I'd try to push that laptop to its limits and install a GUI, there are plenty of GUIs that are not so bad and are very cheap,
to name a few:
and so on.
I tried LXDE and it is pretty good and cheap, JWM too.
You could also install this mix:
(slim is a login manager which does not depend over many libs)
if that laptop starts to whine for the low memory, you can remove it whenever you want