Need help figuring out what laptop is best for my budget. (and needs)

Feb 8, 2023
Hi there. Call me T. 👋

I'm currently struggling to find a laptop within my budget that suits my needs. I could really use some solid advice because I'm not the most well-versed when it comes to computers. And I'm at my wit's end in trying to figure out what would be the best fit given my budget and my needs.

What is your budget?
My budget ranges between 200-400 USD (I'd prefer to keep it around $350, tbh.)

What is the size of the notebook that you are considering?
I don't have any size in mind, though I'd prefer something medium-sized if I'm being honest.

What screen resolution do you want?
1920 x 1080? I have no idea if that means anything in the grand scheme of things. Screen quality is more important to me.

Do you need a portable or desktop replacement laptop?

How much battery life do you need?
The standard, I figure. I'm usually at home so I can keep it charged regularly. I fear the battery burning/dying out more than anything else.

Do you want to play games with your laptop? If so then please list the games that you want to with the settings that you want for these games. (Low, Medium or High)?

Yes. I would like to. Not sure if my price-range would allow that, though. I play on Medium/Low settings, and I know my way around a game ini, so it's not that big of an issue when it comes to graphics being top notch. Really, given the financial constraints, I would be completely satisfied to play modded Morrowind, Stardew Valley, and Sims 2 on it, but if that's not in the cards, so be it.

What other tasks do you want to do with your laptop? (Photo/Video editing, Etc.)
Writing. I write as a side hobby, and I use Scrivener to do it. I also multi-task, so web browsing while doing other things is important, and I stream videos on YouTube from time to time. Otherwise, I have a pc that I can use to do for more intensive tasks.

How much storage (Hard Drive capacity) do you need?
Enough that I can keep my word documents safety tucked away, store game files/etc. I have an external SSD for extra stuff, though I would prefer the laptop itself to run with an SSD for the obvious 'it's faster' mention.

If you are considering specific sites to buy from, please post their links.
I have a 200 USD gift card for, but I'm willing to look elsewhere. I should mention Ebay is a no and I would prefer not to buy refurbished.

The latter reason being the reason being I don't know what could be wrong with a refurbished piece, if the seller is screwing me over, or if it's going to smell like cigarette smoke. (I had that happen before and the smell is a huge trigger for me, long story.) My anxiety is at an all-time high buying something out of the box, so buying something someone else owned? Probably not the best idea.

How long do you want to keep your laptop?
As long as I can? To be fair I can probably save up the funds to buy built to last in a 2-year time frame.

That kind of Optical drive do you need? DVD ROM/Writer, Bluray ROM/Writer, Etc ?
I don't. Most of my software/etc. are digital copies.

Please tell us about the brands that you prefer to buy from them and the brands that you don't like and explain the reasons.
I have no idea what brands are preferred and what aren't. I really would prefer not to opt into a Chromebook because of online mentions, but otherwise, I am totally open to whatever fits my needs.

What country do you live in?
United States (USA)

Please tell us any additional information if needed.
I have the bare bones understanding of computer components. So, if you want me to understand something you're going to have to explain to me what you're talking about in simple terms. I hate to be that person, but I am that person.

I don't want to buy another tablet because I'm a touch typist and trying to fight with the one that's dying (the reason I have to pay into a laptop to begin with) is a nightmare.

I appreciate your advice, guidance and help. Really, I do. Thank you.


I'm afraid in your price range, to get something recent, it almost has to be refurbished.

Best from Target:

i5 11th gen ultrabook,8GB, 512GB SSD (high res 5:4 screen, pretty good for writing I imagine), Late model integrated Intel graphics.

Ryzen 3500U, 1080p screen, 16GB of ram. 256GB SSD

From around the Web: was a bust, but you can check there regularly for good deals. Best they had was a laptop running Windows S mode with 4GB of ram.

Amazon is a bit fiddly to look through in that price range. Props to Target for putting the CPU model in most of the listing, made it a lot easier.
Feb 8, 2023
Hey Eximo!

Thank you for your very thorough response, I appreciate it!

That makes total sense. I didn't actually realize that Target sold refurbished laptops, I'm starting to realize that's becoming more and more common. The last thing I bought that was refurbished was from a local shop rather than a brand distributor, so now that I realize there's a difference, I do feel more comfortable with buying something that is refurbished.

(Thank you for cluing me in on that!)

I'll look through your suggestions later today, and I'll favorite for future references. Thank you again for submitting so many links. I think I can gauge what would be appropriate via the specs listed in each suggestion for what would be appropriate for my needs. That way if I do find something I can compare notes, so to speak.

TBH, Amazon feels a bit fiddly in general, lol. Though, I have to say at least I know well enough to make sure the seller is verified and check reviews. (and to know when reviews are bots and people are completely clueless as to why their computer isn't working.) My grandmother on the other hand? Nothing but bootleg crap that I have to put together. SMH.

Thank you again so much! I really do appreciate your help and advice! :)


No problem, this is how I keep up with what is out there.

Amazon often has good pricing, but the problem is finding what you want. They don't have good computer component filters. There thousands of models for sale in the $300 range which means going through hundreds of pages. Typically, I hit up Newegg, look for some decent models in the right price range, then do price comparisons on Amazon using the model number from Newegg. Not all of the sellers will properly include the model so you can miss things.

On the refurbished side, some of these "manufacturer refurbished" are just going to be straight up returns. Some will have been swapped at point of sale for a new in box and the unacceptable one shipped back to the manufacturer for potential repairs. Hopefully minor things like bad keyboards, DOA drives or memory that slipped out of the factory.

But to be able to get an 11th gen CPU, only two generations behind, is pretty good for the money.

Ryzen 3500U is a little older, but Ryzen integrated graphics tend to be better than Intel.