Computers and cars have a lot in common. We go out the store and put down lots of cash for the best looking one we can find–sometimes, if we’re lucky, we can get years of good service out of them. But eventually, they break down and have to get put into retirement, which starts us on the search for a replacement. Unfortunately, reader Katherine has a similar type of problem.
Hey! I’m a complete luddite, finally ready to breakdown and replace my computer. I am a woman of simplistic needs. I need something Very durable that can tough out rough handling being bicycled/bussed around.
I need something that will hold a great deal of documents and music. I would like the future ability to photo shop and create images. And I would like a light and small machine easy to cart around that loads up quickly and holds charge. I can live without games or movies or high resolution. Did I mention it that it needs to be durable? And I want it to cost no more than $600. Does it exist?
If the $600 price ceiling wasn’t an issue, we’d be tempted to suggest the Panasonic Toughbook C1–it’s definitely tough enough to withstand almost any kind of abuse, but since the configuration we tested cost $2,829, we’ll leave it off the table. Unfortunately, at your sub-$600 price point few systems are specifically designed with ruggedness in mind, but we will name a few that, in our experience, are well-made and lightweight.
The Toshiba Satellite T235 ($598) is a well-made 13-inch notebook that gets a hefty 6 hours and 11 minutes of battery life. It also comes with a 320GB hard drive, 4GB RAM and a 1.2-GHz Intel Pentium U5400, so you’ll have ample room for storage and it’ll definitely load up lots of things quickly. The chrome-colored deck, touchpad and keyboard is also one of the best and most comfortable palm rests we’ve seen in a while.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X100e ($604) is an ultraportable that’s built for business, which means that it’s extremely well constructed. In particular, we are fans of the X100e’s keyboard and great sounding speaker. With a small 11.6-inch screen, it’s definitely portable enough to fit in your backpack and weighs only 3.2 pounds. With an AMD Turion Neo X2 dual-core 1.6-GHz processor and a 250GB hard drive, there’s also ample speed and storage.
Finally, if this isn’t going to be your main computer, you could opt for the Samsung NB30 ($379). It’s a 10.1-inch notebook and only clocks in at 2.8 pounds, so it’d be light and extremely easy to carry around. While the NB30′s battery life of 6 hours and 22 minutes was only slightly above the average battery life in its category, it earned high marks for build quality. The top of the NB30 is scratch-resistant and textured, so if you’re on a bike ride, you can toss it into your backpack without worrying about damage. Plus, with a spill-resistant keyboard and hard drive shock protection, it’s ready to take on most rough conditions. Unfortunately, as a netbook with an Atom processor it won’t be as good at editing images and video.