View Full Version : Help purchasing a laptop

Aug 23rd, 2006, 06:48 AM
Ok, so I am going to pretend I know nothing about computers right now. Why? Because I am currently in the process of searching for a laptop and am having a headache of a time. Why? Because I'm very picky and I am indecisive about almost everything I buy, particularly $200 or more ;) So...for those of you who know some things about laptops, can you tell me your top three things to look for when buying a laptop...minus the processing speed, and or more importantly, some suggested laptops and or some good places to purchase them.

I will be using the laptop for school...but will not likely take it on campus, but because it's a laptop, I also want one that'll offer an above average dvd viewing experience, ability to handle multi-tasking as I frequently use photoshop, dreamweaver and other high resource programs and must be $1000 or less. That's why I'm lookin for someone who knows bargins ;)

I, myself, have always owned desktops, so that makes me less confident about purchasing. There are some key laptops I'm looking at and certain specs, but I want to hear from others, so maybe if I hear particular choices I'm considering it'll brighten my lightbulb to purchase ;)

nigel - dani fan
Aug 27th, 2006, 01:18 PM
Hi. I'm on my 3rd laptop - I use desktop PCs as well (I keep my old ones so I can try out my software on different OS's, and because they're not worth much, and are still useful).
Laptops are all about compromises, so your choice has to be based on your priorities.
1. screen size. bigger is nice, but it means the whole thing is bigger, so is less convenient to carry around. consider a smaller box and a flat screen where you use it most.
2. speed/power - means shorter battery life. even if you want to use an invertor to run off a car/boat/caravan battery, you may find the current is excessive. Some also have high surges, which can cause problems.
High power also means HOT. ventilation slots in the bottom of the case means don't use it on your lap (or anywhere but a hard surface).
3. if possible, try out the keyboard and mouse (stick/pad..). make sure you get on with it! consider an external keyboard or numeric keypad where you use it most.
4. if you're on the move, the ones with a mains input save you carrying a separate power supply, but means it's heavier.
5. I used to recommend Toshiba, but even they have had problems (e.g. the sat. pro 6100 power 'issue'). I currently have a Fuji/Siemens, which seems to be good value for money.
6. Get the biggest memory option you can afford, preferably as one module. They often have only two 'slots', so you may have to remove one when you want to add some later.
7. If you record DVDs, make sure it can handle DVD+R and DVD-R for best compatibility.
8. check the USB power availability. If you need an external powered hub, it's not so portable ('internal', removable drives may be driven by the USB, reducing that available for external devices)
9. be careful with extra-widescreens - not all programs are compatible (and wallpaper won't fit) ;)

I hope this helps. I can't comment on good deals in the US; check out sites like Amazon, or other price comparison sites - preferably ones with customer reviews. Don't pay too much for something brand new - wait to see if there are any recalls/problems..

Aug 27th, 2006, 02:35 PM
1. trackpad
2. trackpad
3. trackpad


Aug 27th, 2006, 08:08 PM
it all depends what you want to do with it.

I won't recommend brands or specific configuration, just an idea what you need to look to.

You surely will want to have a machine that is Vista capable, keep that in mind.

First the processor. I would definitely go with a dual core, intel centrino duo or AMD Sempron 64 dual core. The price difference with single core is not significant. With AMD you will get a little more horse power but less battery life, the extra power will only matter if you run video editing applications or other processor intensive tasks.

RAM, 1 GB is the absolute minimum, if you can strech it to 2 GB better.

Video card, many low price laptop come with the Intel integrated graphics card. I personally don't like that and I prefer a separated video card with at least 256 mb of onboard (not shared) memory, make sure the card is compatible with Vista, it's not just a matter of on board memory.

If you do go with the Intel card, make sure you get the 950 chipset.

Harddrive, the bigger the better, 100 GB is pretty standard, you can go a little bigger but I would personally prefer to go a little faster, a 7200 rpm 100 GB drive is a little more expensive than a 5400 rpm 120 GB, but the difference in performance might well justify the extra money and the loss of 20 GB. Don't go to anything smaller than 100 GB since Vista takes about 18 GB of space.

Make sure you have an internam minpcmcia wi-fi card, 802.11g is a must, 802.11a is nice to have.

You need at least 2 USB 2.0 ports.

A firewire port is nice to have but can be expensive, make sure you at least get an s-video port, to connect to a tv.

A bluetooth card is also nice to have, they have dropped in price and it will allow you to use a wireless bluetooth mouse or to synchronize with a bluetooth enabled phone or PDA, also, you could use the cellphone to connect to a cellular network.

The screen size is totally up to you, bigger screen size means a more bulky machines and heavier, but of course you get a bigger screen, so you have to factor if you want mobility or a big screen.

Don't get a floppy drive, unnecessary, get a dual layer dvd burner and make sure it can record dvd +-R/RW.

Most laptops can with a 10/100 ethernet card and a 56kbps modem. You won't likely use the modem much but you might eventually want to connect through dial-up, the ethernet card is a must.

There are some nice to have features that are only available on business laptops and therefore will increase the price significantly, like finger print readers or disaster recovery features.

Also, it could be a good idea to have a digital card reader, in case you want to download digital photos from a digital camera, there are some 5 in 1 or 9 in 1 models and are not too expensive, you can always add that later.

Some laptops can with built in webcams, it's probably unnecessary since a webcam is quite cheap.

OS. If you buy it now your only option is XP, you can go home, professional or media center, find out what options you have to upgrade to Vista. XP Professional will cost more but gives you features you might need like the ability to join a domain, use remote desktop or install IIS.

Vista will come in 5 flavours (in the North American market).

you won't be able (I won't want) to get the enterprise edition, the business edition is the equivalent of XP professional with the same differences.

Home edition comes in two flavours, basic and premium, the premium version has all the multimedia features.

Ultimate edition has the best of both worlds.

Of course, they are not yet available and there are not prices, but the vendors might have an idea of the upgrade options that will be available, you might be able to updgrade at little extra cost but you might need to pick the right version of XP.

Can't think of anything else.

nigel - dani fan
Aug 27th, 2006, 09:19 PM
you might prefer a USB wireless adaptor to PCMCIA; firstly they often come with a short extension, so you can adjust the position of the aerial, and secondly, the 'bulge' on the end of the PCMCIA one I have prevents me from getting another card in next to it.
I'd be surprised if you could get dual core, 1Gb, 100Gb and DVD+/-R for $1000.

Aug 27th, 2006, 10:00 PM
you might prefer a USB wireless adaptor to PCMCIA; firstly they often come with a short extension, so you can adjust the position of the aerial, and secondly, the 'bulge' on the end of the PCMCIA one I have prevents me from getting another card in next to it.
I'd be surprised if you could get dual core, 1Gb, 100Gb and DVD+/-R for $1000.

I don't agree, the pcmcia cards are optimized to work with the chipset, and with an external card you are using one USB 2.0 port.

And you can get a Dell Inspiron 6400 or 640M with 120GB harddrive, dual core processor and 1 gb and dvd dual layer burner for under $900 Canadian.

Aug 30th, 2006, 04:41 AM
Wow, somebody actually responded ;) Thanks a lot for your extensive suggestions. I'm currently looking at Dell's laptops, particularly because I can get a discount through my university. I'm looking at the Inspiron E1505 and E1705, duo core systems.

Aug 30th, 2006, 04:47 AM
I'd be surprised if you could get dual core, 1Gb, 100Gb and DVD+/-R for $1000.

Yes, actually through Dell University, I can get the Insipron E1505 for $965. This includes Duo core 1.60 Ghz, 1GB, 120 GB, DVD +/-R, Antivirus and firewall and 3 yr. warranty. But this is with 15.4 screen, and I haven't decided whether I want 15.4 or 17.