Laptops

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stupac2
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Laptops

Post by stupac2 » Mon Feb 15, 2010 2:25 pm

After lugging my 4.5-year-old DELL XPS to Chicago and having it not work on the fermilab network (still don't know why), I realized I really need an upgrade. My issue is that I really like high-end stuff (this computer cost $3k new) and the features that that brings. My biggest one is the display, left to my (insane) devices I'd probably get something like Toshiba's Qosmio, which boats a ridiculous 18.4-in screen (yet somehow worse 1920 by 1080 resolution, my ancient laptop is smaller and still gets 1920 by 1200, that seems odd to me).

When we were talking about this a couple days ago snark pointed out that I could always just use an external while at home, and deal with a smaller screen while away. This does make sense, and since my old computer is definitely still operable I can go one further and just use that one for media stuff and basically use the new one for internet and traveling. That would let me keep it lighter (both physically and in terms of installed crap), which would be nice.

Which is all a long-winded way of saying that I'm looking for a laptop that's fairly light while still being reasonably computationally strong, and preferably ~15 inch. It doesn't need to be an ultralight, I don't really care if it weighs 5 lbs instead of 4 (sometimes I wonder if the people who do are running marathons with their computers. Who notices that kind of weight difference in regular use?). Oh, and definitely PC (I'm very, very firmly in the "Fuck Macs" camp).

So if you know of anything out there that fits that basic description let me know, I've tried searching but it seems like right now everything's either 12-13-in ultralight or 18-in gaming platform. I think the middle ground is more what I need.

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Re: Laptops

Post by Eigenbasis » Mon Feb 15, 2010 2:49 pm

I'm very satisfied with my HP HDX 16. My model has a 16 inch (widescreen) display, dual core 2.53 GHz CPU, 4GB RAM, and a dedicated graphics card that's capable of running modern games. However, it weighs 7 pounds (mine weighs more because I got the large 12 cell battery). It has a pretty good quality web cam and microphone built in to it.

My computer is 14 months old and I haven't had any problems with it. The one thing that bugs me is that a certain uncommon audio pitch is equal to the resonant frequency of the CD drive and it will vibrate a lot.
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Re: Laptops

Post by thacon » Mon Feb 15, 2010 2:54 pm

My advice is to stay away from HPs. (Sorry Eigenbasis) I've had a few HP laptops and they've all had a number of issues. I get a new IBM/Lenovo laptop each year at work and I've been extremely happy with each of those. They're business-class models though, so I can't comment on their consumer line.

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Re: Laptops

Post by NardoLoopa » Mon Feb 15, 2010 3:01 pm

I suggest a 15" that docks to a dual screen vid-card. Dell's Studio XPS 16 might be a good choice. VGA + HDMI. I have an older Dell laptop for work that performs nicely and isn't too bad to lug around. Dell has okay quality and usually cheap prices, though, I prefer Thinkpads for real mobile computing. Last time I looked, they didn't offer 2x vid cards in their ultra-light series.

Two screens at home and you'll never want to use your laptop screen again . . . no matter how big it is.
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Re: Laptops

Post by Eigenbasis » Mon Feb 15, 2010 3:05 pm

Eh, it varies from model to model and from user to user. I'm super paranoid about dropping or spilling on my computers and I've never had a laptop die of hardware failure before it became obsolescent. I've had good experiences with HP and so have others. I've heard plenty of Dell horror stories (primarily from their low end models) and also plenty of people who have had their Dells for years who are fine with them.

Lenovos are nice but I don't think they sell high-performance consumer laptops.
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Re: Laptops

Post by stupac2 » Mon Feb 15, 2010 3:09 pm

Thacon, my office is almost entirely HP and they seem to run pretty well. My computer has had absolutely no issues, and the only computer I've seen die was over 5 years old. I've seen 5 different HP laptops last over 2 years each, none with issues (unless you count getting hit with a high-power stream of water of an issue, stupid burst pipes).

Nardo, the problem with that is all the infrastructure it requires. I'd need to get the monitors and a bigger desk (there's another few hundred bucks), plus I'd be tethered to them, which I don't really want. But I do know the nice-osity of dual monitors, everyone in my office gets them standard, and these 2 22" HPs are working quite nicely (although I'm a bit jealous of my officemate who just got a new computer with 24" monitors).

Oh, and eigen, they don't seem to make that model any more.

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Re: Laptops

Post by Eigenbasis » Mon Feb 15, 2010 3:15 pm

You can find them on Ebay. Of course, since the model is over a year old it's likely that there are newer, better models out by now.
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Re: Laptops

Post by ChoppersB » Mon Feb 15, 2010 3:19 pm

thacon wrote:My advice is to stay away from HPs. (Sorry Eigenbasis) I've had a few HP laptops and they've all had a number of issues. I get a new IBM/Lenovo laptop each year at work and I've been extremely happy with each of those. They're business-class models though, so I can't comment on their consumer line.
I second the feeling for the higher end Lenovo laptops (IBM doesn't own them anymore). I have a 3 year old T61 that was required for my undergrad school. It cost more than I would have liked to spend (~2k) due to the mandatory software, but I have been pleasantly surprised by it's quality. The case is a little heavier duty than what I have been used to which may account for some of the extra weight. My only real complaint is that with any laptop with a 15 inch screen (or less) you lose the number pad which would have been real handy for those labs where I had to manually enter data.

I'm sure you could find a current high performance variety. It looks like the T or W series are real nice. The W looks like is has an incorporated mini tablet too. I've always wondered why they never made the touch pad capable of tablet-like input with a stylus; I guess the W does that now. Looks like T series starts at ~4 pounds. Look Here.

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Re: Laptops

Post by stupac2 » Mon Feb 15, 2010 3:24 pm

I think I'm going to say "Fuck lenovo" because their website does. not. work. They don't give detailed specs until you go into the buy section, and all those links are broken. If this link works for you, then I don't know wtf is up: http://shop.lenovo.com/SEUILibrary/cont ... E99E68D075

ETA: Ok now it's loading, but for some reason they don't think the resolution of their displays is relevant. That is incredibly annoying.

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Re: Laptops

Post by NardoLoopa » Mon Feb 15, 2010 3:28 pm

Hmm. Worked for me.

btw: I can attest to the Lenovo build quality. The past 4 computers I've owned were all eBay lenovos. All took a nice beating (titanium lids).
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Re: Laptops

Post by ChoppersB » Mon Feb 15, 2010 3:41 pm

stupac2 wrote:I think I'm going to say "Fuck lenovo" because their website does. not. work. They don't give detailed specs until you go into the buy section, and all those links are broken. If this link works for you, then I don't know wtf is up: http://shop.lenovo.com/SEUILibrary/cont ... E99E68D075

ETA: Ok now it's loading, but for some reason they don't think the resolution of their displays is relevant. That is incredibly annoying.
Yeah, there site does kinda suck. I found this buried on the T series tech. specs page:
Display

15.6" HD 1366 x 768 16:9 aspect ratio,
antiglare, 220 nit
15.6" HD+ 1600 x 900 16:9 aspect ratio,
antiglare, 220 nit
15.6" FHD 1920 x 1080, 16:9 aspect ratio,
antiglare, 280 nit,
95% color gamut
*changed double quote symbol for forum compliance.



ETA:
stupac2 wrote:...which boats a ridiculous 18.4-in screen (yet somehow worse 1920 by 1080 resolution, my ancient laptop is smaller and still gets 1920 by 1200, that seems odd to me)...
I would guess that this is done to boast the screen for media use. I'd bet that many more people are familiar with screen resolution, specifically 1920x1080, due to HD TVs. It could also be possible to get cheaper screens buying them from TV lcd panel manufacturers at the same resolution as they already produce for TVs.
Last edited by ChoppersB on Mon Feb 15, 2010 3:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Laptops

Post by stupac2 » Mon Feb 15, 2010 3:46 pm

It looks like dell does the same (insanely stupid) thing. I mean, why not just friggin' say 1920 by 1200 instead of "1080p"? Especially because 1080p could be lots of display sizes (though apparently the 1600 by 1080 that I remember seeing some time ago is non-standard now http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WUXGA, who knew?).

So it looks like a dell studio 15 is like $700 cheaper than a lenovo T series comparably spec'd (though I think the dell's video card would be a bit worse). Hmm, interesting.

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Re: Laptops

Post by Flolle » Mon Feb 15, 2010 5:05 pm

I can't make any model recommendations, because $3k is the very definition of "out of my range" for me, and even if it weren't I wouldn't know what model prices are like over the big pond.

That said, do yourself a favour and get a model with a matte surface display, because those with reflective surface displays, while having superior colour saturation, are utter garbage whenever you don't have perfect light, such as when you're outside and it's sunny.

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Re: Laptops

Post by stupac2 » Mon Feb 15, 2010 5:27 pm

I'm not looking to spend that much this time. The ones that are spec'd where I like are more like 1.5k, and I could easily go <1k.

But I've personally never had trouble with my glossy display. True it doesn't do well in sunlight, but, umm, why are you using a computer outside anyway? And arranging a room so you're not backlit is pretty trivial, and you should already have you couches and desk that way regardless of what you have (glare always sucks, no matter the screen). So I don't think that would be an issue for me, and would much rather have the extra pixels than a screen I could use more easily outside (do they even make matte displays any more? Everything I was looking at seemed to be glossy, or maybe they were all matte and those have just gotten better since I last looked into it).

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Re: Laptops

Post by Flolle » Mon Feb 15, 2010 6:59 pm

While you're at home, sure lighting won't be a problem, but everywhere else, it can turn out to be. If you don't get into such situations then take whatever you like I guess.

I personally use me laptop on the train, during lectures, in between lectures, in the canteen and some other places that often don't have perfect lighting, so for me a glossy display would be sucky to the point of sometimes not being really usable. Again, your mileage may vary and from the looks of it, it seems to do, but if you use your laptop on the move so to say, I believe a matte display is very much worth considering.

Another thing that came to me just now is battery life. Again, a point that is more important if you're using your laptop while not at home/near a power supply, but I personally wouldn't buy one that couldn't handle at least 3.5 hours while viewing documents/doing non-heavy internet surfing.

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Re: Laptops

Post by Suendenbock » Mon Feb 15, 2010 7:04 pm

MacBook Pro

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Re: Laptops

Post by stupac2 » Mon Feb 15, 2010 8:13 pm

Yeah, my computer use is overwhelmingly "at home". Since I'm working during the week I'm usually either at home or at work, and at work I'm using my work computer. During the weekends if I'm not at home I don't want my computer with me. For traveling I just want something that is actually portable and has an actual battery (my computer literally has no battery now, it became a glorified weight a few years back). So, yeah, something with a glossy screen suits my use pretty well.

Oh, and Sue, macs suck.

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Re: Laptops

Post by Nomen Nescio » Mon Feb 15, 2010 8:46 pm

stupac2 wrote:Oh, and Sue, macs suck.
If you don't find a pc you like you really should take a look at Apple. Their laptops have always been very nice, great displays and when my battery was new I got five hours out of it, and if you want you can run it as a unix or windows machine and almost never even look at MacOS.

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Re: Laptops

Post by stupac2 » Mon Feb 15, 2010 9:00 pm

Nomen Nescio wrote:
stupac2 wrote:Oh, and Sue, macs suck.
If you don't find a pc you like you really should take a look at Apple. Their laptops have always been very nice, great displays and when my battery was new I got five hours out of it, and if you want you can run it as a unix or windows machine and almost never even look at MacOS.
I have had several bad experiences with apple, I hate their OS, their machines are usually overpriced for what their do (you're paying for the mystique as much as anything), their commercials are infuriating, and I absolutely loathe the fanboys. I will NEVER buy a mac. I'm just waiting for someone to make a halfway-decent MP3 player so I ditch the iPod (and, more importantly, the bloated piece of shit that is iTunes) once and for all.

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Re: Laptops

Post by thacon » Mon Feb 15, 2010 9:08 pm

stupac2 wrote:and, more importantly, the bloated piece of shit that is iTunes
I've been using nothing but winamp since 1998 and I've never felt like I was missing anything. And do you still need a stand alone mp3 player these days? Do you have a smart phone? I believe they all play mp3s now. If not, I've always been impressed with the sound quality of Cowon players. The Sansa and Archos players are pretty good iPod alternatives as well.

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Re: Laptops

Post by stupac2 » Mon Feb 15, 2010 9:23 pm

I do not. Well, I do. But my phone is not a music player. I have over 50 GB of music, and I don't want to have to pick and choose what I take with me.

But I am going to be in the market for a new phone soon. But that's even more of a mess than computers.

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Re: Laptops

Post by thacon » Mon Feb 15, 2010 9:48 pm

I'm impressed if you actually listen to all 50GB of mp3s on a regular basis. If you can whittle it down a bit, you can store a good chunk of that on a microSD card. I think they currently top out at 16GB, but 32GB cards are coming soon.

Or you could use something like Orb to stream all your music to your phone and never need any internal storage at all.

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Re: Laptops

Post by stupac2 » Mon Feb 15, 2010 9:53 pm

thacon wrote:I'm impressed if you actually listen to all 50GB of mp3s on a regular basis. If you can whittle it down a bit, you can store a good chunk of that on a microSD card. I think they currently top out at 16GB, but 32GB cards are coming soon.

Or you could use something like Orb to stream all your music to your phone and never need any internal storage at all.
Nope, but I don't want to go through my collection and decide what I need and what I don't. I need to do that for my car (since my iPod is a janky piece of shit) and I've been putting it off for months. And I don't want to be dependent on an internet connection either.

I might be weird and obstinate, but I like doing things the way I like doing them.

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Re: Laptops

Post by Manendra » Tue Feb 16, 2010 11:40 am

My HP laptop had its motherboard die shortly after I got it. That was unpleasant. Then HP took it and kept it for like 3 months before fixing it and sending it back. So yeah, I don't recommend HP, for that reason.
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Re: Laptops

Post by stupac2 » Thu Feb 18, 2010 10:24 am

A few questions, for those who may or may not know more about this than I do. (I think I'm going to go with the dell studio XPS 16, since my current dell XPS has been so good to me).

Is there any reason to go for an LED versus an LCD display? LED is significantly more expensive ($175 more, to be precise).
What's the deal with the Windows 7 options? I see that Home doesn't have the group policy editor, which I find indispensable on XP, but is there any reason to go Ultimate over Pro? Or rather, do you still need the gpe in 7 as much as you did in XP?
Is there any reason to go with the i7 instead of i5? I'm just not sure if that upgrade in processor cores is really worth the few hundred bucks.

I'll probably answer all these questions on my own with googling while at work, but figured someone here might be super-knowledgeable and the thread is already open.

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Re: Laptops

Post by Nomen Nescio » Thu Feb 18, 2010 11:30 am

stupac2 wrote:Is there any reason to go for an LED versus an LCD display? LED is significantly more expensive ($175 more, to be precise).
Only thing I can comment on. LED displays are a little more brilliant and when they turn on they come to full brilliance right away. My laptop has one, they're very nice, but I don't know if it's worth $175 more.

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Re: Laptops

Post by Jaelith » Thu Feb 18, 2010 11:57 am

stupac2 wrote: What's the deal with the Windows 7 options? I see that Home doesn't have the group policy editor, which I find indispensable on XP, but is there any reason to go Ultimate over Pro? Or rather, do you still need the gpe in 7 as much as you did in XP?
You probably found this all via the great googles already:

Other big differentiators between Win 7 Home Premium and Pro beyond the GPE not being available:
* You can remote desktop OUT from a Home Prem machine but not IN (this for me is the biggest thing; for you on a laptop you may not care)
* Pro lets you download and run Win XP Mode (emulator, and this is a rather spiffy thing)
* Pro lets you join a domain (you probably don't care)
* Pro gives you network backup in addition to local backup (um, yay?)
Summary: Home Premium is pretty lame for power users based on the RD thing alone

The big differentiators between Pro and Ultimate:
* Ultimate gives you bitlocker (drive encryption)
* Ultimate lets you install all Windows languages (important for my audience, you probably REALLY don't care!)
Summary: Pro probably fine for you

(I don't understand why we can't stick to just one version or max two)

As for the question about GPE, I can tell you that since moving up past XP, I've never needed to touch it. Your mileage may vary.

Regardless, I recommend Pro. Make a trip up to Seattle and get it much cheaper... ;)

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Re: Laptops

Post by thacon » Tue Aug 31, 2010 9:23 pm

Did you end up getting the XPS? I went against my own advice and bought another HP. I was seduced by the dm4's nice specs for ~$800, but it's a lemon, so it's going back and I'm once again committing to never buying another HP. I was looking for something else in the 14" or 14.1" range and came across the Studio 14. I've had bad luck with Dell desktops, but I have no experience with Dell laptops.

The alternative is to buy a business class Lenovo and sacrifice screen/graphics for build quality.

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Re: Laptops

Post by stupac2 » Tue Aug 31, 2010 9:31 pm

What is this, the day of people necroing my old advise threads? I did buy the XPS and I really like it.

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Re: Laptops

Post by Kelemvor » Wed Sep 01, 2010 12:15 am

In the "never thought I'd need it, now that I have it I love it", along with smart phones, text plans, and the laptop itself:

Backlit keyboard. If I ever have to give back my work laptop and get my own, I'm making sure I pay the $40 or whatever it is to get this. So great for people who get way too excited about speed runs and wake up at 3 am, can't sleep, and don't want to wake other people up, so end up playing in the dark. In the bathtub.

I mean, uh, I hear it's really great for that, because that's not me, no sir.

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