Ultra Budget Laptop recommendations?

My wife's looking for a cheap laptop. And when I say cheap, I mean cheap--we're talking around $500-$600. It needs to surf the web, handle word processing, and probably run Photoshop Elements for some small-scale photo editing. It also needs to play DVDs, burn CDs, and connect to a wi-fi network. All very basic stuff that I assume anything on the market in that price range could handle. Screen size is not that big of an issue, although weight and battery life will be considerations.

Any ideas on the best model/brand/method of purchase? I've been perusing the ads and looking at the low-end deals at the big elecronics shops, and I've also poked around at the refurbished/etc. stuff at Dell's online outlet. I'm half inclined to just stroll into Best Buy and just buy whatever looks the shiniest for the price, but I thought I'd pick the colective GWJ brain first.

Thoughts?

Your best buys are always at Fry's. I've seen them advertise some cheap laptop recently on TV.

For small-scale photo editing, and a small-budget laptop, there are plenty of better options than PS. IrFanView for really basic stuff, for example. Plenty of others out there, a few that are nearly feature-complete "clones" of PS. Without the memory footprint of an Adobe app. If screen size isn't an issue, then she's probably not doing stuff that's too intense, so other apps might be an option.

Of course, having said that, if she's one of those people that can do about 90% of her photoshop work without a mouse, then the time spent configuring something else to be close and relearing keyboard shortcuts may not be worth it.

Oh, and I hate Fry's. I've never had a "good" consumer experience at Fry's, even taking price into account. Fry's sucks.

Fly, I'd wait to see what the next "10 Days of Dell Deals" brings, they usually have a wide range of stuff for wicked prices. My brother is also looking for a $500 range laptop. Went to Best Buy recently and saw a few decent ones but I can't remember the brand, possibly Acer? I'm suprised at how quick they were for the price - laptops have definitely fallen into a good price point over the past few years.

Well, my recent (Like.. an hour ago) purchase doesn't qualify as ultra budget.. what I will say is that you should definitely keep your eye on GotApex.com for those crazy dell coupon deals.

Sure as hell made mine a lot cheaper.

$750 cheaper, to be exact.

What did you end up getting J?

What about Dell Outlet? Has anyone had any experience with them? Seems like you can get a nice, even Windows Media Center laptop for around $500-$600. How's that compare with the gotapex stuff?

Also, I have no understand of how fast chips are anymore. Ghz doesn't matter, there's celeron and M and who the hell knows what else. Where do I go if I want to know how much work a processor can actually do for a techno-illiterate like myself?

Swat wrote:

What did you end up getting J?

E1705, Core Duo 1.83, 1gb DDR2, 7900GS. It won't challenge that M1710 you have, but it'll do what I want it to do very very nicely

Total cost after a couple of deals combined was around a bit over $1200, but re-building the same thing today with available coupons/deals seems to come out $1400.

*shrug*

Wow, nice

Do you have the Truelife WUXGA? I think we have pretty much the same machine except for the video card and the fancy bling lights. The 7900GS is no slouch either. There's talks that we might be able to upgrade to DX10 cards (plug n play) and there's people already dropping Memrom processers (the next generation of duo-core), so it's nice to see there's some sort of upgrade path in the future.

Swat wrote:

Do you have the Truelife WUXGA? I think we have pretty much the same machine except for the video card and the fancy bling lights. The 7900GS is no slouch either. There's talks that we might be able to upgrade to DX10 cards (plug n play) and there's people already dropping Memrom processers (the next generation of duo-core), so it's nice to see there's some sort of upgrade path in the future.

Yeah, I got the Truelife WUXGA panel upgrade. I don't know why. The videocard would have been better paired with the lesser resolution of the WXGA panel, but I just wanted all the shiny features I could afford.

Awesome to hear about the potential for an upgrade on it. I had no idea that was a possibility with the videocard in it.

I did read a comparison article on anandtech about the E1705 and the M1710 that says they're essentially the same hardware, but the e1705 offers 5400rpm hard drives, doesn't have the high end videocard option, and doesn't have all the purty lights.

So it does seem like a pretty good deal.