A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    Default Need Advice on A New Laptop

    At long, long last, the stars have aligned and a new laptop may be happening. I've been out of the market for so long I could use advice on...well, everything.

    My priorities are durability and long life, with the assumption that a large-ish hard drive and a fast CPU are par for the course. This will be a frumpy working machine, rather than a turbocharged gaming rig; apart from working with photos and manuscripts, I'll also be running geospatial software like ArcGIS and statistical programs such as SPSS or R+. Down the road there may be some research travel, but weight isn't a major concern, as long as it's not some caliginous monster from Alienware.

    Ordinarily I have zero brand loyalty...but laptops are a special case, and I have a deep, abiding affection for Dell, based entirely on past experience. My first research laptop was a Dell Inspiron, purchased many years ago; we've kicked around a dozen countries on several continents, from Stockholm to Sγo Paulo, and we went through dissertation hell together.

    My second Dell was a Latitude, chosen for me by the IT personnel at a previous employer. I don't like it nearly as much as the older one--the Latitude is a pain to type on, and it radiates an unpleasant amount of heat--but it's held up superbly for a good number of years.

    So, my two prior machines were both sturdy, stable and long-lived, and because of this I have a strong preference for Dell. Whether or not this is wise in today's market, I couldn't say. I'm open to other brands, within reason--but not to a Mac, because I've been working in Windows for so long that Macs aren't remotely intuitive for me.

    ...And this, unfortunately, is about as far as I've been able to take it. Ideally I would like something as close as possible to my old Inspiron 4000 in terms of screen and keyboard dimensions...but the field of options is so broad, I'm not sure where to begin.

    So, I need help. Guidance, even. Possibly sage counsel.

    --Help?

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    Last edited by Palanan; 2013-09-15 at 04:17 PM.

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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    Wait 1 month for October 18 to come around

    This is when the Windows 8.1 is coming out, no manufacturer may sell a Windows 8.1 laptop till October 17th. Thus manufacture are delaying their new models till this day even though normally a manufacturer start releasing their christmas line around late september / early october.

    Now there is nothing wrong with Windows 8 laptops, in fact they all get a free update to Windows 8.1 on the same October 17th. You may find better deals during this time for the manufactures are phasing out their old models.

    Put simply this is the wrong time to buy, the correct time to buy is so close.
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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    Orignally Posted by Ramza00
    Wait 1 month for October 18 to come around.... You may find better deals during this time for the manufactures are phasing out their old models.
    Well, I appreciate the advice--although nailing down a final choice within a month seems like a tall order, given the field of options. That's my real problem: there are so many laptops, and I haven't gone laptop-hunting for years, so I have no idea what's quality and what isn't these days.

    ...With the exception of Windows 8, which I have no intention of ever using. I've never even used Windows 7. I'm still running XP on my functioning laptop, and a Linux OS on another machine.

    If I do get something with Windows 8, which is highly unlikely, I'll probably just do a good-neighbor partition with Linux and ignore the Windows side entirely. But do all the new laptops come with Windows 8 these days?

    I really don't know the field, which is why advice is welcome here.


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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    You aren't going to find a laptop without Windows 8 on it, at least from Dell. Even from other companies it wouldn't be easy.
    If you want a Dell there isn't a whole lot of advice to give other then find what is in your price range and show us the few options.

    Price range is the biggest factor. I'm not sure what size the Inspiron 4000 is, I think it is a 15" screen, but a quick search shows both 15 and 17". Personally I would probably not go with Dell, but that is mostly because they charge a bit more for the same specs compared to most other companies; I have no brand loyalty.

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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    Originally Posted by Erloas
    You aren't going to find a laptop without Windows 8 on it, at least from Dell. Even from other companies it wouldn't be easy.
    Okay, fair enough. Is there some way to retro-grade to Windows 7? What little I've seen of it looked interesting, although I'm not really an OS connoisseur.

    Originally Posted by Erloas
    Personally I would probably not go with Dell, but that is mostly because they charge a bit more for the same specs compared to most other companies; I have no brand loyalty.
    Ordinarily, neither do I. It's just that my previous experience with Dell has been excellent, so there's a bit of a warm glow for me.

    However, my last Dell was purchased in 2005, and I've heard that Dell has slipped a little since then. Do they still produce quality machines, in terms of performance and durability? Or should I be looking at other brands instead?

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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    ...With the exception of Windows 8, which I have no intention of ever using. I've never even used Windows 7. I'm still running XP on my functioning laptop, and a Linux OS on another machine.

    If I do get something with Windows 8, which is highly unlikely, I'll probably just do a good-neighbor partition with Linux and ignore the Windows side entirely. But do all the new laptops come with Windows 8 these days?

    I really don't know the field, which is why advice is welcome here.

    Just download Classic Shell.
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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    Okay, fair enough. Is there some way to retro-grade to Windows 7? What little I've seen of it looked interesting, although I'm not really an OS connoisseur.
    Sure, buy a Win 7 copy and install that instead. They're still available, generally run about $100 for a home user system builder/OEM copy.



    Ordinarily, neither do I. It's just that my previous experience with Dell has been excellent, so there's a bit of a warm glow for me.

    However, my last Dell was purchased in 2005, and I've heard that Dell has slipped a little since then. Do they still produce quality machines, in terms of performance and durability? Or should I be looking at other brands instead?
    Speaking from the sales side (from several years ago, mind) pretty much all the brands my shop carried were the same as regards durability, although HP and Sony had a tendency to make usability sacrifices in order to have a more interesting looking shell (and HP was probably the worst for manufacturer-loaded crapware. Not a big deal if you were willing to spend an extra half-hour during setup stripping it out, and completely irrelevant if you're just going to be changing the OS anyway.) The business-line laptops are generally pretty solid, but not often sold in storefronts; you often have to direct order from the manufacturer's shop to get a decent selection of those. Standard consumer ones, 80% of your failures are going to be issues with the power connector anyway, and the only way to reliably get a good one there is to kit-build it and solder the dang thing in yourself.

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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    Originally Posted by Jade Dragon
    Just download Classic Shell.
    Not something I'm familiar with...and it looks more like a package of clip-ons than an OS?



    Originally Posted by tyckspoon
    Sure, buy a Win 7 copy and install that instead. They're still available, generally run about $100 for a home user system builder/OEM copy.
    Urf, a little expensive for me, given that the alternative is Linux and it's free.

    Still, there are some things a Windows environment is good for, and Win 7 seemed to have some nifty features, although I was mainly kibitzing on a friend's computer. Is Win 7 worth the effort? Expecially for someone who's been living in XP-land for time out of mind?

    Originally Posted by tyckspoon
    Speaking from the sales side (from several years ago, mind) pretty much all the brands my shop carried were the same as regards durability, although HP and Sony had a tendency to make usability sacrifices in order to have a more interesting looking shell....
    Thanks, that's very useful to know.

    Are there any brands that stand out, one way or the other, as far as hard drive failures and the like?

    Originally Posted by tyckspoon
    ...the only way to reliably get a good one there is to kit-build it and solder the dang thing in yourself.
    Urf. English major here.


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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    Not something I'm familiar with...and it looks more like a package of clip-ons than an OS?

    It modifies Windows 8. Also modifies previous versions if you want another version's interface.
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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    Lenovo (used to be IBM) ThinkPads. They're damn near unkillable (you can quite literally pour water over them and it'll just flow out on the bottom and then use it to hammer nails into a wall). They have a bunch of model lines that each caters to fairly generic requirements: i.e. mine is X230 for its ultrabook weight and insane battery life while my dad has an W series as what he wanted was a desktop replacement for daytrading.

    In general, T series is probably best overall balance of size, weight, battery and performance but quite expensive (also doesn't come in 17" I think), L series is the cheapest but has no battery life and mediocre specs.

    ThinkPads are business line laptops, so expect solid build quality and good usability at the expense of a cool look. Keyboards are very nice and comfy too.

    That said, their support has gone downhill since IBM sold the company. Older models like my dad's are still supported through IBM and get really good service, newer ones like mine get the usual Chinese service you'd expect from Asus or some other manufacturer like that, making you wait for 1+ hours on end just to talk to a guy to hear him say "well, your screen seems broken, but have you tried updating Windows and Adobe AIR yet?"

    Also, as all ThinkPads are custom configured, you have the option of pre-configuring Windows 7 on your machine.

    PS: you can get 10-15% off (on top of sale prices) if you go to the Lenovo site through the Visa credit card Visaperks website.
    Last edited by Don Julio Anejo; 2013-09-19 at 06:04 AM.
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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    PC Specialist still sell laptops with Windows 7 on them. It's where I went when all else failed. They're good quality machines with serious power. The model I bought boots to desktop in ten seconds flat.

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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    So, I managed to swing by a local appliance and electronics store, and I spent some time going between the thirty-odd laptop models they had on display. I learned a couple of things right off:

    1. I definitely don't want a 17" screen; it makes the entire machine too large and the keyboard feels like a soccer field. By contrast, the 11" models are clearly marketed to the hobbit demographic, so something in the 15" range is officially what I'm looking for.

    2. I am completely baffled as to what else I should be using for my criteria. I looked at laptops from Dell, Sony, Toshiba, Asus, Acer, Lenovo and HP, and now I'm thoroughly bewildered.

    3. Also, I have discovered that I loathe and despise Windows 8. It is utterly incomprehensible to me. (I would say that it's Greek to me, but I've actually studied ancient Greek, and the Koinι makes far more sense than Windows 8.)

    My confusion leads to a couple basic questions:

    1. Apparently "DDR3" has something to do with what I would call RAM (not knowing any better, mind you). This seems to range from 4 to 8 GB, with 6 GB a common midpoint. Does this really matter much for my purposes?

    2. Most of the hard drives ranged from 320 to 750 GB, with 500 GB the most common. Is a 750- or 1-TB hard drive more likely to fail than a 500-GB unit?

    3. What else should I be looking for to help narrow the field? Right now I'm more baffled and confused than ever.


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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    1. Apparently "DDR3" has something to do with what I would call RAM (not knowing any better, mind you). This seems to range from 4 to 8 GB, with 6 GB a common midpoint. Does this really matter much for my purposes?

    2. Most of the hard drives ranged from 320 to 750 GB, with 500 GB the most common. Is a 750- or 1-TB hard drive more likely to fail than a 500-GB unit?

    3. What else should I be looking for to help narrow the field? Right now I'm more baffled and confused than ever.

    1: Yeah, it's basically just RAM. DDR3 is the particular revision of the technology that is the current standard; until they get around to introducing DDR4 into the wider market, this is what you should expect to see in basically everything. More is better if you want to pay for it/get it cheap, 6 GB is good enough for most everything.

    2: Nope. Go for whatever size best fits your storage and price requirements (500GB will probably store basically everything you could ever want unless you have a significant video or raw-format/hi-res photo collection.)

    3: Biggest factors? Personally, ease of use. Find the laptop that has a keyboard, mouse-replacement, and key layout that you like, and nothing else is all that important. Assuming you're buying in the more reliable market segments, anyway, like most of the business models should be.

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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    Quote Originally Posted by tyckspoon View Post
    3: Biggest factors? Personally, ease of use. Find the laptop that has a keyboard, mouse-replacement, and key layout that you like, and nothing else is all that important. Assuming you're buying in the more reliable market segments, anyway, like most of the business models should be.
    I'd say that Keyboard layout for a Quality of life reason is one of the most important. It may be an awesome buy, and be really fast, but will you rage at it every day because it's too hard to type on? Generally X money will buy X quality computer, unless you find a good deal online. (To be fair there are lots of those, but I tend to be cautious because some times there's a reason it's so cheap)

    Also you mentioned using Linux, so you'll get better longevity. I have a 6 year old laptop that's still my mobile work horse. It doesn't do heavy lifting any more, but it does everything I need it to do, (e-mail, word processing, packet capture, ext) and it's not slow either.

    If you still need Windows, I'd order direct from the OEM and get Win7, but that means you probably won't get any deals.
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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    Okay, thanks to you folks for the answers there. Still I have more questions:

    Originally Posted by tyckspoon
    Find the laptop that has a keyboard, mouse-replacement, and key layout that you like, and nothing else is all that important. Assuming you're buying in the more reliable market segments, anyway, like most of the business models should be.
    ...and my first one is really naοve. You've mentioned the difference between business and consumer models before, but I'm not really clear on what exactly separates these two camps. My only experience with laptops in the past many moons has been with my two Dells, the Inspiron 4000 and Latitude D600. Would those qualify as business models?

    Originally Posted by Don Julio Anejo
    ThinkPads are business line laptops, so expect solid build quality and good usability at the expense of a cool look. Keyboards are very nice and comfy too.
    Thanks for the Lenovo comments; what you're describing here sounds a lot like what I'm looking for, and a "cool look" is somewhere beneath the carpet on my list of priorities anyhow.

    Originally Posted by Drumbum42
    I'd say that Keyboard layout for a Quality of life reason is one of the most important. It may be an awesome buy, and be really fast, but will you rage at it every day because it's too hard to type on?
    This is a real issue, because I intend to do a lot of typing on my future machine, and keyboard layout is a major factor. I feel a bit like Howard Hughes selecting the right steering wheel for the Spruce Goose.

    Unfortunately, I'm not sure how to evaluate the typing comfort of a business-line model, for instance, when I can't get my hands on one unless I order it from the manufacturer sight unseen....


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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    I recently (March of this year) bought a Lenovo myself, and my experience has made me a die-hard fan. It's sturdy, has great battery life--I can milk it for up to ten hours if I use the lowest settings, and I average about seven--and they still offer Windows 7 on most machines. I tried the beta for Windows 8 and I wasn't at all enthused, either.

    Mine's geared more toward gaming and running multiple memory-guzzling applications at once, but there are a lot of different "series" available, which are all set up to meet different needs. The nice things about Lenovo laptops is that you can customize them--that is, you can add features you really care about to a base model and ignore more expensive features that are normally "wrapped in" to a one-size-fits-all kind of computer... so you end up with a cheaper computer that still does the things you really care about.

    With all that said, Dell laptops can be pretty nice, too. My ex-boyfriend really enjoys his, although I haven't had a lot of personal experience, so I can't offer a lot of in-depth insight. Overall, I've heard some good things and some bad things about recent Dell models, so I think it's better to research a specific laptop and find out how reliable it is.

    I haven't had a lot of experience with other laptops, so I won't comment on other brands specifically. But some overall style things to note are not just the comfort of the keypad, but the comfort of the touchpad as well--when I was in-store shopping, I noticed a lot of touchpads were made of material that I really didn't like the feel of. Do you plan to use the laptop solely at a desk or table, or do you sometimes sit with it on your legs or against your abdomen while you recline? If the latter, make sure you get a laptop that doesn't have buttons or--for example--a headphone jack along the front edge, or you'll accidentally press the buttons or be in an uncomfortable position. And do you use a lot of accessories, like mice and jump drives? Make sure that the laptop you're looking at has enough USB ports to fit everything comfortably.

    Before I start in on memory-related things, a caveat: a computer's performance can't be truly quantified just by looking at one or two components. People think about RAM and CPU, but a lot of other things come into play--how programs use memory, the speed of the harddrive, etc. It depends on how the system is working together as a whole. So my suggestions about RAM, CPU, etc should be seen as general guidelines and part of a larger framework.

    For RAM, I personally recommend getting 8GB. Right now that might seem like a lot, but if you keep your laptop healthy and in good condition for many years, it'll still be able to perform well even at the end of its lifespan, and it'll put off having to buy a new computer for longer. This is because, in my experience, programs in general are getting more and more RAM-heavy; five or six years down the line trying to run standard programs might be too much for just 4GB. (4GB is generally what I've seen as the lowest option regularly offered, from my recent experience while shopping.) On that note, I feel like 4GB can sometimes be too low even nowadays... but currently I use 16GB in my laptop, because I run a lot of heavy applications simultaneously, so this honestly might be something I consider more important than you do. So take my opinion on how much you need with a grain of salt.

    But basically, I consider getting above-average RAM a good investment in the future. That said, it's important to have a good CPU to go with it, and vice-versa. For example there's no point in having a fast CPU if it's always waiting on your RAM before it can do anything--your computer will still be slow.

    A last thing to note about RAM and RAM amounts is that pretty much all recent motherboards support at least dual channel access, so it's actually a bad idea to install just a single stick of ram. It's best to use matching pairs--for example, 2 2GB sticks of ram will work better than a single stick of 4GB. That's the problem with 6GB-- you can only get a stick of 2GB and a stick of 4GB in that setup. (They don't make 3GB RAM; it only comes in powers of 2.)

    So in conclusion, I recommend either 8GB of RAM (two 4GB sticks)--or if you really don't think you need RAM so much, 4GB of RAM (two 2GB sticks).

    My priorities are durability and long life, with the assumption that a large-ish hard drive and a fast CPU are par for the course. This will be a frumpy working machine, rather than a turbocharged gaming rig; apart from working with photos and manuscripts, I'll also be running geospatial software like ArcGIS and statistical programs such as SPSS or R+. Down the road there may be some research travel, but weight isn't a major concern, as long as it's not some caliginous monster from Alienware.
    I'll try to offer some advice on how to look for the things you care about when looking at laptop specs.

    Durability: Unfortunately, this is something that is best looked for in reviews, as there isn't really a standard metric that it can be gauged by--it has to do with design and material used. My recommendation for when looking at this is to make it the last thing you look at--narrow down your options to a pool of laptops based on your other criteria, and then look up reviews about those individual models with an emphasis on durability.

    Battery life: For this I'd look primarily at what kind of batteries they come with. I believe 6-cell and 9-cell Lithium Ion batteries are what are commonly offered; more cells mean longer life, so I'd go for something with a 9-cell Li-Ion battery.

    Hard Drive size: Generally this is something that most laptops will let you choose several options for (I think?), so I won't get too much into that, since you know your needs better than I do. :) Solid State drives are generally very fast and very expensive, but they're also comparatively small for their cost, so you probably don't want that. When looking at hard drives, sometimes it gives a figure for RPM--this means revolutions per minute. Generally the faster a harddrive spins, the faster it can access data, so for example, transferring files is faster with a higher RPM. Lower RPM drives tend to be less expensive, of course, so that's a tradeoff you have to think about. If you have to load many things often, RPM is more important than if you have to load a few large things once. Also, if you use/plan to use an external harddrive, a PC with a lot of memory, or something like cloud storage in the future, the size of the harddrive will naturally matter less as well.

    CPU speed: Since you aren't planning to do 'heavy' work with the laptop, I think something like an Intel i5 is good and middle-of-the-road (between i3 and i7). It gets a lot more complicated than that so looking at individual CPU benchmarks might be helpful. Cache is also relatively important these days, since programs use a good bit of active memory. 3M should probably be enough, but if you use lots of different programs or programs with many facets, you might want to look for something with a 4M cache. Reviews can be helpful here as well, but only in a very general sense--since everybody uses their computer for different tasks and taxes their memory differently depending on what programs and habits they have, one person might find one setup a little slow, whereas another might find it entirely adequate. So I'd just look for people with similar setups to what you intend, as much as possible.

    Thanks for reading this long post. I hope that at least some of it helps.

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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    Business Models are considered to have better quality components and better heat management, because the machines are more expected to be always switched on.
    They also come with longer warranty (3 years i think).

    Another point: RAM works with binaries (multiples of 2; 4, 8, 16, 32, ...,1024) I do not think, you will get much more performance with 6 GB RAM than 4 GB RAM.

    I have a ThinkPad myself and could only repeat what my other posters said.
    The design lacks a certain "roundness and flow" like the Macbooks or some Sony VAIO Models (if you into that kind of design), but it is very sturdy and good quality.
    Last edited by Azaran; 2013-10-02 at 03:46 PM.

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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    Do keep in mind you can always add more RAM on anything other than a Mac (or a few of the newer Macbook clones like the Samsung/Asus ultrabooks).
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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Julio Anejo View Post
    Do keep in mind you can always add more RAM on anything other than a Mac (or a few of the newer Macbook clones like the Samsung/Asus ultrabooks).
    Very true! It's often cheaper to buy and install RAM yourself--in fact, that's actually what I did with my own computer. So you could always get 4GB or whatever is cheapest, and if you found it wanting, you could upgrade to 8GB yourself. (As long as you're comfortable taking apart and reassembling a laptop yourself. It's a bit harder than a desktop and the insides of pretty much each and every laptop model are a bit different, so I don't feel comfortable making a sweeping statement like 'the RAM is always in a relatively easy place to access', but if you have a techie friend to supervise or feel confident in your skill, this might be the way to go.)

    The only thing to note about this approach is that you want to make sure that you get RAM of the same type. Not every stick of DDR3 is the same, and RAM for laptops can be shaped differently than for desktops besides. I'd suggest to make sure to write down the specs for your RAM when you purchase your laptop so you know what to look for if you want to swap out later. And of course, it's important to read reviews and try to ensure you get good-quality RAM when you go shopping, just like with any other thing.

    Incidentally, I usually find good deals/reliability from buying from tech sites online as opposed to well-known physical commercial chains like, for example, Best Buy--because their brand is so well-known, they can bump their prices a bit since they're known as the go-to place by the populace at large. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to link what I use, so I'll abstain. I'm not sure how much any of that matters to you, but it's just something to keep in mind.

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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    Thanks to everyone for their comments so far, and especially AmberWynne and Don Julio Anejo for their detailed replies. Sorry I haven't responded before now; the laptop search can be a little overwhelming, and there's plenty of other whelming to go around these days.

    In the past few weeks I've looked at what feels like a lot of laptops, and tried out many dozens of models for keyboard feel, touchpad use, screen size and general configuration. I've got notes on fifty or sixty individual models, and those were just the ones that I was interested in.

    After all of that, I find that the only ones I feel remotely drawn to are the Dells and the Lenovos. As I mentioned, I have an uncharacteristic soft spot for Dell; I'm just used to how they do things. And the Lenovos...make sense, somehow; they feel right in a way I can't describe, although it's more of a subtle tug than a soaring epiphany.

    One of the issues I'm having with most of the laptops is the extreme shallowness of the keypad. I like my keyboard to have a little working depth when I press a key, and the great majority of laptops seem to have a give of barely a millimeter, if that. Dell and Lenovo aren't perfect in this regard, but they're a little better.

    So, the hunt continues, possibly with a slight narrowing of focus. Thanks to everyone who had suggestions...and as a great man once said, I could stand to hear a little more.



    .
    Last edited by Palanan; 2013-10-11 at 10:11 AM.

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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    Well I've never owned a Dell or Lenovo laptop, but I've worked on Dells a lot. Dells are one of the easiest to work on because of their OEM CDs(in my opinion). If your hard drive ever dies, or Windows just up and dies, you can reinstall Windows without a CD key.

    Normally when you install windows you can only install it X times, or you have to call Microsoft and have them unlock your CD key. But Dell assumes that you have windows pre-installed and will just install it. Granted, you need to have the Dell install disk, but still I find it to be a really amazing feature. To be fair, it's possible that Lenovo does this, but I've never heard of them doing it. (Don't work on them often) Also, I generally work with older computers, but I assume that this feature still exists.

    This is just one factor though, it's a nice feature, but I wouldn't say it's make or break.
    Last edited by Drumbum42; 2013-10-11 at 12:04 PM.
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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    What's your budget? That drives a lot of the decisions.

    If you have the money for it, I'd recommend a Lenovo Y510p. They're excellent laptops with a lot of muscle, which acts as good future proofing. Slickdeals has one for $899 here.

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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    If you are in the US, you should consider waiting till Black Friday or Cyber Monday. There are usually some good deals you can find in there.
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    This is perhaps the most amazing idea I have heard in eons. Thank you kind slayer of Death.

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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    Keep in mind there's a huge difference between business line ThinkPads and the IdeaPads you will find in physical stores: the latter are only good if you want a cheap laptop with high specs, but are also otherwise completely inferior to ThinkPads. They are entirely consumer laptops, and so don't have that unkillability, ergonomics (and expansion capability) present in ThinkPads. Only the keyboard is the same. As I said, the main problem with ThinkPads is that you can't buy them in the store, which means you also can't feel them up before you buy them (unless you've got a friend with one). However this also means you can pick and choose which components you want (i.e. they all have the option of Windows 7 instead of 8 for free).

    Do keep in mind that by now you can disregard most of the specs. RAM, as mentioned before, it's often cheaper to configure the cheapest option possible (usually 2 or 4 GB) and then either buy an identical stick (same speed/size/timings) or 2 sticks of the same size.

    Hard drive look for 7200 RPM, the difference in read and access speeds is significant when compared to 5400 or 4200 RPM. Unless you're planning to put in an SSD, but then you won't get very much space (they run at $100/128 GB $180/256 GB).

    Unless you're doing hardcore math, video editing or virtualization, a mid-range i5 is sufficient. An i7 will get you the exact same performance except in programs that support hyperthreading.

    And finally.. I don't think you mentioned video games, so keep in mind: an Intel HD 4000 (iX-3xxx chips) is good enough to play League of Legends at 720p, but this is the upper limit of what it can do. With the new HD 4600 that comes on Haswell chips (iX-4xxx), you should be able to play games like Fallout or Skyrim, but only if you use low-ish settings. A good video card will make your computer extremely expensive and will give you 0 battery life.
    Quote Originally Posted by Maquise View Post
    Anytime someone tries to bring real-world physics into a RWBY discussion, Blake kills them in self defense.
    Quote Originally Posted by Pastoulio
    VERILY, TOP LANE SHALL BE GUARDED BY A VALIANT KNIGHT,
    YEA, MIDDLE LANE SHALL BE OCCUPIED BY A WIZARD,
    I SAY UNTO THEE, A TEAM SHALL HAVE ONE WOODSMAN TO PATROL THE FOREST,
    FINALLY, AN ARCHER OF PENULTIMATE SKILL SHALL GO TO THE BOTTOM LANE, ACCOMPANIED ONLY BY HIS SQUIRE

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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    Originally Posted by Don Julio Anejo
    *math, numbers, specs*
    Thanks for the additional comments there; I'll add that to my homework list. I'm still getting up to speed on all this.

    The last time I specced out a laptop was early 2001. It came with Windows NT.



    Originally Posted by Don Julio Anejo
    And finally.. I don't think you mentioned video games....
    No, apart from noting that this will be a working computer rather than a gamer's dream.

    I'm not even sure what League of Legends is. Don't think I've heard of Fallout. I only know Skyrim is a video game because it keeps coming up in the Playground. Also, I might have seen a poster for it outside a music store a few months ago.

    The last video game I've played with any frequency was Starfleet Command 2: Empires at War. I got that around the same time I got the NT laptop.

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    RogueGuy

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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    What are you looking to do in terms of work? If you want I can spec out a sample machine for you (assuming you also mention what you're looking for in terms of size/weight/screen/battery life) with an eye for minimizing cost.
    Quote Originally Posted by Maquise View Post
    Anytime someone tries to bring real-world physics into a RWBY discussion, Blake kills them in self defense.
    Quote Originally Posted by Pastoulio
    VERILY, TOP LANE SHALL BE GUARDED BY A VALIANT KNIGHT,
    YEA, MIDDLE LANE SHALL BE OCCUPIED BY A WIZARD,
    I SAY UNTO THEE, A TEAM SHALL HAVE ONE WOODSMAN TO PATROL THE FOREST,
    FINALLY, AN ARCHER OF PENULTIMATE SKILL SHALL GO TO THE BOTTOM LANE, ACCOMPANIED ONLY BY HIS SQUIRE

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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    That's a generous offer, and much appreciated.

    My requirements are probably minimal by today's computing standards. I'll be working with shapefiles and datasets, using ArcView and either SPSS or R respectively. I'll also be doing a fair amount of word processing and some basic work with photos. I have no plans for video games, but it would be nice to catch a few shows online with shiny resolution.

    The one thing I'm sure about is the screen size: I'm set on a 15" model, and absolutely don't want a 17" screen. I'd also like a keypad with square keys that have some give to them, rather than the sleek little rectangles that seem to be in vogue these days.

    Weight is not that important; my older Dell weighs five or six pounds at least and that's fine. I just don't want some massive Alienware rig with the glowing warp core and etc. Sleek style is not a priority right now.

    Battery life is not of first-order importance--four or five hours would be fine--but cool operation is; I've never liked my Dell Latitude because the hard drive generates a lot of excess heat, which is really uncomfortable when typing. (My old Dell Inspiron never had that problem.)

    AmberWynne mentioned springing for 8GB of RAM right up front, and her reasoning seemed sound to me, so I figure that's one spec taken care of. I'm also looking for a hard drive somewhere in the 500-750 GB range, mainly out of concerns that anything larger would be more prone to drive failure.

    As I mentioned, I'm really leaning towards either a Dell or a Lenovo, but I'm open to other brands as well, at least in theory. (I'll have to check my notes and see if anything else impressed me, although not much is coming to mind.) Thanks again, and I'll be very glad to look at whatever you suggest.

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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    Another interesting point would be your Hard Drive. Do you prefer the classic Hard Disc Drive or the Solid State Drive (basically same technology like a USB Memory Stick)?
    IF you carry around your Computer a lot, SSD are more shock damage resistant, but are expensive.

    I do not know, if you find the Keyboard you want. All Laptops lack a keyboard depth like a Cherry(TM), because they simply do not have space for it. Lenovo might be your best option there.
    Last edited by Azaran; 2013-10-15 at 12:48 PM.

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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    Hard drive failure and their size are not correlated in any way. The actual brand is actually way more important: don't buy Seagate or Maxtor. WD and Hitachi are fine. But in general, all hard drives have a chance of failing, therefore it's important to back up your data. SSD drives are more reliable (as long as you get a good make/model.. i.e. not OCZ) since they're not prone to mechanical failure, but they cost on average $0.80 per GB, and you'd have to swap the laptops built in hard drive for the SSD yourself (including migrating your OS) because getting an SSD preconfigured with your computer will cost you an arm and a leg.

    Unfortunately, these days pretty much 90% of laptops use chiclet style keyboards (floating islands). Some are atrocious (Asus), some are pretty good (Lenovo), but nothing that will compare to older ones. I blame marketing.

    This is what I've been able to scrounge up.
    Spoiler
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    ThinkPad T530 Laptop

    Update
    $894.00
    ThinkPad T530 - 1 Year Depot Warranty
    Part number: 2359CTO
    Edit configuration | Remove | Add to wishlist
    Estimated ship date: 10/23/13**
    +/- Configuration details
    • Intel Core i5-3230M Processor (3MB Cache, up to 3.20GHz)
    • Windows 7 Home Premium (64 bit)
    • Windows 7 Home Premium 64 - English
    • 15.6" HD+ (1600 x 900) LED Backlit AntiGlare Display, Mobile Broadband Ready
    • Intel HD Graphics 4000
    • 4 GB DDR3 - 1600MHz (1 DIMM)
    • Keyboard Backlit - US English
    • UltraNav without Fingerprint Reader
    • No Camera, with Microphone
    • 500GB Hard Disk Drive, 7200rpm
    • DVD Recordable
    • Express Card Slot & 4-in-1 Card Reader & Bezel
    • 6 Cell Li-Ion TWL 70+
    • 90W AC Adapter - US (2pin)
    • Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2200 (2x2 BGN)
    • Mobile Broadband upgradable
    • Publication - US English

    Now, as for price: if you go to Lenovo through the Visa credit card Visaperks site, the price drops to $790. Then when you use the coupon from their front page (BIGDEALS as of right now), it drops to about $715. It had the option of a 720p screen (1366x768 resolution), which is the base option, but 1600x900 is on promo right now for $15 (instead of $50). If you want full HD (1920x1080) that's an extra $250 over the base model (+ ~$180 to price quoted once all the discounts are added up), but at that point the screen might be too small to see.

    Battery life should be pretty good, they say 9 hours, which means you'll get 6-7 and the weight is 5.4 pounds. Too much for me, as I have a 3 pound laptop, but then I keep it on my stomach 80% of the time.
    Last edited by Don Julio Anejo; 2013-10-15 at 04:26 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Maquise View Post
    Anytime someone tries to bring real-world physics into a RWBY discussion, Blake kills them in self defense.
    Quote Originally Posted by Pastoulio
    VERILY, TOP LANE SHALL BE GUARDED BY A VALIANT KNIGHT,
    YEA, MIDDLE LANE SHALL BE OCCUPIED BY A WIZARD,
    I SAY UNTO THEE, A TEAM SHALL HAVE ONE WOODSMAN TO PATROL THE FOREST,
    FINALLY, AN ARCHER OF PENULTIMATE SKILL SHALL GO TO THE BOTTOM LANE, ACCOMPANIED ONLY BY HIS SQUIRE

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Re: Need Advice on A New Laptop

    Thanks for the detailed speccery there; that's very kind of you, and most appreciated.

    I confess I goggled a bit at the price, but you seem to have found some clever ways to knock a few dollars off here and there.

    I'm crashing now, but should have something pithy to say tomorrow. In the meantime...thanks again, very much.

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