These days I have exactly one requirement when buying a laptop: It must have a solid-state drive (SSD). If you’ve ever had a system with one, you know it’s an order of magnitude faster than a traditional (i.e. mechanical) hard drive.
Alas, it’s pretty rare to find a laptop with a decent-size SSD for below $600. Heck, even for below $700. That’s why I’m 94 percent excited about today’s deal.
For a limited time, and while supplies last, Best Buy has the Dell Inspiron 15.6-inch laptop for $399.99 shipped (plus tax). That’s a savings of $200.
See it at Best Buy
Why am I only 94 percent excited? Because there’s one spec I don’t like in this otherwise nicely appointed system: the screen resolution. It’s 1,366 x 768 pixels, which is low for a 15.6-inch laptop. I won’t say it’s a dealbreaker, just that this wouldn’t be my pick for anyone doing extensive photo or video work.
If, on the other hand, you’re planning to connect an external monitor (which you can easily do thanks to the included HDMI port), you should be able to bump the resolution to at least 1,920 x 1,080.
And in most other respects, the Inspiron looks solid — on paper, anyway. It has an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Oh, and that screen is a touchscreen, another feature I wouldn’t expect at a $400 price point.
The keyboard isn’t backlit, but it is wide enough to accommodate a numeric keypad — helpful if you work with spreadsheets and the like. The laptop itself weighs in at a fairly hefty 5 pounds.
My quibbles aside, the Inspiron scored a very respectable 4.5-star average rating from well over 300 buyers. The negative reviews mostly point to the cheap feel of the machine (to which I’d argue, “What do you expect for $400?”) and issues with Windows activation (to which I’d argue, “Welcome to Windows”). Not saying those complaints aren’t valid, merely that expectations must be managed when you’re looking at an inexpensive Windows laptop.
My take: This should feel a lot speedier than just about any other $400 machine, thanks mostly to the SSD. If nothing else, it’s worth a look.
Bonus deal: One of my favorite finds of 2018 has also proven one of my most popular deals of 2018. Every time I write about it, stock runs out and readers ask me to bring it back.
I brought it back. (Well, the vendor did, but with much prodding from yours truly.) For a limited time, the BlitzWolf BW-FYE1 wire-free earbuds are $33.99 with promo code 321BECAJ. Regular price: $50. I’m told there are about 800 units left.
See it at Amazon
To my own surprise, I’m totally drinking the wire-free Kool Aid. You open the charging case, the earbuds pair with each other and your phone. You drop them back in the case, they disconnect and commence recharging.
Meanwhile, they’re an easy, comfortable and secure fit, and I think they sound really good — better than most others I’ve tried in this price range. I’m still not sure how they’d fare after a sweaty run or workout, because I haven’t tried that. But for knocking around the house, walking the dog and even listening to music on a noisy airplane (which I just did), they’re aces.
Read more: The best gifts for 2018
Read more: The best gifts under $50
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