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I'm looking into getting a used laptop on a budget, would really appreciate your suggestions.

My requirements are mostly ordinary:

  • Web surfing on modern browsers

  • Office suite

  • AV

  • Infrequent Photoshop use along with image/video conversion

  • Using Virtualization software vmware workstation for testing certain apps.

I plan to exchange the default HD with an SSD (256 GB).

I'm assuming the default intel HD 3000/4000 or comparable GPU would be enough for smooth hd viewing and rare image editing and low/med end gaming?

Laptops:

  1. $260 SONY VAIO PCG 81115L i7 1ST GEN Q740 1.73 GhZ 4GB NVIDIA 425M [2010?]

  2. $316 SONY VAIO E-SERIES SVE151D11L i5 3RD GEN 2.50GhZ 3210M 6 GB 500GB 2012 INTEL 4000 GfX [2012]

  3. $220 TOSHIBA SATELLITE L775D S7305 AMD A6 3400M 1.40GhZ RAD HD 6520 GfX [2011]

  4. $383 HP PAVILION DV6 6C53CL i7 2670QM 2.20GhZ 2ND GEN 8GB INTEL 3000 GfX [2011]

  5. $182 HP PROBOOK 4520 i5 1ST GEN 2.67GhZ 3 GB ATI HD 6300M GfX [2011]

  6. $270 HP 14" ELITE BOOK 8470P i5 3RD GEN 2.50 GZ [2012]

So far i have liked the 2 sony viao laptops.

I'm also confused about the generations, will an i5 3RD GEN 2.50GhZ 3210M be better/faster than i7 1ST GEN Q740 1.73 GhZ?

Please do note i will favor a longer battery life in exchange of 10% or less realworld cpu performance.

I will also appreciate if someone points out some of the potential pitfalls in buying a used laptop.

What non-obvious things i must check to ensure it's condition is good?

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Things to check before buying:

  • Temperatures If the cpu temp exceeds 50c at idle, it has probably been overheated in the past and experienced more wear than others.

  • Laptop hinges If not opened slowly and from the middle, hinges wear unevenly and on many models break. If there is looseness it is indicative of future failing.

  • Battery Laptop batteries do not like frequent discharge cycles nor years of use. When buying a used laptop, you can expect to be buying a new battery somewhere in the not too distant future. You can check the wear level at the same time as the temperatures using HWMonitor from CPUID (freeware).

A 3rd gen i5 at higher clock speeds will outperform a 1st gen i7 in single threaded performance, but in multi threaded applications the difference is less notable. For your described usage the i5 would be preferable as it uses less power and you will not frequently be at 100% load.

Of the models you listed, as a money saver I would choose the Llano based Toshiba. The integrated graphics far outperform the IntelHD series (which will make web browsing and video editing smoother) and it is a more recent chip requiring less power than the older i-series (TDP 35W). The price difference between the next models allows you to purchase a higher density battery for extended use.

Ideally the final notebook you posted (8470P) would have discrete graphics installed e.g. Radeon HD 7570M. It's not specified in your question, but if it does it's the clear winner.

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  • Good edit. I'll put in some effort to learn all the text formatting tricks soon.
    – Raj Huff
    Apr 8, 2016 at 14:07

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