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Laptop Advice, Please
Old 11-06-2013, 08:00 PM   #1
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Laptop Advice, Please

I have made do at home with an aging netbook that has some issues with the screen, but which is adequate for surfing on the couch. Since I am bailing in January it is unlikely this will do it, especially since I want to be capable of picking up contract or freelance work. I know I will want Office, but I don't care about a touch screen. The other thing that will be important is the ability to efficiently deal with video. We were given a small projector that works well to watch movies on the basement wall and movie night has quickly become a favorite of the kids. What specs do I need? What processor? What is the cheapest way to get what I need without cutting too many corners?
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Old 11-06-2013, 10:21 PM   #2
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I'm a fan of Lenovo as they have been quite reliable for us. The one thing I think is important is to get a solid state drive - they are much quicker. Some of the Lenovo models have problems with overheating (mine does, but not DWs or DSs) so keep an eye out for that. I think an i5 or faster should do for you.

I mostly use my Kindle Fire for video, just plug it into the HDTV or cast a Chrome tab using Chromecast.
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Old 11-07-2013, 12:15 AM   #3
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What else do you plan to do with it? Will you be doing anything with photographs? Playing any games?

For most people in i5 processor is fine. You really only need the i7 if you are doing gaming or needing a great deal of computational power. I don't know if anything you are doing would require an i7.

For a notebook I would personally only get one with a Haswell processor (Intel 4th generaration) because it handles power requirements better. Some manufacturers are currently selling out their old 3rd generation processors but I just don't think it is worth it for a notebook.

I personally have a notebook on order right now:

Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro: Laptop Tablet Hybrid - Multimode Ultrabook Laptop | Lenovo (US)

Not suggesting this for you since you said you didn't want touch (or rather don't care about it). I am buying it because I did want touch, and I like the ability to set it up to watch media by using stand mode and I could also use it as a tablet. There are others that do that but I really wanted the QHD+ display. Which brings up the issue of screen resolution you want. This is largely a matter of personal preference. My suggestion is to get over to a Best Buy and look at their notebooks and see how a screen looks different at various resolution. BB should have in stock the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro so you can see how a QHD+ display looks. That is the highest resolution currently offered I think (but not totally sure). On the other hand, some people don't care at all. I personally probably wouldn't go below 1920x1080 but resolution is important to me.

If you aren't into gaming then it probably doesn't matter to you whether you have a dedicated video card or not.

I second the suggestion of an SSD drive. I have an SSD drive and love it. That said, if this will be your primary computer then only get one that has either a 512GB SSD drive or has room for 2 SSD drives or an SSD and a HD.

I bought my newest notebook direct from Lenovo, but in the past have had success really customizing a notebook at xoticpc. They have a lot of gaming notebooks but plenty of "regular" notebooks as well. What is like is that you can really customize what you want.

Screen size really depends on what you will be doing on it and how you feel like lugging around a big notebook. My Lenovo with a 13" screen is replacing my Sager (from xoticpc) with a 17" screen. I found that I hated, hated, hated lugging around that monster. I hated the no batter life, I hated the heaviness of it and just dreaded having to use it. So I converted it to be a spare desktop for the house and am buying a 13". I once had an 11" and it was a bit of challenge to use on spreadsheets. For work I found that a 14" was fine. 15" is OK but starting to get a little large.

Again, it may depend on how you plan to use it.

Also, is it important to you to have in home warranty service? Most notebooks don't have that available. Two that do are Dell and Lenovo.

Also check out whatever you consider at:

http://forum.notebookreview.com/

The forums are very good and you can often find out about coupons that may not be obvious. My Lenovo cost me $300 less than what is on the Lenovo page because of a coupon I found out about on the Lenovo forum.
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Old 11-07-2013, 10:14 AM   #4
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Wow! That 13.3" Lenovo looks like a steal if you can get it $300 below book.

I used to have a 13.3" Toshiba, and liked the smaller size. It of course did not have the resolution, nor the power of the new machines, and it weighed close to 6 lbs, not 3 lbs, and it folded down to 1.2", not 0.6".
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Old 11-07-2013, 10:31 AM   #5
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I was looking at this one as a possibility: Toshiba Satellite S55 Laptop | Intel Core i7 | Backlit Keyboard | Office 2013

Too much horesepower for my needs?
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Old 11-07-2013, 11:11 AM   #6
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I was looking at this one as a possibility: Toshiba Satellite S55 Laptop | Intel Core i7 | Backlit Keyboard | Office 2013

Too much horesepower for my needs?
This is the third generation Intel processor which doesn't handle power management very well. (Which is probably the main reason this is so cheap). It is i7 which may be overkill for you. If I had to make a choice, I would personally choose to have a 4th generation i5 before I would have a 3rd generation i7 in a notebook.

16GB RAM is overkill and you could far better spend your money on a better processor or better screen.

The screen resolution is really low. But, as suggested, go to Best Buy and take a look at notebooks with various resolutions. Be sure to open you a spreadsheet or create a word document to see how they look and see what you can tolerate.

It has a 1TB hard drive. I would prefer an SSD drive for the OS.

If you look at xoticpc.com you can search for 5th generation i5/i7 and customize various options, many of which have SSD drives for the OS along with a data drive.

You can also do a search at newegg and search for the specifics you are looking for. You can't customize anything and there aren't many with SSD drives but it does give a good look at the overall market.
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Old 11-07-2013, 11:20 AM   #7
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I've had good luck buying clearance/reconditioned laptops from CDW or Tiger Direct. They are usually returns so almost the same as new and if you shop judiciously you can find some good deals. YMMV but i have never had a problem.
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Old 11-07-2013, 11:21 AM   #8
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Quote:
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I was looking at this one as a possibility: Toshiba Satellite S55 Laptop | Intel Core i7 | Backlit Keyboard | Office 2013

Too much horesepower for my needs?
I bought a Toshiba through Costco last Spring. Reasonably happy with it, but I do play the occasional game so mine is i7 with a better video card. I do not care much for the track pad though, inconsistent responses from it. I wanted a decent computer that would play games and could lug it around the house (it's 17")....if I had to "lug" it every day to work etc it would be different story. I regularly sit on the couch with my wife with the computer on my lap (romantic of me, eh?)....we watch some online shows while on the couch...I don't mind the size.
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Old 11-07-2013, 11:22 AM   #9
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*Sigh* clearly I have a bunch of research to do. This may take a while.
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Old 11-07-2013, 11:52 AM   #10
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Quote:
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I was looking at this one as a possibility: Toshiba Satellite S55 Laptop | Intel Core i7 | Backlit Keyboard | Office 2013

Too much horsepower for my needs?
Nowadays, laptops are so powerful that I would not buy another desktop, unless I need to run finite element 3-D modeling or Monte Carlo missile simulation. That Toshiba looks like a powerful machine all right; when docked or plugged into a large LCD and keyboard, it could serve as one's main machine.

However, I like to use my laptop the way people use their iPad. A small, lightweight, and low-power laptop works better for me. I still have my desktops, but now use my laptop as a remote screen to access my big machines and servers via wireless home network without having to sit at the desk. Speaking of the big machines, I now use them less and less as I have stopped working.

So, it all depends on your usage.
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Old 11-07-2013, 12:13 PM   #11
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Dell has a 24-hour sale going on today, ending Friday morning--with free shipping!.
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Old 11-07-2013, 02:01 PM   #12
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I agree with Kats - go look at some notebooks at the local Best Buy. We were there recently and they have a much better selection than a staples or office depot.

I am looking for a notebook too, though I will probably wait till after the holidays.

You definitely want a 4th generation Intel processor since they have made great strides in power management and video performance (necessary for full HD video). I think an i5 will do what you want. 8GB is enough. I use photo software on my desktop and have no issues with 8GB. Disk size depends on what you want to store on your computer - external USB disks are cheap as is online storage.

Don't knock touch. It doesn't cost much more and applications will continue to exploit it to make interacting with the computer easier. Besides, you may want to do some finger painting in your spare time

I like high resolution screens because you can have a lot more data on the screen. My current 14" notebook has a resolution of 1280x800 and I have to keep scrolling to see full pages. I will be looking for screens that have 1920 x 1080 (HD) or more. I'm looking at 13.3" screens with 1920x1080 or higher resolution.

Look for a full-size hdmi port (for movie night) and USB 3.0 ports & an SD card slot.

My current notebook weighs 5 1/2 lbs, which isn't bad, but I'll probably look for something lighter - and cooler. My computer gets HOT and uncomfortable on my lap (luckily, no plans for children). The new ones run much cooler.

Look for deals on Microsoft office online (home & student edition). It may be cheaper than getting it bundled with your notebook. Research Anti-Virus solutions. I hate Norton & the others that usually come bundled with computers.

Enjoy the research. Anticipation is more than half the fun of buying something new.
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Old 11-07-2013, 04:56 PM   #13
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I bought Dell over the years but after my last one died, I didn't want to wait on shipping and so went to our local Best Buy store and bought one of the cheaper models they had at the time. A Gateway laptop. It has been a good one other than me dropping it and busting the monitor. Hard for me to answer what specs you need as I'm just not into all that. But I wouldn't worry too much about brands.

On a side note, I ordered a Nook HD+ today. Never had a tablet but thought one might come in handy when I go out of town or just casual use around the house. And for $149, can't mess up too bad. Hope the learning curve won't be too bad.
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Old 11-07-2013, 05:11 PM   #14
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I already have to use 125% zoom to read my old 1680x1050 15" screen on my lap. I'm getting a new 1920x1080 15". At 13" I'd have to use it on the table and lean close to read much at 100%. Screen size is more important. My desktop is 1920x1080 24", which is fine from my usual 18" to 24" distance.

My list of required features was:
15" 1920x1080
4th gen i5 or i7
lighted keyboard
Windows 7 (that was actually a little limiting, though XoticPC will load it on anything for a price)
SSD or SSD/HD combo roughly 500GB or larger
discrete video card for casual gaming
Bluetooth, good 11n WiFi
HDMI port
<6.5 lbs
power cord connects on left (logistics of my normal seating position)
Blu-ray for playing movies on vacation
decent battery life, I may start using it on planes

My old laptop was having problems with apps that I use a lot, and never streamed video smoothly.
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Old 11-07-2013, 05:16 PM   #15
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I'm strictly a Mac guy, so the MacBook Pro is the only way to go for me, and you probably don't want to hear that.

But Walt Mossberg is one of the best reviewers I know of, and here is his take on current laptops:

Walt Mossberg's Fall Laptop Guide
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Old 11-07-2013, 05:16 PM   #16
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I bought the wife a Lenovo X! Carbon. It's a nice machine, backlit keyboard, SSD drive and it is super thin and light (if you need to move it around much.

I am looking to replace mine and keep on coming back to looking at hers. I would like a bigger hard drive though.

We both have our laptops one tv trays in the living room and surf/research/email while watching news of HGTV. (She was in IT and I still am)

BTW, we are not touch pad fans. We both use external Mouse via usb.
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Old 11-07-2013, 05:18 PM   #17
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I already have to use 125% zoom to read my old 1680x1050 15" screen on my lap. I'm getting a new 1920x1080 15". At 13" I'd have to use it on the table and lean close to read much at 100%. Screen size is more important. My desktop is 1920x1080 24", which is fine from my usual 18" to 24" distance.
I agree with most of your required features. Just a point. My 13.3" Lenovo will have 3200x1800 display. I actually saw one in Best Buy and for many uses that look fine on the 13.3" screen. However, Windows 8.1 has good scaling and many people will actually for many applications view at 1600X900 (or whatever else they choose). However, because it is 3200X1800 display the screen is far clearer even if viewed at 1600x900 than it would be if it was just a screen with 1600x900 resolution.
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Old 11-07-2013, 06:57 PM   #18
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My computer gets HOT and uncomfortable on my lap (luckily, no plans for children). The new ones run much cooler.
It may be running hot because you're blocking some of the air vents when you place the laptop on your lap. Even on my desk, I use a little self-made stand that provides an extra inch of space between the desk and the laptop. Also, blow out the accumulated dust from all the air vents periodically. But you probably already knew this. Mine was running hotter than usual a few months ago, until I remembered to blow out the vents on my laptop, and it has been running cooler, and the fan less noisily, ever since.
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Old 11-07-2013, 07:21 PM   #19
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I'm strictly a Mac guy, so the MacBook Pro is the only way to go for me, and you probably don't want to hear that.

But Walt Mossberg is one of the best reviewers I know of, and here is his take on current laptops:

Walt Mossberg's Fall Laptop Guide
Me too. Each version of Windows that Microsoft comes out with seems to be more troublesome than the prior version. I have used a Mac for just over a year now and can't imagine going backwards now.
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Old 11-07-2013, 07:21 PM   #20
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My daughter got a Mac for college and it is awesome. Instantly on, awesome screen, keyboard, touch pad. Light weight, can lay on couch or use anywhere. Works amazing and intuitively. Uses Microsoft office.

Most laptops are pieces of crap and no fun to use so why bother with them. Definitely wouldn't put the old clunky hot ones with fans on my lap or chest while I'm laying around.
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