Help buying a computer (Windows)

candylandriots

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I'm going to cross post this from one of the Coronavirus forums, where I initially posted it.

I mentor/help an Afghani girl from Iran here in Berlin. We usually meet up once a week to chat, help with school, stuff like that. We're doing it on the phone now.

She's also doing her schoolwork on her phone right now because she doesn't have a computer. I'm going to look for one for her now. Can someone tell me what kind of the bare minimum necessities are for a windows laptop these days? I'm going to try and get her a used laptop that she can use for school. Unfortunately, I can't get her a top of the line one, but I want to get her something functional at least. Could someone give me some advice? I haven't bought a PC in years and have no idea what she'll need to do her schoolwork.
 

Couperin47

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My german is nonexistent, anything with an i5 Intel processor and at least 8 gig memory with a decent amount of storage will be a 'real' computer. I suspect their German site is as least as generous with warranty, even on the refurbs, as I'm pretty sure both EC and German law requires that. All the Thinkpads are on the high end of rugged and will survive use by kids.
https://www.lenovo.com/de/de/sale/toprated/
 

The_Powa_of_Seiji_Ozawa

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If it needs to be Windows, then I second the Thinkpad recommendation. No need for it to the latest and greatest. I still use a Thinkpad T61 from c. 2007 that I equipped with a SSD and 8 GB RAM and it runs just about as well as my newer rigs for routine operations. I would just be leery of some of the "Thinkpad" line these days, as not all of them are truly Thinkpads. If a good, used/refurb X1 Carbon can be found cheap, grab it.
 

AMcGhie

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I would second the Chromebook idea. I got a cheap one, and it handles web/email/documents as much as I need it to.
 

cgori

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Oct 2, 2004
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I'm going to cross post this from one of the Coronavirus forums, where I initially posted it.

I mentor/help an Afghani girl from Iran here in Berlin. We usually meet up once a week to chat, help with school, stuff like that. We're doing it on the phone now.

She's also doing her schoolwork on her phone right now because she doesn't have a computer. I'm going to look for one for her now. Can someone tell me what kind of the bare minimum necessities are for a windows laptop these days? I'm going to try and get her a used laptop that she can use for school. Unfortunately, I can't get her a top of the line one, but I want to get her something functional at least. Could someone give me some advice? I haven't bought a PC in years and have no idea what she'll need to do her schoolwork.
Maybe the school has some recommendations about what their curriculum needs in terms of a PC? (I can pretty easily imagine something that is set up for / prefers Macs, or PCs or Chromebooks.)
 

candylandriots

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Maybe the school has some recommendations about what their curriculum needs in terms of a PC? (I can pretty easily imagine something that is set up for / prefers Macs, or PCs or Chromebooks.)
That’s a good idea too. Thank you! The only problem is I really don’t know how to get in touch with her school, and I’m not sure if she know. But I might ask some friends here with kids what they would buy for their children.
 

candylandriots

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One thing is she said that she needs to use PowerPoint. I think that she can get it on a Chromebook, and Google has its own version that’s compatible. But I also don’t want to get her stuck paying for a monthly subscription, given her financial situation. I’m seeing conflicting information about whether she would have to pay for an Office subscription. Sorry, I’ve been in the Mac ecosystem for so long, I’ve really missed all this stuff.
 

cgori

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One thing is she said that she needs to use PowerPoint. I think that she can get it on a Chromebook, and Google has its own version that’s compatible. But I also don’t want to get her stuck paying for a monthly subscription, given her financial situation. I’m seeing conflicting information about whether she would have to pay for an Office subscription. Sorry, I’ve been in the Mac ecosystem for so long, I’ve really missed all this stuff.
The google online app ("Slides") is free for personal use (as are the other equivalent spreadsheet/wordprocessing apps). It's a bit different than the Microsoft versions, but they can basically can do the normal things you do most of the time. It definitely works with a Chromebook.

Office 365 is free for educational use (need a .edu or similar email address though), for using locally on a Windows PC.

There is also what used to be called Office Online, that should (may?) work with a Chromebook. I've never tried that.
 

kelpapa

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Quick question and didn't want to start a thread. My mother in law is getting a new laptop. All she does is Facebook, email, and hunt for deals on United miles program. How different is the Chromebook from windows? Debating getting one, but concerned about changing operating systems. She's the worst person I have ever seen with a computer.
 

tmracht

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Does she use Android or IOS?
Quick question and didn't want to start a thread. My mother in law is getting a new laptop. All she does is Facebook, email, and hunt for deals on United miles program. How different is the Chromebook from windows? Debating getting one, but concerned about changing operating systems. She's the worst person I have ever seen with a computer.
 

tmracht

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Haha. Flip phone.
Okay so chromeos is definitely a little different. It's pretty straight forward but it's definitely a deviation from windows ecosystem. When Mia tried having her great grandmother use it she was lost. They do Facebook messaging on an ancient windows box all the time.

The other concern is if you aren't familiar with chromeos and you're the it on call can you do tech support without knowing it. We have a chromebook and it's weird. Definitely easier if she's illiterate to stick with window.
 

kelpapa

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Okay so chromeos is definitely a little different. It's pretty straight forward but it's definitely a deviation from windows ecosystem. When Mia tried having her great grandmother use it she was lost. They do Facebook messaging on an ancient windows box all the time.

The other concern is if you aren't familiar with chromeos and you're the it on call can you do tech support without knowing it. We have a chromebook and it's weird. Definitely easier if she's illiterate to stick with window.
Yea I think we will probably about the Chromebook then. She does have her husband who was a hardware engineer. So I'm less concerned about the tech support. But if chromeos is that different we will probably about it. Thanks bud.
 

Harry Hooper

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Maybe take a look at setting up a laptop with Linux Mint instead of ChromeOS
 

Joe Sixpack

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Honestly chromeos is pretty simple if someone is just doing email, Facebook, etc. There's a chrome icon at the bottom of the screen, you click it, you do whatever you need from the web browser. For a basic user I don't think they'd really notice a difference or run into any issues if that was all they were doing.

If she's one of those people that prints a lot of stuff, that may be a different story. We got my son a chromebook for school a couple months ago. It took me a couple hours of digging through reddit and various support forums and tweaking a bunch of weird settings to get the printer to work.
 

bohous

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When did Chromebooks become so expensive? Is this a demand issue due to Covid? My daughter has a Chromebook I purchased last year for homework, but its only an 11" with 4gb RAM, which had been fine for homework and basic internets, but really struggles with Zoom. Our school district will be fully remote for at least the first 2 months so I'm looking to upgrade for her, as well as a new one for my son who has been sharing my personal laptop. You can't find an 8gb Chromebook for <$650 bucks. Similarly spec'd full W10 are significantly cheaper, but feel like there has been a surge in laptop pricing as well.
 

Couperin47

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Demand is thru the roof. The Lenovo Outlet has virtually no refurbs, just discounted new laptops, all but one are i7 cpu models, virtually nothing under $1,000. Even fewer desktops too.

Laptop Experience (an authorized refurber for Lenovo and others) can, for example, deliver a Thinkpad T430 refurb (a very solid business laptop) with i5-3210M 2.6 Ghz cpu, decent 14" screen, 8 gig memory, 500 Tb SSD drive, CD/DVD drive, 2 x USB 3.0 and 2x USB 2.0, 11 a/b/g/n wifi with their own 1 yr warranty for $416 if you configure it here: http://laptopexperience.com/lenovo-thinkpad-t430-laptop-intel-core-i5-windows-10/

They also sell on Amazon. Needless to say, something like this is a real computer and runs rings around chromebooks.
 

bohous

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Demand is thru the roof. The Lenovo Outlet has virtually no refurbs, just discounted new laptops, all but one are i7 cpu models, virtually nothing under $1,000. Even fewer desktops too.

Laptop Experience (an authorized refurber for Lenovo and others) can, for example, deliver a Thinkpad T430 refurb (a very solid business laptop) with i5-3210M 2.6 Ghz cpu, decent 14" screen, 8 gig memory, 500 Tb SSD drive, CD/DVD drive, 2 x USB 3.0 and 2x USB 2.0, 11 a/b/g/n wifi with their own 1 yr warranty for $416 if you configure it here: http://laptopexperience.com/lenovo-thinkpad-t430-laptop-intel-core-i5-windows-10/

They also sell on Amazon. Needless to say, something like this is a real computer and runs rings around chromebooks.

500TB! I can fit the whole internet on this thing!
Seriously, this is an interesting, albeit weird, option. Is Lenovo actually still manufacturing laptops with an optical drive, VGA out, and a 4-1 card reader? They must be rebuilding using old lease laptops or something right?

Also thanks @Harry Hooper and @edoug for your recs as well.
 

Joe Sixpack

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I bought one from Costco about a month ago for $299 (4gb RAM, but 14" with 1920x1080 screen which is rare at that price).

It looks like that model is gone since it's no longer on the costco.com web site. I think the back to school rush has everyone buying them now.
 

Couperin47

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500TB! I can fit the whole internet on this thing!
Seriously, this is an interesting, albeit weird, option. Is Lenovo actually still manufacturing laptops with an optical drive, VGA out, and a 4-1 card reader? They must be rebuilding using old lease laptops or something right?

Also thanks @Harry Hooper and @edoug for your recs as well.
LOL Gb obviously. That part of the Thinkpad line is for business laptops where neither being extremely slim or light is considered as important as rugged versatility. There is also Displayport video. They continued to include the VGA because A) it costs virtually nothing but the connector and B) in many business locations the only input to commercial projectors for presentations are still limited to VGA input. The optical drive can actually be removed and replaced with a cassette that allows another hard drive. An ethernet port is always included, a lot of new thin laptops eschew this and unless wifi is open without a password, Internet connectivity becomes problematic: If a friend vists me good luck while I add his MAC address etc to my guest wifi account....

The current iteration of this line starts with the T490 and yes, now they omit the optical drive...
 

Couperin47

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If you need current product, just got a Back-to-School Sale promo from Lenovo: a Thinkbook 14, a slimmer current less rugged laptop, uses an i5-1035G1, 4 cores instead of 2 but base frequency is only 1 Ghz (turbo up to 3.6) probably similar real world performance to the older 2 core 3210M that runs at base 2.6. USB 3.1, bluetooth, fast 512 Gig PCIe SSD....with discounts $699: