Cheap, used high-performance 15-inch laptops

My ancient Core 2 Thinkpad finally bit the dust, and I am looking for a replacement. I have a very specific set of criteria, which is making selecting a worthy replacement difficult.

I am in the used or refurbished category, I am a computer tech so I have no problem buying used barebones machines and installing my own RAM, HDD, OS, etc. I have cheap access to Windows licenses through work so the preinstalled OS is of no concern. My absolute maximum budget is $500, but I am really trying to stay more around the $400 price range.

My required criteria is as follows -
No bigger than 15-inch form factor - weight and thickness is of no concern.
Support for at least 16GB of RAM
Decent screen, preferably at least 1600x900
True 3rd generation + quad-core i5 or i7 (or socketed CPU allowing ability to upgrade to quad-core at later date)
Decent 2GB dedicated graphics (Nvidia Quadro K2000M, K2100M, AMD 8790M, etc.)
Durable and long-lasting. Ability to take bumps and some abuse.

I use both Windows 10 Pro and Linux Mint 18. I also run virtual machines.

For a frame of reference, I have been eyeing the Lenovo ThinkPad W530, W540, and Dell Latitude E6540 on eBay. I have found some really great priced used units from reputable sellers, the only problem is that each laptop has a major problem or deficiency that is prompting me to look for other options.

For example, the W530 is my first choice at the moment, but I am concerned about the performance of the older K2000M graphics chip. Researching the W540, I have found that the trackpad is almost universally despised and prone to mis-clicks, and that the build quality is not up to par compared to older Thinkpads. The Dell Latitude E6540 looked really compelling, especially given the relatively strong AMD 8790M graphics, until I did some research and found that the one-fan thermal system was completely inadequate, and that heavy CPU/GPU throttling and premature motherboard failure was extremely common on this model.

My goal is to get into something that can run VM’s with relative ease, that I can use at work for cloning/ imaging disks, downloading drivers, burning discs, backup customer data etc. I also wanted to get something that can actually play some of my slightly older game library (2013 to 2014 games) at medium to low settings when I am away from home or at a friends house and don’t have access to my desktop.

I know it’s probably a lot to ask, anything that has the performance of the Dell E6540 system minus the throttling issues and motherboard failure would be optimal.

PS - I apologize for the wall of text!


Wish I could help, most of my experience is in the 250 to 300 range with bristol ridge and only as gaming laptops.
Amazon does have killer sales that pop up and last only a few hours

Y40-80’s are rather cheap but have hinge breakages. Easy to fix with super glue though.

I’ve been using an E6450 I was given from company surplus for over a year now, I really like it, it’s built like a brick-out-house, is really easily upgradeable thanks to the removal ODD and socketed CPU and is not plagued by the bulging battery problems of newer enterprise dell’s! However the newer Ivy-Bridge based models with discrete graphics are a bit of a rare-beast and they do have a tendency to run a bit hot, however if you can get one for a decent price go for it! I’m not sure what US pricing is like but I certainly wouldn’t pay more than £250 for one here in the UK though

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I didn’t know that the E6450 even existed. I will try and see if I can find one. Dells model numbers can be confusing at best!

Something like this is looking promising, it’s a hard pill to swallow though, because historically I can’t stand HP.

HP’s consumer hardware is garbage at best, but ZBooks are odd. They’re in the same weight/size range as typical gaming laptops, the build quality is respectable… But the UEFI is about what you’d expect from HP, so research for upgrading stuff like wifi and installing linux is something to watch out for.

I think it would be worth it if you’re willing to lug around the weight… They’re pretty heavy.

I am definitely antsy about buying an HP, seeing I spend countless hours at work fixing their less expensive laptops. They usually manage to tick just about ever “design flaw” mark in the book. However, the Zbook does look suspiciously good. I will do some more digging on it. As for weight, I don’t mind if it’s heavy. I have a MacBook Pro I take to school, this I would be taking just to work and for the occasional days at school where I need a Windows/ Linux system.

Alternatively, finding an Asus G50V wouldn’t be too bad. Any socket T chip will fit all the way to quads, and a 260M can sit in there.

Sorry not sure why thats posted here >.> I thought I was in the lounge.

Has a k1100m an i7 and a 256gb ssd. Though its about 20usd over your budget but it has everything else from what i can tell.

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Linux install on those okay?

Lenovo products tend to do fine with Linux.

Do not know if it is wworth mentioning, but i recently bought the acer aspire 5 for mostly school but i wanted to do some light gaming. It has a 940mx which is handling games very well considering it is a mobile chip. I did upgrade the hard drive in it though to a samsung 850 evo. But it is not a bad option to look at