My budget is about $600 and I have ruled out Mac's simply because I am not a huge fan of them. |
I would preferably like a lappy with atleast a 500GB hard drive and i7 (I can settle for an i5) for about $500-$600. I plan on bringing my desktop which is very powerful.
Considering your budget, fact you will be bringing a powerful desktop, and the possibly erroneous assumption that you want this laptop to last reliably for the next 4 years, I'd seriously consider lowering your hardware configuration expectations, buying refurbished corporate-line notebooks with at least a decent warranty(1 year is not enough), or buying used older corporate models IF you can serve as your own tech support...including being comfortable taking apart and repairing/replacing notebook components. You also have the choice to postpone purchasing a notebook for some/all of your undergrad years....especially considering you have a desktop and have use of computer labs.
That is, unless you want to pick up a budget/consumer-grade or an extreme bottom-of-the-barrel corporate notebook with such poor build quality and quality control that you're likely to be sending it back for many warranty repairs and/or find you're out of luck once the measly warranty runs out or worse...warranty is inadequate/requires dealing with excess bureaucratic policies.
I speak with some experience as it turned out I was poorly advised by some STEM relatives who felt any laptop was good enough for an undeclared/non-hardcore engineering/tech major. To add insult to injury, I was the one paying for that first laptop which had two major hardware failures due to poor quality control of components...first one right after the one year warranty expired. No surprise the company no longer makes laptops and after the second hardware failure in year 2, ended up ponying up more money for a corporate-line notebook which continues to run to this day in the service of an acquaintance in need...15+ years later.
Incidentally, I've never had another notebook computer among those I've bought/owned since fail on me......all have lasted 5+ years with ease. Just sold two of them off some weeks back. One of them had been in my possession since 2004 and still runs as well as the day I bought it used.
I've also tend to advise clients whether they'd rather pay more for a decent quality notebook.....or pay more later through wasted time, lost productivity, and aggravation from having to deal with warranty/out of warranty repairs....especially in the middle of the school year.