The HP Pavilion g6-1d46dx was a decent mainstream laptop in its day, and you could replace it with something very similar. There have been lots of changes at the low end of the windows market, with touch-screen tablets and 2-in-1s, and at the high-end, with super-thin laptops with high-resolution screens, like the latest Dell XPS 13 and Microsoft’s new Surface laptop. But 15.6in laptops have not changed much, and they still sell by the truckload. Today’s mainstream laptops are thinner than they used to be – your HP g6 is 1.4in thick – and cheaper.
However, the standard specification remains much the same. Your current laptop, for example, has 4GB of memory, a 500GB hard drive, a 1366 x 768-pixel screen and Microsoft Windows. That’s still the most common specification. Some 15.6in laptops now have touch screens, but those are optional. You’re probably not going to use a 15.6in laptop as a tablet, so you’d be better off spending the extra cash on an external Bluetooth or USB mouse. One thing that has changed is that three brands now dominate Windows PC sales in the USA, where you live. In the fourth quarter of last year, according to Gartner’s market research, HP had 30% of the whole PC market (including Apple), with Dell on 25% and Lenovo on 14%. Acer and Asus had about 4% each. There’s been a lot of consolidation in a declining market, which means non-specialist (and non-Apple) buyers rarely look beyond the top five suppliers.
Both HP and Dell sell PCs from their online stores, so you can look at those for special offers. If you buy online, both companies offer reasonably-priced support contracts that you won’t get from a retailer. I am based in the UK, so I’m not very familiar with the American retail market, and I don’t know if you live within range of any particular stores. I’m therefore going to restrict my links to Amazon.com. However, you can search for alternative sources. The processor is usually the most expensive part of a mainstream 15.6in laptop and has the greatest impact on both price and performance. Your HP g6 has a 1.6GHz AMD A6-3420M quad-core processor, which is slow by today’s standards. But while your g6 is old and slow, some of today’s 15.6in laptops are new and slow. For example, based on benchmark results, the HP 15-F222WM’s Intel Pentium N3540 quad-core processor probably runs even slower than your g6, and I’d expect the version with an AMD A6-7310 to run at about the same speed. These machines sell because they are cheap: they cost only $266.98 (£207) and $258.95 respectively. For a little extra money – from $30 or $40 more – you can get dramatically better performance from a 15.6in laptop with an Intel Core i3-6100U or i3-7100U.
These chips are much faster, and will provide a much more satisfying experience. The 6” in the i3-6100U indicates that this is a sixth-generation chip and a year older than the seventh-gen i3-7100U. The newer chip has slightly more powerful graphics, but in practice, you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. Other things being equal, it’s better to have an i3-7100U, but it’s not worth paying much extra to get one. The i3-6100U is fine. Some laptops have 8GB instead of 4GB of memory, and 1TB instead of 500GB hard drives. Both are improvements, and very nice to have, but not essential for your purposes. Some laptops now have 1920 x 1080-pixel screens, which means you can see more data at once than on your 1366 x 768-pixel screen.
It also means that everything looks smaller, which may not suit you. However, Windows has a built in scaling system to make text, apps and other elements bigger on your screen. To find it, type scaling” into the Windows search/run box in the bottom left. You can try 125%, 150% or 175% and pick whichever you like. (You can actually try up to 500%; not recommended.) Higher-resolution screens are better for viewing photos and watching movies, but you didn’t mention either in your emails.