While I don’t know for certain whether it’s still a good value or not, since I haven’t checked all the benchmarks for similarly priced computers, I’d have to say probably not:
It looks to be about a generation behind in all regards now actually. Intel upgraded their architecture to Sandy Bridge around February to March, which is indicated by four digit model numbers. Before that, around december, AMD (the company who bought out the now axed ATI branding) introduced their 6XXX series GPUs as a replacement to the 5XXX series GPUs. Although I’m not certain, you can probably find much faster stock for about the same price range, as 1,600 is a moderately high budget for a laptop computer. By the time you started looking seems to’ve been about the end of that generation’s life-cycle for both companies.
Also, if you don’t want your laptops to be obsoleted too quicky, here’s a bit of a tip: System RAM and Hard Drives are typically fairly easy to replace, while GPUs and CPUs are almost always integrated into the system. Currently anything above 4GB of RAM is probably going to be a waste for all but the most intensive of computer use:
This means you can definitively afford to skimp on RAM for now and then a year down the line, when your warranty is just about up and RAM use grows more intensive then you can upgrade. Currently two sticks of 4GB DDR3 SD-RAM costs about 40-80 dollars for a pair of 4GB sticks after market, self installed, while the companies typically charge more like a $200 in parts and labor for the extra 4GB upgrade. You likely won’t be able to reuse your old sticks but you can probably resell them.
Replacing RAM is only marginally different from replacing a cartridge in an NES slot loader, once you get to it. It’s a little more finicky about being properly inserted and the ejection mechanism can vary a bit but it’s still just eject, pull out, insert, push down. Didn’t take me more than 15 minutes to replace my own and the only tool I needed was a phillips screwdriver and it saved myself $135 bucks over an OEM upgrade. (Your mileage may vary pendent on your computer.)
There are also a few specs you have to double check to ensure proper compatibility, namely like pin count, clockrate and latency but again, none too difficult.
Pretty tricky if you want the latest and greatest. Intel’s currently using a tick/tock cycle where every year they do at least a minor upgrade and every 2 years they do a major one. They just did a tock, so if this is a must, you might want to wait until Ivy Bridge next year, which should be the next tick. Then you’ll have about 24 months before anything greatly noticeable, rather than 18…
Once you have what you want though, the best value is typically to wait for at least four years before upgrading to a model of the same caliber.