Please recommend a cheap Windows laptop for Zoom calls only

Current setup - Zoom call from main computer about 5 feet away, I am sitting on the couch. Chromebook out on the deck, where I go often during these 3-4 hour calls with my brothers and friends, Internet on my TV screen right in front of me, accessed from main computer dragged over. Or I can switch views.

It works, except I have heard complaints that I am too far away here on the couch. Well I thought that was a good thing, I wanted my experience on the call to feel like I am sitting in their living room, and they in mine. Now on a 10-15 minute call, I would want to see the other person head and shoulders view, as if we were sitting across a table. But not for hours, I don’t want a close up view.

I am in the minority here. So I need a cheap laptop to sit on the edge of my coffee table. That will be where I start the call. They will see me fairly close. I can see the internet on my TV, and the Mets game (several of us are always watching) on my main computer, or vice versa.

Basically I just need a monitor, but it has to run Windows, because on a Chromebook, you can’t access advanced sound settings

I’m not sure you need a cheap laptop for this. Since you just need a screen and a camera, this sounds like a great usage for a tablet. If you get an Android tablet, you can download apps that give you access to more advanced sound settings.

The best cheaper tablets on the market are, as far as I know, still Amazon Fire Tablets. Every other brand I’ve bought for the same price is inferior. By default, you only get access to the Amazon app store, but there are instructions out there to install the Google Play Store to get more apps, which is what I always do. But even if you don’t, you can find equalizers and such that work on the Amazon store.

That said, I would like to know more about what you mean by “advanced sound settings,” to make sure that they’re available on a tablet.

If you don’t go that route, and do go with a laptop, you are in the perfect market place for used. I’m not sure how much the prices have gone up due to the worldwide chip shortage, but probably any old laptop with a built in webcam of at least 2 MP or more would be sufficient. I’d look on eBay.

Trying to find a cheap new laptop is a lot more frustrating, especially right now during the chip shortage, so I’d personally not got that route.

Are you wanting to plug in an external mic or headset?


Since this is asking for recommendations, let’s move it from GQ to IMHO.

I had good luck getting Lenovo thinkpads for my daughters on eBay. One’s a 4th generation X1 carbon (2016) and the other is a L470 (2017) that one daughter manages to do light gaming on. Both handle Windows 10 and Zoom with no problems. The only issue was the shipped-with audio software sucked so I had to fiddle with that. I think the X1 was $400-something and the L470 was somewhat less. If you have a pet brand you might find something reasonable there if you’re willing to go back a few years.

An alternative might be to just get an external webcam and place it closer to you.

This is a really good suggestion. Rather than buying all new hardware, just get an external camera and fit it to a microphone stand with a boom arm. You can buy a cheap one (which will do you just fine) for $30-ish dollars from an online store named after a rainforest.

Then you can have the camera adjusted to be exactly the perfect angle.

Edits: First one was Discourse chopping up my post, second was mine stitching it back together. Seriously.

New Lenovo IdeaPads are down around Chromebook price points, around $200 because they ship with just a 64GB MMC rather than a proper hard drive but otherwise fit all your criteria–they run Windows and I’ve found Lenovo (aka IBM) laptops to be about as bulletproof as they come. I have an old ThinkPad I bought in early '11 that’s still running just fine aside from some weirdness in the display (wiring runs through the hinges, and over time it makes a difference but that’s just a laptop thing) but I use it out in the crapshack to serve up music and maybe play podcasts so it really doesn’t matter.

no but are playinguitars

That is great suggestion. This looks ok, I just got mic but if the camera’s mic is not as good I assume I can disable the camera mic

On Zoom (the desktop application or desktop web experience) you can independently select the audio and video sources, so you should be able to do that

I just ordered 12 Amazon Fire 7 tablets just to be used for training at work. $50 a pop, they work just fine for ZOOM and other web type applications.