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A friend of mine is off to college this fall (as am I), and she wants a laptop. Nothing fancy, no 3D software, no video / audio editing or stuff like that. Trouble is, she only has about $500 to spend. What would be a decent Windows laptop for the price? 

 

Also, which of the US / UK (or other) retailers should I choose if I want to order from outside those countries (namely Eastern Europe)?

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Posted

If you don't need anything fancy, I would reccomend a tablet. Get one with Windows 8 on it. Easier to carry around.

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If you don't need anything fancy, I would reccomend a tablet. Get one with Windows 8 on it. Easier to carry around.

Those can get pricey, and are in no way laptop replacements. Students ideally need something with an actual keyboard, so they can type reports and actually be productive. Tablets are great for consuming media, but have no place for replacing laptops. The only tablet I can see replacing a laptop is like Surface Pro type device, and again, that's easily $500+. Even then, it might not be ideal because it doesn't have ethernet ports or the flexibility of having other ports. 

 

OP, really any laptop $500 should get everything done. You don't have to be picky, as the user doesn't sound too demanding on machine specs. At that rate, you should be able to get a Intel Core i3 or perhaps an i5. 4GB of RAM is typically standard for that price point, and 8GB might be possible too. 

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Those can get pricey, and are in no way laptop replacements. Students ideally need something with an actual keyboard, so they can type reports and actually be productive. Tablets are great for consuming media, but have no place for replacing laptops. The only tablet I can see replacing a laptop is like Surface Pro type device, and again, that's easily $500+. Even then, it might not be ideal because it doesn't have ethernet ports or the flexibility of having other ports. 

 

There are normally keyboard attachments, so that is not an issue. Why would they need ethernet ports? 99% of the time, you are using wireless.

 

What would you need to change in a laptop? All you can change is the HDD, ODD, and RAM. That is not an issue.

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OP, really any laptop $500 should get everything done. You don't have to be picky, as the user doesn't sound too demanding on machine specs. At that rate, you should be able to get a Intel Core i3 or perhaps an i5. 4GB of RAM is typically standard for that price point, and 8GB might be possible too. 

 

I know I don't have to be picky, but is there any brand that's a little more reliable for the price point? I've heard mixed things about Dell and Acer (some of the models fit in the price range) so that's why I'm asking.

 

 

If you don't need anything fancy, I would reccomend a tablet. Get one with Windows 8 on it. Easier to carry around.

 

I'll ask her about it and let you know. 

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I highly recommend checking tigerdirect out for getting a laptop. I have bought laptops there and they are great. Look at the AMD versions, there are quad core AMD based laptops under 500 believe or not.  If you were to get a tablet, I would spend a little more to get one that intel based and comes with a keyboard attachment. Then again, you get more performance and power for the money buying a laptop. Touchscreens are not really a necessary but rather are a thrill feature.

 

http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/Category/guidedSearch.asp?CatId=17&sel=Price%3BPrice5

 

 

In fact here's a touch screen laptop for $499 that has descent specs!

http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=8370865&CatId=17

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Those can get pricey, and are in no way laptop replacements. Students ideally need something with an actual keyboard, so they can type reports and actually be productive. Tablets are great for consuming media, but have no place for replacing laptops. The only tablet I can see replacing a laptop is like Surface Pro type device, and again, that's easily $500+. Even then, it might not be ideal because it doesn't have ethernet ports or the flexibility of having other ports. 

 

OP, really any laptop $500 should get everything done. You don't have to be picky, as the user doesn't sound too demanding on machine specs. At that rate, you should be able to get a Intel Core i3 or perhaps an i5. 4GB of RAM is typically standard for that price point, and 8GB might be possible too. 

 

I don't mean to be critical, but really for most students all you really need is a PDF viewer, word, and excel. As a engineering student this is all I used - I mean we did have some specialist software (HYSYS, OLGA, Pipesim, etc for all you process engineers out there) but the licenses were too expensive and restrictive to have personal copies so we used the uni computers.

 

I would give SERIOUS consideration to a Surface RT, they are really cheap, super light, great battery, highly productive when you're moving around...and when you're at home you have a USB hub ($5) with wired keyboard/mouse or one of those fancy wireless keyboard/mouse combos that has a usb wifi dongle. Crank up a monitor off the display port and bobs your uncle - fully productive computer! Its not for everyone...but id give it serious consideration. Even as an engineering student I'd have loved one of these!

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There are normally keyboard attachments, so that is not an issue. Why would they need ethernet ports? 99% of the time, you are using wireless.

 

What would you need to change in a laptop? All you can change is the HDD, ODD, and RAM. That is not an issue.

Ports, as in USB ports, full fledged HDMI/VGA ports. Believe it or not, most dorms still have ethernet ports so you can hook up. See response below...

 

I don't mean to be critical, but really for most students all you really need is a PDF viewer, word, and excel. As a engineering student this is all I used - I mean we did have some specialist software (HYSYS, OLGA, Pipesim, etc for all you process engineers out there) but the licenses were too expensive and restrictive to have personal copies so we used the uni computers.

 

I would give SERIOUS consideration to a Surface RT, they are really cheap, super light, great battery, highly productive when you're moving around...and when you're at home you have a USB hub ($5) with wired keyboard/mouse or one of those fancy wireless keyboard/mouse combos that has a usb wifi dongle. Crank up a monitor off the display port and bobs your uncle - fully productive computer! Its not for everyone...but id give it serious consideration. Even as an engineering student I'd have loved one of these!

 

The convenience of having your own computer is great, especially when you need to take your laptop to class - take notes, etc. I hate having to rely on other equipment, and going to computer labs to do work. If you have to type (long or short) reports, it will be painful to do so on a tablet like device. The (hardware/software) keyboards on tablets just aren't comfortable. Tablets just not a good form factor for being productive. Now, if you have a desktop and combine it with a tablet, that's a good combination. Besides Windows RT is super restrictive on what you can and can't run. If you're not tech oriented, it is not a good device. 

 

You guys aren't being practical. A tablet might satisfy certain less demanding users. But, really a laptop is cheap, and ultimately has way more flexibility than a tablet. Why do you think college students still choose laptops over tablets?  

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 For  about $200+ more than the Surface RT you can get a laptop that also features a touch screen, and offers considerably more performance.  Plus, if the OP wanted to do some gaming or something on the desktop during free time,they could. I would highly recommend shopping around before deciding and compare laptop and tablet forms. Price differences between a tablet and a laptop will be quite significant.

 

 

Heres a suggestion for a touchscreen laptop. There's a lot more laptops to choose than this if your looking for something different.

http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=8370865&CatId=17

 

Heres a fairly good laptop with a quad core and a 17 inch display for under $500

http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=8339663&CatId=4936

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I'm not going to debate the pros and cos of the hybrid, the advantages and disadvantages of RT vs pro - you know what you will use it for, so its more a personal choice.

 

What I would suggest Sszecret is while just slipping in for a sub $500 laptop, which is nice affordable price for a laptop, I would defiantly look at some alternatives which are more common in that price bracket.

 

After having lugged a 3kg 15" laptop around with me at uni for 5 years, I would really suggest going something as light as possible, with good battery life. If you're going to type up a page or two, you can get away with a small laptop (~11") but if you're going to write a thesis on it, I would look at something 13-14" range.

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Nowadays, people look for something very portable, light, and stylish: 

 

Give it a try (It's very close to the 500$ range):

http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=7377432&CatId=4935

 

It'll be good for her portability and the i3 will suffice for every task she'll throw to her laptop. 

 

Edit: I've been checking. I currently have a Core 2 Duo T8300 (2.4 GHz - Dual Core). And it runs every app with a breeze. (Note: no gaming, no 3D intensive applications since my laptop is really old). I usually do heavy browsing: 1 - 3 browsers with 16~ tabs each. Watch Full HD videos (the i3 is better at it), and it's quite complete for a multimedia machine. So pretty much everything she'll be doing it won't stagger. 

 

And this processor is slightly better. 

 

http://cpuboss.com/cpus/Intel-Core2-Duo-T8300-vs-Intel-Core-i3-3217U

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Don't bother with a tablet.  For that price, even the Surface RT with the keyboard is out of the price range.  And a laptop will have much much much more functionality and convenience than a tablet.  Better screen, bigger screen, more I/O, DVD burner, way better keyboard, more storage space, much faster, full Windows, etc etc.  

 

The only downside of a laptop is slightly less "portability", but honestly who cares?

 

There's no way in hell a college student should limit themselves to just a tablet.  Productivity will be really bad and I guarantee she will highly regret buying the thing.

 

This is the route I would go for that price range:

http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=8520412&CatId=4936

 

Yeah it's refurbished, but that's nothing to be worried about.  You can save a ton of money this way.

It has a nice 15.6" screen, plenty of HDD space, modern i5 CPU, plenty of RAM.  The only downside is that it has Windows 8, but you can probably downgrade it to Win7 if you want.

 

Honestly, that's a really good price for a laptop of those specs.  Then use the leftover budget to buy a nice mouse. 

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Don't bother with a tablet.  For that price, even the Surface RT with the keyboard is out of the price range.  And a laptop will have much much much more functionality and convenience than a tablet.  Better screen, bigger screen, more I/O, DVD burner, way better keyboard, more storage space, much faster, full Windows, etc etc.  

 

The only downside of a laptop is slightly less "portability", but honestly who cares?

 

There's no way in hell a college student should limit themselves to just a tablet.  Productivity will be really bad and I guarantee she will highly regret buying the thing.

 

This is the route I would go for that price range:

http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=8520412&CatId=4936

 

Yeah it's refurbished, but that's nothing to be worried about.  You can save a ton of money this way.

It has a nice 15.6" screen, plenty of HDD space, modern i5 CPU, plenty of RAM.  The only downside is that it has Windows 8, but you can probably downgrade it to Win7 if you want.

 

Honestly, that's a really good price for a laptop of those specs.  Then use the leftover budget to buy a nice mouse. 

+1

 

Now, regarding the Win 8 part... Just throw it a Start Menu replacement such as startisback or Start8... It will be much less of a hassle than installing 7. 

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+1

 

Now, regarding the Win 8 part... Just throw it a Start Menu replacement such as startisback or Start8... It will be much less of a hassle than installing 7. 

That's true.  Probably the easiest solution.  (Y)

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Are touchscreen laptops in his budget?

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My my... I'll go for an AMD APU, but that's just me... and no tablet. a keyboard is always a necessity for any student.

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My my... I'll go for an AMD APU, but that's just me... and no tablet. a keyboard is always a necessity for any student.

Why get that when an i5 is well within the budget?

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Thank you all for the responses. Some really interesting suggestions here, especially that Asus 15.6''. 

She said that 11'' is a bit too small, so I would think a tablet is out of question (are there any 13-14 inch ones out there? I know there's a 20'' Panasonic one, but that's just ridiculous). 

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surface rt. its $350,and if you're a student, you save 10%,so you're down to $315. then add the type cover keyboard for $130, you're now at $445,and Microsoft Office is included. 8-10 hours battery life. thats an incredible deal.

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Late to the party, but here's something very key to remember: buy business class! It barely matters what brand you choose, the consumer lineups all suck, but the business class laptops are pretty much all decent across the board. Dell for example has a bunch for <$500, I really quite like their recent design style http://www.dell.com/us/business/p/laptops#!facets=53996~0~839326&p=1

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Are touchscreen laptops in his budget?

Touchscreen laptops aren't in anyone's budget when you could spend the money spent on the touch screen on something useful instead like more RAM, bigger HDD, etc.

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Touchscreen laptops aren't in anyone's budget when you could spend the money spent on the touch screen on something useful instead like more RAM, bigger HDD, etc.

 

says someone who's never used one.

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says someone who's never used one.

Coming from someone who has used one, I agree with him.

 

That touchscreen isn't going to make your laptop run smoother/faster.  It isn't going to increase your storage.  It is going to be this cool gimmick that lasts a week until you are fed up with the smudges on the screen and are bored with it.  Then you find yourself wishing you had more ram to make the stuttering pos run better, or a little bit more storage for your music/etc.

 

If you are on a budget, consider the core things first, and focus less on gimmicky items that may, or may not hold long term value.

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If you want to consume get a tablet

if you want to produce get a laptop

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says someone who's never used one.

My laptop was less than $350 (Core i3 3217U, 4GB RAM, 11.6" screen), and has it. I don't use the touch screen at all, even though it has Windows 8. I just hate fingerprints, and I like keyboard/mouse better. 

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If you want to consume get a tablet

if you want to produce get a laptop

That's the best way to put it, really. A tablet is an absolutely ridiculous suggestion in place of a laptop for college.

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