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Category: #Laptops (Page 1 of 3)

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Galaxy Tab S7 and S7+ review: Samsung’s best can’t fix Android’s flaws

7b2a6510-f94f-11ea-ae77-8d4e7219b35cFor years, Samsung has been trying to make the perfect 2-in-1. It seems to have given up on the Windows-based Galaxy Book line to focus on the Galaxy Tab. That probably has something to do with Android’s far larger app library. But Google’s OS is not…

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AMD Finally Proves Its Laptop Prowess With the Incredible Lenovo Slim 7


There’s a lot to love about Lenovo’s laptops. They’re designed well. They’re reasonably priced for the specs. They’re reliable. I’ve tested a few and owned a few over the years, and it seems like every new model improves on the last. All that definitely applies to this IdeaPad Slim 7. It takes some of the best…

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Joanna Nelius

The Best Affordable Windows Laptops (That Don’t Suck)

Acer Swift 3 promotional image.Acer

You can get a good laptop, or you can get a cheap laptop. That’s the general wisdom, at least when it comes to something powerful enough to run Windows. At any budget under about $800, you’re looking at a bare minimum machine full of plastic and bargain bin parts.

But the laptop market is changing. With competition from cheaper low-power Chromebooks, and more flexible options thanks to AMD’s low-cost Ryzen chips, there are more choices in the lower price ranges than you might think.

What Makes a Laptop Not Suck?

That said, you can’t perform miracles. We’ve selected the best options in several categories at the lowest price for laptops that we’d consider using in our own work or leisure. While there were many choices at lower price levels, we knocked off any models that got notably poor marks from users or professional reviewers, and made other distinctions based on less obvious differences.

We also started with just one minimum specification. While a low-power processor, a low-res screen, or a plastic body aren’t necessarily deal-breakers, we think that trying to run Windows 10 on any machine with less than 8 GB of RAM is gonna be a bad time. Chromebooks can do with less, like the wonderful and extremely affordable Lenovo Chromebook Duet, but Windows has a lot more going on under the hood.

You can find some older models for less than the ones we chose, and a few currently produced ones at 4 GB or (shudder) 2 GB of memory. But we think these are the best in Windows laptops on the market that don’t suck.

The Best Standard Laptop: Acer Swift 3

Acer Swift 3Acer

If all you need is a regular laptop for browsing the web, reading email, and maybe watching the occasional movie, Acer’s Swift 3 is hard to beat. It comes in AMD and Intel varieties, but the SF314-42-R6YC variant packing a Ryzen 4500U is the one we recommend for those on a budget. It uses in a 14-inch, full HD IPS screen, a generous 256GB of SSD storage, and some surprising extras, like an illuminated keyboard and built-in fingerprint reader.

You won’t get a touchscreen in this price range, but the laptop does come loaded with a full-sized HDMI port for easy output to a monitor or TV, and USB-C charging along with two standard USB A ports.

Best General Cheap Windows Laptop

The Best Affordable 2-in-1 Laptop: HP Pavilion x360

Hp Pavilion x360HP

It’s hard to find an inexpensive laptop with decent specs and a fold-back 2-in-1 touchscreen design. The best one on the market is the Pavilion X360 from HP. We’re recommending the 14t-dw000 variant, which comes with 128GB of SSD storage. It’s using an Intel Core i3 10th-gen processor—something of a luxury in this category—though the 14-inch touchscreen is only “HD” at 1366×768.

The Pavilion X360 has a few premium touches, like a metal lid, integrated fingerprint reader, USB-C charging, and—a rarity on pretty much all laptops now—a full-sized SD card reader. While it’s compatible with an active stylus, one does not come in the box. Reviewers say the battery life isn’t great and the keyboard isn’t anything special, but performance, fit, and finish are well above expected in this price range.

The Best Affordable Big Screen Laptop: Dell Inspiron 17 3793

Dell Inspiron 17Dell

If you don’t often move your laptop around and prefer a big machine with a big screen, Dell’s got you covered. The latest generation of the Inspiron 17 (3793 model) packs a lot more of the comforts of a desktop while still being capable of travel (though it’s not coming out on any domestic airline flights). The base model on Dell’s website starts with a 10th-gen Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a huge (but slow) 1TB hard drive.

But the real draw here is that 17.3-inch 1080p screen (non-touch in the entry model) and the variety of ports on its big body. You get a full-sized SD card reader, three USB-A ports, HDMI out, and, surprisingly, both a full Ethernet port and a DVD drive. (Remember those?) The drawback is there are no USB-C ports, and one of the USB-A ports uses the slower 2.0 standard. Also be aware that at over six pounds, this machine is more “luggable” than portable.

The Best Affordable Ultraportable Laptop: ASUS Zenbook 14

Zenbook 14ASUS

For those who want a svelte laptop that will turn a few heads in an airport gate, the Asus Zenbook 14 will fit the bill. This little aluminum alloy machine is more expensive than others on this list with comparable hardware, but it weighs just 2.65 pounds and it’s only .7 inches thick. Bargain hunters should seek out the Q407IQ version with an AMD Ryzen 5 processor—it’s considerably cheaper than the Intel version of this laptop.

The Zenbook 14 uses a discrete GeForce MX350 GPU for a little extra graphical power, which you’ll be thankful for on the 14″ 1080p display with thin bezels. It has 256GB of SSD storage and a MicroSD card reader, with both HDMI and USB-C ports, but sadly it doesn’t charge from the latter. Surprisingly, it’s the only laptop on this with a Windows Hello-compatible IR camera.

The Best Affordable Gaming Laptop: Acer Nitro 5

Acer Nitro 5Acer

Trying to find an inexpensive laptop that can hold its own in 3D PC games is a herculean task—the “budget” category for gaming laptops tends to start at four figures. But Acer’s Nitro 5 in its cheapest configuration is surprisingly affordable for a 15-inch machine packing a 10th-gen Core i5 processor and a mid-range GTX 1650 graphics card. That won’t be enough to play the latest games at full quality, but with a few compromises you should be able to use the laptop’s 1080p screen at 60 frames per second.

Other charms include a red backlit keyboard with tenkey area, 512GB of SSD storage, and dedicated HDMI and USB-C ports. And because this thing is bigger and more generous with space than most laptops, you should be able to upgrade the memory and storage with only basic tools, if you’d like a little more performance later.

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Microsoft Surface Duo review

In the early days, Microsoft had misgivings about calling the Surface Duo a phone. Asked to define it as such, the company has had the tendency to deflect with comments like, “Surface Duo does much more than make phone calls.” Which, to be fair, it does. And to also be fair, so do most phones. Heck, maybe the company is worried that the idea of a Microsoft Phone still leaves a bitter taste in some mouths.

The Duo is an ambitious device that is very much about Microsoft’s own ambitions with the Surface line. The company doesn’t simply want to be a hardware manufacturer — there are plenty of those in the world. It wants to be at the vanguard of how we use our devices, going forward. It’s a worthy pursuit in some respects.

After all, for all of the innovations we’ve seen in mobile in the past decade, the category feels static. Sure there’s 5G. Next-gen wireless was supposed to give the industry a temporary kick in the pants. That it hasn’t yet has more to do with external forces (the pandemic caught practically everyone off guard), but even so, it hardly represents some radical departure for mobile hardware.

What many manufacturers do seem to agree on is that the next breakthrough in mobile devices will be the ability to fit more screen real estate into one’s pocket. Mobile devices are currently brushing up against the upper threshold of hardware footprint, in terms of what we’re capable of holding in our hands and willing to carrying around in our pockets. Breakthroughs in recent years also appear to have gotten us close to a saturation point in terms of screen-to-body ratio.

Foldable screens are a compelling way forward. After years of promise, the technology finally arrived as screens appeared to be hitting an upper limit. Of course, Samsung’s Galaxy Fold stumbled out of the gate, leaving other devices like the Huawei Mate X scrambling. That product finally launched in China, but seemed to disappear from the conversation in the process. Motorola’s first foldable, meanwhile, was a flat-out dud.

Announced at a Surface event last year, the Duo takes an entirely different approach to the screen problem — one that has strengths and weaknesses when pitted against the current crop of foldables. The solution is a more robust one. The true pain point of foldables has always been the screen itself. Microsoft sidesteps this by simply connecting two screens. That introduces other problems, however, including a sizable gap and bezel combination that puts a decided damper on watching full-screen video.

Microsoft is far from the first company to take a dual-screen approach, of course. ZTE’s Axon M springs to mind. In that case — as with others — the device very much felt like two smartphones stuck together. Launched at the height of ZTE’s experimental phase, it felt like, at best, a shot in the dark. Microsoft, on the other hand, immediately sets its efforts apart with some really solid design. It’s clear that, unlike the ZTE product, the Duo was created from the ground up.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

The last time I wrote about the Duo, it was a “hands-on” that only focused on the device’s hardware. That was due, in part, to the fact that the software wasn’t quite ready at the time of writing. Microsoft was, however, excited to show off the hardware — and for good reason. This really looks and feels nice. Aesthetically, at least, this thing is terrific. It’s no wonder that this is the first device I’ve seen in a while that legitimately had the TechCrunch staff excited.

While the Surface Duo is, indeed, a phone, it’s one that represents exciting potential for the category. And equally importantly, it demonstrates that there is a way to do so without backing into the trappings of the first generation of foldables. In early briefings with the device, Surface lead Panos Panay devoted a LOT of time to breaking down the intricacies of the design decisions made here. To be fair, that’s partially because that’s pretty much his main deal, but I do honestly believe that the company had to engineer some breakthroughs here in order to get hardware that works exactly right, down to a fluid and solid hinge that maintains wired connections between the two displays.

There are, of course, trade-offs. The aforementioned gap between screens is probably the largest. This is primarily a problem when opening a single app across displays (a trick accomplished by dragging and dropping a window onto both screens in a single, fluid movement). This is likely part of the reason the company is positioning this is as far more of a productivity app than an entertainment one — in addition to all of the obvious trappings of a piece of Microsoft hardware.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

The company took great pains to ensure that two separate apps can open on each of the screens. And honestly, the gap is actually kind of a plus when multitasking with two apps open, creating a clear delineation between the two sides. And certain productivity apps make good use of the dual screens when spanning both. Take Gmail, which offers a full inbox on one side and the open selected message on the other. Ditto for using the Amazon app to read a book. Like the abandoned Courier project before it, this is really the perfect form factor for e-book reading — albeit still a bit small for more weary eyes.

There are other pragmatic considerations with the design choices here. The book design means there’s no screen on the exterior. The glass and mirror Windows logo looks lovely, but there’s no easy way to preview notifications. Keep in mind the new Galaxy Fold and Motorola Razr invested a fair amount in the front screen experience on their second-generation devices. Some will no doubt prefer to have a device that’s offline while closed, and I suppose you could always just keep the screens facing outward, if you so chose.

You’ll probably also want to keep the screens facing out if you’re someone who needs your device at the ready to snap a quick photo. Picture taking is really one of the biggest pain points here. There’s no rear camera. Instead, I’m convinced that the company sees most picture taking on the device as secondary to webcam functionality for things like teleconferencing. I do like that experience of having the device standing up and being able to speak into it handsfree (assuming your able to get it to appropriate eye level).

But when it came to walking around, snapping shots to test the camera, I really found myself fumbling around a lot here. You always feels like you’re between three and five steps away from taking a quick shot. And the fact of the matter is the shots aren’t great. The on-board camera also isn’t really up to the standards of a $1,400 device. Honestly, the whole thing feels like an afterthought. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled after using the Note 20’s camera for the last several weeks, but hopefully Microsoft will prioritize the camera a bit more the next go-round.

Another hardware disappointment for me is the size of the bezels. Microsoft says they’re essentially the minimal viable size so as to not make people accidentally trigger the touchscreen. Which, fair enough. But while it’s not a huge deal aesthetically, it makes the promise of two-hand typing when the device is in laptop mode close to impossible.

That was honestly one of the things I was excited for here. Instead, you’re stuck thumb-typing as you would on any standard smartphone. I have to admit, the Duo was significantly smaller in person than I imagined it would be, for better and worse. Those seeking a fuller typing experience will have to wait for the Neo.

The decision not to include 5G is a curious one. This seems to have been made, in part, over concerns around thinness and form factor. And while 5G isn’t exactly mainstream at this point in 2020, it’s important to attempt to future proof a $1,400 device as much as possible. This isn’t the kind of upgrade most of us make every year or so. By the time the cycle comes back around, LTE is going to feel pretty dated.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Battery life is pretty solid, owing to the inclusion of two separate batteries, each located beneath a screen. I was able to get about a day and a half of life — that’s also one of the advantages of not having 5G on board, I suppose. Performance also seemed solid for the most part, while working with multiple apps front and center. For whatever reason, however, the Bluetooth connection was lacking. I had all sorts of issues keeping both the Surface Buds and Pixel Buds connected, which can get extremely annoying when attempting to listen to a podcast.

These are the sorts of questions a second-generation device will seek to answer. Ditto for some of the experiential software stuff. There was some bugginess with some of the apps early on. A software update has gone a ways toward addressing much of that, but work needs to be done to offer a seamless dual-screen experience. Some apps like Spotify don’t do a great job spanning screens. Spacing gets weird, things require a bit of finessing on the part of the user. If the Duo proves a more popular form factor, third party developers will hopefully be more eager to fine tune things.

There were other issues, including the occasional blacked out screen on opening, though generally be resolved by closing and reopening the device. Also, Microsoft has opted to only allow one screen to be active at a time when they’re both positioned outward so as to avoid accidentally triggering the back of the touch screen. Switching between displays requires doubling tapping the inactive one.

But Microsoft has added a number of neat tricks like App Groups, which are a quick shortcut to fire up two apps at once. As for why Microsoft went with Android, rather than their own Windows 10, which is designed to be adaptable to a number of different form factors, the answer is refreshingly pragmatic and straightforward. Windows 10 just doesn’t have enough mobile apps. Microsoft clearly wants the Duo to serve as a proof of concept for this new form factor, though one questions whether the company will be able to sufficiently monetize the copycats.

For now, however, that means a lot more selection for the end user, including a ton of Google productivity apps. That’s an important plus given how few of us are tied exclusively to Microsoft productivity apps these days.

As with other experimental form factors, the first generation involves a fair bit of trial and error. Sure, Microsoft no doubt dogfooded the product in-house for a while, but you won’t get a really good idea of how most consumers interact with this manner of device — or precisely what they’re looking for. Six months from now, Microsoft will have a much better picture, and all of those ideas will go into refining the next generation product.

That said, the hardware does feels quite good for a first generation device — even if certain key sacrifices were made in the process. The software will almost certainly continue to be refined over the course of the next year as well. I’d wait a bit on picking it up for that reason alone. The question, ultimately becomes what the cost of early adoption is.

In the grand scheme of foldable devices, maybe $1,400 isn’t that much, perhaps. But compared to the vast majority of smartphone and tablet flagships out there, it’s a lot. Especially for something that still feels like a first generation work in progress. For now, it feels like a significant chunk of the price is invested in novelty and being an early adopter for a promising device.

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MSI’s Sleek New Summit Laptops Try to Woo the Business Market

Available in 13-inch 2-in-1, 14-inch, and 15-inch sizes, the Summit series is a new sub-brand for the company, which previously focused on the reliable gamer market for its more expensive G-class offerings. The sandblasted aluminum-clad machines use a gold-on-black color scheme with Intel’s 11th-gen Tiger Lake processors underneath, paired with either integrated Iris Xe graphics or a discrete NVIDIA GTX GPUs on the E series variants.

Read This Article on Review Geek ›

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Michael Crider

Can’t Find a Laptop? Here’s What to Use for Work or School

A row of laptops at the computer store.ECLIPSE PRODUCTION/Shutterstock

Remote learning and working from home has made it impossible to find affordable laptops. But don’t fret, you can still find a solid laptop alternative without blowing your savings. These laptop alternatives are perfect for remote work or online schooling, and unlike used laptops, they actually come with manufacturer’s warranties.

None of these products are a 1:1 replacement for your laptop. You’re going to lose something here, whether it’s portability, screen size, or ease of use. But you won’t go over your budget, you won’t miss out on any Zoom meetings, and you may come out with a machine that’s faster and more reliable than any laptop you’ve ever used.

More Bang for Your Buck: Don’t Fear the Desktop PC!

The affordable Acer Aspire TC-885-UA91 desktop computer.The affordable Acer Aspire TC-885-UA91 desktop computer. Acer

Shopping for a desktop computer is a bit intimidating, especially if you’ve only ever owned a laptop. But don’t worry, you aren’t going to end up with “the wrong computer” or “a slow computer” or anything like that. Desktop computers offer better performance than laptops at a much lower price, and they’re easier to set up at a desk than you might expect.

Still, you can’t just buy a desktop tower and call it a day. You need to put together a bunch of products, including a computer monitor, a keyboard, and a webcam. Here’s everything you’ll need to enjoy the desktop experience (along with some money-saving tips):

  • Specs: Buy a computer with an Intel Core or AMD Ryzen processor and at least 8 GB of RAM. (An Intel Pentium processor is acceptable if you’re strapped for cash.) Internal storage is a personal preference, although your computer will feel a bit snappier if it has an SSD—just make sure it has enough space to handle everything you need. We recommend 256 GB at a minimum for SSDs.
  • Monitor: You can use any computer monitor or TV with a desktop PC. If you aren’t comfortable dropping $100 on a new computer monitor, then pop into your local Goodwill and buy one for $10 or $15. You can also find a used monitor for around $50 on eBay.
  • Webcam: Need a webcam for Zoom or Google Meet? You can still find cheap webcams at Best Buy and Amazon. You can also use a digital camera, smartphone, tablet, or anything with a built-in camera in place of a webcam.
  • Keyboard & Mouse: Desktop PCs usually come with a keyboard and mouse. If yours doesn’t, you can buy a cheap pair on Amazon or splurge on a wireless keyboard and mouse. You could also pop into Goodwill for a cheap keyboard and mouse.

You shouldn’t have much trouble finding a new Intel Core or AMD Ryzen PC with 8GB RAM in the $300 to $400 price range. If you need something cheaper than that, you could always buy a computer with a slower Intel Pentium or Intel Celeron processor for around $200. You could also buy a pre-owned, refurbished, or open-box PC from Best Buy (Refurbished Dell Optiplex PCs are a popular choice and come with a 90-day warranty).

Some people may suggest buying an all-in-one PC instead of a standalone desktop tower. And while all-in-one PCs include all the accessories you need to play Roblox or start a Zoom meeting, they can be a bit overpriced. What they lack in bang-for-your-buck, they make up in simplicity because everything is included. That also makes them a decent choice if you don’t have a lot of space—the most affordable all-in-one PCs that fit our hardware suggestions start at $650.

An Affordable, Modern Desktop PC

Acer Aspire TC-885-UA91 Desktop, 9th Gen Intel Core i3-9100, 8GB DDR4, 512GB SSD, 8X DVD, 802.11AC Wifi, USB 3.1 Type C, Windows 10 Home,Black

The Acer Aspire TC-885-UA91 packs an Intel Core CPU, 8GB RAM, a speedy SSD, and even a USB-C port! It’s a solid, modern desktop computer for under $500.

Use a Raspberry Pi 4 as a Cheap Desktop Computer

A PI 4 set up at a desktop with two monitors.Raspberry Pi Foundation

If you’re ambitious, tech-savvy, or outrageously frugal, then you should try using a Raspberry Pi as a desktop computer. The new Raspberry Pi 4 starts at just $35 but packs a two Micro HDMI ports for dual-4K monitor setups, a gigabit Ethernet port for speedy internet, four USB ports, and a desktop-ready CPU.

The Pi 4’s Broadcom BCM2711 SoC can’t run Windows, but it’s perfect for Raspbian—a lightweight port of the popular Debian desktop environment. The average person shouldn’t have any trouble using a Raspberry Pi for everyday tasks, like homework, Minecraft, or Zoom calls, though you may need to watch some tutorials to get things set up. You also need to own a computer monitor, a keyboard, a mouse, and a MicroSD card in order to use the Pi 4. (Again, you can buy most of these things from Goodwill for cheap if you’re having a hard time finding any of them).

The Pi 4 is available with 1GB, 2GB, 4GB, or 8GB of RAM. The more affordable 2 and 4GB variants are fine for regular desktop use, while the 8GB option may prove best for people who like to multitask, edit photos, or open 100 browser tabs at a time. You can buy Raspberry Pi as just the board, but we recommend going for a full kit. It will include everything you need, including a case and SD card.

A Frugal Computer

CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 8GB Extreme Kit – 128GB Edition (8GB RAM)

The Raspberry Pi 4 can stand in for a desktop computer with the Chrome browser and Zoom capabilities. It requires some tech know-how, but hey, it’s frugal!

Try Using a Tablet or Smartphone

An illustration of the Samsung DeX desktop enviornment.An illustration of the Samsung DeX desktop enviornment. Samsung

We spend most of our computer time in the browser. So it’s no surprise that tablets, and especially newer iPads and Samsung Tab devices, make for decent laptop stand-ins. Just fire up the browser, connect a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and get to work.

Any iPad running the latest version of iPadOS can stand in for your laptop. I suggest buying the new $330 iPad, although a cheap 2014 iPad Air 2 could get the job done just fine. As for Galaxy Tab devices, anything made after 2017, including the $280 Galaxy Tab A, should work well enough. That said, Android tablets lack the stability, app selection, and battery life of iPads—just something to keep in mind!

You could also use a smartphone as a laptop stand-in, although you probably won’t have much fun doing it. Most websites, including school pages like Canvas and Blackboard, work fine on a phone browser that’s set to “desktop only.” Newer Samsung devices have the upper hand here, as you can plug your phone into a computer monitor to take advantage of the desktop-like DeX mode (which is much more comfortable than your phone’s tiny screen).

A Reliable Laptop Replacement

Apple iPad (10.2inch, Wi-Fi, 128GB) – Gold (Latest Model)

When paired with a wireless mouse and keyboard, the iPad is a solid laptop replacement with a 10-hour battery.

Use Chrome OS or Linux to Revive an Old PC

A screenshot of the Ubuntu desktop.A screenshot of the Ubuntu desktop. Canonical

Do you have a crappy old computer floating around your attic? Maybe it’s time to breathe life into that thing, at least until you can find a new laptop. Reinstalling Windows or freeing up a hard drive is usually enough to get an old PC back in shape, although it may still feel a bit sluggish if its hardware is out of date. In that case, you may want to replace the old computer’s operating system with something lightweight, like Chrome OS or a Linux distro.

If you’re familiar with Chrome OS (or you’re trying to set up a computer for your kid), then you should try installing Chromium OS on your old computer through CloudReady. Chromium OS is the open-source version of Google’s Chrome OS, and while it lacks the ability to run Android apps, it’s perfect for school or work.

An entry-level Linux distro like Ubuntu, Mint, or Fedora should also serve your needs, so long as you’re willing to type stuff in the terminal every now and then. Don’t worry, you don’t need to know how to “code” to use Linux, you may just need to look up tutorials on YouTube every once and awhile.

Bear in mind that these are free solutions to the “I can’t find a laptop” problem. Using Linux may sound like a nightmare (don’t knock it til you try it), but it’s better than going over-budget on a laptop for remote schooling.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Andrew Heinzman

Lenovo’s latest flagship Yoga laptops are clad in leather

4e5de0e0-e967-11ea-bfd9-2f435740a246Around this time most years, we generally see an influx of news around this time as the world convenes in Berlin for the IFA electronics conference. While the pandemic has dampened that somewhat, companies like Lenovo still have announcements timed w…

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Are Used Laptops Worth Buying?

man typing on laptopNaatali/

Laptop computers are expensive, and with the ongoing pandemic and millions of people working and going to school online, they’re also getting very hard to find. So if your options for laptop selection or budget (or both) are constrained, should you consider buying a used one for your next purchase?

We’re big fans of buying used: It’s economically savvy, it’s environmentally friendly, and it usually gets the job done as well as a new purchase. But there are complications and risks with buying a used computer, and they’re magnified when you’re talking about a machine designed to travel.

Even so, with a little planning and some careful choices, you can find a deal on a laptop that you’ll use for years. Let’s break it down.

Used vs. “Refurbished”

Before we go any further, let’s talk about used and refurbished laptops. “Used” means a laptop’s been handled by another end-user—someone like you, who bought the laptop and then either returned it or sold it. “Refurbished” means that a previously used laptop has been repaired or otherwise rejuvenated, and is being sold by a retailer again.

Simple, right? Unfortunately, it isn’t. You see, the term “refurbished” used to mean that a computer had gone back to the original manufacturer, which had then done any necessary repairs and certified it as functional or like-new. This generally meant that a refurbished laptop was more or less indistinguishable from a new laptop, possibly with more basic packaging and a 90-day warranty instead of a year.

ebay item informationAn eBay seller lists a “seller refurbished” laptop—i.e., “used, but we made sure it’s working.”

Now that’s not always the case. With a preponderance of resellers, the term “seller refurbished” has become common. “Seller refurbished” means that it’s a used unit that’s been verified to work by the party selling it—that might mean that it’s been repaired, or just that it’s been booted up and verified as working.

The degree to which you trust the refurbished unit depends on who’s selling it. Big box retailers are generally okay, while resellers on secondary markets like eBay and Amazon are a bit more suspect. Seller refurbished laptops generally come with a short warranty (90 days) and a description of anything that might be cosmetically wrong with the unit like worn keys or a scratched top.

The warranty for a refurbished unit tends to make it more valuable than a straight-up used laptop, if only for the peace of mind. If a used laptop craps the bed a week after you buy it, tough luck, caveat emptor, and all that jazz. A refurbished laptop lets you trust your purchase … at least as much as you trust the seller.

What to Look for

There are tons and tons of laptops out there, for tons and tons of market segments. So, what you’re looking for depends on what you need—someone who just wants something for word processing and email needs less than a gamer who needs less than a 3D-modeling creator.

Acer Chromebook 714Cameron Summerson

In general, we’d recommend at least 8GB of RAM if you want a Windows or Mac laptop. Chromebooks can do with 4GB. The minimum for a modern OS is about 128GB , with Chromebooks being okay with much less again. Touchscreen? Long battery life? Fold-back 2-in-1 design? Discrete graphics card? You be the judge.

One thing we would recommend, if you’re shopping for a used unit: Find one that has a good reputation for durability. This can be hard to gauge from one model to another, but in general, laptops designed for business can take more of a beating than cheaper models, and can thus be trusted to last longer from owner to owner. Lenovo’s ThinkPad series, Dell’s Latitude series, and HP’s Pro/Elite series are good examples.

A nice bonus of these designs: They’re often more user-serviceable than some thinner lighter designs. That means that you might be able to upgrade the memory or storage to more suit your needs.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 ExtremeMichael Crider

Do a Google search on the model you’re considering to see if it’s possible to swap out the RAM SO-DIMMs or the hard drive/SSD for an inexpensive performance boost. Laptops with a replaceable battery are a good find, too, as the battery is usually the first part to wear out.

Red Flags

There are a few indications that you should look for in the opposite direction: signs that a laptop model in general, or a single laptop being sold in particular, probably aren’t good used buys.

Macbook 2015 keyboardThe thin keyboards on 2015-12019 MacBooks are notoriously prone to failure. iFixIt

Start with conventional media reviews. You want a laptop to be good, or at least decent, when it’s new. It isn’t going to be any better when it’s old, right? Apple’s ultra-thin keyboards on MacBook and MacBook Pro models, from 2015-2019, are a good example. A single horrible element of an otherwise excellent design makes these laptops frequent sights on the secondary market. You might want to think twice before picking one up.

Other red flags on a listing for a used laptop include:

  • A laptop with a history of product recalls—you might be buying an un-repaired unit.
  • A new seller with no feedback.
  • No images on the listing, or generic images that don’t show the individual laptop being sold.
  • An extremely low price—a used laptop being sold at 10% of its retail value is probably a scam.
  • A laptop missing pieces, like a storage drive or RAM. You might replace the parts only to find that something more crucial is broken.

If any of these issues are present, it’s probably best to move on to another used laptop.

Where to Shop?

Used laptops can be found in a lot of different places. Let’s take a look at your options, from the most reliable to the least.

Traditional Retailers

Old-fashioned brick-and-mortar shops, like Walmart and Best Buy, tend to offer refurbished units rather than used ones. This is because they’re almost always laptops that were used for a week or two at most, then returned to the store.  They’re not the best in terms of deals—you’ll be lucky to find any for 15% off.

Best Buy store frontBest Buy

But if you do want to buy from a reliable source, and you’d also like to inspect the laptop before you buy, old-fashioned retailers are a solid choice. Just don’t expect to save a ton of money.

Online Retailers

Amazon, Newegg, B&H Photo, and similar large online retailers often sell both refurbished and used laptops. These tend to come from third-party sellers who are using these large retailers as a sort of bazaar.

Amazon selling used laptop.

But the advantage of buying from the large sellers is that they have a lot of support: If something’s wrong with the product or not as described, you have a big company to call. Those companies usually want you to have a smooth-buying experience, and will offer easy returns or replacements as part of their fulfillment. Check the “More Buying Options” link on new items to see if used or refurbished models are being offered.

Sometimes, manufacturers will sell refurbished units directly from their online store, too—even Apple sells refurbished laptops on occasion. Because these laptops have been inspected by the original manufacturers, they sometimes come with a full one-year warranty, though again, it’s usually not a huge discount versus a new laptop.

Secondary Online Markets

We’re starting to get into the weeds here. Secondary online markets are those that let individual sellers list items directly, like eBay, Swappa, and Bonanza. (That’s in the U.S.—you might have different options based on where you live.) These sites tend to be safe to buy from in the sense that you’ll definitely get something … but the state in which you receive the item, and that state compared to what it’s presented as, are open to interpretation.

eBay page searching for used laptop

Buying from eBay and similar sites requires some care. When it comes to used laptops (or anything else), you usually want to buy from someone in your own country, buy from someone with lots of positive feedback (any new seller accounts are a red flag), and carefully inspect the photos and descriptions. Paying with a verified system, like PayPal, is a must.

These tips can generally apply to pawn shops as well, by the way. They usually don’t sell online, but the same “no guarantees” approach is usually true of any electronics they sell.

In-Person Sales

The most risky way to buy a used laptop is off of a service that connects people for in-person meetings like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, LetGo, or Nextdoor. These are risky in both the business and personal sense: Someone might be trying to sell you a dud laptop, or simply steal from you by listing a valuable item paid in cash.

Craigslit page with laptops for sale.

These markets are also usually the place to find the best deals, because they’re used by people who want to get rid of something quickly. You can find some amazing discounts sometimes (and also some stubborn people who will barely knock anything off the sticker price). This is especially true around major holidays, as people sell off new gift items they don’t need.

Related: The Best Apps for Buying and Selling Used Stuff

If you’re meeting someone in person, follow a few common sense tips:

  • Meet in a public well-traveled place, never their home or yours. Starbucks or similar shops are good for this.
  • Meet during the daytime during business hours.
  • Bring a friend for safety if you can.
  • If it’s an option, see that the seller has a real social media profile with friends and posts.
  • Bring cash in small bills—this lets you haggle if the laptop isn’t quite as described.
  • Thoroughly inspect the laptop, making sure that it boots up and can take a charge from the power adapter. Check the “About” page to make sure that the specs are as promised, and check that the keyboard works properly.
  • Don’t bring your money out until your inspection of the laptop is finished.

Friends and Family

One last place to check for used laptops is your friends and family. You never know, some of them might have an old one laying around that they can sell for a song (or if it’s a REALLY good friend, just let you have it).

Be Flexible

When you’re buying used, your budget isn’t the only thing that’s constrained. Your selection will be, too, because you’re choosing from laptops that someone no longer wants. You might not be able to find the exact model that you’re looking for, or to get that model within your price range.

If you’re having trouble, consider widening your search. Can you find the same model with less RAM or storage, and upgrade it yourself? Can you find the previous year’s (or older) model from the same brand? Can you find a laptop from a competing brand that has some or all of the same features?

In general, use caution, use patience, and use common sense. You’ll be able to find a dependable affordable laptop that fits your budget.

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Michael Crider

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