Can a Cheap, Under $200 Laptop Actually Be Good?

Thursday, July 23, 2020 by Island Dog | Discussion: Personal Computing

I have a new CNC machine going in my shop, and I needed a Windows PC to run the code going to the machine. My current laptop I use for work is a Dell XPS 15" 4K touchscreen which is something I'm not going to keep in a place that is often filled with sawdust. So I needed something as cheap as possible but still capable of running quite a few applications. After searching on Amazon and eBay I narrowed it down to a $90 Windows tablet and an Acer 15" laptop for $190. I ended up purchasing the laptop as I preferred the much larger screen. It certainly has it's limitations, but with a 1080p screen, 4GB of RAM, and wi-fi, it should do everything I need and more for this particular task.

It came installed with Windows 10 S, and upgrading it for free to Windows 10 Home as I needed to install software that isn't available on the Microsoft Store. Now I took the time and cleaned out all the installed apps using Ashampoo Unistaller 9 so I could install just the handful of apps I need for shop work.

If you've read my blogs over the years you won't be surprised to hear Fences was the first app I installed. I use Fences on all of my PCs to quickly access folders and to group icons that I usually organize into projects. I can't express how much time this saves me from finding my project files and just keeping things organized. I will also make a folder portal with OneDrive so I can easily transfer files from my office PC to the shop laptop. Start10 is also installed which also gives me the ability to integrate Fences into the Start menu.

Even though this is a shop PC, that doesn't mean I can't do some customization to the desktop. Curtains seems to be the perfect match for this laptop, and I have had a great time playing with all the themes and customizations available. I'm sticking with a lighter theme for now, but those dark themes from danioc are quite tempting!

Amazon Music is next up in the installation list. I subscribe to Amazon Music and since this laptop has Bluetooth, I can connect it to my garage speaker so I can have plenty of music in my shop.

Another one of my favorite apps on both PC and iOS is Microsoft OneNote. It's one of the best multi-platform apps for taking and sharing notes on a variety of devices. I can put some ideas down on OneNote on my iPad and then have them to work on in either my office or shop PC. 

That's really most of the basic apps I have installed so far. Of course there are some shop specific apps like Carbide Create and Carbide Motion for CNC work. Also, Lightburn is a great app for laser applications. 

So far this "cheap" laptop has done more than I thought it would, and to be honest I'm quite surprised given the price point of this machine. I guess it's good to know you can get a decent PC for a low price if you needed to, as long as you know the expectations of such a low cost device.


Reply #1 Wednesday, July 22, 2020 8:28 PM

A few months ago I went to the local Sunday Market and bought a little laptop....simply to 'fiddle' with [an early lock-down project] and for $80 AUD [$45 USD] was surprised when the guy asked if I wanted to see it booted up.  I'd assumed battery would be flat/dead at a minimum.  Lo and behold it was running Win 10 [not activated] and came with charger.

I checked online...original price was $1300 AUD....Acer Aspire TimelineX.  I put a legit copy of 10 on it...and it's been running non-stop for months now...without issue.

Sometimes second-hand is really the way to's a 12" handy size for travelling [if we ever are able to again]...

Island Dog
Reply #2 Thursday, July 23, 2020 12:36 PM

Reply #3 Thursday, July 23, 2020 12:57 PM

Reply #4 Thursday, July 23, 2020 1:41 PM

I purchased an ASUS laptop last week off of eBay for $180, Core I5, 2.60ghz, 6GB RAM and a 128GB SSD and it is really fast! Never going to buy any other brand from now on!

I heard Acer's are really good too Spencer.

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