Final update: See here.
Update: Thank you ALL for your valuable feedback. I'm definitely looking into refurbished models now and I have a lot better grasp on what what I should be considering. I'm going to do some digging and a ridiculous amount of overshopping over the next couple of days, and then I'll let you all know what my final pick is!
Hey techy Tildes! I'm back with another support request from you knowledgeable and helpful folks.
I need a laptop that does exactly three things: gets me online, displays PDFs, and runs office software. I have a large number of online courses that I have to take in the coming years, and I need something that I can just grab while on my couch or in bed to work on papers and assignments, hence the 13" size preference. Long battery life would be highly preferable.
I looked for options that come with Linux preinstalled, but there's really nothing available that hits what I'm looking for -- there isn't much of a market for 13". As such, my plan is to just buy a standard Windows laptop and then put Linux on it, but I have no idea which particular hardware will play nice with a Linux installation. Budget would be sub-$500 (if possible). I don't need the laptop to do anything other than stay on for a long time and let me type, so I have no need for a powerhouse.
Can anyone point me in the right direction with some recommendations?