Please help: ~$600 budget for an all-purpose, primarily home use laptop.

blatantlyobvious

Estimable
Jul 21, 2014
4
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4,510
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Hi everyone!

I had a great amount of input and help from the tomshardware community last year when I built my gaming PC, and now I'm back with the hope of seeking out input from the community once again.

My girlfriend asked me to help her replace her dinosaur laptop. The laptop itself has been more or less reliable for the past four or five years, but the chassis is starting to fall apart and it's becoming more and more of an inconvenience to use it as a result.

I'd like to find a laptop in the $600 range that can be used reliably around the house and for occasional travel. My girlfriend is not much of a gamer, but she has played Torchlight II and the Sims 3 in the past. I do not expect her to care much for gaming power, but certainly booting up the Sims 3 (or similar titles) reliably would be a plus.

OS of preference is Windows.
6 or 8 GB of RAM is a priority.
A solid state drive (SSD) for OS and maybe some games would be nice, but I'm not sure it's common for laptops to have both SSD and HDD, and a good amount of storage (500 GB - 1 TB) is important.
Focusing on a reliable processor is more important than a GPU. I imagine the laptop she has now is running integrated graphics, and that has yet to be a problem, but I won't complain if a solid CPU/GPU combo exists at a decent price :)

Please feel free to make suggestions. If I've neglected to include any important information, please alert me and I'll supply additional info.

Thank you!

 

blatantlyobvious

Estimable
Jul 21, 2014
4
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4,510
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Thank you for the replies! Is the external drive enclosure meant to protect the SDD during the transfer, or is there another purpose for it? For $8 I'd say protecting the SDD is already worth the cost!

Also, is it relatively easy to swap HDD/SDD on a laptop. or is that something that changes depending on the laptop? I've never disassembled a laptop.

edit: if I were to keep the HDD in that Lenovo, how much of a drag would it be to have a HDD at 5400 rpm?
 

Wisecracker

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Jan 15, 2007
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Vantec includes a mini Phillips-head screw driver with their external enclosure that works great for removing laptop screws --- it's generally as simply as removing a few screws on the back panel to expose the internal HDD.

That laptop above has a 1TB HDD and yeah, 5400rpm drives are annoyingly slow. If you put the drive in the external enclosure it will provide bunches of space for your GFs media with the side benefit of being portable (and you could leave the original laptop OS installation on it as a backup if you chose to do so). With an SSD and Win8, your GF will likely boot to the tiles in 8 seconds or so!

In addition to nuking Superfish and the bloatware, I generally 'kill' all the live tiles, too. It's relatively simply to adjust the tiles to your liking once you get the hang of it.

It's also possible to download a fresh ISO of Win8 for installation on the SSD from a thumb-drive if you do not want to clone the laptop OEM installation.

Samsung and Sandisk include free cloning utilities with their SSDs --- others might do it, too, but I'm not aware of them. I've had great success with the Samsung cloning tool.

Simply follow the instructions after installation. If you stub your toe (unlikely) it will give you a 'trouble code' with instructions (most likely entering Administrative Tools and enabling a service or two to complete the cloning).

 

blatantlyobvious

Estimable
Jul 21, 2014
4
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4,510
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Thank you for the detailed write-up. You describe the process in such a way that I am not intimidated by having to crack the laptop open!

Is there any difference between a SSD for a laptop and a SSD for a desktop?
 

Wisecracker

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Jan 15, 2007
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No, sir. A typical 2.5-inch SSD will work just dandy.

I don't actually bother to put it in the enclosure when cloning (I'm lazy :) ) I just hook up the cable, carefully lay it on a flat surface, plug it into the laptop and fire up the software.

There is a Vantec USB3 enclosure for $15, too, if you want the extra speed and want to fork out the extra cash.

The HDD might be a little loose in the aluminum enclosure when you slide it in -- 2 paper ''shims' will keep it from rattling around :lol:

 
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