Help Me, LAPTOP: I Want a Notebook for the Next 5 Years

In the Help Me, LAPTOP column, you ask for advice and we provide it. Today, we’re helping Melany, who wants a sub-$800 notebook that’s lightweight, durable, and future-proof.

Melany H writes:

I’m looking for a laptop that is fairly light and portable (less than 6 lbs) and costs less than $800. I use my laptop mostly for internet, downloading and working with flip videos and photos of my kids, downloading books and music from iTunes. Occasionally I use Excel or Word. I rarely watch movies or TV on my computer, although I suppose I might like that option but it would be something I would do only occasionally and is not a priority. I never play games. I don’t need to hook my computer to my TV either. I like the 13″ – 15″ screen size because they are easier to move from room to room in my house. I have 13-month-old twins so we are constantly moving our computers out of the way!

Are there a couple of laptops you could suggest that would be easy to use, lightweight and will last me for maybe 4-5 years?

Sounds like you want a notebook that is powerful enough to do the basic tasks you perform today, advanced enough to do the tasks you’ll want tomorrow, and durable enough to last four or five years in a house full of toddlers. So what notebooks do we recommend in your price and size range?

The first laptop that comes to mind is the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 14, which has a best-in-class spill-resistant keyboard and sleek looks. We’d buy it from Lenovo with either a Core i3 or Core i5 CPU and a 7,200 rpm hard drive.

You might also want to check out the Gateway ID49C07U, which has a metal lid and deck (so it will be able to take some abuse) and a cool glowing touchpad. Its Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 500GB hard drive should give you the performance you need at a reasonable price. The model we reviewed cost under $700.

Toshiba’s 13-inch Portege R700 is another strong choice and is available for $829.99 at Best Buy. It’s a little above your price range, but it has a lightweight and sturdy magnesium finish, long battery life, and a built-in DVD drive. You won’t find a better equipped laptop

Each week, we answers questions from readers in our Help Me LAPTOP section. If you need help buying or making the most of a notebook, smart phone, or other mobile gadget, e-mail us at helpme@laptopmag.com. We’ll use the most interesting questions in a future Help ME LAPTOP post.

AUTHOR BIO
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
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  1. Alex Chiu Says:

    I’ve checked out the Edge 14 as well as the Gateway (ID49C08u though), and I do think that for Melany the Edge would indeed be the best bet. I have found the Gateway ID series, as some reviews have shown, to have its touchpad be its major fault with you needing to push down quite a bit for a click to register (albeit I’m sure you can use the normal tap to click as well). The R700 I have not seen in person, but do know that it is configurable online.

  2. Jessica diehl Says:

    I am looking for a laptop to fit my needs….I need one for work and for school. I do work for HP but does not mean I know what kind of laptop that will best fit me. Storage is a big thing….please help

  3. wvbailey Says:

    Big mistake is about to happen, unless you buy the longest warranty you can obtain and the best machine you can afford! I.e. buy an “industrial grade” macnine with a minimum of 3 year “accidental care” warrnty. The cost you specified put your specification into the family of low-end “commercial-grade” — minimal performance, non-ruggedized, one-year warranty junk. Five years? Not a chance will your machine survive five years without a serious failure. These will , and this not a case of “may” but rather “will”, include all or some combination of) (i) kids pull pc to floor, smashing the power-”jack” or the USB jacks and breaking the motherboard to which the jacks are soldered (cost to repair $500-$1000, more than the initital cost of the machine itself), (ii) dead hard drive(s) — expect at least quantity 2 of these events in 5 years (am not kidding), (iii) dead NVIDIA fancy graphics chip that after 1 year 1 day smokes itself (expect 1-2 failures in 5 years), (iii) destroyed power converter, (iv) dead battery, (v) dead screen illumination or keyboard or touchpad or etc etc. The rules are: the more the machine moves hither and thither the more likely to cause a failure; (ii) the longer the machine is powered on (i.e. accumulated hours); (iii) the more often the machine is powred ON and OFF and OFF and ON (accumulated OFF-ON-OFF events), (iv) the hotter the machine is powereON ( you want to clean the ventilation openings of dust, and the fan-blades of dust, etc etc), (v) the more complicated the machine (more fancy, more complicated, geater parts-count) is the more likely a failure.

    Been there, done all of the above, and these were the industrial-strength machines (!) with the 3-or-4 year warranties. In a nutshell your choice is to either buy quanty 5 of 1-year life/warranty machine,s or you can buy quantity 1 of high-grade industiral-strength computer with more capability than you need now but 5 years will be obsolete (underpowered, repair-parts impossible to obtain, operating system e.g. XP no longer supported).

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