There's no single laptop that's ideal for everyone. Normally I focus on the super-inexpensive models -- the Chromebooks, the HP Streams -- that have low-power processors and smallish screens, the idea being that many users can "get by" just fine with modest specs.
But if you prefer a bigger screen, a wider keyboard, a faster processor and ample storage, today is your lucky deal-day: For a limited time, and while supplies last, Adorama has the Acer Aspire E5-571-5552 15.6-inch laptop for $299.99 shipped. That's after applying promo code CTDEALJULY at checkout. Regular price: $379.99.
This is a decidedly no-frills system. It's not super-thin or super-light, it doesn't run for 12 hours on a charge, it doesn't have a touchscreen or solid-state drive. (I know: "Enough with the hard sell, Rick!")
What it does have is an Intel Core i5 processor, meaning it packs more raw horsepower than you'd expect -- something to consider if you routinely work with large spreadsheets or image files. It also has a numeric keypad alongside the keyboard, a great amenity for folks who work with numbers.
The other important specs: 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, three USB ports (though only one is USB 3.0), an SD card reader and Bluetooth 4.0. The six-cell battery is good for up to 7 hours of runtime, according to Acer.
The 15.6-inch screen has a native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels -- not great, but fairly typical at this size and price point. The system comes with Windows 8.1, but obviously you'll be able to upgrade to Windows 10 for free, and soon.
CNET hasn't reviewed this model, and there aren't enough user reviews to get a real picture. I will say that the Aspire E5 appears to be upgrade-unfriendly, meaning if you want to add more RAM or swap in an SSD, it may prove challenging (or outright impossible).
If that's not part of the plan, however, here's a spacious laptop with a solid processor and compelling price tag. Your thoughts?
Bonus deal: I love the feel of a good pen. And if it has a capacitive stylus tip at the other end? Even better. And if it has a retractable microfiber screen-cleaning cloth built right into the barrel?! Yes, please! Digital Innovations' ScreenDr 3-in-1 Stylus normally runs $24.99 plus shipping, but you can get one for just $14.99 shipped when you apply coupon code distylus at checkout.
Gimmicky? Yes. Unexpectedly cool? Definitely. I've been using one for about a week, and I'm surprised how much I like it. The offer is limited to three per customer, and the coupon code expires at midnight.
Your turn: Great conversation yesterday about your favorite freeware! Today, let's talk apps: What's the one third-party app you use most on your smartphone or tablet, the one you simply couldn't live without? For me it's Amazon Kindle, simply because I love to read and my phone and I are joined at the hip -- so it supplies reading material everywhere I go. A close second is Cozi, the shared-calendar app that keeps my family's appointments and activities in sync.