Looking for Laptop Recommendation - Budget $1,000

Hi folks, I've been watching the deals and know COVID is affecting prices, but I need some advice to choose a laptop.
Been reading so much I'm now more confused than ever.. Really appreciate any tips and I can wait a month (but not much longer) to get it.
Initially I was keen on a refurbished laptop, but the sites I've been looking at aren't actually that much cheaper than some of the deals here.
I know there are lots of posts asking for help like this so put as much info as I could below.

BUDGET: preferably <$1000 but up to $1300
USE: main software is Dragon naturally speaking 15 voice to text. No video editing or gaming beyond the odd game of Starcraft 2.
SIZE: 14 or 15", used for word docs mainly.
NEED: a screen to use outdoors (I have an awning so can get shade) from a campervan.
nearly all the recent deals sub 1000 including the Lenovos seem to have inferior screens.
what I've read seems like matte, 300nits + as a minimum, IPS full HD.
I've been getting screen quality data from here: https://www.notebookcheck.net
Then I read some contradicting things like with a 250nits screen on AMD you can tweak display settings and make it look great (maybe on reddit?)

NEED: excellent keyboard for multiple hours of typing. Numpad not essential but nice.
NEED: upgradeable RAM, 8GB to start with
NEED: durability - I want it to last 5+ years, currently using a 2012 Lenovo Thinkpad E530 which has been great. That's why it needs upgradeable RAM too.
NEED: 256GB SSD or larger

CPU? Seems like the newer Ryzen chips are the way to go, I've been looking at performance on https://www.cpubenchmark.net (tell me if that's an unreliable site) and was amazed at the differences
WANT: good battery life
NOT NEEDED: touch screen, backlit keyboard, fingerprinty stuff, fancy stuff.

BONUS: If I can put my 500GB 2.5" HDD in an empty slot that would be great (https://www.cnet.com/products/toshiba-mk5061gsy-hard-drive-5...)

I almost bought the deal for the Acer Swift 5 @ $996 (https://www.ozbargain.com.au/node/556479) but I'm just not convinced such a light laptop from Acer (I looked up their durability and they don't seem to have a good build quality rep) would last 5+ years. Also I don't think the RAM was upgradeable so that kind of kills it in 5 years time.
The other appealing deal like the Thinkpad E495 was let down by the screen.
Should I wait for a deal on the T490? That has good screen reviews and I have much more confidence in Lenovo's builds than Acer.

Anyway thanks a bunch for any pointers. Cheers
Ole Mate

Comments

  • You posted very similar to what I think I am looking for, except I find 14” screens too low if they’re 16:9.
    I’m still looking.

    • cool I will post up different models I'm finding if that helps. I'm used to the 15.6" screen but thought the 14" might be fine for being on the road and more travel friendly.

      at the moment checking out the Dell sale on Vostro but I haven't found any info on their screen quality yet.
      https://www.dell.com/en-au/work/shop/laptops/new-15-3591/spd...

      • scratch that - nice specs, nice price, dim screen @ 225 nits, also poor coverage and contrast.
        https://laptopmedia.com/laptop-specs/dell-vostro-3591-7/

      • Thanks, appreciated.
        I was looking at the Asus TUF FX505DT-BQ191T due to the dust resistance but the screen seems like it might be inadequate without being able to see it in real life.
        It would be nice if they had a similar non-gamer TUF model without dedicated graphics but a better panel.

        • Looks like the battery life is the downfall with that model, and couldn't find good info on the screen. Nice specs though.

          • @olemate: The only info I have found on the screen so far is that the cheap models have a 60hz screen. I really like the dust resistance though since probably 25% of my use will be in a ute for enviro surveys, and I can deal with the battery as I can charge in the vehicle if needed.

  • Check out the Dell AU outlet laptops. You can add-on 3 years onsite extended warranty to those.

    Inspirons are in your range with 8GB RAM - but battery life won't be spectacular.

    https://www.dell.com/en-au/outlet/shop

    • Hi, thanks for the link. I've been checking out a bunch of the Vostros and now the Inspirons. Unfortunately all the one's I've looked at have very dim displays.
      the Dell Inspiron 15 3593, i7-1065G7got this - "We measured a maximum brightness of 201 nits in the middle of the screen and 198 nits as an average for the whole area"
      that's pretty terrible, worse than my current 2012 laptop. (source https://laptopmedia.com/review/dell-inspiron-15-3593-review-...)

      They meet the specs but just not on the screen as I'll be outside a lot in the next couple of years (writing on the road).

      Cheers

  • whats wrong with your current laptop? your needs sound super light that any old machine should still be doing alright.

    for keyboards, best thing would be to play around with a few display models in-store and see what you like. lenovo thinkpads are known for good keyboards, and they keep popping up on sale.
    id normally expect the really good ones to be on higher end models, but im using an asus tuf gaming laptop which has better keys than i expected for a cheapo $1k gaming laptop

    if you're okay with mac, a used 2013-2015 macbook pro might suit you well. they are very durable, have great keyboards and screens, and they dont tend to feel slower over time so you could probably get another 10 years out of them. i say the 2013-15 models because the newer ones have weird keyboards and cost too much, and the durability makes them a good used purchase as long as the battery count isnt too much

    also, backlit keyboards seem like a gimmick at first, but are actually pretty good to have. not for being bright and showy, but making keys feel more legible, even when it isnt dark.

    • Which model TUF do you have? I was actually considering one but wasn’t convinced about the screen. In real life it would probably be fine for what I want but on paper it’s lacking and with lockdowns it’s going to be a while before I can visit a computer store.

    • thanks for your suggestions. current laptop has a broken hinge and the case is sort of open because it's separated. 4gb RAM and a HDD make it pretty slow - when I use Dragon it lags at voice commands making the whole experience far from seamless. It has been fine for word processing but now I'm doing voice to text it's not enough and given the case situation it's not worth spending any money on.

      I've tried macs and just hate the user experience, grew up on windows and don't think that's going to change. I do love the thinkpad keyboard, and at the moment I'm leaning towards the new E14s or E15s with the Ryzen 5 or 7. I read a review of them that said they were actually getting a max of 292 nits from the stated screen rating of 250 nits. the other thing is I am confident with replacing the screen if it's not sufficient after I've actually used it for a while… they seem good value.

      never tried a backlit keyboard so I'll keep an open mind to it but I don't think I ever actually look at the keyboard unless I'm trying to find some unusual symbol.

      Thankyou!

  • lenovo ideapad 5

  • Several different T series Thinkpads have been in my hands over the years and they're built like tanks. Ive noticed they're usually built without the gimmicky features too, maybe in favour of functionality and durability ? I'm sure any of the newer T series would be a good fit for what you need it for.

    • I've been thinking of those too, or the E series which I believe are a step down but still good. Those T series do give me confidence to get well beyond 5 years out of them which is a big plus.

  • SSDs have made RAM pretty irrelevant unless you are gaming or other genuinely intensive tasks.

    Forget the RAM upgrade thing. Get 8gb and sit on it. It will be fine. If it has an nvme SSD you won't notice.

    • Okay that's good to know. Do you think that holds for a long term durability case, like wanting the laptop for 10 years? 5 years is sort of a minimum for me, ideally much longer. Meaning I might have use cases like music editing or youtube video stuff that I don't currently have..

      • Other people might disagree but I don't see any real need to dwell on how much RAM you have. BUT I would def take a nvme SSD over SATA one. You might not even notice much difference there either but the theoretical differences are pretty sweet. Solid state drives are the best thing to happen to computers since the internet.

        I think the main issue will be whether it shits itself. Can't really tell whether that will happen or not. I tend to go for HP Probooks or just generally business grade stuff as it seems to last longer.

        I doubt that any video/audio editing you plan to do will push a modern computer very far. Unless you get a celeron or something super lame. I have a celeron that chokes on 4k video and I am surprised how entirely shit it is.

        • Pretty decent deals on probooks on ebay. Recon ones are super cheap and usually in good nick.

          • @krunchymoses: thanks for that. I was looking at probooks and came across elitebooks (see my comment below) - do you have experience with them, are the marketers on point meaning is elite better than pro, etc?
            It's got 16GB RAM and a big nvme SSD @ $640

  • I've been looking more at refurbs today, I found HP Elitebook 840 G3s for $640,
    specs are here: https://www.cnet.com/products/hp-elitebook-840-g3-14-core-i7...

    i7-6600u, 16gb RAM, 512GB SSD, 14" touchscreen which is matte IPS I THINK, as it was hard to find exactly the same review to the model.

    Thoughts on that? Seems like that would do me for a few years and I save $500 or so.

  • Looking for similar but must have backlit keyboard and I do like a numpad so will probably have to go 15.6.

    • I got a refurbished E5470 (details below). You can also buy USB drive numpads for occasional use, but if you use it everday for sure get the 15.6"
      when I'm travelling in my van I'll be using a full size keyboard and just the screen on the laptop.

  •  

    Whats the problem with your current laptop?
    Just asking out of curiosity?

    • No backlit keyboard, can't see it outside, battery gone, charging port has to sit "just so" and not move to power. Might just have to take it apart and fix the connection if I can't find what I want. Willing to go up to $1500.

      •  

        fair enough. more than enough reason for a new lappy.
        I apologise I didn't realise you had answered same question above.

        It not for the screen $1000 easily cover your needs. Most brands from what I can see at this price point. (even up to $1500) have screens with brightness of 200-250nit.
        The better screens are on business models or higher end consumer models. Your best bet might be looking at refurbished business grade laptops. (Although I guess battery life might be reduced with refurbs)

  • hi folks thanks for all the tips. I finally found what I think meets all my needs, it's a refurbished Dell Latitude E5470. 14" screen, intel i5-6440HQ 2.6GHz 8GB Ram 256GB SSD.

    the performance is more than enough, I can upgrade the RAM if I ever need to, and the screen has excellent reviews including being able to use in outdoors without a problem.

    it was $662 shipped from manlylaptops.com.au - I got the last A-grade but there are B-grade ones for $600. the battery life might not be great but that's not a priority more a nice ot have. can't wait to get my hands on it!

    • @mapax if you haven't already found something, this might suit you too: https://www.manlylaptops.com.au/MLLAP98022
      they also have a higher spec one for $800 (just search their site for E5470)

      @krunchymoses all sorted thanks for the help :D

      Cheers

      • Thanks, ordered a Lenovo E15 Gen 2 AMD for ~$840 from the education store, it’s only 250nits but should be ok for use in the ute as it’s a matte/anti-glare screen and supposedly meets the MIL-STD-810G test and has a “spill resistant” keyboard.

  • Hey guys, selling the following here:

    https://www.ozbargain.com.au/node/562599

    Lenovo Ultrabook
    $280 on collection (Fitzroy) or $300 posted in Aus. Pretty bulletproof, Full HD Touchscreen, Pen, brand new 240GB WD SSD etc etc…

    Cheers