Ask Adrian: the best lap­top on a bud­get

Our tech ed­i­tor ADRIAN WECKLER tack­les your trick­i­est tech­nol­ogy prob­lems

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - AGENDA - @adri­an­weck­ler

QI need some advice as to the pur­chas­ing of a lap­top. I’ve got a desk­top PC but it’s very old. I need some­thing for ev­ery­day use, such as bank­ing, down­load­ing, shop­ping and print­ing doc­u­ments — the usual ev­ery­day stuff. I would like a 13 or 14 inch ma­chine, noth­ing too big or bulky. I will be us­ing it for air travel. I would need it to have good stor­age and bat­tery life. My bud­get would be around €500. Is it worth me look­ing at a Chrome­book?

AThe top model I’d rec­om­mend is Len­ovo’s 320 se­ries, as you get a rel­a­tively thin, well-de­signed lap­top with de­cent bat­tery life, and the op­tion of a lot of stor­age if you want it. The 13-inch 320S ver­sion (€450 from len­ovo.com/ie) has an In­tel i3 chip and 128GB of stor­age whereas the 15-inch model (€430 from len­ovo.com/ie) has a whop­ping 2,000GB of stor­age. (The price to be paid for the ex­tra stor­age is that it’s an older type of stor­age drive that whirs and clicks and makes the lap­top a bit heav­ier.)

In gen­eral, there are very few lap­tops on the mar­ket that have fast, quiet, longer-last­ing solid state

(SSD) drives for un­der €500. At this price level, the vast ma­jor­ity have the older type.

How­ever, if you can live with this, HP, Asus and Dell also have a few mod­els in this price bracket. Dell and HP are gen­er­ally de­cent choices, although Len­ovo is prob­a­bly the best in the bud­get cat­e­gory.

Your bud­get rules out op­tions such as Ap­ple MacBooks, which start at over €1,000. It also means you won’t be get­ting fancy fea­tures such as fin­ger­print se­cu­rity locks or so-called ‘ul­tra high def­i­ni­tion’ (also known as ‘4K’) screens. And you’ll be re­stricted to rel­a­tively mod­est power com­bi­na­tions, mean­ing you wouldn’t want to sud­denly gain an in­ter­est in video-edit­ing or gam­ing. But from the tone of your question, I’m as­sum­ing that you don’t need any of these fea­tures for the ac­tiv­i­ties you de­scribe. As for porta­bil­ity and weight, the good news is that few of to­day’s new lap­tops are bulky any­more. That said, for the light­est, slimmest lap­tops, you’ll pay a pre­mium.

As for Chrome­books, they gen­er­ally have the ad­van­tage of be­ing very af­ford­able (usu­ally un­der €300). How­ever, they also have lim­i­ta­tions. In par­tic­u­lar, they tend to have very lim­ited stor­age ca­pac­i­ties (usu­ally no more than 64GB), be­cause their op­er­at­ing model is to use ‘the cloud’ for ev­ery­thing in­stead of a phys­i­cal hard drive. This starts to bite for things like stor­ing photos or down­load­ing episodes of Net­flix.

They’re also quite lim­ited in a sit­u­a­tion where you’re off­line as, again, they’re re­ally meant to work in an ‘al­ways on’ con­nected en­vi­ron­ment.

Given that you say you’re go­ing to use it a lot for air travel, I wouldn’t put a Chrome­book at the top of your list.

You also have the op­tion of a tablet, but other than the iPad (which is a very dif­fer­ent sys­tem to a Win­dows lap­top), there aren’t many plau­si­ble choices for this bud­get range, es­pe­cially tak­ing the need for a key­board ac­ces­sory into con­sid­er­a­tion.

REC­OM­MEN­DA­TION: Len­ovo 320S 13 (€449 from len­ovo.com/ie)

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