Initial upgrade reports on the HP Stream and Pavilion Mini

Earlier this year at CES, HP introduced its HP Stream Mini ($180) and Pavilion Mini ($320 and $450) mini-desktops. They’re small, inexpensive, and in the case of the Stream, silent. They turn out to be surprisingly upgradeable as well. Ars Technica has details and benchmarks, but of course I have my own priorities based on their discoveries.

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What to look for in a cheap laptop in late 2014

So the sales fliers for the 2014 Christmas shopping season are out, and I’m seeing tons of cheap laptops. If you only have $200 to spend, they have something for you.

Some of them look like they’re even worth having. Yes, I’m shocked too. Here’s how to figure out which ones are worth taking home, and which ones are best left for some other sucker. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or someone else, you’ll probably want to keep the following in mind.

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What to make of this Black Friday’s sub-$200 laptops

It’s still a couple of weeks off, but we already know two retailers will be offering sub-$200 laptops on the day the United States gorges itself on bargains.

The question is, what do you get for your $200 on these minimalist laptops? I’ll answer those questions, then you can decide whether they’re worth $200 and braving the crowds, the weird hours, and likely the cold. (Yes, there are costs beyond the money you spend.) Read more

The Dell Inspiron E1505 and its maximum memory

Last year, I got a deal I couldn’t refuse on a Dell Inspiron E1505 laptop. It’s old and quirky, but modern enough to make it serviceable. It has a dual-core processor and SATA2, so you can put an SSD in it. It uses DDR2 memory, which isn’t as cheap and plentiful as DDR3, but at this moment isn’t unreasonably expensive either.

Its biggest problem is that it’s officially limited to 2 GB of RAM. Officially, that is. Read more

Speeding up an Acer Aspire One 722

I gave my out-of-box impression of the Acer Aspire One 722 last week. It’s completely unacceptable out of the box, and adequate when you do some basic cleanup on it.

Now I’ve installed an Intel SSD in one and clean-installed Windows, and I’m much more impressed with it. Read more

Upgrade diary: Compaq Presario C552US

The Presario C552US shipped from the factory with a 1.6 GHz Celeron M single-core CPU, 512MB of RAM, and Windows Vista Home Basic.

It’s the most miserable computing experience I’ve seen in a very long time, if ever. I don’t know how they ever sold a single one of these machines, performing like that.

Fortunately, there’s room to improve it.

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Upgrade and repair diary: IBM Thinkpad T30

I picked up an IBM Thinkpad T30 this week. People ask me occasionally to keep an eye out for an inexpensive used laptop, and Thinkpads from 2005 or earlier are a good choice because they’re generally well built, easy to find, and most importantly, parts and information for them are plentiful if anything goes wrong.

In the case of this particular model, that’s a good thing.

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