Re: What to buy?
I've been using Acer laptops for some years, and like them a lot. In 2010 I bought 4 Travelmate Timeline 8371 13" laptops, since they were going cheap after Acer overstocked. Once the noisy fan had been quietened with a custom BIOS, they were a joy to use with a good weight/power/battery life balance. I did a lot of software development with mine, and my daughter is still happily using hers at university, albeit with SDD + Windows 10 upgrade. The only unreliable element was a fault whereby the screen needed replacing a couple of times on one machine, not uncommon with this model.
Last year I bought an Acer TravelMate P645 which I upgraded with a Samsung 1TB SSD and 12GB RAM, and installed Windows 8.1. It's a similar footprint to the 8371 but they squeezed in a 14" display, and it's lighter, and about 2.5 times the speed of the 8371. I totally love this machine, and don't mind the business-like boringness of the design. Well, this is all anecdotal, but my own experience of Acer is good - and I'm fussy about things like fan noise, keyboard usability and battery life. My wife has a cheapo Acer 11" laptop which has occasional touchpad glitches but is otherwise fine.