I bought a new laptop yesterday. My old one (bought off-lease about 3 years ago) had a busted screen due to dropping my old work laptop on it last week -- no damage to the work laptop, but the corner of it scratched along my screen, d'oh. Getting too old for juggling laptops I guess. The old one also had issues with the hard drive, it would get very unhappy and lock the machine for minutes at a time when hot, and the battery was only good for about 10 minutes (just long enough to move to another power outlet). So it was time for a new one.

I was planning to hit Canada Computers in Ajax, but had to go to Best Buy anyway to get a new cel phone (my almost-3yr-old phone also had display issues, but just from wear), so while I was there I decided to check out the laptop section. BestBuy's laptop selection is pretty vast, there must've been 40 different models on display. I think more laptops than phones.

My basic criteria for the laptop was as follows:

  • max budget of $600+tax
  • prefer non-Intel graphics processor
  • Need at least 2Gb RAM and 200Gb drive
  • Looks good, but not stupidly styled
  • Whatever else I can get for that price

My basic usage is for standard Internet use/browsing, occasionally watching downloaded 720p videos, and low-end gaming (LOTRO and DDO at low/medium graphics settings). So not particularly strenuous requirements for a full-fledged laptop.

The one I chose is a HP G62-318CA (link to HP's specs), which seemed a reasonable value. Best Buy has it for $499. If you don't want to click through to the specs, it has a triple-core AMD Phenom II processor (not very fast, but OK), 3Gb RAM and 320Gb drive, ATI Radeon HD4250 graphics (not very fast, but OK), 15.6" WXGA screen, Blu-ray RO/DVD RW drive, and the usual assortment of ports.

The BestBuy guy seemed surprised at the triple-core and Blu-ray drive for that price, and I was inclined to agree.

After using the machine for a bit my impressions are as follows:

  • There's no separation between the touch pad and the rest of the casing, just a raised bit. There are buttons for the trackpad. This is a bit strange at first, but I like the design because you can't get dust & other bits stuck in the corners of the trackpad.
  • Speed is quite acceptable for a low-end laptop, definitely better than a netbook
  • The display is quite nice, quite bright
  • I like the styling in general
  • Plays LOTRO on mostly medium settings at 1280x720 at 25-30fps, with a few of the more demanding performance options turned off
  • Not wild about the Realtek network adapter
  • Reverse of most laptops, keys along are primarily for audio/brightness/wifi control and require pressing a FN key to get F1/F2/F3/..., which is a bit odd at first but I'm coming around to it -- might try to investigate if it can be inverted to be more like a normal keyboard though
  • Quick launch keys down the left side of the keyboard for DVD player, calculator, email, etc are quite annoying, especially if you accidentally hit them in the middle of a game -- actively looking for a way to disable or remap them