as a whole. I have never used most of their products, though I mentioned I had a G-Series for two years previously. I would say that this really is a cheap laptop that is good for a couple of years if you are needing something before getting a better one. But the ThinkPad line is better than many of their others, based on customer reviews. This one has a 1.6 Ghz dual core processor, a 320 GB hard drive, and 3 GB of RAM. Other than that, there is nothing much to say.
Pros: Very cheap; quick customer service response
Cons: Quality control issues with the company; nothing special in specs.
Samsung SF510 – It’s funny, but I don’t usually think of Samsung when I think of computers. Instead, I think more of multimedia devices, like MP3/4 players. But they are a popular brand for many reasons, and this laptop is a pretty good example of why. It has a 2.53 Ghz dual core processor, a 640 GB hard drive and 4 GB of RAM. The screen is a nice 15.6″, which makes it a bit bulky, but that is made up by the fairly thin body. It has also never had any major reported bug problems. All in all, it seems like a reliable piece of machine with above-average specs for basic users.
Pros: Great graphics, larger hard drive, good screen size.
Cons: Touchpad can be a little finicky.