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Old 23rd December 2007, 10:49 PM   #1
yairhol
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Tips on Buying a Laptop

Hello gang,
My wife's dad wants to buy a laptop and asked for my assistance. Since I have never been interested in laptops I don't know what's important to look out for and what are the 'must have'.
He'll be using it mainly for office applications, presentations and surfing the internet. No games or other heavily CPU demanding applications.
I'd like to hear some tips on the subject.

Regards,
Yair
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Old 24th December 2007, 12:04 AM   #2
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You are going to want a warrenty. When they break, and they will break because you are moving it from place to place and dinging it up, the repairs aren't going to be cheap. Unlike desktops, you aren't going to be replacing much.

On buying, make sure you price out memory. I don't know why but most builders like to put in far too little of the stuff and then charge above market prices for additional chips. Places like Crucial and Kingston will offer you a much better price and putting it in is really easy even for a novice. Couple of screws and slide the modules in and out.

I got mine from HP and would do it again. The time I had to use the warrenty my laptop was gone for less than a week. Nothing but good experiences otherwise.
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Old 24th December 2007, 03:18 AM   #3
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Don't buy the cheapest model, the damn things a very fragile as it is. A laptop is one case where the extended warranty is worth it, as many of them fail due to the hard life they get. Avoid Dell, apparently. IBM/Lenovo business models are all we buy at work.
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Old 24th December 2007, 06:24 AM   #4
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In my experience Dells are just fine. Just as long as you don't buy a recently launced model. IMO they offer acceptable value for money and are adequately robust.
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Old 24th December 2007, 08:23 AM   #5
yairhol
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thanks guys.
What about CPU speed and RAM size? I heard that since the laptop is smaller in size you don't need as fast a cpu as in a desktop. Is that right?
how much would a decent laptop weigh?
thanks
Yair
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Old 24th December 2007, 08:32 AM   #6
nimzov
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Originally Posted by yairhol View Post
He'll be using it mainly for office applications, presentations and surfing the internet. No games or other heavily CPU demanding applications.
I'd like to hear some tips on the subject.

Regards,
Yair
I had very good computing years with my Toshiba Satellite. But after many years I had to replace the battery pack and I found it was quite expensive.

Recently I spilled tea on the keyboard it just blew up. But I will probably buy another Toshiba.

nimzo

Last edited by nimzov; 24th December 2007 at 08:33 AM.
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Old 24th December 2007, 08:32 AM   #7
webfusion
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Originally Posted by yairhol View Post
Hello gang,
My wife's dad wants to buy a laptop and asked for my assistance. Since I have never been interested in laptops I don't know what's important to look out for and what are the 'must have'.
He'll be using it mainly for office applications, presentations and surfing the internet. No games or other heavily CPU demanding applications.
I'd like to hear some tips on the subject.
You may want to check out getting a used mac powerbook. For what you're describing, a $200 investment will probably obtain a computer that will do just fine (with iLife, iPhoto, and the excellent Keynote presentation software). Using OSX will be a huge benefit over the vagaries of Vista.
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Old 24th December 2007, 09:19 AM   #8
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Selecting a laptop is going to highly dependent on what you want to do, how you want to use it, how portable you want it to be and your budget.

The variations in screen size, features, speed, weight, portability are many. I think you need to establish one driving criteria and then select the models around that criteria.

If there is a budget limit, then use that. If there is a need for a particular screen size, then use that. If there is a need for a certain level of portability, then use that.

Check out http://www.tigerdirect.com/ for a big selection of laptops. They have a very useful filtering and comparison functions that tabulates the features of the ones you are looking for.
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Old 24th December 2007, 01:36 PM   #9
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Just get a Mac you wont regret it I've been using Mac for 8 years. I only use internet,office applications(Microsoft Office for Mac and I work). And Iwork is the equivalent of Microsoft office in apple and the presentations are 1000 better, my boss loves my Iwork presentations.
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Old 24th December 2007, 02:48 PM   #10
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I would look out for memory mostly. Make sure you have 1/2 GBs and you'll be good. Look to spend at the 700 - 800 range for something that is very decent.

Before you go shopping, hit the web for coupons. When you do that, get a computer for the price you want, add options and then apply the discount. I have gotten some very decent computers lately for myself and family like this lately (HP 20% and 30% discounts)

If you are looking to future proof yourself, then put aside $3200 and get a new $800 laptop every year. I can guarantee you will have a decent computer every year :P
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Old 24th December 2007, 04:33 PM   #11
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1.OS. If you don't want Vista (and believe me, you don't), then don't buy a machine with it preloaded. Getting rid of the crabs is easier. Whichever OS you get, buy a full install disc rather than a "Recovery" disc on a hidden partition from some OEM supplier.
It's a personal computer. Don't accept someone else's version of what it should be like.

2.Screen. You like shiny black screens? Very fashionable, especially from Sony and HP/Compaq. They give you eyestrain. Well, they give me eyestrain.

3.Power- Will the LT be used on the road, or taken somewhere and plugged in? If a) Ask about battery life and maybe buy a higher power one if available. If b), forget it.

4.The power connection. This will be connected and disconnected often. I've had two laptops fail because this connection developed a fault. Make sure it's solid.

5. The keyboard. Ergonomics matter here. Go somewhere you can try it first.

6.Screen size / shape. This is the primary factor dictating the size and weight of the LT. If watching DVDs is important, get a screen size to suit and a good graphic card, or lots of onboard video usable RAM.

7. RAM. Back to the OS. If you want Vista, get 1GB or more. Any less and you'll regret it. Get the most you can afford up to 2GB anyway. Above that is probably surplus.

Or demand XP and run with 512MB- 1GB for 2-3x the performance.
8. In fact, demand XP anyway. Or DOS. Anything but Vista.

9. Weight, with charger, case, half a dozen DVDs and all cables. If it's too heavy to carry around the store, don't buy it.

10. Sound. Will you use it to listen to music? If so, either get good speakers and onboard sound, or good headphones.

11. Software (other than the OS). You may want bundled applications. What you probably don't want is constant demands to update the preloaded software or buy new hardware. HP are particularly egregious offenders in this regard. Demand to know EXACTLY what is preloaded. If you don't want it, don't pay for it. Ask the supplier to remove all adware, and make sure he knows what "all" means.

12. Support contract / guarantee. Exactly what's covered , for how long - and will they collect or is transport to repair point down to you? This should include peripherals like cables and the transformer.

In summary- If you know clearly what is wanted, go to a builder and specify what you want- (and don't want)- and pay for it. Off the shelf laptops can be a disappointment because they have / do not have some feature you want or do not want. It's not a cheap toy. Pay a bit extra and get what you want.

Oh yeah- and get a padded backpack if you plan to carry it anywhere. Laptops are getting lighter, but not light.

Last edited by Soapy Sam; 24th December 2007 at 04:36 PM.
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Old 25th December 2007, 05:40 AM   #12
yairhol
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Thanks guys. That helped alot.
My wife's dad will need to consider all these excellent points.
Just to make it clear to you guys, as far as I understand:
1. Operating system must be windows (preferably XP).
2. Only Microsoft office + Internet explorer + maybe some light photo software will be installed on the laptop.
3. He's not getting any younger so screen size will need to be adequate and same with resolution. I know that the shiny screens are not good for long readings so he'll probably want to get the other kind.
4. In regard to mobility, he'll be taking it with him around the house (wireless internet) and to the university (he's taking some courses he's interested in).
5. No watching movies on the computer.
6. Sound - only basic sounds that windows/office/internet videos generate.
7. Considering power connection, a rugged connector is a good idea.
8. RAM - if it's XP he'll probably go with the 512MB.

Now what about CPU speed? There's Intel/AMD and what about processing speed? How much would he need?

thank you all,
Yair
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Old 25th December 2007, 04:07 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Soapy Sam View Post
1.OS. If you don't want Vista (and believe me, you don't), then don't buy a machine with it preloaded. Getting rid of the crabs is easier.
Yes, always listen to the voice of experience.
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Old 25th December 2007, 05:22 PM   #14
Soapy Sam
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Hey...
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Old 26th December 2007, 11:56 AM   #15
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Any laptop on the market today will have the horses to run what he is after so CPU type really comes down to price. I'd still not settle for anything less than 2 gigs dual core, just because the price on them is good and the power will hold up if he decided to watch movies (you never know). Physical size of the machine doesn't dictate how much CPU power you need. Applications are the weight the CPU has to move and those don't change from laptop to desktop. The reason laptops are lower in CPU power is heat. It's hard to dissipate all that heat in a small enclosure.

Most laptops share system memory with video memory. 512 will not be much fun. 1 gig as a floor on a laptop but, as I stated first, you can beat the deals that the laptop maker offers from crucial or kingstone more often than not.

Widescreen laptops have the advantage of offering a wider keyboard too.

I'd also echo the "get the real recovery cd" and the "don't install the adware / trial / crap" mantra. Or just totally reformat it with the OS recovery CD if they don't. I'd also max out the time and damage protection.
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Old 26th December 2007, 12:25 PM   #16
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Are there kids in the house?

I ask because I have kids in my house, and I can't tell you how many times they've tripped over the cord when I'm recharging it. I've had to buy 2 new cords.

Next time I get a laptop, I'm going to look for one of the ones with those magnetic power connections.
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Old 26th December 2007, 10:59 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by NobbyNobbs View Post
Are there kids in the house?

I ask because I have kids in my house, and I can't tell you how many times they've tripped over the cord when I'm recharging it. I've had to buy 2 new cords.

Next time I get a laptop, I'm going to look for one of the ones with those magnetic power connections.
Macintosh come with those, standard. I has saved my computer dozen of times.
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Old 27th December 2007, 04:20 AM   #18
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I would look for such trivial things as how much heat leaks through to the keyboard. The keyboard on my Compaq is really too hot to allow typing plus its generally of crappy quality. The graphics card on it is from ATI which is also a downer since I run Ubuntu on it, I would buy one with NVIDIA graphics next.
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Old 27th December 2007, 11:22 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by mgilII View Post
Macintosh come with those, standard. I has saved my computer dozen of times.
It's standard now. Mine is a Powerbook G4. No such luck.
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Old 27th December 2007, 03:24 PM   #20
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Widescreens are nice for movies, and OK for pictures, but I find them too short to display much information, and I have to constantly scroll. Pages are hard to read when they're really wide, so you don't use the extra screen width for web surfing or word processing. If I were going to buy a laptop, I would avoid a widescreen, and look for as large a screen as I could afford, especially if eyesight was less than optimal.
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Old 27th December 2007, 03:28 PM   #21
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Or, let me change that: Get a widescreen, but get a larger one. You'll probably have a hard time find a good deal on a non-wide these days. The important thing is, widescreen gives you more screen you won't use for documents, so make sure you've got enough vertical room.
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