Help Me, LAPTOP: I Want a Notebook for the Next 5 Years

In the Help Me, LAPTOP column, you ask for advice and we provide it. Today, we're helping Melany, who wants a sub-$800 notebook that's lightweight, durable, and future-proof.

Melany H writes:

I'm looking for a laptop that is fairly light and portable (less than 6 lbs) and costs less than $800. I use my laptop mostly for internet, downloading and working with flip videos and photos of my kids, downloading books and music from iTunes. Occasionally I use Excel or Word. I rarely watch movies or TV on my computer, although I suppose I might like that option but it would be something I would do only occasionally and is not a priority. I never play games. I don't need to hook my computer to my TV either. I like the 13" - 15" screen size because they are easier to move from room to room in my house. I have 13-month-old twins so we are constantly moving our computers out of the way!

Are there a couple of laptops you could suggest that would be easy to use, lightweight and will last me for maybe 4-5 years?

Sounds like you want a notebook that is powerful enough to do the basic tasks you perform today, advanced enough to do the tasks you'll want tomorrow, and durable enough to last four or five years in a house full of toddlers. So what notebooks do we recommend in your price and size range?

The first laptop that comes to mind is the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 14, which has a best-in-class spill-resistant keyboard and sleek looks. We'd buy it from Lenovo with either a Core i3 or Core i5 CPU and a 7,200 rpm hard drive.

You might also want to check out the Gateway ID49C07U, which has a metal lid and deck (so it will be able to take some abuse) and a cool glowing touchpad. Its Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 500GB hard drive should give you the performance you need at a reasonable price. The model we reviewed cost under $700.

Toshiba's 13-inch Portege R700 is another strong choice and is available for $829.99 at Best Buy. It's a little above your price range, but it has a lightweight and sturdy magnesium finish, long battery life, and a built-in DVD drive. You won't find a better equipped laptop

Each week, we answers questions from readers in our Help Me LAPTOP section. If you need help buying or making the most of a notebook, smart phone, or other mobile gadget, e-mail us at We'll use the most interesting questions in a future Help ME LAPTOP post.

Avram Piltch
Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master's degree in English from NYU.