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 Post subject: Laptops
PostPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2013 11:29 am 
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My eldest daughter will be heading off to a special boarding school for the last two years of her high school career in the fall. I plan to purchase a laptop for her. I have never owned a laptop and am looking for advice on who makes good laptops and what to look for in configuring a laptop for her.

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 Post subject: Re: Laptops
PostPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2013 2:32 pm 
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Just to head off a bunch of questions, you may want to list what she will likely be using it for.

Word/Excel?
Any idea what other apps might be needed for schoolwork?
Gaming?
Music/Video Consumption?
Photography?
Internet?
etc.
etc.

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 Post subject: Re: Laptops
PostPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2013 2:40 pm 
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The MS Surface looks like a great blending of tablet and Laptop, even if it has tanked sales wise.

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 Post subject: Re: Laptops
PostPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2013 2:58 pm 
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If you get a Surface, be sure to go for the Surface Pro instead of the Surface RT - the RT is just a tablet, but the Pro allows for the installation of programs, and is really a laptop computer on a tablet (but also pick up one of the cover/keyboards, which makes it more laptop-like).

I've got a Surface RT, and though I wish I had the Pro instead, anytime I travel or go to meetings, I take that along instead of lugging around a laptop.


That said, if you are set on traditional laptops, good brands are Lenovo, Dell, Asus, probably in that order.

As mentioned above, specs would depend largely upon usage.

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 Post subject: Re: Laptops
PostPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2013 5:58 pm 
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Dell and Lenovo laptops are good. stick with the enterprise models if you can; they are generally more dependable than the models made for home / education / small business, and parts availability is generally good in case something happens.

we have had good luck with Dell Latitude D620 and D630 laptops. my wife and my mother both have D630's. I have no personal experience with Dell's current enterprise lineup. Right now I'm using a Lenovo T410 and I have no complaints.

http://outlet.dell.com is a particularly good place to go. you can get often get last year's model refurbished or new at a big discount over the newest models. since the enterprise lineup is typically more expensive anyway, the savings are important. if I were looking for a new Dell laptop for a student today I'd probably start by looking at the Latitude E6430 and go from there.

I don't recommend the 'consumer' line of laptops unless you plan to buy a new one every year or two. they're not exactly "unreliable", but they tend to wear out quickly, developing problems like finicky power connections that you have to fiddle with or broken lid latches. my Latitude D620 (and now my ThinkPad T410) go with me everywhere I go, pretty much every day, and they see thousands and thousands of power connection & disconnections per year, and easily as many lid closures and opening, and show no signs of wearing out.

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 Post subject: Re: Laptops
PostPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2013 6:04 pm 
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I've heard that dealing with Dell support is a pain in the ass. I can certainly say that Dell's use of non-standard parts in their desktops is a pain in the ass. Dunno about their laptops.

Big thing I think is Intel i5 minimum and take a hard look at the video card. My ex-gf picked up a laptop that was cheap but also so poor in specs that it couldn't even smoothly run her Facebook games.

You could consider Apple, which I understand can be booted into Windows 7 and is a good machine, but then you're paying out the ass.

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 Post subject: Re: Laptops
PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2013 9:18 am 
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From a business end, dell support is on-point. Never had an issue. Quick. Helpful.

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 Post subject: Re: Laptops
PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2013 9:49 am 
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I assume she will be using standard office applications. She will also be taking a summer course on programming and plans to pursue other computer courses. I honestly have no idea what kind of things will be required for that in computing power. Like her father, she also plays games. I have been looking at gaming laptops since I figure those will be high performance machines with good graphics subsystems and I can get them with Windows 7. General specs I have been looking at:

Windows 7
17" screen
Intel Haswell CPU (i7-4800MQ)
8 GB RAM
Hybrid Hard Drive
NVidia video card - model varies, latest one I looked at had a GTX 770M with 3 GB RAM

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 Post subject: Re: Laptops
PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2013 11:59 am 
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it has not been my impression that gaming laptops do a particularly good job of dissipating heat, so if you go that route also get a laptop cooler. but take that with a grain of salt; I have never owned a 'gaming' laptop myself so I only hear about this second-hand. excessive heat can damage components, and on laptops it is rare for any component to be replaceable without replacing the entire laptop. on a desktop you can manage heat damage by improving the cooling system or replacing the damaged component, but these options typically aren't available on laptops.

also, with a screen that big the laptop isn't going to be as portable; it may be difficult to find a bag big enough to hold it and schoolbooks too. this is probably not a problem in a high school / boarding school environment where the machine will live in her room, but in a college / campus environment it would make a difference.

my mother is on her third D630 laptop now. the first one died due to tea spilled in the keyboard and the second one died due to GPU failure probably caused by excessive heat (the first one had Intel graphics and the second one had an nVidia Quadro mobile GPU which was probably a lot more heat-sensitive. for her third machine she's back on Intel graphics again). we have also replaced her screen once due to accidental breakage. fortunately the D630 was very popular so it's easy to get replacement parts or even entire refurbished units. as a result, system replacements have been very easy -- we simply remove her hard disk from her old unit and install it in the new one, and she's up and running again. there is no need to reinstall Windows, install any new drivers for new hardware, reinstall anything or migrate any data.

-ken

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 Post subject: Re: Laptops
PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2013 1:16 pm 
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Zirak wrote:
I assume she will be using standard office applications. She will also be taking a summer course on programming and plans to pursue other computer courses. I honestly have no idea what kind of things will be required for that in computing power. Like her father, she also plays games. I have been looking at gaming laptops since I figure those will be high performance machines with good graphics subsystems and I can get them with Windows 7. General specs I have been looking at:

Windows 7
17" screen
Intel Haswell CPU (i7-4800MQ)
8 GB RAM
Hybrid Hard Drive
NVidia video card - model varies, latest one I looked at had a GTX 770M with 3 GB RAM



If you're going with a Windows laptop (ass opposed to Mac), then just go ahead and get a touch screen laptop with Windows 8 on it. But then visit stardock.com and pick up Start8 and ModernMix. This allows you to pick up all of the Windows 8 performance enhancements and general fixes/upgrades over Windows 7, and allows you to use Windows 8 just like Windows 7. I have done this at home and it works perfectly.

As far as the touch screen laptop goes, I just got one at work and I surprisingly use it much more than I thought I would. With the screen so close to my keyboard and hands, it's many times much easier to just touch the screen to select something than it is to use the touchpad on the laptop to navigate the cursor somewhere on the screen. It's a huge convenience when using the laptop on the go. (That said, I don't think I'd get a touch monitor for my home desktop - the distance from where the monitor sits on the desk to the keyboard/hands is too far - easier there to mouse it)

And if you go with touch, then when you buy Office, buy the latest touch-optimized version of Office. It gives you an option to optimize the UI for all the apps for touch, making certain buttons larger and easier to use.


For laptop brands - Lenovo is what I buy for home use, and never had a problem with them. At work I've had both Lenovo and Dell - the Dell has had a couple of issues, but because I deal with my company's support (who in turn deals with Dell's support) it's an easy transaction for me. I don't know what home support for Dell is like. From Slamz' post, it doesn't sound too good.

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 Post subject: Re: Laptops
PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2013 4:01 pm 
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Somewhat off-topic, but I played with Windows 8 a little bit on a smartphone and actually liked it. It's a different way of organizing and laying things out than standard Android/Apple style and I thought I'd probably enjoy using it....on a touchscreen device, anyway. I might even like it on a touchscreen laptop.

From what I've heard and read, though, it's the translation from "touch screen interface" to "mouse" that people hate. I'm in no hurry to try it on my desktop.


We use Lenovo at work, btw. A brief check online shows they're a highly rated brand.

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 Post subject: Re: Laptops
PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2013 5:31 pm 
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I ordered it this afternoon. I may live to regret it but I ordered one from Cyberpower - I've been pleased with the desktops I've purchased from them and I was able to get the most bang for my buck on their laptop configurations. I did go ahead and get it loaded with Win 8 instead of 7 to see if the performance boosts are worthwhile. My daughter despises anything with a touch screen so it is not a touch laptop and we'll have to try out those utilities to get rid of Metro.

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 Post subject: Re: Laptops
PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2013 5:56 pm 
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Zirak wrote:
I ordered it this afternoon. I may live to regret it but I ordered one from Cyberpower - I've been pleased with the desktops I've purchased from them and I was able to get the most bang for my buck on their laptop configurations. I did go ahead and get it loaded with Win 8 instead of 7 to see if the performance boosts are worthwhile. My daughter despises anything with a touch screen so it is not a touch laptop and we'll have to try out those utilities to get rid of Metro.


If you have any questions about Win8 or the stardock utilities once you've got it up and running, let me know. Will be happy to help you work out the kinks (should any arise).

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 Post subject: Re: Laptops
PostPosted: Wed Jun 12, 2013 9:56 am 
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Thanks - and I do appreciate all the tips and advice. I was really torn on going with a more mainstream machine like a Lenovo and the boutique machine I ended up getting. Hopefully I don't end up regretting going the route that gave me greater flexibility in configuration.

I did also order a laptop cooler to address heat concerns.

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 Post subject: Re: Laptops
PostPosted: Wed Jun 12, 2013 1:15 pm 
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You dont need stardock or to spend $5 for a start menu or quicklaunch. Plus Microsoft will be patching Win8 and readding start menu & capability to skip metro this summer.

Also, Lenevo is Chinese owned, why give them more money when there are better alternatives like Asus (Taiwanese)

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 Post subject: Re: Laptops
PostPosted: Wed Jun 12, 2013 1:57 pm 
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Diggles wrote:
You dont need stardock or to spend $5 for a start menu or quicklaunch. Plus Microsoft will be patching Win8 and readding start menu & capability to skip metro this summer.



Windows is adding back the Start Button, but NOT the Start Menu. Clicking on the Win8.1 Start Button takes the user to the metro Start Screen. So, Stardock's Start8 will still be needed if you want the traditional Start Menu. Start8 also gives the ability to remove all of the annoying corner-hover menus, as well as the Charm Bar. Making it exactly like Windows 7.

The article you link to uses a bunch of other apps to use to do some of what I mention. Personally, I'd rather use a single app from a company I have hear of before than a handful of randomly produced apps by people I haven't heard of before. And $5 isn't going to kill anyone's bank. Not on this thread, at least.

And, Stardock's MetroMix allows the user to use any of the metro apps in Windows mode on the desktop, also something that Win8.1 isn't including.

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