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Author Topic: Laptop Advice (College Edition)  (Read 5493 times)

Avec

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Laptop Advice (College Edition)
« on: 25 Jul 2011, 07:20 »

The goal of this thread is implied in the title (I didn't want to mix this into the Uni thread).

Recently I received a scholarship from a hospital I've been volunteering at for the past couple of years. I've decided to directly fund my laptop in this way. The only issue it seems, is that I don't know exactly what to get. I've read through several crash courses that focused on specs and general buyers knowledge, but drew no real conclusion (you're probably not supposed to based on the generality of these articles). Through my own research I have narrowed down my interests as I already know my major or at least the general path I'll be following in the next four years. Macs just aren't functional for a chemical engineering major. That being said, I need a windows oriented machine.

A small checklist from what I've read (probably will be edited when I hear what you guys have to say)

- 13"-15" screen
- i5 processor
- Backlit chiclet keyboard (not necessary but preferred for nighttime work)
- Weight under six lbs
- 3+ GB Ram
- 300+ GB hard drive

I can peak a little over $1000 in my budget

These three models have stood out so far

1. Toshiba Portege R835-P56X
Quote
http://us.toshiba.com/computers/laptops/portege/R830/R835-P56X/
2. Samsung QX411-W01
Quote
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2388310,00.asp
3. Asus U46E-BAL5
Quote
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2388281,00.asp
4. Dell XPS 15z
Quote
http://www.dell.com/us/p/xps-15z/pd


I know there's a lot of talent here and definitely some wise words of advice that I'll need and will greatly appreciate. Thank you, I will update this accordingly.
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Jimor

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Re: Laptop Advice (College Edition)
« Reply #1 on: 25 Jul 2011, 08:25 »

I'm way behind on the specs evolution, so don't have anything helpful on that front. I do have my standard advice that if you're planning on carrying this around a lot at university, you budget up front for an external backup hard drive (if you don't already have one around). There are too many ways for a laptop to get lost/stolen/broken on campus and around town and you don't want to lose all your work. Just to illustrate, a friend traveling for an exchange program in Germany lost use of his laptop when a lady impatient for the group's taxi to move, drove around it on the sidewalk, running over all their luggage and crushing his computer.
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imagist42

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Re: Laptop Advice (College Edition)
« Reply #2 on: 25 Jul 2011, 11:41 »

My advice is pretty much this:

newegg newegg newegg
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LTK

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Re: Laptop Advice (College Edition)
« Reply #3 on: 25 Jul 2011, 12:25 »

I keep getting surprised how dramatically third-party software cripples laptops with Windows pre-installed. If you have the option, buy your laptop blank, or at least make sure that Windows is supplied on a disc. Students often get discounts on certain editions of Windows and Office. The inconvenience of having to install the OS and assorted programs is far outweighed by the performance gain compared to computers with all sorts of crapware installed.
« Last Edit: 25 Jul 2011, 12:27 by LTK »
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Avec

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Re: Laptop Advice (College Edition)
« Reply #4 on: 25 Jul 2011, 14:29 »

I've heard that before. Can you as a buyer request to get a computer free from most software?
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Re: Laptop Advice (College Edition)
« Reply #5 on: 25 Jul 2011, 14:31 »

My computer is an Asus almost identical to the one you're looking at. I really like it so far. The main thing for me is that the speakers are pretty buggy and don't go very loud. However, the sound is excellent when used with headphones. I've found that the speakers don't work sometimes after waking up from sleep mode. I just got an update that may fix that, though.

Video quality is pretty awesome. And it's fast.

However, my three-and-a-half-year-old Toshiba just died not long ago--motherboard failure. It was still running Vista. So you can see how my little Asus (I do mean little) might be a huge upgrade. But I love it still.

If you get a Toshiba, whatever you do, do not put it in hibernate, ever. I didn't find that out until about a year after I started using the function. :/ Apparently Toshiba representatives say not to do it, according to research I did when it started bugging out on me.

But seriously, I love my Asus right now. I like the hardware--the texture and feeling are nice, as well as how light it is. I love the keyboard style, trackpad, and mouse buttons. It's all very streamlined. (But if you use the arrow keys a lot, be careful because the up arrow is right next to the "end" button.)
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LTK

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Re: Laptop Advice (College Edition)
« Reply #6 on: 25 Jul 2011, 16:06 »

I've heard that before. Can you as a buyer request to get a computer free from most software?

I think you can, but the last time my dad asked for a blank hard drive, the shop wanted to charge him extra for removing/excluding the software from the computer, and of course he didn't want to pay for not buying an operating system. I don't know if that always happens, so you can always try.

Alternatively, you can dive into the deep and reformat the drive yourself (Darik's Boot & Nuke) and install a better Windows version than Home Premium if you have access to one. Most of the time the supplier does supply a Windows install disc in case you fail, but it will most likely have all the pre-installed programs come along with it.

If you do get a laptop with all sorts of crap already on it, the easiest course is to simply uninstall everything you know you don't need (and google everything you're not sure of), which should get rid of all but the most persistent performance hogs.

 Also useful for doing this is checking the list of Startup programs in the msconfig.exe utility. Actually, you can do that right now, every one of you: Start, search for msconfig, enter. In the General tab, select 'Selective Startup', then go to the Startup tab. That lists all of the programs that Windows starts up when finished booting. You can uncheck everything you know you won't need right away, but you do need to keep any antivirus programs, essential drivers, etc. It should make a bit of a difference in how quickly your computer is ready to use after booting up.
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Quote from: snalin
I just got the image of a midwife and a woman giving birth swinging towards each other on a trapeze - when they meet, the midwife pulls the baby out. The knife juggler is standing on the floor and cuts the umbilical cord with a a knifethrow.

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Re: Laptop Advice (College Edition)
« Reply #7 on: 25 Jul 2011, 21:19 »

Do not buy a Dell.
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Re: Laptop Advice (College Edition)
« Reply #8 on: 25 Jul 2011, 23:06 »

Dell's business range (Latitude) is excellent; I supply them to my users (I'm typing this on an 8-year-old Latitude).  I have been unimpressed by their domestic (Inspiron) range, though.  The XPS I haven't seen, but I think a version of it is sold as a Latitude, so I'd guess it's a step above the Inspirons.  Of the others, I'd incline towards the Asus.
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snalin

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Re: Laptop Advice (College Edition)
« Reply #9 on: 26 Jul 2011, 05:31 »

Do not buy a Dell.

Do not buy a HP unless you're planning on re-installing the OS. As LTK says, so much crapware.
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Avec

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Re: Laptop Advice (College Edition)
« Reply #10 on: 29 Jul 2011, 19:21 »

Thank you to all of you guys who contributed! I'm currently typing from new Portege. I'm extremely happy with it.
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Re: Laptop Advice (College Edition)
« Reply #11 on: 10 Aug 2011, 09:01 »

What led you to choose that in the end?

My laptop is a Lenovo X41 tablet with a whole bunch of problems that I think can be fixed without changing the laptop - a host of useless pre-installed software, a tiny harddrive and limited memory. Would anyone suggest upgrading the entire laptop to something new (and if so, what, bearing in mind how stony broke I am) or fixing the above issues bit by bit? I'm leaning towards the latter for price reasons but perhaps it is actually cheaper to just buy a new laptop without those problems.
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Avec

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Re: Laptop Advice (College Edition)
« Reply #12 on: 10 Aug 2011, 18:40 »

Speaking truthfully, it's my first laptop and personal computer so I'd be happy just to have something functional. But this model goes way beyond that. It has just about everything I wanted and needed in a portable computer. For starters the spec's exceed both of the desktops in my house in RAM and hard-drive capacity. Secondly, the battery is designed to last over eight hours on a full charge, a must for someone who's not idle for longer than five minutes. The price was accessible and it weighs less than my empty book-pack, too. In comparison to the laptops I've mentioned earlier, this has the fewest complaints and is likely to stay current for the next several years (so as to avoid having a computer that's not easily updated in hardware and software). I think it's what's suitable to your own interests so honestly I can't guarantee that this is right for everyone, but I'm completely in love with this particular inanimate object.
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Lupercal

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Re: Laptop Advice (College Edition)
« Reply #13 on: 11 Aug 2011, 08:03 »

I was going to suggest Sony Vaio, because I'm on the VGN series and it is great. However, I did spend two hours today updating various bits of Vaio-ware which are entirely pointless that I never use, I should really get rid of them. I also should get that free Windows 7 upgrade shipped to me, its been two years now...
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