This is a review for people who are looking to purchase a laptop for back to school, or for people just looking for an inexpensive laptop purchase in general. I’m going to go through some general thoughts I have about the laptop purchasing decision, and then I’m going to go through some devices that I like in particular, then we’ll wrap it up.
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Pointer number one: right now, especially during this time of year, you’re going to see a lot of endorsed or sponsored content for back-to-school products. You’ll see these $3000 gaming laptops for back to school, “Company X sponsored this content and let me show you product X from Company X” – I hate that stuff and I feel like it’s irresponsible for companies to push crazy expensive stuff to students. I know there’s some people that can afford but it’s just the wrong message and I hate seeing that stuff, to be completely honest. So, I’m going to try to focus the stuff on inexpensive devices;
That leads me to point number two: when it comes to purchasing a laptop for school, you are going to get the best value with used or refurbished stuff. It’s usually better to purchase a device that is higher end & used, than to purchase something at the same price point but new; so, like a kind of mid-range or upper mid-range stuff that’s a couple years old – that is where you’re going to get your best value for the overall product especially when it comes to long-term durability, when it comes to students.
Pointer number three: I love gaming laptops, but I don’t think that they are the ideal choice when it comes to a device for students. You just get shorter battery life, they’re heavier, and they can be a distraction which is cool sometimes; but I think that you can get really far with just a regular work laptop or work-based laptop, and leave the gaming stuff for a different purchase, okay?
Let’s move on to the products themselves. So, in here you’ll notice that a lot of the stuff coming back again and it’s because not a lot of innovation happens at the budget level, right? Companies don’t pour a ton of R&D marketing into the inexpensive stuff because of the low profit margins. They pump it up at the top and we just get trickled down tech at the low end. The one thing you’ll notice that I’m going to be talking more about is Apple’s products because this content is sponsored by – No, JK LOL 😋.
It’s because of M1. M1 has changed the way that I perceive Apple products overall, but particularly for students; both when it comes to battery life and just long-term usability of the product, plus resale – there’s a whole conversation around that, although we’ll get into that at the end.
When it comes to Windows laptops, the first one I have here is the Acer Aspire 5. It is a very good laptop for the price, it starts at 500 or 600 bucks, depending on how you spec it out. There’s Ryzen versions and there’s Intel versions. They’re usually well priced, although they are not perfect. The screens are a little bit dimmer than I’d like them to be, the keyboards are not super responsive, but they’re just so good and hard to beat for the money.
I’ve seen a lot of products come in here at the same kind of price point as the Aspire 5 and most of them just can’t compete. Nothing from ASUS like the Vivobooks, nothing from HP, I really like this. There are some products from Lenovo, but in terms of availability, like this you can pick up anywhere and everywhere. Every country has it – Amazon has it, Best Buy has it, it’s everywhere. For the Lenovo products, you got to live in certain regions people to pick it up so Aspire 5 is my pick.
So, this is my biggest concern if you do end up picking one up, my biggest concern is the durability of the hinge. This is something that just comes with the nature of a $600 product, right? Their durability and kind of build quality isn’t top notch, so be careful. If you if you take care of it, it’ll last but if you treat it roughly a $600 laptop will be a $600 laptop, okay?
The second tier of product isn’t one device in particular, but a whole class of products. That is the premium stuff from a few brands but from a few years ago, stuff like the X Series from Lenovo, the XPS devices from Dell, and the Surface laptops from Microsoft. These are devices that are really good but because they come out with them all the time – every year they got a new one and better ones; the older stuff drops in value pretty quickly but they’re still remarkably good and laptop tech doesn’t go up that quickly, right?
You’re looking at devices that are like three years old sometimes four years old. You get them for six, seven hundred bucks and they’re really good. And because these ones were built to last, their metal bodies, and their hinges are more durable. They’re just built really well, better than these $600 devices when they’re new. So, because these are so common and popular you can get replacement parts easily. You can get replacement batteries, components, and hinges. They’re easy to fix and they have excellent components.
Both Lenovo X series and the XPS products have great keyboards, great screens, and good battery life. You can’t go wrong with these devices and if you get them used or refurbished, the pricing can be really good. Now the Surface products often have really good pricing when it comes to buying used or refurbished, but the thing to keep in mind with them is that a lot of times, they are not easy to upgrade or repair them. They’re a more sealed device compared to Lenovo’s X-series or the Dell’s XPS products.
But, all three of them: Surface laptops, XPS devices, the X devices from Lenovo, they’re all good and in no particular order, I like all of them wholeheartedly.
Okay I’m going to move this conversation over to the MacBooks. I usually don’t push people towards MacBooks, let’s start off with why I haven’t recommended them in the past. So usually MacBook are number 1: more expensive. 2: reparability, upgradeability is a joke, and then over the past three years with the butterfly keyboard, I knew that that would be a problem from day one. How can you recommend a keyboard like that to people that need to use a device for several years, right? Can you imagine being in the middle of the school year and all of a sudden, your “E” key goes out.
It’s just the worst so for a while, I strayed people away from MacBooks. But because of M1, it’s a little bit different. Number one, they got rid of the butterfly keyboard. Two, they have really good battery life, arguably the best (not even arguably, it is the best) I would say that of all the devices I’ve tested and all the claims that people shove in my face like, “look at this product”, “look at that product”, – No. This guy has the best battery life by a significant margin. When it comes to battery life for students, it’s chef’s kiss, right?
This is what people want when it comes to a student laptop: good reliability, good keyboard, good battery life, and depending on how you play it, you can get these for a reasonably good price. M1 products – I’ve seen them on eBay for 700 bucks, 800 bucks. It’s not cheap, but the other thing to keep in mind is resale. If you get an M1 product today, it will hold its resale value better than anything else on this table because it’s just the market for this and because it’s Apple silicon, and this is their next generation of stuff, and they’re going forward with Apple silicon.
This will hold its value really well so I recommend it. Well, let me rephrase that – I recommend it for people that are interested in it. Now if you’re someone who’s comfortable on Windows, I still say look at it, I wouldn’t push you towards it, but look at it, right? If battery life is important to you, you’re going to be amazed with what M1 can do but if battery life isn’t the big deal, then there’s good stuff out there in the Windows camp as well.