I’m not into writing a buying guides, LappyList is probably the best place to find a laptop if you want something that would probably do the job pretty well. This is based off my own research I have done in preparation to replace my slowly dying (but strong) 5-year-old Lenovo X220. These laptops are what I would probably end up purchasing.
What I end up purchasing would most likely depend on my current needs and price. This two factors would then determine the specs of the laptop. There are some things to note:
- CPU: Anything with a U on the end of it (i.e. i7 6500U, i5 6300U) are very weak CPUs. My current i7-2640M from 4 generations/years ago is only 15% slower than these models. The CPUs ending in HQ however (i.e. i7 6700HQ) are about 100% faster than my i7-2640M and of course they are generally very expensive and often come paired with a dedicated GPU which I don’t really need. Therefore, if I was going for anything U models I would just pick the cheapest i5 where possible as they are not much different than the i7 and about $300 less.
- I prefer at least 8GB of RAM, which can be upgraded after purchase if needed
- IPS display is definitely needed. These provide better viewing angles and colour quality than regular display panels
- No preference on any included hard drive or SSD as long as I can upgrade it, which I probably will
- Good keyboard is preferred, no weird layouts or missing keys. Backlit is nice but not necessary as most people can touch type or the screen would reflect onto the keyboard anyway
- Laptop size for me is anything 14 inches and smaller and this is a must
- Thickness maximum for me is around 25mm with the screen closed but this is not overly important
- Weight maximum is 2kg, excluding the charger
With this in mind, I have found four options which are really good:
I’M FEELING PRETTY STINGY:
Toshiba Chromebook 2 CB35-C3350 ($400 AUD)
- It has a Full HD IPS Display which you don’t see regularly on low-end models
- LED backlit keyboard is a nice feature
- Can run Linux or Windows just fine as it uses a x86 CPU (voiding warranty)
- 16GB internal memory is small but can be upgraded (42mm M.2. drive) if wanting to do a bit more with this thing
- Chrome OS will soon run Android apps natively making it an even better option with many desktop alternative apps already out there
- Intel Celeron and i3 are weak. Barely noticeable if only using for documents or web browsing/YouTube/Minecraft. Preferably get the i3.
- RAM non-upgradeable, would be nice to turn this into something great
- Very cheap for what it can do.
- Would provide a great experience with its display and keyboard whilst providing option for upgrade if wanting more.
- Not necessary locked to Chrome OS if you mess around with it a little
- May leave me wanting more in terms of performance when it comes to HD video playback, having multiple browser tabs or dealing with compressing/decompressing ZIP/RAR files
LET’S TRY AND KEEP THIS UNDER $1000:
Lenovo E460 (~$1000 AUD)
- CPU: i7-6500U Processor (4MB Cache, up to 3.40GHz)
- Display: 14″ FHD IPS (non-touch)
- GPU: Intel HD Graphics 520
- RAM: 16GB DDR4
- Drive: 256GB SSD
- Usually goes on sale for around $1000 with a maxed out configuration. i7 6500U, 16GB RAM, AMD R7 M360
- Full HD IPS Display with optional touch screen
- Legendary (subjectively) keyboard
- TrackPoint (red dot on the keyboard) if you’re one of those people (I am!)
- Matte display
- Usually the <$1000 price comes with a HDD instead of a SSD
- 1.9KG is a tad bit on the heavy side
- Pretty thick as well going from 22mm up to 24mm
- Keyboard is not backlit
- Great all-round value for money laptop with pretty good specs for a really good price
- Leaning to the heavy and thick side of things.
- Not having a backlit keyboard puts me off it a little, but the value is too good to pass up
A BIT MORE PREMIUM:
Lenovo ThinkPad X260 $1000 (+$300 for 256GB SSD and 16GB SODIMM)
- CPU: i5-6200U Processor (4MB Cache, up to 3.40GHz)
- Display: 12.5″ FHD IPS (non-touch)
- GPU: Intel HD Graphics 520
- RAM: 4GB DDR4 (will require upgrade)
- Drive: 500GB HDD (will require upgrade)
- Full HD IPS display
- DDR4 memory as standard, expandable to 16GB
- Lenovo legendary keyboard which is also backlit
- TrackPoint if you’re into that (I am!)
- Matte display
- All the necessary ports (Ethernet, USB, HDMI, SD Card reader)
- Fingerprint scanner
- Light at 1.4KG and thin at 19mm at its thickest point
- Speakers are underneath the laptop and can be muffled
- A little on the thick side at 20.8mm
- Screen brightness decreased to 300 nits from 400 nits previously in the X250 and X240
- Great laptop if you can handle a little thickness
- Has an ultra-low-voltage i7 (U series). Could possible save on price by getting the i5 6200U or even i3 6100U for about a 10-15% decrease in specific tasks
- Price is based off buying from the Lenovo Barnes and Noble and having it shipped over. It’s cheaper than buying from the Australian web store.
Let’s go all out:
Gigabyte Aero 14 $2400
- CPU: i7-6700HQ
- Display: 14″ QHD IPS (non-touch)
- GPU: NVIDIA 965M
- RAM: 8GB DDR4
- Drive: 256GB SSD
- Under 2kg and very thin (20mm) for a laptop with a 6700HQ and 965M/970M
- DDR4 memory upgradeable to 32GB
- Quad HD IPS display which is also matte
- USB 3.1 Type C port
- ~8 hours battery life with 30% brightness using MS Word and Chrome
- Australia only gets the 965M model instead of the 970M
- Speakers not front-facing
- SATA 3 instead of PCIe for the M.2. drives (old tech vs new tech)
- An absolutely disgusting fingerprint oil magnet
- The main selling points from this laptop over the others is the 6700HQ. While maybe overkill for a laptop, it guarantees performance for virtual machines and my other day-to-day tasks.
- Everything else about the laptop is good but overpriced e.g. $2200 for 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD
- Very light and thin for a high-end laptop while keeping it under $2500 (e.g. Dell XPS 13, Razer Blade 14)
|Toshiba Chromebook||$400||Celeron 3215U||4GB||13.3|
|Lenovo E460||$1,000||i7 6500U||16GB||14|
|Lenovo X260||$1,300||i5 6200U||16GB||12.5|
|Gigabyte Aero||$2,400||i7 6700HQ||8GB||14|
I’m currently leaning towards either the X260 or the Chromebook. The Aero is expensive and an overkill for my needs. The E460 on the other hand offers great value and even better specs than the X260 for a lower price, but it is also thicker, heavier and its keyboard is not backlit. It therefore certainly pays to have get the X260.
Now between the X260 and the Chromebook, it’s going to come down on if I need the performance or not. It’s hard to decide between the since they are both equally well built however the overall package of the X260 just edges it out. The X260 is literally 3 times the price but it comes with better specs all around. CPU, RAM, Display, keyboard best the Chromebook however the Chromebook does win in size, weight and probably how much fun I will get messing around with it to dual-boot Linux or Windows.
Ultimately however the X260 gets my pick. Fitting it’s an upgrade to my current X220.
Now onward to…
Laptops everyone recommends but I think are crap
Dell XPS 15:
- $2500 AUD for the i7 6700HQ model. Anything less and might as well purchase a cheaper laptop with the same specs
- Being the size of a psuedo-14 inch laptop, finding sleeves that fit well for it is difficult as they are a little too loose or too tight
- Had so many issues when released, mostly fixed but they still exist
- Missing an RJ45 Ethernet port. For the price it’s sort of expected but not many high end Ultrabooks have them anymore
- Keyboard could use Page Up, Page Down, Home and End as individual keys. There’s a lot of room left around the keyboard to fit those in so why didn’t they?
- Great display but not still not an IPS display
- ‘Chin webcam’
Dell XPS 13:
- See above
- Can buy a laptop with similar/identical specs for about $700 less (see Lenovo E460)
Lenovo ThinkPad 13:
- Honestly this a great laptop except the screen is not bright enough to use. Would’ve been perfect otherwise.
Lenovo ThinkPad T460s
- Horrid battery life. Great laptop as well but sadly this ruins it.
MacBook (Air, Pro, whatever)
- Probably won’t be able to run a single application I need e.g. vSphere Client, WinRAR, IPMI Tool, REAL Microsoft Office (no Publisher on Mac), MPC-HC (VLC is utter crap)
- Dual core on a ‘Pro’?
- Worth half as much as it costs (2.5K for an underpowered Intel i7)
- Type covers aren’t great to type on and the trackpads are even worse
Razer Blade 14
- ~$350 AUD more in Australia (after conversion) for the base 256GB model
- No Page Up, Page Down, Home and End keys at all. Custom software key bindings would be required
- Missing an RJ45 Ethernet port. For a gaming laptop…seriously
- Glossy display