Finances & Money

I need advice: Help with finding the right laptop

Hello readers! I need your help. I’m reaching out to my 600+ loyal subscribers, as well as all of you hundreds of new readers who find my site each day for help.

I’m looking for a new laptop. My sister has agreed to purchase my old Sony Vaio for an undisclosed sum (she can’t afford a fancy, new laptop, and my laptop is more than enough for what she needs). Also, I will be reimbursed up to $500 by my employer for a computer purchase, but it has to be a new laptop from a reputable dealer (i.e. I can’t just get one off eBay or Craigslist).

I can access Employee Purchase Programs for IBM/Lenovo, Dell and even Apple, but for my line of work, I think I need to stick to a PC, not a Mac. I am also a Sam’s Club member, in case you know of a deal they’re offering that I can’t pass up.

I have certain requirements for this laptop, so I appreciate getting advice on what is available AND reliable within these specifications:

  • Must be under $1000 (or barely over it)
  • Monitor must be 14.1″ or smaller. It can be a widescreen 14.1″, but I don’t want anything larger (ie no 15″+ laptops)
  • Must have 2Gb of RAM (or more, but I doubt any more would fit in my budget)
  • Must have a decent battery (6 cell or higher)
  • Must have 60 Gb or more hard drive space
  • Must have S-video output
  • Must have a built-in wireless card
  • Must have a CDRW/DVDRW. I’d also like if it was a Dual Layer DVD burner

I have a Circuit City, Best Buy and Radio Shack in walking distance, as well as a number of other stores, so you if you mention a model that may be available at those stores, please mention the store. I would really like to go SEE the laptop to test out its rigidity, durability and usability before buying it.

I really appreciate the help! Thanks!

About the author

Clever Dude


  • You should be able to find a laptop that meets your requirements for well under $1000.

    I bought a Dell Inspiron e1405 a few months ago for about $800 and have been very pleased. It is also available as a small business version (model 640m) for the same price. It meets all of your requirements except memory (I only have 1GB) but you can get an upgrade for that. By the way Vista runs just fine on 1GB.

    I wish it were a little lighter though. It weighs a little over 5 pounds so it probably won’t be as sleek as your Vaio.

  • I used to be in the IT department and we would just buy Dell laptops on their site using those $500 off $1500 or similar coupons. They are all over the web (try to google it). These should be a great bet if you are looking to buy a decent laptop at a discount.

    However, it has always been my impression that those Employee Purchase Programs give the best discounts.

  • I scanned around on but couldn’t find your specifications as far as price goes. They do offer some solutions if you can sacrifice some features.

    Circuit City and Best Buy are also good places to search. I’ve always seen some reasonably priced laptops there.

    I haven’t tried Dell mainly because their configurations and prices are always changing.

    Good luck!

  • I’m partial to the IBM/Lenovo ThinkPad line.

    I’ve used all brands of laptops, but the ThinkPads always seem more rugged and durable to me (I do travel a lot with my laptop, so that is a requirement).

    However, since Lenovo purchased the ThinkPad line, I’m not sure what that is going to do about the quality. I recently purchased an R60e for my wife and the cover seemed to be a lower quality than I’m used to, but the T series (which don’t meet your requirements of screen size) seems to have retained the ruggedness that I’m used to.

    One other reason I purchased the R60e was that Lenovo still sold their laptops with XP (while Dell, etc were forcing Vista). I think you can get XP for an additional charge — I’m just not ready to make the jump to a new Microsoft OS yet.

  • I love my Dell Laptop with the 4 year plan i can never worry about accident ( i can break just about anything)

    I went with something larger than you want when it first came out the Inspiron E1705

    but look for deals over at fat wallet( for sales and

    you can still get xp on dell computers!

  • I really like the thin laptops but that might be a little too expensive for the price.

    I think the laptops that have the AMD chipset is a good possible choice for you though since they do tend to be cheaper.

    You didn’t really mention what it was really for but I feel that 15″ is good for a laptop since you can always use a docking station to plug in a bigger LCD down the road.

  • This may sound crazy, but it sometimes works. Go into Circuit City and Best Buy, pick out a computer that you want (that is over $1,000), and ask to talk to the manager. Say to the manager, “I know you probably can’t do this, but I have $1,000 spend, including tax and everything, and this computer is $1400(?). At the end of the night, if you’re looking to make another sale and you think you can make this deal, then give me a call and I’ll be here in 5 minutes.” Then give him your number.

    Believe it or not, this sometimes works. I know someone that saved almost 50% by doing this. If they really want the sale, then they’ll do it. Sometimes it does help to wait until the end of the month, when they need to meet their sales quota.

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