Looking for a budget laptop for $310 or less

Discussion in 'What Notebook Should I Buy?' started by GFS11, Mar 14, 2018.

  1. GFS11

    GFS11 Notebook Enthusiast

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    General Questions

    1) What is your budget?

    $500 CAD (~$400 USD)

    2) What size notebook would you prefer?

    d. Mainstream; 15" - 16" screen

    3) Where will you buying this notebook?

    Canada

    4) Are there any brands that you prefer or any you really don't like?
    a. Like: Dell, Lenovo, Acer, ASUS
    b. Dislike: HP

    5) Would you consider laptops that are refurbished/redistributed?

    No

    6) What are the primary tasks will you be performing with this notebook?

    Internet browsing

    7) Will you be taking the notebook with you to different places, leaving it on your desk or both?

    Leaving it on my desk 24/7


    8) Will you be playing games on your notebook? If so, please state which games or types of games?

    No

    9) How many hours of battery life do you need?

    Battery is not important since laptop will be plugged in all the time

    10) Would you prefer to see the notebooks you're considering before purchasing it or buying a notebook on-line without seeing it is OK?

    Buying online is okay

    11) What OS do you prefer? Windows (Windows 7 / 8), Mac OS, Linux, Chrome OS, etc.

    Windows 10

    Screen Specifics

    12) From the choices below, what screen resolution(s) would you prefer? Keep in mind screen size in conjunction with resolution will play a large role in overall viewing comfort level. Everyone is different. Some like really small text, while others like their text big and easy to read. (Scroll down to see screen resolution information.)

    Standard Resolutions: WXGA, HD, 720p

    13) Do you want a glossy/reflective screen or a matte/non-glossy screen? (Scroll down to see explanations.)

    Matte

    Build Quality and Design

    14) Are the notebook's looks and stylishness important to you?

    Not important

    15) When are you buying this laptop?

    Sometime in the future

    16) How long do you want this laptop to last?

    7 years

    Notebook Components

    17) How much hard drive space do you need? Do you want a SSD drive?

    500 GB. SSD drive not necessary.

    18) Do you need an optical drive? If yes, a DVD Burner, Blu-ray Reader or Blu-Ray Burner?

    No

    I'm fairly experienced with computers, but I don't know much about computer specs. Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2018
  2. OverTallman

    OverTallman Notebook Evangelist

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    Well to be honest, at that price point you're better off looking for a used laptop. US$400 normally gives you a Apollo Lake laptop with cheap build quality, which is adequate for browsing, but no way it'll last a long time.
     
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  3. GFS11

    GFS11 Notebook Enthusiast

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    I'd much prefer getting a new laptop and don't mind sacrificing specs for something brand new. I found a Lenovo IdeaPad 320 AMD A9-9420 / 4GB / 1TB HD for $400 CAD ($310 USD). Is this one okay and will it last a long time?
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2018
  4. OverTallman

    OverTallman Notebook Evangelist

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    Here's some issues on this laptop:
    • Slow dual-core Bulldozer APU, granted the iGPU is quite decent
    • 4GB RAM and running in single channel
    • 5400rpm HDD, I know it's 1TB but come on
    • 768p TN screen, low resolution, washed out color and bad viewing angle
    • Flimsy plastic chassis, the keyboard flexes a lot in the middle
    • Thermal throttling under load, i.e. it overheats when you stress it
    • Non-functional touchpad as reported by many, mostly a driver problem or just dumb users (F6 key enables / disables the touchpad)
    • Low battery life, 5 hours (advertised) is low compared to Intel ULV laptops, but that's not important to you
    Is this one good? Not in my book, but given your budget and your persistence on a new laptop, you can't ask for too much, it's one of the better among the pile of throwaway laptops.

    Though it's not without its merits: RAM is upgradeable, though there's only a single RAM slot so you have to buy a new module and replace the existing one, still you should consider upping the RAM to 8GB/16GB, 4GB is kinda low nowadays; DVD drive can be replaced with an HDD caddy, then you can buy a 256GB SATA SSD and move that slow HDD to the caddy, reinstall clean Windows (straight from the M$ ISO file, no Lenovo bloatwares) on SSD and you'll get snappy Windows experience + large storage space. Of course, this costs money.

    Don't expect it'll last 7 years however, even if the plastic chassis doesn't crack or break, that slow CPU will be more of a performance bottleneck as time goes on, it's about as good as the Sandy Bridge i3 and that's a 6-7 year chip.
     
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  5. bennni

    bennni Notebook Evangelist

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    For the uses you have stated, it sounds like it'll be enough. 4GB of RAM is a bit miserly but for general internet browsing, it should be ok without too many tabs open and other tasks running.
    It seems like it does support a hard drive and RAM upgrade so an SSD and RAM swap may be possible in the future.
    The screen stands out as being sub-par but this might not be an issue for you.
    It will likely come with a ton of bloatware, so a fresh Windows install may be worth considering.
    As for lasting a long time - I'd say 3 years is quite likely and anything beyond that is a bonus.

    Edit: I went to get a coffee and Overtallman beat me to it - good points made as well.
     
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  6. GFS11

    GFS11 Notebook Enthusiast

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    I'm currently running an Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 3800+ with 3.5GB RAM, so I'm guessing this CPU would be faster than mine?

    I have a 74GB HDD in my desktop, but I'm guessing mine is 7200 RPM?

    I use a Sony SDM-S73 LCD with 1280x1024 resolution and a VGA cable. Would this laptop screen be an upgrade?

    What does this flexing mean?

    The most stressful thing I'll do is probably watching HD videos in 720p. Would this be a problem?

    I plan to use a wired mouse all the time, so the touchpad shouldn't be that important.

    I don't plan to upgrade the laptop since I'm not that familiar with computer hardware. As for installing Windows, what is the M$ ISO file?

    Would the plastic chassis break on its own if the laptop is always just sitting at my desk and never moved? I'm using a pretty old CPU right now, but I don't find much slowdown with it. With my usage, do you think I can squeeze out 7 years on it? Thanks for the help!
     
  7. GFS11

    GFS11 Notebook Enthusiast

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    Does the laptop come with a copy of Windows for a fresh install? My Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 3800+ has lasted me quite a long time and it's still snappy enough for my usage. Wouldn't this laptop be faster than my current PC and last longer than 3 years? Or are there other contributing factors that would shorten the lifespan of a laptop versus a desktop? Thank you.
     
  8. bennni

    bennni Notebook Evangelist

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    I wouldn't rely upon it coming with a Windows install disk if that's what you mean - but it's not difficult to make it yourself. These days, the Windows key is typically stored in the BIOS, so it should be a case of downloading the correct version of the Windows 10 ISO (Fairly sure this system comes with Win10), writing it to a USB stick or DVD with the program called 'Rufus' and then booting from it. In any case, write down the Windows product key (Press the Windows key and the 'pause' key to see it) before reinstalling - it can't hurt to be safe. If it comes with another version of Windows then the same still applies - obviously you will need the correct Windows ISO disk image file...

    Chassis are not know for spontaneously breaking - it's usually an impact caused by falling off of said desk/bed/table/being banged or otherwise impacted during transportation. It's not a horrific CPU but I'd expect the fan to be in use quite a lot, which would annoy me but the CPU itself will likely be OK. For a long time I used an ancient Latitude E6410 with a 1st gen i5 processor and had a similar usage as you - the system worked fine for general browsing and general tasks. I'll leave Overtallman to answer your other questions - bare in mind that if you are typing a lot, then keyboard flex can quickly become very annoying.
     
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  9. OverTallman

    OverTallman Notebook Evangelist

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    Combined both posts so I can see all your inquiries, bennni-san have covered some of your questions and I'm gonna do the same here.
    1. Well if you're coming from something that old (I mean, it's a Socket 939 processor :eek:), pretty much anything would be a big improvement, for instance A9-9420 scores more than double of your Athlon in Passmark. Not that it's very accurate, but it roughly gives you an idea on how big the performance gap is.

    2. Maybe or maybe not, you can check its spec with programs like CrystalDiskInfo (provided the HDD supports S.M.A.R.T.), or look for model number on the label and Google it.

    3. Depends on what aspect ratio you prefer, 1280x1024 is 5:4 while 1366x768 is 16:9, I personally dig squarish screens for its vertical space but that's just me, you won't see squarish screens on a mainstream laptop anyway. However 1366x768 is just objectively sub-par for a 15.6" screen nowadays, not to mention they're mostly low quality screens.

    4. When you press on the keyboard hard, the whole keyboard depresses, particularly in the middle. As bennni-san said, if you're a frequent typer you may find this annoying. It more or less shows its build quality too, though thin laptops tend to flex more.

    5. No, not at all. Even your antique Athlon coupled with a decent graphics card can do that.

    6. That's good :)

    7. And I thought you're familiar with computers? o_O

      Anyway, you can replace RAM, HDD and DVD drive (for an HDD caddy) in this laptop. While the WiFi card can also be replaced, this is a Lenovo laptop, chances are there's a WiFi card whitelist which limits on what card you can use. 4GB RAM is a bit insufficient in 2018, considering how bloated programs have become. (I'm pointing at you, Google Chrome)

    8. In case you don't know, M$ provides image file for Windows 10 through their Media Creation Tool. It allows you to download the image file and save it to your USB flash drive or as an ISO image file, I prefer saving as ISO file simply because it's much more flexible (you can burn it to DVD or another USB drive later) and easier for backup. As to how to deal with the file, bennni-san has covered it.

    9. Normally it won't, but plastic can deteriorate (and eventually crack and break) under harsh environment, e.g. exposure to sunlight, hot temperature, humid climate etc. I had numerous plastic stuff that disintegrates because of constant sunlight exposure.

    10. Since it's a consumer-class laptop from Lenovo, it should come with some bloatware that you may find useless. They can be removed however.

    11. It's not like the CPU will suddenly die or what, it's just it can't keep up with the "advancement" of software and becomes obsolete. Programs will only get more and more bloated, take a look at Google Chrome, back in its early days it was a great alternative to Firefox which has been a well-known resource hog, and now it becomes an even bigger one than FF.

      As for how long it can last, no one can tell for certain, though bennni-san just told his story, Nehalem / Westmere (1st-gen Core i3/i5/i7) is still capable for everyday tasks, that's a 7-8 year old chip. I can confirm what he said, as I'm typing this very post on my E5510, which is just the cheaper and bigger brother of his E6410, using the same generation of processor. For what you mostly do, 7 years may be possible if the laptop doesn't break.
    Yay! Latitude is love, Latitude is life :D
     
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  10. GFS11

    GFS11 Notebook Enthusiast

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    I'm not too concerned about the aspect ratio. I'm more interested in which screen is better in terms of quality.

    Sorry, I meant I'm familiar with using a computer. I did build a computer for someone once and it took me quite a long time with a bit of trouble. I would rather not touch the hardware since I am not too confident in this area.

    My Athlon has kept up this long and still going strong, so I hope my next laptop will do the same. Thank you and bennni for the generous help!
     
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