It's widely used in microarchitecture classes, the (32bit) instructions are easy to decode and implement, and it is typically used to demonstrate the classic 5-stage pipeline. Actually, I'm working on an out-of-order core right now.
The Chromebooks seem to be the best option for a budget laptop IMO. If you ask me, all around the laptop market is in a slump but these for the prices are not bad, given you like Chrome and Google Drive.
Love my early Chromebook, has a 320 gig hard drive, and I use the VGA port for my cheap HD1920x1080 garage find monitor.
Would love to have a fast MIPS Chromebox, with 2 USB3.0, I HDMI, 1 Ethernet ports, WiFi and 1 VGA connector. Would make a great standalone Netflix & HBO entertainment system, needs to play Flack/ogg music & Avi/Fly/MP4 from external HD