Thanks for the help. It seems that ripping CDs should be pretty simply on a laptop with a cd drive. I was unsure of quality doing it this was but several people seem to suggest no loss of quality. Looks like there is no mid cost device that will both rip CDs and play them in good quality so as my CD player dies I guess I just ween myself of the 'disc handling' feeling.
Assuming you are using decent ripping software like the dBpoweramp CD Ripper already mentioned, there is no difference in audio quality. Plenty of opportunity to ween you off that 'disc handling' feeling when ripping those 500 music CDs - you'll likely never want to see another one again, never mind handle one!
BTW, thought it best to mention that if you are UK based, it is actually illegal to rip music CDs, following a High Court ruling that overturned the Government's attempt to be in line with the rest of the EU at the time (~5 years ago) & allow music CD ripping:
It's illegal to rip music from CDs