I'm buying a new laptop and I'm requesting help

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I'm buying a new laptop and I'm requesting help

Postby Harperfan7 » Sat Feb 25, 2012 11:49 am UTC

The hardrive on my PC laptop just died, and I don't want to get it fixed. I hate my computer and I'm tired of all the crap, so I figured I'd do a bunch of research (I'm not a computer person) and find out what the AK-47 of computers would be. I'm looking to get a computer that is fast and clean, and will stay that way (hopefully for years and years). I'm not a coder/programmer, my newest game is from '02, and 90% of my computer usage will be for surfing, listening to music, word documents, and watching videos (preferably through my tv via a cable...I ,uh, I heard those exist), however, I am seriously tired of all the windows/HDD crap. Price isn't really an issue, as long as its around a grand or less.

So, I did said research and I think I know what I want to get, but I wanted to ask some computer oriented people (relative to me, that is) who aren't biased and who won't try to sell me something, and my mind came straight to xkcd.

Here's what I was thinking...

-i7
Spoiler:
I don't know anything about processors, but from what I've heard, i(x) is standard, and i7 is the fastest and "best", and will stay good for a long time

-8GB DDR3 - start good and stay good
-SSD
Spoiler:
This is the most problematic area for me, SSD sounds fantastic, but I get the feeling that I'm playing with fire. I did some reading, and I made some notes, though I don't remember exactly why I wrote what I wrote, but here's what I wrote:
-SSD
-SLC
-Enterprise
-TRIM (not defrag!), SSD firmware, OS, and file system
-for Linux, added at v2.6.33, but only works with the EXT4 and Btrfs file systems
-especially if the SSD is used with a common HDD controller that lacks garbage collection functionality
-Burn in?

-Graphics card...will I need anything other than stock?
-Desktop replacement laptop - I'm sure about this part
-LED, 1920x1080 - ...anything wrong with that?
-OS
Spoiler:
Linux looks pretty fantastic from everything I've read. Free? No viruses? :D I said earlier that I'm not a computer person, though I am willing to learn, and I heard that LinuxMint is for people coming in from Windows, and Ubuntu is probably where I'll end up. I know it doesnt support games, and, well, meh. I'll use an older computer for games if I can't have them on this one, and I'll bet my games (from fallout to icewind dale 2) are probably available. I also heard that it won't support digital cameras and scanners, but I don't know why or exactly what that means (I can't upload the pics?). Also, if I start out with LinuxMint, how easy is the switch to Ubuntu, will I have to redo everything? Am I missing anything important here?

-USB 3.0 - any reason not to?
-anything else that I'm not covering or am otherwise missing? :?
-can anyone estimate a price? I'm not asking you to figure it out, but if you already know or can estimate, would you mind listing it in your post?

I appreciate any and all comments!
Last edited by Harperfan7 on Sat Mar 10, 2012 9:45 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: I'm buying a new laptop and I'm requesting help

Postby Hawknc » Sat Feb 25, 2012 12:00 pm UTC

If you're not playing games then the graphics card probably doesn't matter very much, but if you plan on getting something in the range of an i7 with 8GB DDR3 RAM, it'll probably come with a dedicated one of some description.

The other thing is - and you're probably aware of this, so apologies if this is redundant - Linux of any flavour won't run Windows apps natively. If you're a prolific MS Office user, that might be a problem for you (though there are compatible Linux-friendly alternatives, like LibreOffice). You can also use Wine to run Windows programs, but there's no guarantee of performance or stability. If the laptop you get has enough hard disk space, I'd suggest dual-booting if you have enough programs to warrant needing Windows but would still like to use Linux as your daily OS.
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Re: I'm buying a new laptop and I'm requesting help

Postby PhoenixEnigma » Mon Feb 27, 2012 1:14 am UTC

So far as I can tell, you're looking for a laptop that will handle general productivity and internet use, and not much else. You'd like it to last quite a while. If that's the case, I think you're barking up the wrong tree entirely.

In no particular order:
  • Why do you want a desktop replacement laptop? They're huge, not particularly portable, and not nearly as cost effective as an actual desktop. Why not a desktop, or a more reasonable sized laptop?
  • Buying high end stuff now and hoping it lasts is a terrible, terrible way to futureproof things. You'll come out far ahead buying mid range stuff with 80% of the performance, at half the cost, twice as often.
  • Nothing you mentioned actually comes close to addressing the "AK-47" aspect of a machine that just won't die.

Addressing those:

If you need to move your PC more than about once a month, or run it without AC power, you don't want a DTR, you want a normal laptop. If you aren't moving it that often, you might as well get a desktop for 2/3rds the cost. DTRs are ugly bastard offspring of the two that really don't fill either role all that well.

What you're looking to do is not at all demanding, and there's no reason to pay extra for an i7 - nothing you are doing will see much improvement from the extra cores anyways. Even an i3 is more than enough, but the turbo on the i5's is nice to have. There's no need for a discrete video card, either - the HD3000 on Intel's mobile CPUs will handle everyday work just fine, and even older games well enough. You also get QuickSync out of the deal, in case you need to transcode video.

8GB RAM does sort of make sense, though I would buy the minimum the manufacture offers and upgrade it myself, as the markup on RAM upgrades tends to be rather ridiculous. If you want a system that feels fast and snappy, a SSD is the way to go, though you'll have to consider the space tradeoff - cost per GB is far higher with SSDs, and most laptops don't give you a second drive bay to work with, so you'll have to consider if you can live within 120GB or 160GB or whatever, instead of 500+GB. They're also something I'd upgrade yourself, as a) they have silly-high markups from laptop OEMs and b) you likely want to pick your own SSD, as it's not usually disclosed what you're getting. Intel has a good reputation, though the 320s had some teething problems and the 520s still need to prove themselves, and the Samsung 830 and Crucial M4 are well regarded as fast and reliable. Most of your notes aren't particularly relevant, to be honest, except for checking that the firmware is up to date when you get it. Most of the rest are solved issues or non-issues.

The 1080p screen is a good idea - you usually get a decent jump in actual screen quality going from 786 -> 1080p, for some reason, and the extra vertical pixels are a godsend if you're doing anything other than watching movies on your laptop (and, you know, they're nice there, too)

If you want something that will take a beating, last years, absorb water, stop bullets, and so forth, you'll need to look at more than the spec sheet. You might be able to find an Acer that meets everything you're looking for, but it will probably come with bloatware oozing from its ports, and fall apart if you sneeze on it. If you're serious about that assault rifle comment, you will probably want to look at business class laptops - Lenovo ThinkPads, Dell Latitudes, HP Pro/EliteBooks, that sort of thing. They're more expensive, yes, but the quality reflects that.

The Linux v Windows thing can be rather complicated. Rather than rehash all of that, I'd suggest you try it and see if it works for you. Ubuntu is pretty easy to get running off a USB stick, try that for while and see if it does everything you need.

USB 3 is probably a good idea - it's not particularly widely used yet, but it's backwards compatible and adoption is slowly picking up. Particularly if you opt for an SSD and use a external HDD, the faster connection would be nice.

The PC -> TV cable you're probably thinking of is HDMI, if you have an HD TV, other than some of the earliest ones. It's also pretty common on laptops, but worth checking for.
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Re: I'm buying a new laptop and I'm requesting help

Postby LikwidCirkel » Mon Feb 27, 2012 7:06 pm UTC

Since durability is your top priority, I encourage you not to buy an ultra-cheap machine.

I don't trust the durability of anything less than $700 or so.

Get a business class machine, and expect to pay $1000 or more for it. Dell and Lenovo business lines are vastly more reliable than cheap consumer shit in my experience. There is a huge difference in the build quality of Dell's consumer machines versus business machines, and similarly with common business vendors like HP and Lenovo.

Check out the encasing too - metal and ugly = GOOD! Plastic, lightweight, and with eye-candy things like blue LED's = BAD.
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Re: I'm buying a new laptop and I'm requesting help

Postby Harperfan7 » Tue Feb 28, 2012 9:07 am UTC

Why do you want a desktop replacement laptop? They're huge, not particularly portable, and not nearly as cost effective as an actual desktop. Why not a desktop, or a more reasonable sized laptop?


I don't want a desktop because I like to move around in the house and not have to sit in a chair. I want a desktop replacement in particular because they have the largest screens and keyboards (or so I assumed, I'm checking that right now). I don't mind my laptop being big (or ugly). I don't mind paying extra for the mobility and ease of use, but if it turns out that I'm paying like twice as much, then screw it, I'll get a desktop and figure out how to make it mobile.

Buying high end stuff now and hoping it lasts is a terrible, terrible way to futureproof things. You'll come out far ahead buying mid range stuff with 80% of the performance, at half the cost, twice as often.


This sounds like very good advice. I wasn't aware that top-end things were that much more expensive. As I said, I'm hoping to get something that will stay fast and clean, so if it starts to slow noticeably in only a year or two, I want to avoid it. The computer that just died always had me in fits. I wanted to put my fist through the screen half the time. I suppose thats my main goal - headache/frustration prevention.

Nothing you mentioned actually comes close to addressing the "AK-47" aspect of a machine that just won't die.


I didn't mean physically tough (though I thought having as SSD would help address that), I meant something quality that will last performance wise, something that won't start acting like a fish out of water in a couple years. My computer, whatever I end up getting, likely won't ever leave my house. That's the reason I didn't mention anything about batteries, it won't ever be unplugged. That said, will the phsyical toughness-quality of a laptop really matter if it never leaves the house? The 3rd poster mentioned business class, is that still worth it for a housebound computer?

-i5
-8GB RAM
-Samsung 830 or Crucial M4 SSD
Spoiler:
I'm not sure that I understand what you said about upgrading it myself. Buy whatever comes in the computer (SSD or HDD) AND the SSD that I plan on using, then put in the good one? I don't know anything about self-upgrading (or upgrading in general), I'll have to read up on it.

Is 120-160 GB enough for the things I mentioned? I plan on using some flash drives for storage at least, though I was hoping to get an external hard drive.

-1080
-stock card
-give ubuntu a try
-USB 3
-HDMI

If you want something that will take a beating, last years, absorb water, stop bullets, and so forth, you'll need to look at more than the spec sheet. You might be able to find an Acer that meets everything you're looking for, but it will probably come with bloatware oozing from its ports, and fall apart if you sneeze on it. If you're serious about that assault rifle comment, you will probably want to look at business class laptops - Lenovo ThinkPads, Dell Latitudes, HP Pro/EliteBooks, that sort of thing. They're more expensive, yes, but the quality reflects that.


This scares me. Are physical durability and performance-stability related? Assuming I never drop it or get it wet or whatever would happen to it while carrying it around. Say I get one that has all the above specs, but isn't designed for travel, will just using it around the house cause it to eventually fail from poor hardware? I don't know what bloatware is.

Since durability is your top priority, I encourage you not to buy an ultra-cheap machine.

I don't trust the durability of anything less than $700 or so.


Again, just for around the house, do I want a business class model?

Check out the encasing too - metal and ugly = GOOD! Plastic, lightweight, and with eye-candy things like blue LED's = BAD.


I have no problems with metal and ugly.
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Re: I'm buying a new laptop and I'm requesting help

Postby PhoenixEnigma » Sat Mar 03, 2012 4:43 am UTC

Harperfan7 wrote:I don't want a desktop because I like to move around in the house and not have to sit in a chair. I want a desktop replacement in particular because they have the largest screens and keyboards (or so I assumed, I'm checking that right now). I don't mind my laptop being big (or ugly). I don't mind paying extra for the mobility and ease of use, but if it turns out that I'm paying like twice as much, then screw it, I'll get a desktop and figure out how to make it mobile.
With a DTR, you'll mostly be in a chair. They're big, hot, and need to be on flat surfaces. I suppose you could move it from the office to the kitchen table, though. Whether that's worth the hit to performance, ergonomics, and cost effectiveness is sort of up to you, but they're generally poor compromises IMO. As a general rule, laptop keyboards suck. Trackpads suck. Displays are mediocre. Harddrives are smaller and slower. CPUs cost more and are slower. The display is in the wrong spot compared to the keyboard. There's roughly zero upgrade path, etc, etc.

This sounds like very good advice. I wasn't aware that top-end things were that much more expensive. As I said, I'm hoping to get something that will stay fast and clean, so if it starts to slow noticeably in only a year or two, I want to avoid it. The computer that just died always had me in fits. I wanted to put my fist through the screen half the time. I suppose thats my main goal - headache/frustration prevention.
7200RPM hard drive, or better yet an SSD, and reinstall the OS every other year, and you'll be laughing. For general interneting and such, a 4+ year old C2D system is still just fine, there's no reason that pattern will not continue to hold true. Most of "slow" turns out to be "filled with crap".

I didn't mean physically tough (though I thought having as SSD would help address that), I meant something quality that will last performance wise, something that won't start acting like a fish out of water in a couple years. My computer, whatever I end up getting, likely won't ever leave my house. That's the reason I didn't mention anything about batteries, it won't ever be unplugged. That said, will the physical toughness-quality of a laptop really matter if it never leaves the house? The 3rd poster mentioned business class, is that still worth it for a housebound computer?
To a degree, yes, but much less. Hinges still wear out, coffee gets spilled, things like that. If it's just sitting there, it's less of a concern, but I'd still avoid the cheapest things around.

-i5
-8GB RAM
-Samsung 830 or Crucial M4 SSD
I'm not sure that I understand what you said about upgrading it myself. Buy whatever comes in the computer (SSD or HDD) AND the SSD that I plan on using, then put in the good one? I don't know anything about self-upgrading (or upgrading in general), I'll have to read up on it.

Is 120-160 GB enough for the things I mentioned? I plan on using some flash drives for storage at least, though I was hoping to get an external hard drive.
That's exactly what I mean. The cost of upgrading to a SSD when you order a laptop is often on the order of twice what you'd pay to just buy the SSD in the first place. Likewise with RAM. With the SSD, in particular, you can also take the old hard drive and put it in a USB enclosure when you're done, so you get that too.

Whether you can live within the storage constraints of an SSD is up to you. I'm fine with 160GB on my laptop, but I'm well past the TB mark on my desktop. Again, with a desktop, you have the option of a SSD for OS and programs, and then adding HDD(s) for bulk storage as needed. To do that with a laptop, you generally need external drives (at which point you've given up even more mobility and performance).

This scares me. Are physical durability and performance-stability related? Assuming I never drop it or get it wet or whatever would happen to it while carrying it around. Say I get one that has all the above specs, but isn't designed for travel, will just using it around the house cause it to eventually fail from poor hardware? I don't know what bloatware is.
Build quality won't have a huge impact on actual stability, or at least not in your use-case. However, that's a hell of an assumption you're making - like trying to plan a ranch with a frictionless field and spherical cows.

Bloatware, crapware, shovelware, etc, are all the questionable-to-useless demos, trials, utilities, updaters, installers, and other general crap that OEMs like to stick on their systems that aren't good for more than burning resources and padding profit margins. It's more prevalent at the low end (where it hurts the most :/ ) of consumer systems, where manufacturer margins are razor thin and every cent they make or save counts. Premium and business class machines tend to have less crud preinstalled on them.

As a hypothetical example:

A basic desktop* is going to give you comparable performance to most decent laptops around the upper end of your pricerange - the i3-2320 is a bit faster than the i5-2540M. Throw in any one of half a dozen good 23" monitors - I'd go for a cheap IPS monitor myself, and you're still well under a grand. Add a small boot SSD if you want, for a very solid system. If you still need something portable, you can throw in a Kindle Fire and have something that actually is portable, and still only be brushing $1k.

*I'm not actually recommending that particular unit, but it's an example anyways.
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Re: I'm buying a new laptop and I'm requesting help

Postby Harperfan7 » Wed Mar 07, 2012 8:22 am UTC

Well, I think that pretty much covers it. I don't have any more questions.

Thank you, PhoenixEnigma, for your sagely computer advice :D
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Re: I'm buying a new laptop and I'm requesting help

Postby Tomlidich the second » Fri Mar 23, 2012 5:19 pm UTC

dell latitude.

it is a small business oriented machine, and i have yet to break one yet. and believe me, I HAVE TRIED.

order one with the solid state hard drive, they wont fail as easily from drops.

you won't need that much power if you are doing the activities you stated. even a 300 dollar netbook could serve your purpose.


as far as os, i run ubuntu linux. i went straight to it from a windows vista machine, so it is very easy to learn.

also, do NOT get vista. i am begging you. you will regret it. BIG TIME.

one thing you can do also, is what is called a dual boot. you can select what OS to run while your laptop boots.

just install windows first, partition the drive to use half, then install ubuntu on the remaining half. helpful tutorial here:
https://help.ubuntu.com/community/WindowsDualBoot

if you are going to run linux, it may be helpful at least for awhile to try and use command line for a few things, just to get a rough idea of how a linux machine works, and what possible problems can arise.

hope this helps.
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Re: I'm buying a new laptop and I'm requesting help

Postby Endless Mike » Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:42 pm UTC

Tomlidich the second wrote:also, do NOT get vista. i am begging you. you will regret it. BIG TIME.

I'm not sure you could get Vista if you wanted to. Pretty much everything comes with Windows 7.
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Re: I'm buying a new laptop and I'm requesting help

Postby Rium » Sun Apr 01, 2012 8:04 pm UTC

Posting here because I don’t want to create another thread – perhaps there should be a generic "Laptop recommendations" thread.

I’ll mainly use it for web surfing, coding and photo editing. Ideally, I would be able to do 3D modelling (Blender), play (older) games, maybe even reliably play HD AVCHD files in VLC without stutter, and have at least 500 GB hard disk space. My budget is around $500. I think a screen size of 15-16" is reasonable. Robustness is probably important as I’m planning to carry it around a lot.

I found someone who asked a similar question. The Thinkpad Edge E525 was suggested, which looks fine to me, but I don’t really know what to look out for. I appreciate any comments!
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Re: I'm buying a new laptop and I'm requesting help

Postby PhoenixEnigma » Tue Apr 03, 2012 4:33 am UTC

You'd probably have more luck with a new thread - more people would notice.

That said, you're asking for a hell of a lot for the budget, and something will have to give. With the E525, that's going to be CPU performance, but if you're okay with that tradeoff, it's not a bad option. I might suggest the E520 as worth looking at as well - you lose out a bit on the graphics, but the CPU performance is better, and that's going to play a large role in photo editing. Or you could go with something like this Acer, which would give you decent CPU and graphics performance at the cost of robustness.

Basically, something's gotta give, and you'll need to pick what.
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Re: I'm buying a new laptop and I'm requesting help

Postby Rium » Tue Apr 03, 2012 1:31 pm UTC

Thanks for your advice. And yes, I was suspecting that there probably isn’t a laptop in that price range that does all of these things well.

Hm, I think I should probably get the better CPU. I looked at the cheapest offers for the E525 and E520 (by the way, would you advise against buying laptops on ebay?) and the E520 is quite a bit more expensive. I’m unsure if it’s worth it – do you think the slower CPU will let me do multitasking with NetBeans, Firefox with youtube, a music player, and something else without problems?
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Re: I'm buying a new laptop and I'm requesting help

Postby bluejello » Tue Apr 03, 2012 3:57 pm UTC

I believe that all core i5 are dual core with hyper threding so in theory yes, it will let you run them fine, however if you are doing another processor-intensive task the youtube will most likely perform badly.

The lenovo laptops have additional optins if you get them from the website so you may want to check that out before getting the laptop.
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