I'm a very knowledgeable computer buyer/builder. I've bought laptops from Acer, Lenovo, Toshiba and more. It was time for me to buy one for myself. My criteria was simple - best laptop I could get for < $600. I do like to play games, but I also want a PC that can handle some heavy duty tasks as well. I wanted a 17" screen if I could get it as small size isn't that important to me - I'd rather have the screen real estate.
Typically I buy from NewEgg. However, I knew I WANTED to buy an AMD APU as most laptop graphics in this price range are laughable, but I have an AMD A10 on my main PC that I built and know it's a good performer and integrated graphics are - if not awesome - at least reasonable.
Currently on new egg, the CHEAPEST AMD A10 is an ACER 15" for $500 but it's the last-gen A10, only 4gb mem 500gb HD. To get it up to these specs would cost well over $100 more and you'd still be stuck with a 15" screen (fine if that's what you want though). If you look for an A10 with a 17" screen the CHEAPEST is a $1299 MSI (that matches these specs - though admittedly higher res screen). I'm telling you, hardware wise nothing can touch this currently for the price. Zacuke was right - Wow!
I've been working with it for a few days now, replaced the HD with an SSD (from my old laptop) and it's fast. Really fast. Plays Skyrim nicely on Med settings too. I swore off Windows 8 and was preparing to switch to 7 but I thought I'd give Classic Shell a shot before I did so. Makes all the difference. I can now run Windows 8 happily - well, almost happily... my network printer can print under Win 8 but I can't scan or do any other functions. But Win8 isn't bad if you install Classic Shell, have it switch to desktop on login, and remove all the crud "apps". I don't want "apps", I want PROGRAMS. (Old school and happily so).
Speaking of crudware - not terribly full of crudware once you dump Norton and those Bejeweled crudware games. So it doesn't take too long to get it purring. It's not a "looker" PC though - it's a big, gnarly 17" with all it's juiciness under the hood. Externally it looks pretty basic. BTW, it DOES have HD activity LEDs - but they're on the side (odd placement, but who really looks at those things?). It has all the ports you need (hdmi, vga, usb 3.0 on left side, 1 2.0 on right where your mouse goes). trackpad works ok, though I do miss my Lenovo that had a right-side scroll area that mimics a mouse's roller. But then, I usually use a real mouse anyway so no harm there. Arrow key's are rather oddly configured, but I don't use them much anyway. Function keys can be set to require hitting "fn" key for alternat functions (like volume control etc) OR hitting "fn" key for primary functions (F1, F2 etc...) via Bios setting. Good option depending on which use you find most needful.
One thing my old Lenovo had was a switch on the front to disable wireless adapter. This one does the same function via the F12 key in "alternate" mode. Much handier this way as it's very frustrating if you accidentally switch that off and can't figure out why wireless isn't working! All in all, I'm so happy with this laptop I could burst. I honestly think this is priced wrong, but no complaints to report. If you're looking for a good "gamable" if not "gaming" PC with a 17" display, there really is no alternative for < $600. And I suspect this too will cease to be available as the economy improves and the demand supports higher $$$. I had to find a store as it's not available currently online, but that just made it easier to buy (no shipping wait!)
Only think I recommend is an SSD to replace the HD with - IF you need speed more than space like me. Otherwise, 750GB drive is fine, but will bottleneck your potential speed. My Windows Experience is now at 6.7 - up from I think 5.9 before the SSD change, and that's due to the graphics. Disk is now at 7.9. But 6.7 for a laptop at this price range is great, and also remember that Win8 rates on a different scale that Win7. Ok, enough. I'll shut up now.
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