When the fact became quite evident that I needed a laptop for school, I became determined to get the best bang for my buck. And I’m quite sure I did.

After surfing eBay for some time, I realized that old business laptops were quite reasonably priced, and were great no-nonsense machines. I looked at mostly DELL and Lenovo because of they’re high quality, and low prices.

In the end I purchased on eBay for $44 (with free shipping) a DELL Latitude D620. Here are the specs on it:

  • Intel Centrino Duo – 1.83GHz
  • 2GB DDR2 RAM
  • Integrated graphics (Intel Media Accelerator 950)
  • 14.1-inch WXGA screen

This may not look like much if you expect to run Windows 7 or 8 on a 5400rpm hard drive. But I had other things in mind. I purchased an SSD from Amazon.

Adding an SSD to a machine does some very interesting things. While it doesn’t change raw processing power, it can speed up a computer by eliminating the potential bottle neck that comes from a standard drive. So boot time, loading programs, web browsing, it’s all faster, because it all uses the SSD.

I knew that the only thing I needed now to make the system complete was a very fast and light operating system. Linux obviously. And the flavor was also quite self-evident. Crunchbang.

Crunchbang Linux is a very fast and nimble operating system that surprisingly runs modern software such as Open Office and Google Chrome quite well. It is highly customizable, and assumes that the user likes to tinker with his or her desktop environment. But the killer for me is this: it idles on my machine at 93MB of RAM.  Run Dropbox, Evernote, and a slew of hefty Chrome tabs, and it adds up to a whopping ~750MB. The fact that it uses so little RAM also means that it will likely boot quickly, and load programs quickly.

I was thoroughly surprised to see it play a 1080p h.264 video file in VLC smoothly, and many other things continue to amaze me. I get about 1.5-2hrs of battery life (which isn’t bad considering the age of the machine).

So, it smoothly runs OpenOffice, Google Chrome, Dropbox, and Evernote, basically making it a great school laptop. And all for under $100. Admittedly, this solution isn’t for everyone, but I like it. 🙂

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