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Mazdax605
Mazdax605 UberDork
10/23/17 9:40 a.m.

Hey guys,

 

  My wife bought our oldest son(now 15) a cheap laptop for Christmas last year or the one before I forget. It was a really cheap unit, and as such is a real POS. My son is a sophomore at the local Vocational school, and is in the computer programming shop so he needs a good laptop. I don't know E36 M3 about computers(I mean nothing), but was wondering if you guys could recommend a good one we could get for him as a Christmas gift. He's into video game(surprise, right?), so keep that in mind when thinking about what you would recommend. He's learning to program video games if that helps at all. I don't know the budget, but rest assured I don't want to be spending crazy money, as I am on GRM after all.

 

Thanks,

 

Chris

rob_lewis
rob_lewis UltraDork
10/23/17 10:11 a.m.

Couple of quick questions:

How "portable" does it need to be?  I.E. does it need to be something light weight because he'll be carrying it around a bunch or will it mainly sit so weight's not as critical?

What kind of games/graphics does he need?  If he's playing games on the current laptop, is it safe to assume they're not graphic intensive?

What programs does he use?

The easy button is the most expensive you can afford from the big names.  I like Dell's and never really had issues with them, although that's not a normal consensus.  Cheaper laptops are generally heavier, the cost often comes in weight.  "Gaming" laptops can get expensive and can also be heavier, but his graphic needs may not be that high.  If he's not computer savvy, a Mac might be easier, but they're generally not gaming heavy and are on the higher end of cost.  Might be worth him asking his instructor for suggestions from a current class perspective and what he may be doing in the future.

Regardless, always check the refurbs (from Dell or Apple or whoever).  Most of the refurbs are returns from corporate buys.  Basically, a big company will buy a bunch, not need all of them and return the extras.  They can no longer be sold as "new" so they're re-imaged with a general image and sold as refurbished. 

-Rob

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
10/23/17 10:19 a.m.

I can only say that I work for a huge IT/Software company, Microsoft being the only one that is bigger, all the Dev's use Mac.

dculberson
dculberson PowerDork
10/23/17 10:39 a.m.

" Laptop for teenager " - sounds like a good trade.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/23/17 10:49 a.m.

Gaming laptops tend to not be very portable when they're any good, or not very good.

I've been using Macs for work and currently carry around a previous generation (2015?) MacBook Pro. But that one is paid for by my employer and not necessarily something I'd buy for myself. If we're talking about spending my own money, I tend to gravitate towards a slightly used, potentially ex-lease higher end Lenovo. Neither the MacBook nor the Lenovos I tend to buy are decent gaming machines though.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/23/17 10:56 a.m.

When my wife needed a laptop recently, I got her a 2012 MacBook Pro. That's the version just before Retina, and is really upgradable. I dropped in all the RAM and an SSD, moving the HDD to the old optical drive slot. End result is rock solid hardware (billet case!), the ability to run the latest Mac OS  and it can even be loaded up with Windows. Dramatically better than a new Windows machine for the same money.

Can't comment on games as that's not my bag.

Wxdude10
Wxdude10 Reader
10/23/17 12:01 p.m.

I push a lot of my family to Dell refurbs.  You can get their business class laptops (Latitudes) off lease and refurbished by Dell.  I've never had any problems with them.  There are always some sort of coupons available for specific models.  I've had one or two DOA or died shortly after arrival.  They come with a 100 Day warranty.  It'll die in that time or you'll be good to go.  They may not be great gaming laptops, unless it happens to come with an upgraded graphics chip.  Also, you can search by the resolution of the LCD screen, in case you want a higher resolution screen than the standard low res junk (1366x768) in most new cheap laptops.

Dell Refurbished

Just a shopping tip.  Some of the systems do have SSD's in them vs. the older, slower spinning disk HDDs.  You can tell the difference by looking at the storage capacity.

120, 250, 320, 500, 1TB - These are spinning disks

128, 256, 512 - These are SSD's  - It will seem like a worse value, but the performance is worth it.

Current deals are 25% off listed prices for Latitude E5530/E5440, 30% off E6440 - OCTDEAL2017

I'm not trying to shill/canoe here.  I am just a very happy customer of Dell Refurbished.  They provide a good value for a good laptop.

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/23/17 7:11 p.m.

Sounds to me like you need some kind of gaming laptop, one with an upgradeable video card will be useful for longer. Gaming laptops are generally bigger and burn down their batteries faster though. Avoid Alienware, their PCs are good but hellaciously overpriced. There are mainstream manufacturers making good value-for-money gaming laptops now, like MSI and Asus ROG.

JThw8
JThw8 UltimaDork
10/24/17 11:23 a.m.

Going to back up what WX said and counterpoint what Gamboy said.

Been buying mostly dell refurbs for years now.  The refurbs are cheap and better quality (usually) than off the shelf because every refurb goes through QC instead of 1 in 100 or whatever for the retails stuff.

Dell owns alienware, so you can get refurb alienware cheap but their laptops are still pretty pricey, any laptop that will handle real gaming will be very pricey.  By way of example on refurb values my gaming desktop is an alienware, it would have spec'd out over $3k when I bought it but I got it a hair under $1k as a refurb.  But that was 2 months of checking the site 3 times a week for new deals to be posted and waiting for something spec'd out just how I wanted it.  There were cheaper ones and more expensive ones, its sometimes a bit more hunting if you need/want something very specific.

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 UltimaDork
10/24/17 11:49 a.m.

Got my ninth-grader an HP from Costco.  Battery life and graphics are a little weak, but its an Intel i7-something and performs well for the 600 clams I gave for it.

GambleGarage
GambleGarage New Reader
10/24/17 1:24 p.m.

I guess it all depends on budget. If you are cheap go dell, if you have coin get apple. Never liked any HP laptops that I have owned. 

 

For my home use and business i use the refurb dell stuff. Going on 4 years now with one, paid $480 ish and added an SSD and it's been rock solid. Just bought another one on Columbus day sale at 48% off. That one isn't too fancy, 12.5" screen, i5, 8gb ram, 320gb drive....$176 shipped/tax/delivered. 

 

 

For work and other personal stuff I have a macbook pro. Not cheap but it's great. Love the performance of it. My macbook is about 7 years old and all I have done is upgrade the memory, hdd and replaced the battery. 

 

 

Mike
Mike GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
10/25/17 8:08 a.m.

If the teenager is taking a programming course, that probably comes with some specifications for the laptop. I'd satisfy that first.

I tend to like Microsoft and Apple. Asus makes some reasonable stuff, but post sale support is weaker.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/25/17 10:53 a.m.
GambleGarage said:

For work and other personal stuff I have a macbook pro. Not cheap but it's great. Love the performance of it. My macbook is about 7 years old and all I have done is upgrade the memory, hdd and replaced the battery. 

Maybe not cheap on initial buy-in, but if it lasts 2-3 times as long as a lesser laptop then it's really not so expensive after all.

I have a mid-2012 Macbook for my own use and a cheap Lenovo windows box for work. The Lenovo is a piece of crap, obviously designed to be in a landfill the next time Windows gets updated. Quite a difference in quality and design.

Spoolpigeon
Spoolpigeon PowerDork
10/25/17 11:14 a.m.

Go to a local store and test them out. Lay on your back and find the one that balances the best on your stomach without touching it. THAT, sir, is the best laptop for a teenager. 

Mazdax605
Mazdax605 UberDork
12/12/17 9:57 a.m.

So to revisit this we haven't purchased a laptop for Thing#1 yet, but it's really all he wants. I don't want to spend more than say $500 and even at that I am hesitant. He didn't lay out any specs to us, but said he wants one that has a good graphics card for gaming. Can we fine one with a decent graphics card, and possibly upgrade it in the future? I don't know on the Apple vs. Windows thing. We have an iMac computer, but he doesn't really ever use it. His current cheap laptop is Windows based. His cell phone is android based, and he wants to stay that way, so maybe staying away from Apple is best, but I truly don't know. I don't think he plays many major graphics based games on his laptop now, but maybe that's due to him not being able to, and thus wanting a better laptop.

 

Again, I know nothing about computers, hence why we have a Mac.

szeis4cookie
szeis4cookie Dork
12/12/17 10:18 a.m.

Ooof. $500 isn't going to do it for a laptop with a good enough graphics card to game with.  You could build a desktop to game decently at about $500 but a gaming laptop is probably going to be 3-4x your budget.

 

EDIT: The way I see this you've got a couple of options to satisfy the gaming requirement and the computer for class requirement.

Option 1 - kiddo continues to use laptop at school, build a ~$500 desktop for at home. Building is not nearly as scary as it sounds, if you guys can figure out working on cars you can assemble a PC. Use this as a guide: https://pcpartpicker.com/guide/r2NnTW/entry-level-amd-gaming-build  Note that this PC build does not include a Windows license but there are places where one can be procured cheaply.  If you have a Windows 7 machine lying around, install Windows 7 using the license key from it and upgrade to Windows 10 for free before the end of the year: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwi9nrTG8oTYAhUoRN8KHfL4CAwQFggyMAI&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cnet.com%2Fhow-to%2Fmicrosoft-windows-10-free-upgrade-offer-assistive-features%2F&usg=AOvVaw23vvBZO3Kef_nztywjbNwS

Option 2 - get an off-lease Dell Latitude from Newegg for around $300, and game on an Xbox One. Should end up in roughly the same place price-wise.

Mazdax605
Mazdax605 UberDork
12/12/17 10:38 a.m.

FTR he has an Xbox One already. I don't know if he wants a desktop, as he's specifically asked for a laptop. Maybe a used gaming laptop from CL, or FB, or is that just a dumb idea?

Mazdax605
Mazdax605 UberDork
12/12/17 10:43 a.m.

I miss the days when they just wanted toys like Transformers, and such. Much easier, and seemed cheaper. Now everything is so damn expensive, yet smaller. One gift for $700, or 20 gifts for $200. Damn kids!!!

szeis4cookie
szeis4cookie Dork
12/12/17 10:47 a.m.

With where desktop component prices have been...I'm not sure a $500 gaming laptop is going to allow kiddo to play games that the Xbox One doesn't. Do you know what game(s) he's itching to play that he can't on the XBox?

Mazdax605
Mazdax605 UberDork
12/12/17 10:48 a.m.
szeis4cookie said:

With where desktop component prices have been...I'm not sure a $500 gaming laptop is going to allow kiddo to play games that the Xbox One doesn't. Do you know what game(s) he's itching to play that he can't on the XBox?

I don't but I can ask him when he gets home from school later. I know he plays Overwatch a ton, but I believe that is on the XboxOne.

WonkoTheSane
WonkoTheSane GRM+ Memberand Dork
12/12/17 10:52 a.m.

I've been a big fan of the dell outlet (delloutlet.com) and have bought a few computers for my wife and family through them as well.  The only problem with them is that they only have current-model refurbs, you don't get the benefit of depreciation much there.

The #1 biggest thing is to get a good, dedicated graphics card.  An "Integrated" one isn't going to do what you want.  Get an Intel i5 or (preferably) an i7.   The good news is that any system that can play games will MORE than handle his coding homework.

Don't worry about RAM or Hard Drive (HDD), they can be upgraded later for not too much coin.    Ideally, what you'd want is 16Gb of Ram and a Solid State (SSD) Hard drive, but you're going to be talking $7-800 minimum to get all that. 

For Laptops, $500 isn't going to quite do it.  I just looked on there, if you go under Laptops for Home, then under "video" choose "nvidia," you'll see some.  They seem to start at about $600 for a Lattitude that has an i7 and dedicated graphics card.

Another option is to look on NewEgg.com. 

Two choices here:  Under All Products > Computer Systems > Refurb Laptop/Notebooks, you can scroll all the way down on the left side and choose "Dedicated" under "Graphic Type."    That'll filter to what you want, but you're going to have to sort through some older models.  Remember that you really want an Intel i7 and an nVidia graphics card and windows 10 (you can filter all these on the left side).

Or, you can go new under Under All Products > Computer Systems > Laptop/Notebooks with the same filter.

I'll try to find a few specific models to link after my next meeting if you want.

 

rob_lewis
rob_lewis UltraDork
12/12/17 11:05 a.m.
Mazdax605 said:

I miss the days when they just wanted toys like Transformers, and such. Much easier, and seemed cheaper. Now everything is so damn expensive, yet smaller. One gift for $700, or 20 gifts for $200. Damn kids!!!

I'm with you on that point.  Mine's asking for a TIG welder and new tires for his car......

So, you're difficulty will be the gaming.  NVIDIA is pretty much the standard for graphics cards.  You can buy one on a Dell, but a quick search showed the cheapest one at $601 which is above your price range.  A used one might be a good deal, but as you said, you're not a computer guy, so you probably wouldn't know what to look for or what to stay away from.  I'm fairly computer savvy and with the lack of descriptions and such on CL, I don't know that I'd be comfortable buying one. 

What about a $500 gift card specifically to be spent on him a laptop?  That way, he can get what he wants and you don't risk getting the wrong thing.  He may not know, either, but it sounds like games are the big thing for him.  Again, it all depends on the games he wants to play.  Most games have the option to run in a lower resolution/frame rate, but if he's doing online games, just the speed of the system might not keep up with others.  Other games would be fine, but again, it depends on the game.  If you can get a list of games (that he plays or wants to play), we might be able to direct you a little better.

Do you have any computer resellers nearby that might be able to help?  We've got a few that basically sell used and refurbished systems. You'll get the knowledge without as high of a price tag (in theory).

Oh, and good luck on getting any data from him.  I swear if feel like an interrogator just trying to get any info out of 16 year old son......

 

(NINJA EDIT: Looks like Wonko types a lot faster than I do!!)

-Rob

sleepyhead
sleepyhead HalfDork
12/12/17 11:38 a.m.

one other thought, that's not a laptop, but might hit the sweetspot:
NUC

if you've got an extra monitor kicking around... you should be able to put something together with reasonable specs in the price range you're looking at... and make sure Thing#1 is there to help install the MB & Ram.  It's not "build it up oldskool"... but splits the difference, and might have some room to upgrade down the line.  Small enough that it should be "easily portable"

heck, I used to have to lug this "laptop" around for my dad back in the day:

Beer Baron
Beer Baron MegaDork
12/12/17 11:54 a.m.
Mazdax605 said:

 I don't want to spend more than say $500 and even at that I am hesitant. He didn't lay out any specs to us, but said he wants one that has a good graphics card for gaming. Can we fine one with a decent graphics card, and possibly upgrade it in the future?

Short answer: Not going to happen. $500 you could build a gaming desktop, but not buy a laptop.

Cheapest I found found with a dedicated GPU on Newegg was $700. That's not even something up to really crunching serious games either. Just enough to handle slightly older games and eSports games (e.g. DOTA, LoL, other stuff you've probably never heard of), and to handle graphical editing in like Adobe.

If you want something that will actually be competent, you're looking at around $1000+: https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/the-best-budget-gaming-laptop-so-far/

Mazdax605
Mazdax605 UberDork
12/12/17 12:38 p.m.

Yeah, I think I might have to up my budget. Damn kids!!! 

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