Low-end ($500) Laptop recommendations/advice?


Sep 4, 2010
I am sorry for my ignorance, I keep up with computers in general, but mostly toward the high end, since I work in special effects and animation.

Nonetheless, my brother (based in Central America), needs a new budget oriented laptop. He's a computer imbecile that struggles along just to send and receive eMail and surf the web. Other uses include media playing of mp3's and up to 1080p movies/vids that I (and others) have provided to him. He has a 2-4 Mbit dsl connection which he uses to watch internet based video streaming surf competitions (a few of the surf sites stream up to 720p I am told). For the most part, he's always plugged in and does not travel with it very much.

Who\what ever we go with, I'll wipe it clean and do a fresh win7 or 8.1-64bit install to get rid of any crapware. Then add my build of fFox portable followed by stripped down version of chrome portable, then add flash player, winamp lite, vlc, AVG and a few other utilities that I can use to walk him through various stuff. When finished, I'll make a linux boot disk w/clonezilla and back-up a mirror of the drive to a portable HD. That way, I can walk him through a system restore if he screws it up.

He'd like to stay within $4-500, but is willing to spend up to $700 if required to get a longer lasting machine. He wants a pretty good sized screen, so I'm focused on 15-17" models. Ideally, it seems that he should have a quad core, 8GB, system with an 80GB+ ssd, but that might be a tall order given his budget.

As I've looked through a few vendors, I am shocked at how many units I see with just dual core cpu's. It seems to me that if he wants to reliably play 1080p videos that he should stick to quad core systems only. Is this correct?How important is it that he get a 4th generation processor vs old cpu's? Is AMD worth considering at this budget?

Is 4GB RAM enough for web surfing and watching up to 1080p vids, or should I be sticking to 6 or 8GB systems?

How important do you think it is that he gets an ssd? I know they make a system quite a bit snappier, but he mostly just runs his browser, winamp light and vlc portable.

What brands do you all recommend? Where are the best places to shop outside newegg & B&H?

Thanks for any advice! :-D


Sep 4, 2010
1. What is your budget?
$4-500, maybe as much as $700.

2. What is the size of the notebook that you are considering?

3. What screen resolution do you want?
min 1366 x 768, ideally 1600x900.

4. Do you need a portable or desktop replacement laptop?
Basic Laptop, not much travel.

5. How much battery life do you need?
Basic Laptop, not much travel.Most always plugged in.

6. Do you want to play games with your laptop? If so then please list the games that you want to with the settings that you want for these games. (Low,Medium or High)?
No games beside Solitare.

7. What other tasks do you want to do with your laptop? (Photo/Video editing, Etc.)
Surf web, eMail, play 1080p videos, play music, He also uses a Magic jack for international calling.

8. How much storage (Hard Drive capacity) do you need?
60-80+ GB?

9. If you are considering specific sites to buy from, please post their links.
What places are best, besides B&H or Newegg? Solid rep vendors only, please.

10. How long do you want to keep your laptop?
4-5 years or more.

11. What kind of Optical drive do you need? DVD ROM/Writer,Bluray ROM/Writer,Etc ?

12. Please tell us about the brands that you prefer to buy from them and the brands that you don't like and explain the reasons.
No preference.

13. What country do you live in?
USA, brother is in Costa Rica.

14. Additionally... you should also consider what support options are available in your area.
I provide support via telephone from the states. He also has a friend in Costa Rica that is a "computer guy."

15. If you buy something abroad, will you be able to have it fixed near where you live?

16. Does the warranty apply?
He comes to the states about every 18 months.

17. How quickly do local accredited technicians fix laptops?
They don't.


For that budget you will have an issue getting something stable for him, the top build quality systems start at the top end of your budget as they are business models like the HP EliteBooks and Lenovo T series.

Look for a used Lenovo T420 system, then replace the drive with a solid state if you like. Even though it will be 2-3 yrs old, it will be more reliable and sturdier than anything you'd find for your price range.

If you want to get a larger screen, the W workstation models have a very good screen, and you can still get the W510 or W520 at a decent price.
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