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Need an <$500 Laptop

It seems like the wifi card on my father’s laptop has given up the ghost, can see APs but not connect Windows refused to work, Ubuntu would repeatedly ask for a password until giving up. Besides that, it was still on Windows 7 (which is either dead or about to die).

So we’re thinking that since it’s a rather old laptop and is having issues we might as well get a new one.

He mostly uses it for web browsing, email and the like so it doesn’t need to be fancy. We were thinking about a Chromebook but I’m hesitant because the password manager I was going to set him up with (Keepass) doesn’t have a ChromeOS version and I don’t particularly want to set up a yearly subscription for something close sourced like LastPass.

If you guys can suggest some good Windows laptops (or a Chromebook with a good password manager similar to Keepass) that’d be extremely helpful. OR if you guys know any good reviewers that cover the low end laptop market, that could be really useful too.

Any particular reason he needs a laptop?

The Lenovo IdeaPad 330s with the 512GB SSD should do nicely.

You could, and in most cases I recommend that even on new cheaper notebooks. From the OP, I would guess it is in the “damn this is slow”-state of its life span.

You could try replacing the wifi card, they can be had for very few $$$ on the interwebs. If nothing else it will increase the resale value a bit.


If you go the Chromebook route, remember their devices only have a support period of 5 to 7-ish years. An IdeaPad may be a better bet if he wants to keep it for a long time.

Specs: As @MetalizeYourBrain mentioned, the i5 8250u is in some very reasonably priced machines and is quite the performer.

Password manager: Try Bitwarden, it works from the web and can be self hosted.

I think that for now, before Ryzen mobile 4000 hits the market, the specs to go for on a Windows laptop are:

  • i5 8250U or i5 8265U
  • 8GB of RAM
  • 256GB SSD
  • FHD screen

The vendor doesen’t really make a difference. This configuration does really well for web browsing and general use, without feeling choppy after a month.

P.S. obv. for less than 500$ and you should find plenty of laptops with these specs in that price range.

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It’s mostly for the stuff like paying bills and typing emails that are often difficult or impossible (on some terrible sites) to do on a phone.

I’m planning on doing some research about it. I researched my old laptop awhile back and found that the only replacements were way to expensive to be worth it (for bluetooth compared to dongles). I’ll try to find one to price it out. Another reason I’m hesitant is because the failure mode of sees SSID but cannot connect feels weird. Although I guess it could just be the TX fried and not RX side.

Thanks, that’s a really good guide to follow. I figured that the manufacturer will only really matter for the keyboard and trackpad quality. The hardware is all that matters for it’s capabilities (at this level anyways, it doesn’t need monster cooling like a high end).

How long until the Ryzen 4000 series drop? I could imagine them being pretty reasonably priced. They’d come with the side benefit of not having their performance crippled from all the horrible security exploits being discovered (yet at least, hopefully never).

Does it have to be new? If you are savvy enough to do a windows reinstall then consider getting a used machine. I’d recommend 2 or 3 year old Lenovo ThinkPads. Buy them from a reputable eBay store (usually ex corporate machines upgraded in bulk, chances are they spent their entire life on some execs desk and are pristine). Some come a little marked but the sellers grade them. Go for A grade or B grade at worst.

In December I picked up a working x270 core i7 machine with 8GB ram and an nvme SSD… For under $400 (I don’t live in the US).

You could get two fully functional enterprise grade laptops (that retail over $1500 new and come with Win10 licenses) for your budget if you drop the spec to an i5. Be careful on screen resolution though as corporate devices regularly come with 768p screens.

Other downsides to consider: No warranty, battery may need replacing (another $30), you will want to reinstall windows so you won’t get “free software” (may be a bonus).

You also have to take a leap of faith with the vendor, but the bigger ones are usually legit. Don’t buy from “1 for sale” individuals.

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Try the Pinebook Pro. Its like a chromebook but runs Linux on ARM. Costs about 199USD + shipping to your side of the world.

It should be sufficient for email, web browsing, youtube and light multimedia.

I would not suggest a Pinebook Pro for a regular consumer.

It is sufficient to do all those things, but software is still a little finicky right now. Combined with a jump from Windows 7 to Linux I think it’ll be more of an irritation than a regular laptop.

Used thinkpad.

Do it up.

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Maybe. But with limited funds, this must be an option.

Not really since it’s an ARM machine basically still developing. It doesen’t even have hardware acceleration for youtube videos. I would not suggest that at all.

@Calvin I really don’t know how and when AMD is going to roll out their new mobile CPU. If you need a network card just buy the Intel 7260. I bought it for my own laptop and it works great. The only thing I had to do to avoid constant bluetooth disconnections on my laptop (HP, specs in my profile) was disabling power saving. It’s 20$ on Amazon US.

The last good ThinkPad. The keyboard kicks the crap out of any laptop on the market today. Really easy to find parts for still. Built like a tank, but not as heavy as like a typical gaming laptop. I’ve accidentally stepped on mine while it was closed, and it was fine, and I’m 6’1" and 267 lbs. Wouldn’t stand on it for too long, but still. Guarantee my 2016 MacBook Pro from work would not have made it out alive.

These are custom-refurbs.
2nd Gen i5
Windows 10 or 7

You can choose other options as well.

Yea, a thinkpad (buisness laptop) will likely last much longer than some ideapad (consumer trash) even if bought new.

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And it’ll easily handle the basics then? Chrome with YouTube and maybe some shitty sites? Good Wifi?

Most any laptop with an ok i3 or i5 will. I had an L520 and I miss it. The backlight circuit popped when I tried to give it a 1080p screen. Thats the only issue really, and it just has an i5 2320. I even gamed on it.

Someday I’ll get it fixed tho, or fix it myself.

T420 is getting on the older side. If you are not a power typist the modern keyboards are fine. I use a modern one every day for work and they are comfortable. The newer ones (50 series or newer) have really good battery life. The T series is larger and heavier. the x series is an ultrabook and light, but smaller screen. The Yoga is basically an x series with a swivel screen and usually have touchscreens. As per above the hardware spec is not that important but underspend on the screen (1080p is a must) or the condition (dont go for “C grade”).


Not the most recent tech, but it is dual-band so it’s still pretty good. I can get a direct comparison when I get home.

For emails and web browsing?

Luckily they have one that’s B grade.

Um, use a usb wifi card , run linux? You don’t need much for email and browsing. Post current stats? Recommend used over new for that usage, unless weight/battery life are main priorities.