I’m not a big fan of expensive laptops. Computer equipment depreciates at a tremendous rate and portable computers are subject to loss, theft, and damage so I want the least expensive machine that will do the job. That said, I also want it to be compact, light, fast, and last all day on a charge (i.e. an ultrabook). This may seem like a tall order, but I have found two solutions that I’m happy with. Both involve hacks:
The Toshiba Chromebook 2 Model CB35-C3350 has a Core i3-5015U with 4GB DDR3 and a 13.3″ 1920×1080 IPS display. It’s meant as a Chromebook, but you can replace the internal SSD with a larger one (necessary for it to be useful abd I had a spare 64GB M.2 drive on hand) and thanks to coolstar.org, you can install Windows, turning it into an excellent Windows ultrabook. The main downsides are limited battery life (4-6 hours) and as I’ve gotten older, I find that 13.3″ screen is a little too small. However, it is extremely portable, fast, sleek, and can regularly be found on eBay for $250-300.
The Acer One Cloudbook 14 has only 2GB of RAM, a slow 1.6GHz Celeron N3050 processor, 14″ 1366×768 display, 64GB SSD, and 10 (real) hour battery life. So other than the battery life, this is low-spec. It’s woefully under-powered for running Windows and slows to a crawl as soon as you start doing anything with it. Fortunately, it is better spec’d for Linux and once I loaded Ubuntu, it was surprisingly snappy and effective. My old eyes appreciate the larger screen and the very long battery life makes it a great knock-around machine. You can’t use it for big IDEs (NetBeans, Eclipse), but most other apps run just fine. It can often be found on eBay for under $150 and it’s tough to beat that for a thin, light, all-day laptop.
So I’ve ended up with a Chromebook running Windows and a Cloudbook running Linux…weird!
What I’d really like is a thin laptop, less-than 4lb, 15.6″ screen with full HD, Core i5 processor, 4-8GB of RAM, 128GB+ of SSD, and 8hr battery life…for around $300. Suggestions are welcome!