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Old 11th February 2015, 12:40 PM   #1
tyr_13
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Laptop Shopping for Friend

After failing to fix my friend's laptop (the forty pin was broken, but sadly something else was fried too), I've been trying to help her find a replacement. We found something, and she wanted to get it right away, but thankfully she can't get it right away so I can do some checking. See, I have been out of that market for long enough to be second guessing what is a good deal and what is not.

She also has some preferences that limit things. First, money. She's looking at around the $500 mark. Second, she doesn't like 'small' laptops, which it turns out includes the old standard 15.6" ones. So, 17" and greater. She wants to do light music editing, unspecified 3d art programs (which from what I can gather are the low powered stuff for light stuff like IMVU, and nothing like CAD), and Photoshop. She can't stand touchscreen, and I've only convinced her to accept Windows 8.1 because she can get 10 for free.

What I found was this. Thoughts?
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Old 11th February 2015, 10:37 PM   #2
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Interesting machine.

Good: 17" screen, 8GB RAM, 1TB disk.

Not as good: No SSD (well, it's a $500 machine, so okay); 1600x900 resolution rather than full 1920x1080 (again, $500...); no a/ac dual-band wifi.

This is running one of AMD's low-power APUs, so it's not going to be as fast as an Intel Core series. But it's the "Beema" version, which is the best of AMD's low-power chips, so it's not terrible either.

I just finally moved off my old Phenom X4 9750 desktop, and this is almost exactly the same speed on CPU benchmarks, so it should be perfectly usable for the tasks you mention.

On the Windows 8.1 side of things, five bucks for Start8 from Stardock makes a world of difference. Turns it from a pain in the butt to a slightly weird version of Windows 7 (while keeping all the improvements Win8 makes to under the hood).
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Old 11th February 2015, 11:10 PM   #3
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Oh, yeah: The Beema is an updated version of the CPU used in the Xbox One and PS4. Same GPU design too, but fewer shaders - 128 vs. 768 on the Xbox One.
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Old 12th February 2015, 10:35 AM   #4
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Yeah, it was very hard to find something that had a nicer processor that didn't also cut a bunch of other stuff. There was an Acer with an i3 3110M, but it had no dedicated video, same screen res, 6GB RAM, and 500GB HDD. Plus that's a dual core, and while faster I'm not sure would be a huge increase over the quad core for Photoshop.

I just don't want to point her towards a bad deal with the little money she does have.
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Old 13th February 2015, 07:37 AM   #5
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I got a great deal from Amazon's warehouse for a "scratched" Lenovo laptop. Almost invisible pin hole that I patched with a dab of superglue.
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Old 13th February 2015, 08:01 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Wudang View Post
I got a great deal from Amazon's warehouse for a "scratched" Lenovo laptop. Almost invisible pin hole that I patched with a dab of superglue.
"Open Box" is the first thing I check at Best Buy.
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Old 13th February 2015, 09:22 AM   #7
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I personally don't have a problem with open box or refurbished items. She kept avoiding them when we were looking, so while she didn't rule them out I get the feeling she's not open to them.

Besides, didn't find any that fit the other requirements. If it were me shopping, there's a $300 dollar refurbished I would have went for, but it isn't as powerful as the other possibilities either.


EDIT: Well now I found this one on Amazon. 2.5 GHz Core i5-4200M 8GB RAM, 750GB hybrid HDD, Intel HD graphics 4600 and AC wifi. Used at $400. That is a much better processor.
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Last edited by tyr_13; 13th February 2015 at 09:48 AM. Reason: to add
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Old 13th February 2015, 09:58 PM   #8
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She refuses to buy a laptop from Amazon.

And I was worried because it is used.
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Old 14th February 2015, 11:10 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by tyr_13 View Post
She refuses to buy a laptop from Amazon.

And I was worried because it is used.

I don't guess it matters much, but did she say why?
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Old 14th February 2015, 03:03 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by quadraginta View Post
I don't guess it matters much, but did she say why?
Nope, and the way she said it coupled with her being in a bad mood and her dislike of last minute changes to big purchases led me to decline inquiry.
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Old 15th February 2015, 10:15 PM   #11
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The only thing I'd add is that if she does a lot of typing the cramped keyboard layout - in particular the lack of space between the enter and shift keys and arrows on the right, may prove frustrating. I have an HP with a similar keyboard, and with a little carelessness the text vanishes from wrong keys. Dell keyboards are usually better in this respect. I think few laptops are designed with real typing in mind, but if she does do much, it's a good idea to try the keyboard.
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Old 16th February 2015, 08:15 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by tyr_13 View Post
Nope, and the way she said it coupled with her being in a bad mood and her dislike of last minute changes to big purchases led me to decline inquiry.

This would be enough for me to withdraw from the entire process.

Asking my advice and then rejecting it does not motivate me to continue offering advice.
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Old 16th February 2015, 09:10 AM   #13
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Generally speaking, is it safe to buy a used laptop? Don't you have to worry about viruses, keystroke loggers, hidden files you really, really don't want, etc.?

Even with a refurb -- I assume they wipe the OS, but wouldn't battery life be a concern?

I'm in the market, too, so any comments on the above would be helpful.
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Old 16th February 2015, 10:26 AM   #14
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That depends on who you're getting it used from, and what checks you do when you get the item. Certified used or refurbished from Amazon or Newegg gives you a return policy for defects effecting function, so if there is an issue it gets sent back. That is a hassle of course, and something to keep in mind. Piece of mind isn't completely worthless though, so buying used isn't for everyone.

I don't worry too much about battery life these days because batteries simply are hugely expensive anymore. A year old battery will likely still last another three at the least, so a $20-50 expense a year earlier than you would have anyway isn't going to dissuade me.


xterra, people have different priorities and I understand if they don't want to take all of my suggestions. It might be a hold over from selling electronics and computers for eleven years, but what others value doesn't have to match what I value. This case is a little different because I'm really invested personally in getting her the actual best for her limited funds. I always want to give people solid information and advice, get them good deals, but in this case I can see how she is enjoying it, and how it might effect the outcomes of her efforts. She's a friend and I want her to be happy, succeeding at her projects is important to her, therefore, they are important to me. I'm more than willing to accept a little curtness without ending my efforts especially when it's coming from a person with many legitimate reasons to be stressed. Besides that, it took her less than half a minute to apologize for being somewhat short with me.

bruto, yeah I know what you mean. She will be doing a TON of typing, so while it isn't something she mentioned, it is something I've been keeping in mind. The Toshiba has a nice positive layout. HP does tend to have less optimal layouts, but that one is pretty well done. The backlight may or may not be useful, but the island style keys tend to hold up better and get far less dirty than traditional spaced ones. At any rate, I noticed she tends to plug a keyboard and mouse in anyway when convenient.

Thanks for the feedback everyone.
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Old 16th February 2015, 12:06 PM   #15
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Let us know what she buys.

ETA, yeah, a quick apology does make a difference. I was thinking about friends who ask for technical assistance and then reject it. You'll recognize this from your sales background and stories from the technicians.
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Last edited by xterra; 16th February 2015 at 12:12 PM.
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Old 16th February 2015, 12:15 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by tyr_13 View Post
That depends on who you're getting it used from, and what checks you do when you get the item. Certified used or refurbished from Amazon or Newegg gives you a return policy for defects effecting function, so if there is an issue it gets sent back. That is a hassle of course, and something to keep in mind. Piece of mind isn't completely worthless though, so buying used isn't for everyone.

I don't worry too much about battery life these days because batteries simply are hugely expensive anymore. A year old battery will likely still last another three at the least, so a $20-50 expense a year earlier than you would have anyway isn't going to dissuade me.
...snip...
Thanks.
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Old 17th February 2015, 01:10 AM   #17
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Another reason for trying the keyboard - the trackpad on my Lenovo with win 8 drove me nuts as the heel of my palm would swipe it and menu bars would swoop up and in and break my concentration. I only enable it when I've forgotten to charge, or forgotten completely, my mouse.
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Old 17th February 2015, 05:04 AM   #18
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One of the best accessories I've ever gotten has been my wireless keyboard. It lets me sit back comfortably with the keyboard on my lap and the laptop on the coffee table.

I've got a Logitech K350 which uses their "Unify" bluetooth variant that will handle up to six of their peripherals with only one USB dongle.

I think the quality of the keyboard should be up to most standards. Good key travel and tactile feedback. Generously spacious. Numeric keypad. A well chosen assortment of dedicated keys placed enough out of the way to not affect normal usage.
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Old 21st February 2015, 10:02 PM   #19
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I ended up driving out there so she could order the Toshiba she originally liked. She was paranoid about ordering online, giving emails and her phone number, so we used my Newegg account. Hopefully it arrives working and she likes it. I'm going to help her set it up though, this time with a free anti-virus, and Ccleaner at the very least. The number of viruses on her old HDD was, troubling.
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Old 22nd February 2015, 07:56 AM   #20
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Install the free version of MalawareBytes, the free version of Kaspersky's TDSSKiller, and a registry cleaner.

Try to get her into the habit of running those once a week.
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Old 22nd February 2015, 08:53 AM   #21
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I hadn't heard of the TDSSKiller before, thanks. I find that Ccleaner's registry cleaner works well enough. Everyone should have Malwarebytes on their computers, but if I could get anyone to run it as often as they should I wouldn't have half the troubles with my family's computers that I do now.
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Old 22nd February 2015, 04:16 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by tyr_13 View Post
I hadn't heard of the TDSSKiller before, thanks. I find that Ccleaner's registry cleaner works well enough. Everyone should have Malwarebytes on their computers, but if I could get anyone to run it as often as they should I wouldn't have half the troubles with my family's computers that I do now.
I run AVG free only and have had no problems.
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