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Author Topic: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy  (Read 8672 times)

Thrillho

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Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« on: 28 Jun 2013, 11:36 »

I have decided a laptop would be a good idea for various reasons.

I'm looking to get one on credit so that I don't have a huge hole in my pocket. I'm getting a 1TB hard drive in it because MUSIC.

I know not to get a Dell because in my experience they have zero customer service. What would be a decent brand to get?

Also, I know s'nowt about the bits that go inside it apart from that. I want a computer that runs quickly with a lot of tabs open and videos playing, but at a bare minimum cost because I won't use it for games.

Also, fuck Windows 8, but I'll get it if I must.

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mtmerrick

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #1 on: 28 Jun 2013, 12:35 »

Things to think about:

-you wanted speed but not necessarily power. Best way to do this is with a SSD,  but they don't come as large as 1 to. So how much storage do you actually need (as opposed to want)?
-avoid AMD/ATI chips like the plague
-what Screen size were you thinking about?
-How much battery life do you want/need?
-is weight/thickness a concern?
-Do you need a disc drive?
-feelings towards touchscreen laptops or convertible/hybrid PCs?
-i know you said "minimum cost", but roughly how much do you have budgeted out for this thing?
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Thrillho

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #2 on: 28 Jun 2013, 12:57 »

I love you Primo.

What's an SSD? And as for need, I guess I only need maybe 500GB at this point. Screen size I'd not considered but I'd like quite a big one. Battery life I want as much as I can get. Weight/thickness doesn't bother me much. I do need a disc drive for ripping music and watching DVDs. No desire for a touch screen.

No idea cost wise. Maybe £300ish? What is that, $550?
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snalin

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #3 on: 28 Jun 2013, 13:01 »

More opinions coming soon, but an SSD is basically a super-fast hard drive. It's much more expensive than "normal" hard drives per GB of storage space, but the programs installed on it runs much better. If you have Windows living on an SSD instead of the good ol' hard drives, your start up time will be more than halved, and everything will be a good bit faster. I'd not recommend getting 500GB worth of SSD, as that'll be expensive, but a small SSD for programs plus a large, cheap and slow drive for music and movies is pretty much perfect.
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snalin

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #4 on: 28 Jun 2013, 13:09 »

A small SSD drive for the OS and your programs, and then a large HD drive for files like music is perfect, and shouldn't be too expensive.

One thing to look out for; in some online shops, you can get the extra harddrive instead of a DVD drive. If you (like me) haven't actually used a cd in years, that's a good alternative, as it'll get you both the SSD speed and the affordable HD without the laptop having to be fat enough to fit those two drives and space for a DVD. Also the kind of online shops where you can mix and match component sounds like what you're looking for - usually when you buy pre made options, the components scale together. So they combine the big hard drive you need for music with the kind of processors and graphics cards that are much better than what you need, and if you get something with the kind of power that's enough for your needs, it'll probably have too little drive space.

If you're not playing games, you can save a lot by finding computers that doesn't have any fancy graphics cards. I think most onboard (included in the motherboard) graphics solutions these days can handle HD streams and movies fine, so ditch all the alternatives that says GTX or NVIDIA anywhere on the specs listings, as they can quickly add some hundreds of USD to the price.

The hybrid tablet/PCs are, in my experience, often not big on storage space, so if you get one, you'll need that extra storage from elsewhere. Also touching screens on laptops are stupid, but that is, I realize, a very subjective opinion. Still stupid. Unless you think not having to have a mice would be the best.

Windows 8 isn't that bad - ask someone you know (or someone here) with a bit of google-fu, and you can strip away all the stupid from 8 and be left with a slightly faster 7.

Otherwise I'll need a budget to give actual advice. Something like this will cover everything you need comfortably, but if that's too expensive, you can get by on cheaper alternatives. Note: does not have the SSD we've been talking into the skies.
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Masterpiece

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #5 on: 28 Jun 2013, 15:03 »

Windows 8 isn't that bad - ask someone you know (or someone here) with a bit of google-fu, and you can strip away all the stupid from 8 and be left with a slightly faster 7.

Also bear in mind that a huge update is coming that will allow you to avoid Windows 8 design elements even better.


I would very strongly advise you to use a laptop before you commit to buying it. Hold it in your hands and interact with it for a while, take it into your hands, etc. The best specs won't help you if the device you're using doesn't feel good in your hands.

I agree with what Snalin said about laptops with touch - most laptop hinges will give away with the slightest of touches, and you'll end up with a wobbling screen.

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #6 on: 28 Jun 2013, 17:40 »

Well, here's the problem - Dual hard drives or highly configurable options so not come at "minimal cost"

In your situation, I think a laptop with a hybrid drive would be beneficial to you. Or a smaller (256 GB?) SSD (to keep costs down)

An i3 or i5 CPU from the past year should be exactly what you need.

Large screens normally come at the expense of battery life, so, something to consider.
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Thrillho

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #7 on: 28 Jun 2013, 18:10 »

Thinking about it, I don't even need the big hard drive. I only really need a laptop that runs fast, has a decent battery life and decent sized screen. The big hard drive is optional. I just want something cheap that I can take around me with me and write on.
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snalin

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #8 on: 29 Jun 2013, 09:54 »

You could go for something like a chromebook, if you know that you'll always have internet ready. It's not a powerhouse, but it's also super cheap and will probably run fairly well. All storage - files, music, etc. - is done on google drive, since there's almost no room on the actual laptop. You get 100GB google drive space for free, anything extra has monthly costs (400GB for $20/month, last I checked). If you've got a smartphone, storing all of your music online and then bouncing it back to the phone when you feel like listening to it offline will probably work well. If you don't have a problem with using google docs for writing stuff, it sounds like a good deal.
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mtmerrick

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #9 on: 29 Jun 2013, 12:08 »

Chromebooks are great, but he needed an optical drive, which ChromeOS does not support ;)
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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #10 on: 29 Jun 2013, 14:09 »

Fuck guys, the man wants a portable music player and you suggest Solid State Drives? (assuming that's what SSD stands for). Overshooting for his needs a little bit, aren't we?

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #11 on: 29 Jun 2013, 14:21 »

He said a fast and portable computer is important to him. An SSD is the best way to get that. And they're not that expensive anymore, TBH.
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de_la_Nae

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #12 on: 29 Jun 2013, 15:09 »

I dunno man, I'm out of touch I'll allow, but that's still adding $50-100 on, isn't it? It's faster, you're right about that as far as I know, but...

Maybe I spent too much time in the dial-up age.

de_la_Nae

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #13 on: 29 Jun 2013, 15:12 »



Also bear in mind that a huge update is coming that will allow you to avoid Windows 8 design elements even better.



I feel like I should make a backtracking joke.

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #14 on: 29 Jun 2013, 15:22 »

There is a ridiculously noticeable price difference between SSD and HDD. Being cheaper than their previous prices doesn't change that.

This doesn't change that it has a lot of advantages such as faster boot and load times, not to mention the lower power usage, but buying one still kind of stings when a 2tb HDD can be gotten for about $90.
« Last Edit: 29 Jun 2013, 15:27 by ackblom12 »
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ankhtahr

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #15 on: 29 Jun 2013, 15:40 »

While I like SSDs for their sturdiness due to the lack of moving parts, I'd still be careful with using them as the only or main drive. The limited write cycles might become a problem, when caching and swapping are not redirected to a hard drive.

Re: notebook: Well, I like Lenovo ThinkPads very much, even though the build quality detoriated when Lenovo took over business from IBM. They are extremely sturdy and well built. They just don't fit the "cheap" requirement.

Also I don't see why AMD chips should be avoided at all costs. While the performance of their high end processors may not be on par with Intel's, they're fine for most work if you don't need extreme power, while being affordable. Also they are very energy efficient.
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ackblom12

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #16 on: 29 Jun 2013, 15:41 »

Yeah, AMD is great for the most part unless you're needing it for some incredibly CPU intensive work. Or if you Overclock, but that's about as useless as you can get nowdays with PCs unless you just find it fun.
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mtmerrick

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #17 on: 29 Jun 2013, 15:59 »

I've had terrible reliability issues with AMD and ATI, and severe compatibility issues with ATI. Also, AMD and ATI chips run VERY hot - I've seen the heat from them actually cause damage to other components a few times.

SSDs are only a big deal when it comes to large sizes. Gareth said he values speed over storage space - this is significant. Sure, for the price of a good 128 or a cheap 200 GB SSDS you can get a 1 TB HDD. But why? 1 TB is an absolutely excessive amount of storage for 90% of people, and it will be much slower, more prone to damage, and quicker to fail.

@anhk- life cycles of SSDs aren't really a concern anymore. Modern SSDs outlast modern HDDs in nearly all scenarios.
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de_la_Nae

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #18 on: 29 Jun 2013, 16:12 »

If Gareth's got the money, the suppliers, and the will, have fun. It struck me that this might be a case where you are well-meaningly encouraging someone to overspend, is all. I know budget is usually one of my highest limiting factors in purchasing upgrades.

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #19 on: 29 Jun 2013, 16:16 »

Here's the thing though, I'm not good for these discussions, because I think what Gareth needs, from his description, is an MP3 player and a notebook, but I get that there are almost assuredly several other uses he'd like to get out of a laptop thing.

ackblom12

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #20 on: 29 Jun 2013, 16:18 »

And I've used AMD cpus almost exclusively for close to 15 years and never had an ounce off trouble with them.
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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #21 on: 29 Jun 2013, 16:19 »

Same here. My current laptop has an AMD CPU and I've never had any problems with it.
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ankhtahr

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #22 on: 29 Jun 2013, 16:21 »

I never ran into any trouble with AMD or ATI chips. Especially the newer CPUs from AMD are great in energy efficiency, at least on par with Intel i5s. Energy efficiency is always related to heat efficiency.

@anhk- life cycles of SSDs aren't really a concern anymore. Modern SSDs outlast modern HDDs in nearly all scenarios.

SLC SSDs are very reliable indeed, but are not at all affordable. Most customer SSDs are MLC, and try to create reliability by adding error discovery systems and enough spare space. If you don't use the space of the SSD completely it will likely remain usable longer, and if you take precautions SSDs will work great for a long time, but I wouldn't rely on them completely. With cheaper SSDs even a controller failure can happen, making all data unaccessable. When using a SSD always make backups on ordinary hard drives. Data loss will probably occur at some point.

p.s. Warning - while you were typing 4 new replies have been posted. You may wish to review your thinking speed.
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mtmerrick

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #23 on: 29 Jun 2013, 16:26 »

@nae - Actually, I am factoring price into this - a lightweight laptop with a decent battery, a smaller SSD, and no GPU will actually be much cheaper than the other way to get that same level of performance - a computer with a pretty good graphics card. He said he won't be gaming or anything like that, so having a GPU just to run your OS nice and smooth is a hilarious waste of money and resources. Plus he wants good battery life and a GPU is a battery hog.

I'm sure he had his reasons for wanting a media laptop and not a smartphone/tablet ;)

@ people taking about AMD
*shrug* my experience says different from yours I guess. Ive worked on hundreds of computers (not really exaggerating) and if someone has a dead computer 90% of the time it's either HDD failure, an HP with cascade system failure (everything going at once), or AMD/ATI related issues. If you've had good luck with them... Good for you. But I'm inclined to say it is just luck on your part.

@anhk- and with the high failure rates of HDDs, it's really just a good idea to do regular backups of your files no matter what type of computer you have.

(also there have been 6 posts since I started writing this)
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ackblom12

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #24 on: 29 Jun 2013, 16:31 »

Merrick, believe it or not, you are not the only person to have done years worth of work on computers. Different experiences and opinions are fine, but I'd prefer if you stop with the condescending attitude.

The smallest HD I'd ever recommend for an SSD in a Laptop is 256gb. For an SSD this is likely to run you $170+. That's 2 - 3 times the price of a 1tb HD. It's not just a small increase in price.
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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #25 on: 29 Jun 2013, 16:33 »

I've worked with lots of computers, and in my experience most of the dead computers have been Dells with Exploding Capacitor Syndrome.
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mtmerrick

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #26 on: 29 Jun 2013, 16:37 »

@cesium - everyone I know has avoided dell's like the plague for as long as I've known them, so I have very little experience to speak of with that brand.

I have watched someone's alienware die a spectacular death, however. :P
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cesium133

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #27 on: 29 Jun 2013, 16:38 »

The university I'm at has a contract with Dell, so unfortunately I couldn't avoid them. It didn't help that all the computers in our lab were the same model, bought at the same time, all with the same defect that caused the capacitors to blow up at the same time.
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mtmerrick

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #28 on: 29 Jun 2013, 16:40 »

I am imagining a massive room of computers all screaming out at once,  then suddenly silenced  :psyduck:
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ankhtahr

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #29 on: 29 Jun 2013, 16:44 »

I remember our school. They had faulty capacitors in their PSUs. As in, half a year after putting them up, we had around one blown up PSU per day. Great Comp Sc lessons when you're in the admin team of your school  :mrgreen:

*blam* *surprised scream*

"oh, well, we got another one…"
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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #30 on: 29 Jun 2013, 17:10 »

1 TB is an absolutely excessive amount of storage for 90% of people.
Sorry, but that argument is just not valid. I am storing huge amounts of image data on my PC (basically all the pictures I took since I had access to a digicam. That's what most people do. And that requires storage space.

mtmerrick

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #31 on: 29 Jun 2013, 17:20 »

True but how much data does that actually make up? 50 gigs, maybe 75? That's assuming you're an absolute photodog and have a high-megapixel camera.

(this whole argument changes though, if Gareth stockpiles HD movies or lossless audio. Do you, Gareth?)
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ackblom12

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #32 on: 29 Jun 2013, 17:23 »

Not to mention that it gives you the option if you change your mind about wanting to store stuff on it.
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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #33 on: 29 Jun 2013, 17:35 »

The statement "X amount of storage is excessive for most people" has a tendency of becoming false as a product of time period Y.

For example, "100 MB of storage is excessive for most people" would have been viewed as accurate when I purchased my first computer, about 15 years ago.
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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #34 on: 29 Jun 2013, 17:56 »

640 kilobytes ought to be enough for anyone.  :roll:
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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #35 on: 29 Jun 2013, 19:25 »

They way I see it, when it comes to laptops, you have two choices; buy a solid one, or a cheap one.
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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #36 on: 30 Jun 2013, 00:39 »

The university I'm at has a contract with Dell, so unfortunately I couldn't avoid them. It didn't help that all the computers in our lab were the same model, bought at the same time, all with the same defect that caused the capacitors to blow up at the same time.

And when the issue was identified, if the IT people were sufficiently on the ball to be in touch, Dell were round to replace all the affected components FOC regardless of age and warranty status (I had just two of that model).  Capacitors are a real pain, though.  I've had two audio interfaces fail in the last week, a MOTU and an E-MU, both with power supply cap problems.

Dell also do this sort of replacement proactively; I had a couple of failures of three-year-old hard disks (in RAID, so no data was lost), and the third time Dell identified that the disks concerned were part of a suspect batch and sent me replacements for all my disks that came from that batch without my even asking. (What's more, the new disks were four times the size of the originals, so I got a useful upgrade along the way!)

On AMD vs Intel:  I can't speak for comparative reliability, because I've never had a cpu failure ever.  Intel made a big efficiency and performance mis-step with the Pentium 4 range, and AMD got the edge for those years; but with the Core-2 range Intel took the technical lead back decisively and still have it.  But the difference is small when pricing is considered as well.
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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #37 on: 30 Jun 2013, 00:48 »

640 kilobytes ought to be enough for anyone.  :roll:

He was being so modern there... - I got along with my pile of punched cards just fine; when my shoe box got full, I got another one.
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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #38 on: 30 Jun 2013, 02:26 »

I think we got greedy with floppy disks - although I do miss buying those ones that were opaque colours. Made data storage exciting!

Ok Gareth - I haven't purchased a new laptop since 2009. Still, I will say that most companies will say that Laptop X is so good because it has 1tb Hard Drive space and 4gb RAM. They will balance this out with a shit processor and more than likely have a terrible fan. One of the main issues I've seen people have with laptops is the design of airflow and how you let the thing cool down - my girlfriend's Acer (AVOID) just has the air outlet on the bottom - where you'd have it covered by your lap, really.

Go for a reputable brand, have a decent amount of storage space on the thing without sacrificing processing power. You're not going to get something brilliant for £300 but it will certainly suit your needs - you could possibly consider a refurbished laptop.

Plus, usually if you buy these online there's the ability to chuck in an external HDD at a discount, so look out for that. 1tb can be as little as £35.

Also, this might interest you: http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/test-centre/laptop/3214583/group-test-whats-best-ultraportable-laptop/
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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #39 on: 30 Jun 2013, 04:10 »

My sister has an Acer laptop with comparatively high specs, and it's fast, thin, light and quiet. Of course, it's my anecdotal evidence versus Lupercal's, so you should really just look for information on the specific model you're planning on buying if you want to know how reliable it is.

If you ask me, you shouldn't bother with anything less than 4GB of RAM and a dual-core processor. If I were to buy a laptop I'd definitely want one with an SSD, but I have no idea if laptops with SSDs are actually on the market, and affordable.
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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #40 on: 30 Jun 2013, 06:27 »

Holy shit look what happened.

I've realised that I don't need the 1TB hard drive on this laptop. I'm mostly going to use it for writing articles and browsing the internet around the house/in coffee shops/libraries because my current place has terrible internet. If I eventually get rid of my current desktop, I can just get an external 1TB hard drive when the time comes.

I think something cheap and cheerful should do. I was looking at something in PC World yesterday that was about £350, but I can pay it off within six months (which was my plan, because I can't afford to buy something outright). I should've written down what it was.

Thanks for all the advice folks. I'll let y'all know whatever I decide on.

Also I'd rather get AIDS than get a Dell [/exaggeration]
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snalin

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #41 on: 30 Jun 2013, 08:33 »

If I were to buy a laptop I'd definitely want one with an SSD, but I have no idea if laptops with SSDs are actually on the market, and affordable.

You get a lot of laptops with SSDs, but you get back to the scaling problem - outlets scale the components in the computers together, so if you're looking at a laptop with an SSD, there's usually at least an high-end i5 and 8GB ram with a decent graphics card as well. The high performance, but not graphically powerful combination is kinda rare. It would be perfectly possible to build a decent dual-core 4GB thing with an SSD and nothing fancy on top for not that much, but it's not something you see for sale anywhere.
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cesium133

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #42 on: 30 Jun 2013, 09:12 »

The university I'm at has a contract with Dell, so unfortunately I couldn't avoid them. It didn't help that all the computers in our lab were the same model, bought at the same time, all with the same defect that caused the capacitors to blow up at the same time.

And when the issue was identified, if the IT people were sufficiently on the ball to be in touch, Dell were round to replace all the affected components FOC regardless of age and warranty status (I had just two of that model).  Capacitors are a real pain, though.  I've had two audio interfaces fail in the last week, a MOTU and an E-MU, both with power supply cap problems.

Dell also do this sort of replacement proactively; I had a couple of failures of three-year-old hard disks (in RAID, so no data was lost), and the third time Dell identified that the disks concerned were part of a suspect batch and sent me replacements for all my disks that came from that batch without my even asking. (What's more, the new disks were four times the size of the originals, so I got a useful upgrade along the way!)

On AMD vs Intel:  I can't speak for comparative reliability, because I've never had a cpu failure ever.  Intel made a big efficiency and performance mis-step with the Pentium 4 range, and AMD got the edge for those years; but with the Core-2 range Intel took the technical lead back decisively and still have it.  But the difference is small when pricing is considered as well.
We got replacements (IT gave us some spare computers they had), but I still had to reinstall the software we need to run the equipment in the lab, which was a bit of a pain.
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Lupercal

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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #43 on: 30 Jun 2013, 15:28 »

My sister has an Acer laptop with comparatively high specs, and it's fast, thin, light and quiet. Of course, it's my anecdotal evidence versus Lupercal's, so you should really just look for information on the specific model you're planning on buying if you want to know how reliable it is.

I'm sure that a high-spec Acer isn't too bad - with the lower budget laptops everything important is sacrificed. The guy in the repair shop we took her computer to said "all I get in here are Dells and Acers". She was a student at the time and the majority of students get those £300ish Dells/Acers/Toshibas. I use Dell desktops at work and they're fine but not great.
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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #44 on: 01 Jul 2013, 03:20 »

Dell at work are fine, and their pro support is second to none.  I've little experience of domestic Dells, but what I've seen was not inspiring, and the stories of how bad their support is are very persistent.
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Re: Help Gareth decide on a laptop to buy
« Reply #45 on: 01 Jul 2013, 03:51 »

The trick is that all home-grade machines, I don't care who makes them, are shit. (Apple is weird, and is the exception to everything in this post, as they don't really have a "consumer" and a "business" line, although they're more consumer-oriented. But their machines tend to be built with something resembling quality, unlike most consumer machines. Which is why they cost as much as everyone else's business machines.)

Business grade machines are where you'll get something durable and meant to be repaired easily. Then again, you can get the odd lemon... (case in point, the OptiPlex GX280, or GPU failures on the Latitude D630 (then again, literally every laptop manufacturer got hit by that one) - I can do D630 boards in 21 minutes.)

And, business support tends to be better than home user support (even if you're just buying a business-grade machine), again for all manufacturers, at least in the US.

I'll note that #iwork4dell (yes, the hashtag is obligatory, I know), providing on-site enterprise support. Basically, the client that I support pays a monthly fee, and gets computers, dedicated people to install and maintain them (literally, I work 8 hours a day at my client's local facility, and support no other clients), a US-based helpdesk dedicated to them, and even on-site parts, and a 10 business hour (with some exceptions) service level agreement.
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