Laptop Advice

So, I know *( about something similar to this back in December. However, I’ve got a more specific use case this time.

I’m looking for a laptop to replace my aging 2010 MacBook Pro. While I would love to spend $2K on a new MacBook Pro, I don’t have that kind of money and would rather do that before I go off to college so it isn’t obsolete by that time. So, I’m looking for something in the interim. Here’s some things I’m looking for:

  • Runs Solidworks

  • Good battery life

  • Upgradable RAM, HDD, etc.

  • Fast CPU

  • Somewhat durable (not going to be running a truck over it, just want something that will hold up to, well, a high school student’s life)

  • Preferably discrete graphics

  • Preferably 13" screen (but if the screen is bigger that’s not a deal breaker)

And the main criteria:

  • Under $800

There may be a little fudge factor going upward from $800, but I want to keep it as inexpensive as possible. I’m happy buying used off of Ebay, and I also am comfortable upgrading it after I buy it if that’s a solution as well.

You all were quite helpful last time with a question like this, so I am excited to see what everyone thinks!*

I recommend checking out regularly. I just picked up this laptop for $1000.

A year ago I got a refurbished Dell Precision M4400 Workstation laptop off eBay for $200. Mine had an NVIDIA Quadro FX graphics card, but a slightly old processor. For me personally, it has done great, and is built very durably, if a little heavy. It runs Solidworks really well, and can do large assemblies well too. Mine came with 4 GB RAM, and can upgrade to 8.

TL;DR Works great for FRC purposes, you won’t have to pay very much for it at all, and can instead save some money to spend on a better one down the road.

Too bad you didn’t post this a week or two ago, Best Buy had a deal on a sweet Lenovo Yoga machine with an i7, solid state, and dedicated graphics for under $800 after a $150 student discount. All gone now, unfortunately.

If your goal is running Solidworks, you’re going to want a dedicated graphics card. The standard integrated graphics on most laptops is inadequate for this, while it might run the program, the performance will be sub-par and manipulating objects will be laggy.

Looks like HP is running a pretty good deal on their Pavilion 15t laptop starting at around $600, the base specs are:

i5-6300HQ Processor
Nvidia GTX 950M (2GB Dedicated) Graphics Card
8GB DDR4 RAM (uses 1 of 2 available slots)
15.6" 1080p Display
1TB 7200 rpm HDD (this is unusual, most laptops have the slower 5400rpm drives)

Whats nice is that it looks like you can upgrade not only the RAM and the HDD, but you can also drop in an M.2 SSD IN ADDITION TO the HDD (for most laptops it’s one or the other).
The only other thing I might recommend is if you were going to buy one of these, spend a little extra and upgrade the CPU and/or Graphics cards in the config, since those are really the only key components you can’t change after the fact (as they usually get soldered onto the circuit board during assembly). Don’t bother upgrading the RAM or HDD over the defaults , or adding an SSD in the config process, they are MUCH cheaper to buy elsewhere and install yourself later.

It is a bigger screen than what you’re looking for at 15.6", but typically when you go smaller on screen size you loose customizability and increase cost.

I can’t speak to the durability of this model in particular other than to say that I have one very similar to it that has held up pretty well for the last few years (and using it for a similar application as you too).
The only other thing I’ll say is if you’re looking for durability, avoid “Ultrabooks” (super-thin laptops, usually with touchscreens) like the plague.

I got a Lenovo IdeaPd Y550P that works well

laptops under $800

I’m in love with my lenovo ThinkPad t420- screen is nice and small, battery lasts forever (I do have a fairly large battery though). I got mine for about 200 dollars refurbished on Amazon- here’s a similar device: .

I did upgrade the RAM to 16 GB, but I only really touch that because I use VMs and emulators a lot. The graphics aren’t incredible, but I’m sure you could either upgrade or connect to an external monitor with the 3932139 ports this machine has.

I am currently looking at laptops for my personal use as well as running SolidWorks. While it’s no workstation, this Acer ticks almost all the boxes for me.
Discreet graphics | reasonable i5 processor | SSD | 8GB DDR4 upgradable | great port selection | and only $550.

I’m not a huge fan of Acer, but that price is awfully appealing. There is also a version with a better graphics card and additional 1TB HDD, as well as a version with a better graphics card and better processor. Each a little more money.

Wow, that seems inexpensive for that much power! I haven’t checked on new laptops in a while though…is that how far they’ve decreased in price? :yikes:

I can’t speak for the durability of ultrabooks, but I can see how they’d break easily. They are not very powerful; usually < 2GHz processors and no fans. They seem a bit pointless IMO, though the new MacBook doesn’t seem bad for lighter work.

I just bought this laptop, which was $819 when I bought it (a few weeks ago), but has gone up in price somewhat. It has some of the best specs for the price. Some of the reviews complain about the plastic frame, but it feels sturdy enough for me.

I would recommend the Lenovo Flex 4. It has two different screen size option although both are bigger than 13’. It has the option to have a built in 256 GB SSD and that along with 8 GB RAM lets Solidworks run really well. It is a laptop and a tablet so I wouldn’t say it as durable as say a Lenovo T series laptop but there is no reason it shouldn’t be able to survive a high school life. You can get it refurbished or used from amazon or ebay for under 800 dollars but for new it would be a little under 900. Personally, I’ve enjoyed Solidworks performance on this machine and will be using it in college too.

I tend to discourage students’ families from buying the typical “consumer-grade” laptops, because of the build quality – lack of durability and robustness. I.e. you get mostly plastic cases, sometimes even plastic hinges, etc. I’ve just seen too many of these half broken with the screens hanging part off, etc.

So this means no Dell Inspiron, no Lenovo except for Thinkpad line, no HP Pavilion.

Also, the consumer laptops tend to have large capacity (e.g. Terabyte), but really slow mechanical hard drives (5400RPM). Aside from video editting, I can’t imagine what you’d do with a Terabyte in a laptop (how’d you back it up? – you know it’s guaranteed to fail). There’s simply no reason to put mechanical hard drives in laptops (or even desktops) anymore. An SSD will make everything on your laptop faster, will be more reliable, and draw less power.

Downside to getting a business-grade laptop with an SSD is you’ll pay somewhat more, and/or get somewhat less in terms of computer components. The trade-off is getting a machine that’s likely to physically survive through high school and college.

BestBuy has a pretty decent14" Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga for $900 (briefly on sale for $800 a few weeks ago). This laptop even comes with a Wacom Stylus (and a place to dock it and charge it within the laptop). Plus an nVidia 940M chip – not the fastest, but a decent accelerator for CAD work.

A little cheaper, but bigger would be this HP Envy ($826 with 10% student discount). It’s a little large and heavy – 15.6" screen. Would be good if you’re collaborating on CAD, but might not be ideal for carrying around school.