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Old 14th November 2015, 10:00 AM   #1
Ampulla of Vater
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Purchasing a Good Laptop

I am buying my son a new laptop for Christmas. I always go to Dell and get one with the most memory possible and the best processor possible, as well as the pro version of the OS. I have done this for years and years, but I am wondering if there is a better brand or even somewhere I should look for comparison reasons.

I never buy one from the store because I have found the memory is woefully insufficient and you usually can only get the home version of the OS. Maybe there is a way to get a decent computer from a retail store and I am just unaware of it.

What is the best way to purchase a decent laptop?
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Old 14th November 2015, 07:27 PM   #2
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I have suggested in the past that people consider buying an off-lease or reconditioned notebook rather than a brand new one. You can get something that is only a couple or years old for much less than half of the original price. The local used notebook store here in Toronto even gives a 1-year warranty on the more "expensive" ones.

The people who followed this advice are still talking to me.
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Old 14th November 2015, 07:51 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Gord_in_Toronto View Post
I have suggested in the past that people consider buying an off-lease or reconditioned notebook rather than a brand new one. You can get something that is only a couple or years old for much less than half of the original price. The local used notebook store here in Toronto even gives a 1-year warranty on the more "expensive" ones.

The people who followed this advice are still talking to me.
I like to recommend "one step below the top of the line" currently being sold. They're cheaper than the "hot" items and will endure very nearly as long.
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Old 15th November 2015, 03:37 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Ampulla of Vater View Post
I am buying my son a new laptop for Christmas. I always go to Dell and get one with the most memory possible and the best processor possible, as well as the pro version of the OS. I have done this for years and years, but I am wondering if there is a better brand or even somewhere I should look for comparison reasons.

I never buy one from the store because I have found the memory is woefully insufficient and you usually can only get the home version of the OS. Maybe there is a way to get a decent computer from a retail store and I am just unaware of it.

What is the best way to purchase a decent laptop?
Well a memory upgrade 'kit' from a reputable manufacturer (Kingston, Corsair, Crucial etc) is normally a lot cheaper than buying that much with the laptop, and in most cases is easy to fit. Check what's available then check the manuals online, most of the memory manufacturers have a tool that'll tell you exactly what you need.

What's it being used for? A top end processor in a laptop is often unnecessary unless he's playing high end games and at that point you can probably build a desktop for that and cheaper laptop for portable work. Also check CPU Benchmark for processor power, they use a standardised test suite to generate a score which can help choose the best 'bang for your buck' processor.

As for the OS, it's worth checking that extra you're paying for the Pro version is worth it, generally it's either niche bits or only really useful if your in a business network
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Old 15th November 2015, 04:58 PM   #5
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Having been in the business of repairing and upgrading laptops for a number of years, I've come to some interesting conclusions about buying laptops. For one, brand name matters very little, if any. Aside from avoiding certain brands (Asus for making recovery media virtually unavailable, and Lenovo for using unupgradeable mini-PCI-E WiFi cards), don't go into a laptop purchase expecting a particular brand. Same components, same sources, in most cases same factories, all make laptops for every brand under the sun.

Next, unless you're either playing the latest, most graphically-intense games or doing production video work on the laptop, there's not much point in going top-of-the-line. You won't see many tasks that take advantage of the additional performance. Another argument for going to the higher-end bracket is that they'll last long. But so what? When 3 years from now, a $400 Costco special will outperform the $2000 Hyperbook you bought this year, longevity is just a losing proposition.

How I would do it is, go to a retail shop and try out the details that actually matter-- comfort and usability. Try out the keyboard, find a screen that is comfortable to look at and isn't washed out or glare-y or dim. Decide how you prefer your touchpad to feel, whether you like a smooth surface or a slightly textured one, and that matches the amount of friction your finger expects to encounter. Then, once you have the ergonomics that work for you sorted out, go with a middle-of-the-road laptop that covers the basics. Bump up the memory and invest in an external HD for backups and convenient storage. Check that the case design allows for easy access to components like memory, hard drive, and WiFi card. Twist the screen diagonally and avoid the ones that flex the most or that you can hear squeaking coming from inside the screen.

And for home use, Pro windows is mostly unnecessary for a laptop. The killer features of Pro are either applicable for business use (domain integration and hard disk encryption) or unimportant for a laptop (remote desktop server).
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Old 16th November 2015, 07:50 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Yalius View Post
Next, unless you're either playing the latest, most graphically-intense games or doing production video work on the laptop, there's not much point in going top-of-the-line. You won't see many tasks that take advantage of the additional performance. Another argument for going to the higher-end bracket is that they'll last long. But so what? When 3 years from now, a $400 Costco special will outperform the $2000 Hyperbook you bought this year, longevity is just a losing proposition.
Is this still the case ?

I'm looking to replace my work laptop but to be honest I'm finding it tough to find anything significantly than my Lenovo T410 with an i5 processor, 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD that cost me £1200 3 years ago.
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Old 16th November 2015, 09:54 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by The Don View Post
Is this still the case ?

I'm looking to replace my work laptop but to be honest I'm finding it tough to find anything significantly than my Lenovo T410 with an i5 processor, 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD that cost me £1200 3 years ago.
I might have lowballed it a bit, but Costco does have a current-gen Core i5 with 8GB and a TB HD for $500. No SSD, but faster CPU for 1/4 the price.
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Old 16th November 2015, 01:03 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by The Don View Post
Is this still the case ?

I'm looking to replace my work laptop but to be honest I'm finding it tough to find anything significantly than my Lenovo T410 with an i5 processor, 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD that cost me £1200 3 years ago.
An i5(Haswell) processor from 3 years ago is not at all the same as the i5(Skylake) from this year. Intel switches the "i5" moniker to whatever the latest midrange processors is with the current technology. Popular models of i3/5/7 will sometimes be continued as a Pentium or Celeron when the new batch appears.
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Old 17th November 2015, 01:38 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Yalius View Post
I might have lowballed it a bit, but Costco does have a current-gen Core i5 with 8GB and a TB HD for $500. No SSD, but faster CPU for 1/4 the price.
Yeah, the SSD (and 3 years ago the upgrade to 8GB RAM) adds significantly to the price. IIRC it was about 30% of the purchase price. Also, because its a work PC and because the kinds of companies I have as clients are snobs, realistically I can only have Thinkpad or the equivalent Dell, a Latitude 5000 or similar.

Currently the Dell is £743 + VAT and shipping which will take it to £1,000 near as dammit and it isn't available with a SSD.

http://www.dell.com/uk/business/p/la...e-e5450-laptop

The equivalent Lenovo T450 specced up with a 256 GB SSD, i5 and 8GB RAM is just over £1,000

Maybe PCs are a lot cheaper over there

Originally Posted by GodMark2 View Post
An i5(Haswell) processor from 3 years ago is not at all the same as the i5(Skylake) from this year. Intel switches the "i5" moniker to whatever the latest midrange processors is with the current technology. Popular models of i3/5/7 will sometimes be continued as a Pentium or Celeron when the new batch appears.
Ah ! That explains a lot. Of course whether I'd notice much of a difference is a different matter entirely.
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Old 17th November 2015, 02:14 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Yalius View Post
Another argument for going to the higher-end bracket is that they'll last long. But so what? When 3 years from now, a $400 Costco special will outperform the $2000 Hyperbook you bought this year, longevity is just a losing proposition.
Not only that, but also I haven't seen anywhere any reliable data proving that cost or brand are directly analogous to how much a laptop will last. Even if there where such data, if reliability rather than performance is the question, then the answer is buying two cheap laptops for the price of one expensive laptop. You can pretty much find the same specs with wildly varying prices, and you can be nearly 100% certain that two cheap laptops will outlast any expensive one.
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Old 17th November 2015, 02:50 AM   #11
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Old 17th November 2015, 03:38 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Ampulla of Vater View Post
I am buying my son a new laptop for Christmas. I always go to Dell and get one with the most memory possible and the best processor possible, as well as the pro version of the OS. I have done this for years and years, but I am wondering if there is a better brand or even somewhere I should look for comparison reasons.

I never buy one from the store because I have found the memory is woefully insufficient and you usually can only get the home version of the OS. Maybe there is a way to get a decent computer from a retail store and I am just unaware of it.

What is the best way to purchase a decent laptop?
Go to an actual computer shop, not just a shop that happens to also sell computers.

Also, if he doesn't actually need the portability, get a desktop. Much better bang for buck and much more upgradeable too.
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Old 17th November 2015, 02:58 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Mongrel View Post
Well a memory upgrade 'kit' from a reputable manufacturer (Kingston, Corsair, Crucial etc) is normally a lot cheaper than buying that much with the laptop, and in most cases is easy to fit. Check what's available then check the manuals online, most of the memory manufacturers have a tool that'll tell you exactly what you need.

What's it being used for? A top end processor in a laptop is often unnecessary unless he's playing high end games and at that point you can probably build a desktop for that and cheaper laptop for portable work. Also check CPU Benchmark for processor power, they use a standardised test suite to generate a score which can help choose the best 'bang for your buck' processor.

As for the OS, it's worth checking that extra you're paying for the Pro version is worth it, generally it's either niche bits or only really useful if your in a business network
Thank you! This gives me some things to think about. I will take a look at that site about the processors. I agree a memory upgrade kit is cheap - and I would even say easy to install, despite the fact that I know nothing about what is inside a computer. My issue is often opening up the computer voids the warranty you have with it.

I don't know if he is going to play games with it but I have been looking at the Alienware. I doubt he will play games enough where it is worth the extra money, but I have to make that decision.

Originally Posted by Yalius View Post
Having been in the business of repairing and upgrading laptops for a number of years, I've come to some interesting conclusions about buying laptops. For one, brand name matters very little, if any. Aside from avoiding certain brands (Asus for making recovery media virtually unavailable, and Lenovo for using unupgradeable mini-PCI-E WiFi cards), don't go into a laptop purchase expecting a particular brand. Same components, same sources, in most cases same factories, all make laptops for every brand under the sun.

Next, unless you're either playing the latest, most graphically-intense games or doing production video work on the laptop, there's not much point in going top-of-the-line. You won't see many tasks that take advantage of the additional performance. Another argument for going to the higher-end bracket is that they'll last long. But so what? When 3 years from now, a $400 Costco special will outperform the $2000 Hyperbook you bought this year, longevity is just a losing proposition.

How I would do it is, go to a retail shop and try out the details that actually matter-- comfort and usability. Try out the keyboard, find a screen that is comfortable to look at and isn't washed out or glare-y or dim. Decide how you prefer your touchpad to feel, whether you like a smooth surface or a slightly textured one, and that matches the amount of friction your finger expects to encounter. Then, once you have the ergonomics that work for you sorted out, go with a middle-of-the-road laptop that covers the basics. Bump up the memory and invest in an external HD for backups and convenient storage. Check that the case design allows for easy access to components like memory, hard drive, and WiFi card. Twist the screen diagonally and avoid the ones that flex the most or that you can hear squeaking coming from inside the screen.

And for home use, Pro windows is mostly unnecessary for a laptop. The killer features of Pro are either applicable for business use (domain integration and hard disk encryption) or unimportant for a laptop (remote desktop server).
Thank you too for chiming in! I truly appreciate the advice. I thought Pro OS were more stable and overall better than the home version. I've only ever run into one thing which wouldn't work unless you have the Extreme version (I can't exactly remember, but I think it had to do with remote connecting. The Pro version wouldn't do it either IIRC, it had to be a version even higher than Pro.)

Originally Posted by Damien Evans View Post
Go to an actual computer shop, not just a shop that happens to also sell computers.

Also, if he doesn't actually need the portability, get a desktop. Much better bang for buck and much more upgradeable too.
I honestly do not know of an actual computer shop. I know we are on opposite ends of the earth, but I have only ever seen computers sold at Office Depot, Best Buy, and even department stores. I do everything online if possible; it's so much more convenient. That's probably how I started getting computers at Dell and have been getting them there ever since. They sure make it hard to buy one though, with the way they bundle things and give it a proprietary part number.
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Old 17th November 2015, 08:36 PM   #14
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Well here are a couple of online shops I found if there are no physical ones near you:
http://www.newegg.com/Laptops-Notebooks/Category/ID-223
http://www.microcenter.com/
http://www.ncix.com/

This might also be useful: http://pcpartpicker.com/
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Old 21st November 2015, 03:26 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Ampulla of Vater View Post
Thank you! This gives me some things to think about. I will take a look at that site about the processors. I agree a memory upgrade kit is cheap - and I would even say easy to install, despite the fact that I know nothing about what is inside a computer. My issue is often opening up the computer voids the warranty you have with it.
As long as reasonable care is taken (you don't physically break anything) you can upgrade the RAM without breaking warranty. Check a manual or YouTube before you buy to make sure it's easily accessible, it's often just 1 screw holding a door in place.
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