What are solid picks for laptop with number pad on side?

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I’m looking for a new laptop for my wife to use.

She only uses Windows for the OS side and uses mostly Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), Google Chrome (with lots of tabs open all the time), and iTunes on top of the OS (Excel and Chrome being her top two). She is really good at Excel and historically has used the number pad on the right side a lot (her new laptop at work is a 12-inch ThinkPad and she seems to like it). She has lots of USB-A style devices (mostly plugs in drives when transferring files or charging smartwatch/phone/headphones) and I have no desire to inflict dongle life on her. She mostly uses it at home on her lap, not a desk. She should probably have near or actual mil-spec gear (cracked 3 iPhone screens in roughly the last year alone)

Most of my career has been on the Apple macOS side, but have switched over to Windows 10 (due to Apple exiting the desktop pro market in 2013 and the laptop pro market in 2016) and my IT career is focused on software, not hardware, so I do not have first hand knowledge (such as deploying thousands of laptops in an enterprise) of who really makes legit laptops now. The last time I consistently bought Windows based PCs was the late 90’s / early 00’s when Windows 2000 was the most sane way to do productivity in Windows, but overall WinTel was a train wreck that was unreliable and required way too much maintenance (hence the switch to Mac at the time).

I got her a year ago a small business Dell Laptop (Latitude 3560) since I hoped the business lines of Windows PCs would be better vs. random consumer lines. It was fine at first but around the time of the Intel meltdown/spectre bugs being found and patched it started blue screening. I’m planning on reinstalling Windows, but am assuming the drivers/patches for the CPU bugs will likely permanently mess up the PC and I don’t want to run unpatched software on it.

So, who makes a laptop that can handle the above and can run Windows in a stable way and avoid all the drama Windows laptops tend to have? Such as blue screens, lousy keyboards and trackpads, bad quality displays, case falling apart or being really creaky, etc… For example, I’ve met countless people who love Lenovo keyboards, the only laptop I ever had was an old T series from 4-5 years ago that unfortunately had a worthless trackpad.

It would probably be OK to go with modest specs, like an i3 – i5 CPU and 8 GB RAM, any price premium should go toward the thing working smoothly.

I’m thinking maybe recommending a lower end or refurbished ThinkPad. If she was willing to give up on having a number pad, I was thinking possibly the Surface Laptop over a small ThinkPad since it has an USB-A port, the 3:2 PixelSense display + nice keyboard + nice trackpad combo, and Paul seems to think it is argueably the best ultrabook right now.

Thoughts?

Comments (14)

14 responses to “What are solid picks for laptop with number pad on side?”

  1. wright_is

    I'd go with a ThinkPad L or T series. I had the L470 and my last job and the T480 at my current job. Both are the smaller model without the numpad, but we also have some 15" with numpad.

  2. BigM72

    I once got my Dad an Inspiron R series laptop - 17.3" screen with full keyboard including number pad. Cheap, a little heavy, tons of ports. It only cost about $350 equivalent too with a Core i3.


    If this is a home use computer - portability shouldn't matter too much. You just need to make sure it has at least 8GB of RAM, an SSD and a Core i# processor. Go for Core i5 although she could probably get away with a Core i3.

    • jimchamplin

      In reply to BigM72:

      Hot damn!


      Not bad, especially for a 17" display. Is the screen any good? Or is it some "who cares if I break it?" TN panel?

      • BigM72

        In reply to jimchamplin:

        So, to clarify, his machine (which is at least 5 years old at this point) has a spinning disk not SSD. I can't remember the RAM but it would have been easily accessible and upgradable. It's a TN panel and less than 1080p resolution so not the best in the world but he was happy with it.


        His newer Dell (bought this year) which is higher spec (SSD plus spinning disk, 16GB RAM, dedicated GPU, Core i7) has a seemingly much worse TN panel though.

  3. Maktaba

    For a heavy user of Excel, a number pad is a must.

  4. hrlngrv

    For anyone who uses the keyboard a lot, it's awfully hard not to prefer ThinkPads. Even more so for people who prefer joystick pointers.

    As for Surfaces or HP laptops, they have different arrow key layouts than Dells and Lenovos. If your wife is a heavy Excel user, you want to get her input about which key layouts would be intolerable.

    As for separate number pad, such laptops will be heavier than most.

  5. AnOldAmigaUser

    I would second the idea of the ThinkPad T series. The T580 has a 15.6 in screen, can be configured with up to 32Gb of RAM, has a real RJ45 port, and a numeric keypad. They are not mil-spec, but are tested to the standards. The keyboards are wonderful, and the TrackPoint beats a trackpad any day, if you are not using a mouse.

  6. jimchamplin

    Yeah, just go with a ThinkPad. There's lots of good used models, none of which have turdbucket USB-C ports.


    ... Or since this is something to use at home, why bother with the extra expense of a portable machine and buy a used Thinkstation? You can get Xeon POWAH for Atom prices.

  7. Robert-Hostetler

    I will likely go down the ThinkPad route if I can't save the Dell.


    Thanks for the awesome feedback everyone! I'm a long time follower of Paul, but new to the forums. I really appreciate the quality of the comments.

  8. Nonmoi

    A new Thinkpad is a good option. But if you are tie on budget, a more economical option maybe to try reinstall the dell and get a Bluetooth/usb numpad if the Dell is fixed with a reinstalled OS. (Try to get the newest drive and etc directly from Dell, it would help).


  9. sevenacids

    I use business-class ThinkPads (T and X series) for several years now, and can highly recommend them with a few exceptions:


    1) While the keyboards really are good (I think the non-chiclet ones were even better), the display is usually the worst part in a ThinkPad, at least the non-IPS ones. It's ridiculous that Lenovo ships their premium-priced products with such bad quality standard LCD/LED screens. For years. I mean, like, forever. I cannot remember a single ThinkPad with an acceptable non-IPS display. Most of the time they are not bright enough and too cool (color temperature). Therefore: If you go for a ThinkPad, there is almost no way around an IPS display, and the higher the resolution the better, especially on 14" sizes and larger.


    2) IMO, the overall quality and robustness of ThinkPads used to be better, and stupidities like soldered-on RAM start to creep in on some models.


    In most cases, I think there is no need for non-business people to go for the latest (most expensive) model. There is a ton of ThinkPads around, refurbished, one to three years old, in very good condition and for a fair price. It's no harm to go for this option first.


    PS: I wouldn't recommend a Surface because it's literally non-repairable and not upgradable, and Surface Laptop will break if you try to open it. That's hardware produced for the trash can.

  10. faustxd9

    I like the 15" HP Spectre I just got. It doesn't have the MS Precision Trackpad, but it is good and has a  numeric keypad on the side.

    With regards to the Dell, there are some new Windows features like Start Fresh that might help it get free of the Dell "helpful software". I would update the Bios and get the latest drivers from Dell first to see if it fixes it. I have seen a lot of BIOS related updates lately that help machines keep up with the MS Windows versions.

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