We like a reader who knows what he wants, and, when it comes to a student laptop for college classes, Reuven Shechter knows what he wants. Here’s what he wrote to our Help Me, LAPTOP column:
I want an ultraportable or thin and light laptop between 12-14 inches, weighing at least under 5 lbs, but preferably under 4. I want to make this laptop last at least 3 years or more, so it needs to have at minimum an Intel Core i5 processor and 4GB of RAM. Graphics aren’t so important, I only plan on doing light video editing and light Photoshop work, no gaming. A backlit keyboard would be a huge plus, as well as USB 3.0. An SSD would be great, but a 7200 RPM HDD would be fine as well. Also preferable would be a screen with a higher resolution than 1366×768, but if it’s a good screen anyways, then it’s fine.
Reuven also mentioned he wants a 3-year warranty and said his budget is$1,200, although he’s willing to spend a little more to get the notebook that meets his demands. What machines did we find for Reuven? Read on to find out.
No notebook is perfect, and Reuven wants a machine that’s both light and offers top-quality specs. However, not that many 12 to 14 inch machines offer high-end hardware like an SSD drive or a resolution higher than 1366 x 768 for less than $1,200. Some laptops in that size range do include features such as a 7200-rpm hard drive , a back-lit keyboard, and USB 3.0 ports, but not many. Here’s what we found given Reuben’s $1,200 price range.
If you’re looking for a larger screen, the HP Envy 14 is a high-performance 14.5-inch notebook that starts at $999 with a Core i5-480M processor, 4GB of RAM, and a two-year warranty that includes HP Total Care and hardware protection. Additionally, it includes a backlit keyboard and a 500GB 7200rpm hard drive. The downside is that the Envy 14 weighs 5.4 pounds, a bit more than Reuven’s desired max weight. There’s also no USB 3.0 port on this system.
A smaller and lighter recommendation might be the ASUS U36Jc. Its 13.3-inch frame weighs just 3.8 pounds and includes a Intel Core i5-460M for a starting price of $999. Plus there’s one USB 3.0 port, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB 7200-rpm drive. ASUS offers an extended warranty service for up to 3 years. It includes service replacement and direct ASUS expert support, but must be bought within 180 days of the product purchase.
Our last recommendation is a notebook that’s sure to help with editing video and photos, the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Weighing in at 4.6 pounds, the MacBook Pro starts at $1,199 with 4GB of RAM, a backlit keyboard, and a second-gen Intel Core i5 CPU. At 5,400 rpm, the hard drive is a notch shy of what Reuven asked for, but the 320GB drive moved a 4.97GB folder of media files at 28.1 MBps, about 4 MBps faster than the current average for thin-and-light notebooks. While there’s no USB 3.0 port, the MacBook Pro has an even faster Thunderbolt port–you’ll just have to wait for accessories that can take advantage of it. For an additional $249, Apple also offers the AppleCare Protection Plan (phone technical support and global repair coverage) for a period of three years. Of course, that raises the final price to $1,448, which hopefully is still in your budget range, Reuven!