Of course, you're a smart shopper--and you can figure out how to find a stellar deal and grab the best laptop prices. But why not get a little assistance and benefit from a laptop review blogger's research? Maybe you'll find a tip or two here that will save you time and money.
Let the "Early Adapters" Chase After the Latest Technology
It's easy to convince yourself that you ought to have whatever is cutting-edge and new when you buy a laptop. After all, computers become obsolete so rapidly that there are some good arguments for getting as much as possible of the "latest and greatest" when you go looking for a cheap new laptop. Remember, though, that some bells and whistles are more for entertainment or convenience than for performance. Don't skimp on performance, but don't think you have to have the very best DVD and gaming capabilities, either. You'll pay a high price for these--and insisting on having that stuff may lead you to overlook some excellent laptop values. Here are the minimum performance-related criteria you should be looking for if you are a student or professional:
Processor speed - 2 GHz and up
Memory - At least 1GB of RAM installed
Hard drive - 40 GB to 60 GB
Screen size - Around 15" for the best blend of portability and viewing experience
Weight - 5 lbs and under
Battery Life - At least 4 hours. (The low-voltage models now offer up to 12, by the way.) Also consider buying an additional battery when you make your purchase.
Buy a refurbished laptop
I've heard it said, when seeking computer buying advice, "Once a lemon, always a lemon." In other words (or so my uber-geek friends have told me), if a computer didn't work right for the person who first purchased it, it'll never work quite right for anyone else. I'm sorry--but I just don't buy this. There are a million reasons why someone might return a computer (including just being too computer-illiterate to know how to use it properly). I have personally had very experiences with buying a cheap new laptop from refurbished computer outlets.
Buy from a total geek
I'm being a little tongue in cheek here, but what I'm really saying here is, if you're willing to have your cheap new laptop actually be a (slightly) used new laptop, chase after the early adapters. We all know that person whose idea of obsolescence is a year-old computer that can't run World of Warcraft with quite the smoothness in high-def mode that it once did. Or whose identity is so defined by the computer subculture that it is an embarrassment to have an "older model" laptop. Try looking on Craigslist. The sellers who have exhaustive features lists and ads you can barely understand are your targets. Oh, and if you happen to find a geek who is also a conspiracy theorist, so much the better. You'll end up with a computer with great virus protection and spyware.
You also may want to check out gaming forums for their trading sections. (Most have a place where gamers can sell their computers so as to enable their next planned upgrade.)
Look on the manufacturer's websites
I've often found better cheap new laptop deals on the Toshiba website, for example, than from the major online shopping sites. Many of these are refurbished computers, but you'll also find models that are about to be replaced by a newer version.
Bookmark websites that give you quick recommendations and current sale alerts.
On that site, I try to focus on the kind of full-featured laptops under $700 that would be appropriate for a student or professional. I also try to keep a current list of cheap gaming laptops for under $1000. So, go find your own holy grail of very cheap laptops at http://cheapnewlaptop.org