questionsany suggestions on what type of laptop i should…

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I bought a refurbished ASUS Zenbook here on Woot and I absolutely love it. It's got a SSD in it so its crazy fast. Its light and ultra portable. The battery last longer than any other I've ever used. It's not a workhorse though. It won't run games and I can't use it for work because I need microstation and arcmap. For what you describe I would definitely recommend checking them out.

BTW my wife is a PhD student and she also uses an ASUS (much more expensive than mine) hers is in an elite class of laptop but its what she needed. I know that isn't what you're looking for but IMO you can't go wrong with ASUS.

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@nmchapma: Thanks, I talked to a friend on mine in IT this morning, and he also recommended an ASUS. He recommended getting a touch-screen if I get Windows 8 and that I should be able to find something in low $300s that should be good for me. I'm going by Bestbuy tonight to try some of them out and then I'll go online to check prices.

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If you end up with this machine I think you will be happy based off of what your needs are. I have a machine with these same specs I purchased about two years ago and am very happy with it. I don't know if you have to have a touchscreen with Windows 8 but it does help. At this point, I am so used to working with Windows 8 without a touchscreen I do not know if I would like with one.

Good luck!

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Google Docs does allow you to export to Microsoft Office formats. I don't know how perfectly it formats them, but it can. But a Chromebook might have a limited life if you end up needing a laptop for more than that down the road.

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I personally have an Asus T100 and love it. Windows 8, Microsoft Office, Keyboard Dock with USB 3.0 port, 64 gb internal memory with microSD slot. It isn't technically a laptop but I like to think of it as a spiritual successor of the netbook. I got mine for around $360.

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I always recommend the Dell Outlet ( www.dell.com/outlet )

I've bought many a machine through their outlet. There's a pretty constant rotation of coupon codes offered on the site itself. They can be anywhere from 10% or 15% on specific models or items to 30% of anything on the outlet site. So, if you have the patience you can strike gold. Just last month I got a refurbished 15" Dell XPS laptop that is normally $1200 (outlet price) for $840.

You can get extended warranties through the site if you are so inclined as well. I've got 10+ years of Dell Outlet purchases under my belt and I keep coming back.

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I got an Acer m5-481pt-6644 Touchscreen windows 8 laptop on Ebay for about 300. It has a an optical drive as well along with a backlit keyboard, Intel i5, 6GB ram, 500gb Hard drive plus 20gb SSD. I am thrilled with the performance and the price of this laptop. It literally boots from completely off to fully on in 15 seconds flat. Oh and battery actually lasts 6 hours too! I looked at Best Buy and Office Depot but these things would have cost me about 800. Just a suggestion.

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I exclusively use and recommend ThinkPads. Even though they are now made by Lenovo instead of IBM, the quality still seems to be there. I have owned several ThinkPads over the past decade for different purposes and they have all significantly outlived their life expectancies (I once bought a "value" Thinkpad brand new and it worked perfectly for over 7 years). I am hard on my laptops, too; they generally run 16+ hours a day 365 days a year and I've never had a laptop that hasn't been through airport security at least a dozen times.

My most recent one fell off a dining room chair while compiling code and transferring files and you would never know anything happened.

And if you don't like the trackpoint (pointing stick at the middle of the keyboard) it is easy enough to disable in your OS or BIOS.

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@lparsons42: I will also add that from my experience the IBM warranties are the best in the business. For one ThinkPad I had the "onsite" warranty, which I needed once after spilling something on my keyboard. They sent a tech to my house the following day - which IIRC was a Saturday - to replace it. He had all the tools, all the parts, and all the instructions with him; and completed it in a few minutes on my kitchen table. I was told their onsite includes basically any "site" you might be at, almost anywhere in the world.

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If thats all you are doing with your computer then I would seriously consider a tablet with a Blutooth keyboard instead.